February Reading Group Selection

I'm a little late on this one, and I apologize. Actually a sweet reader let me know I forgot to post our February selection (you'd think I could at least get the first two months of the year right). We are finishing up discussion of You Are What You Love in the Facebook group, and we voted to read this novel for February:

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Here's a preview of the story:

Jayber Crow, born in Goforth, Kentucky, orphaned at age ten, began his search as a "pre-ministerial student" at Pigeonville College. There, freedom met with new burdens and a young man needed more than a mirror to find himself. But the beginning of that finding was a short conversation with "Old Grit," his profound professor of New Testament Greek. "You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out—perhaps a little at a time."
"And how long is that going to take?"
"I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps."
"That could be a long time."
"I will tell you a further mystery," he said. "It may take longer."

Eventually, after the flood of 1937, Jayber becomes the barber of the small community of Port William, Kentucky. From behind that barber chair he lives out the questions that drove him from seminary and begins to accept the gifts of community that enclose his answers. The chair gives him a perfect perch from which to listen, to talk, and to see, as life spends itself all around. In this novel full of remarkable characters, he tells his story that becomes the story of his town and its transcendent membership.

If you want to join us in the Facebook group here, we'd love to have you! Or feel free to read along and write your reflections in the comments or on your own blog. 

I will have a post on January's book next week, hopefully. I'm still processing some of it, but it's been encouraging and challenging, and a great way to start the year.

You're Invited: The 2017 Reading Group

I'm not usually one to make a list of New Year's Resolutions, but I always have a general idea of things I'd like to be more consistent about in the next twelve months. One that is perpetually on my list is to read more good books. I see this hope echoed around my social media sphere as many of us envision a quieter year with more time for reading and reflection.

A few years ago my husband and I established a competition to spur one another on to read more books. For each page read, we put $.01 in our individual jars, and at the end of the competition the one with the most money in his or her jar got to decide what we did with the money from both jars. This was motivating and provided accountability, but while I read more good books that year, I didn't always have someone with whom I could discuss what I was reading.

This year I want to try something in this space--a eading group. I have a few books in mind that I think would be good ones for discussion, and I'm open to other suggestions as well. But here's my idea:

  • A group forms here and in a private Facebook group to read the same book
  • We alternate between non-fiction and fiction titles each month
  • We discuss the book throughout the month as we work our way through
  • Group members can contribute reflections on their own blogs, in the Facebook group and blog comments, or by emailing posts to me for publication on my blog

I'm hopeful that this will be a time of mutual encouragement and accountability as we read and grow together. I think there is much to be gained from reading in community--working out together how what we encounter in the written word is changing us and wrestling through where we may disagree.

I went ahead and chose a book for January. It's one I've heard great things about, and I think the topic is perfect for starting a fresh year and season. 

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith. 

You don't have to join every month, but if this one looks like a good read to you, let me know you'll be joining us in the comments below and/or by hopping over to join our private Facebook group HERE

I'm praying this will be a place for mutual encouragement and joy, that we will build community around the words we read and the ones we write. 

I'll be posting more as I start working my own way through the book. Please invite others whom who think would enjoy this endeavor.

And Happy New Year!

Weekly Stories

These are some of the articles/podcasts I've enjoyed this past week, and I'm sharing them in the hopes that someone else might enjoy them as well. Some are light-hearted, some more serious, and one is deeply sad. But I feel strongly that we should know what is going on in the world--appreciate the good, true, and beautiful, while lamenting and praying over the hard and sad. I would love to discuss any of these with anyone who happens to give them a read/listen.

The Way Home with Daniel Darling, featuring Andrew Walker

I enjoyed this 30-minute podcast, in which a couple of friends discuss the need for Christians to be informed about the events happening in our world and the best sources to find that information. In fact, it was partly listening to this podcast that made me want to start doing a roundup of things I've found interesting or compelling regarding our country and world.

What is Aleppo? This is Aleppo

From The Atlantic: A collection of images shot by journalists and photographers over the past few years, chronicling the horrible violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo. These are hard to look at, but our hearts must be broken over these things. These images will inform my prayers.

Game of Her Life

I was reading my father-in-law's latest issue of ESPN The Magazine early this week and ran across a brief article about Phiona Mutesi, the subject of Disney's upcoming film, The Queen of Katwe. The ESPN piece was a follow-up to this article, written by Tim Crothers in 2013, upon which the film is based. I am hoping the movie is appropriate to take my daughter to, as the story told here is complex and beautiful.

Breaking into Baseball's Ultimate Boys' Club

From The Atlantic: As the daughter of a former sportswriter, I grew up talking sports with the men in my family and the boys in school. I once gave a female classmate talking points about the favored baseball team of the boy she liked so that she would have something to talk about when he called her that night. But even twenty years later, it still feels as though talking about certain sports remains the domain of men. I have questioned whether to post on social media about college basketball or the NBA, wondering how my male peers view that. It's silly, but it feels like a boys' club. So I found this feature on Jessica Mendoza, MLB's first female TV analyst, compelling. 

The Final Stretch

From Yuval Levin at National Review: Levin looks at the impending election and the vast unpopularity of both major party candidates. I especially appreciate these words: "But whoever wins in November, this will not be the launch of a new political order in America. It will rather be the reason we decide it's time for a change, and turn our politics into an argument about what that change must be. 2016 should leave Americans of all stripes thinking that our great nation can surely do much better than this."

The Church and the 2016 Election

"Americans will go to the polls two months from today. This will be the 17th presidential election in my lifetime, and none has seemed as vexing as this one." My dad wrote this for his congregation, but I think it's helpful for all Christians to read and think through.

 

Good Gifts, Round 2

I received a lot of positive feedback the last time I did a "Favorite Things" kind of post, so I'm going to try to make it a semi-regular occurrence. I'm calling it "Good Gifts," because I love thinking of these things as reflections of the Father who gives good gifts to His children. So here are some highlights, and again, I would love to hear what other people are enjoying right now. Please comment below or on FB/Twitter/IG to let me know what you're enjoying, and maybe I'll enjoy it (and feature it) next time!

Reading

The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Shirer. My husband and a co-worker made the trailer for this book, and our kids have been excited to read it since they saw it. We're just a few chapters in, but already enjoying it. Sometimes when I'm reading aloud to my kids, I throw in a surprise phrase to see if they're paying attention. So the other day I was reading about a younger brother who was mad at his older brother as he listened to him getting ready for bed. I threw in the phrase, "He didn't rinse the toothpaste out of the sink," to see if my daughter was listening, as she is notoriously bad about this. We laughed, then I kept reading. NO LIE. At the top of the next page, I read these words:

"He could hear his brother using the bathroom and getting ready for bed. Clean the toothpaste out of the sink, he thought. Xavier never cleaned the sink. It was disgusting."

It was at this moment I fell in love with the book. And also later when the mom comes in and gives her son a "Mom Talk" (something I'm notorious for, and they tend to go on and on). There is something so relatable about a book written by a mom. So I'm a fan.

My favorite blog posts lately have been:

My Superstitious Faith - Written by Trillia Newbell, this short post hit on something I struggled with--the fear that because things are going well now, God must be waiting in the wings to bring me hurt and pain. 

8 Lessons Learned from Serving 100+ Meals - Written by Abigail Murrish, who loves Jesus and specializes in agriculture and food. I love this brief look at hospitality.

Which brings us to the next point. 

Cooking

Last fall I went to India to visit my sister-in-law and her family and I fell in love with Indian food. I had never really eaten it, and wasn't sure what to expect. But I was instantly a fan. A couple of months ago I ran across this book at the library and I love it.

 

I've made four or five recipes from it so far, and we've enjoyed them all, but this one is my favorite. Pav Bhaji. 

This is a street food, served on white rolls (I use Hawaiian rolls). My kids really liked it the first couple of times I made it. Then I went overboard and made it way too frequently, and they are now totally turned off. So don't be like me. But here's the recipe. It does require a few Indian spices, but they are worth it!

Disha's pav bhaji

Serves 4

7 ounces mashing potatoes (Yukon Gold, red or white all-purpose)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus extra to finish)

2 large onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 3/4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated

2 medium eggplants (1 lb in total), cut into 1/4-inch cubes

14 oz strained tomatoes (such as Pomi)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

optional (I don't have this): 1/2 teaspoon amchur (dried mango powder)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 head of cauliflower (around 9 oz), broken into 3/4-inch cubes

TO SERVE:

8 to 12 soft white bread rolls

butter

1 red onion, finely chopped

a handful of cilantro

a couple of lemon wedges, to squeeze over

Peel and chop the potatoes into equal-size chunks, then boil them for around 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain, mash, then set to one side.

Put the butter into a wide-bottomed, lidded frying pan on a medium heat. When it starts to foam, add the onions and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic and ginger, and stir well. After a minute, add the eggplants to the pan and cover. Stir them every now and then until they're soft -- this should take around 10 minutes. Add the strained tomatoes and tomato paste, and cook for around 5 to 7 minutes until it is a thick mash, rich and dark red.

Add the cumin, coriander, garam masala, and turmeric, the amchur if using, and the salt. Stir and taste, adding the chili powder if you'd like more heat [I add this...it's not too hot]. Finally, add the mashed potato and cauliflower. Stir to mix and put the lid on, leaving it to cook for around 10 minutes, or until soft.

Taste and adjust any seasoning. Transfer to a bowl and use a potato masher or a fork to mash it. The consistency should be somewhere between mashed potato and thick pasta sauce -- you can add some hot water to loosen the bhaji if need be. For a final flourish, add a generous pat of butter and stir it in.

Serve with halved and toasted bread rolls, generously spread with butter. Put a layer of pav bhaji in the middle of each roll, and top with a sprinkling of red onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

home

A few weeks ago we were at our home group in a friend's new home and I was so impressed with how neat and organized everything was. Organization is not my gift. Clutter stresses me out, but I don't know what to do about it...it just keeps coming. And I'm generally not motivated to decorate my home or declutter until I have a meltdown. But Grace inspired me. So I threw tons of stuff away, sorted clothes, etc. Granted, there's still clutter, and always will be. But there's less.

So I thought, I want to do a little design work in my home--maybe paint the walls, which are still builder beige downstairs, and possibly paint the kitchen cabinets. But how should I determine what my style is? Through an internet quiz, of course!

Enter the Stylescope Quiz. It seems kind of ridiculous, but my results were actually pretty accurate, I think. 

I got an Urban Funk/The Traveler/Boho combo. It helped me realize what I like and what my eye is drawn to. 

GAMES

I don't know when this even started, but a few weeks ago, I rounded the corner to climb the stairs to our bedroom, and at the top of the stairs I saw a man smiling down at me from around the corner of the door. Then the next day, he was here in our bathroom closet:

Dr. Russell Moore, President of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (AKA, "That guy Papa works with," as he's better known to my kids), peeking around the corner (and yes, there's something on his nose...not sure how that happened, but I blame my kids). Thus began a game between Erik and me, where we took turns hiding Dr. Moore behind corners to greet one another at unexpected times and places. Then our daughter wanted in on the fun, so she joined in hiding and finding him.

A few days later, we discovered this excited guy on the back of a cereal box, so now he has started popping up in random places. Even our 5-year-old is enjoying this weird game. 

So there's that little snapshot of the crazy Parks family and their abnormal games. 

SUMMER

I have been so excited for my daughter to be out of school. She finished two days ago, and while I've been waiting with glee to have both of my kids home, I also knew we needed some structure or we'd all go crazy. So I found this idea on Pinterest from several sources, and adapted it to work with our family. It's only been two days, but so far it's working really well. They sometimes lose track of time while playing, creating, or reading, which is better than I could have asked for. And they're doing more work around the house than we sometimes have time for during the school year. 

wearing

I'm an ambassador for Noonday Collection, and right now they have a great sale going on. Every item is made by artisan business partners around the world, who are paid fair wages and, as a result, are making a huge difference in their communities. But this month is especially exciting to me because I'm able to donate my commission--20% of each purchase--to my friend Randi, who has 5 kids in Honduras who call her mom. She and her husband visit their kids several times a year, and I wanted to do something to help with those travel costs. So if you're in the market for a gift/accessory/gift card/bag/necklace/whatever, maybe take a look at the sale or the other products on the site? 

Writing/talking

This doesn't really fall under the "favorite things" category, lest I reveal my narcissism. But, I got to do an interview with Carrie Abbott of The Legacy Institute in Seattle the other day. It's in two parts, both about planning Christ-centered weddings. If you have a friend planning a wedding, or know a pastor who performs weddings or does counseling, maybe forward the links? I pray it's encouraging to those who listen!

Day 1

Day 2

I also got to write this short piece for Christianity Today's "The Local Church" section the other day. It's about how a local church helped in the rescue efforts for a kidnapped child in East TN. 

So that's a snapshot of my life right now. How about you?

I need new music suggestions and some good summer reading...any recommendations?

Or easy summer recipes?  

Let me know what you've got, and thanks for reading!

Stuff I'm Enjoying

Yesterday marked the three month anniversary of my last blog post. So I guess it's about time.

Recently I've been reading a project by a friend of mine, and I'm so excited to share about it in a few months. But it has made me reflect on my enjoyment of God's good gifts, and my worship of Him through those gifts. So I want to blog a bit about things I'm enjoying right now. And I would love to hear what you're enjoying as well!

Reading

I have really enjoyed this book by Mark and Jan Foreman, parents of Jon and Tim Foreman of the band Switchfoot. It's a sweet, joyful look at raising kids who are creative and confident, and it has encouraged me to change some of the rhythms of my life and my kids' lives in order to encourage more freedom and enjoyment of one another. 

What I Learned When My Mother Died

My favorite thing I read on the internet last week was actually written by my dad. I wrote previously about losing two grandmothers in the first weeks of 2016. Here my dad offers some brief reflections on what he learned from his mother's death. These are sweet, encouraging things for anyone who has or will experience a loved one's death (so...everyone). 

Listening

For my birthday, my husband bought me Audrey Assad's newest album. I love her thoughtful lyrics, gorgeous voice, and simple arrangements. This album is primarily composed of traditional hymns, including my favorite, "It Is Well." But the song below, "Even Unto Death," is incredible, and it's inspired by Christian martyrs who are being killed daily around the world. Listening with that in mind, it's hard for me to retain composure.

Eating

This is just a little tip I've picked up along the way. I'm a big fan of Aldi, and every few weeks they run a sale on their multi-colored peppers. I LOVE Mexican food, and make fajitas frequently. So I've started stocking up when the peppers go on sale. It takes a little prep, but I bring them home, wash, chop, mix in some onions, and freeze bags of fajita veggie mix. (Pictured here in a bowl that belonged to Erik's Granny, a sweet memory of her love of serving others through cooking)

Wearing

Image from Elegantees.com

Image from Elegantees.com

I've written about this company before, but it's worth stating again. I love Elegantees. Recently a friend wrote a feature about the company for The Huffington Post, and it's worth reading. I love when people do something that needs to be done, and they do it well. This is Elegantees. Their shirts are an incredible quality. I have four, and I wear them all the time. They're thick, don't pill, and are super flattering. The gal, Binita, whose picture is in the article, has made all four of my shirts. I love that so much. I'm learning to pass on three cheap shirts in order to buy one that is well-made and that supports women coming out of terrible situations. 

Right there is a great sale on my very favorite shirt, the KILEE (it's what I'm wearing in the pic at the top of this page). It runs a little big, so you might want to size down unless you have broad shoulders. But I wear it at least weekly during the cooler months. Use code "SAVE30" to save 30% on this and all other SALE items. Or if you have your eye on something that's not on sale (like the ELEANORwhich I just got and love), you can use code "CATHPARKS" for 10% off. 

Watching

My husband and I have loved collaborating on our movie podcast. Our latest episode is on "Foodie Movies," which fits well with the idea of enjoying God's good gifts. One of the films we mentioned is Babette's Feast. If you've never seen it, stop what you're doing, head down to Blockbuster (if only), and rent it. You won't be sorry.


So these are some of the things I'm enjoying right now. What about you? I'd love to make this kind of post a regular habit, because one of my favorite things about the internet is the ability to learn about and discover new ideas, products, books, music, etc. from friends and family. So hit me up in the comments or on social media and let me know what you're enjoying right now!

Engagement Gift Sets

I wanted to let you faithful readers (who have stuck with me even though I haven't blogged since May!) in on a little fun.  For a limited time, I will be offering these Engagement Gift Packages, tied up with string and ready for giving.

Each set includes:

  • A personalized autographed copy of A Christ-Centered Wedding
  • A copy of Southern Weddings Magazine, volume 8 (my favorite wedding planning magazine, packed with 290 pages of wisdom and joy)
  • A hand-lettered Moleskine journal, decorated with the words "plan with joy."

The cost for each set, including shipping, is $30. Order by December 18th to guarantee Christmas delivery. 

To purchase: Simply leave your email in the comments, or email me at catherinestrodeparks(at)gmail(dot)com. Be sure to let me know how to personalize the note I write in the book!

Happy Giving!