A decade ago, my inner thought life was so much less complicated.
Sure, I hadn't yet entered the season of parenting, but my life was full and adventurous. Long-held opinions and beliefs read like typed text, black and white with no blurred edges. The corners were neat and sharp and squared, and so I fit perfectly into all the neat, square-edged slots of my daily life.
It wasn't just parenting, though certainly it played a huge part, that started shaving off those sharp edges; it was encounters, and lots of them, with people who would never fit into the familiar slots in my life that initiated a transformation. Outwardly, the subtle physical signs of aging belied the massive shifts erupting beneath the surface.
I couldn't return to those unsmudged edges even if I wanted to now, but the truth is that it does get kind of lonely, all this Round Peg, Square Hole living. With grace and goodness, God has delivered to me some dear friends whose hearts beat with the same rhythm as mine, and they are rare and precious treasure to me.
I feel like my universe expanded a little more in the past few weeks as I found myself enjoying immensely the writings in Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World. I had first heard of Just Moms in a review at Elizabeth Esther's place, and when Rebekah Schneiter, one of the editors of Just Moms, emailed to ask if I would like a review copy, I enthusiastically accepted her offer.
Just Moms is a collection of essays from women who are navigating what it looks like to create homes where family life reflects the ideals and values of just living. The essays are divided into five sections: All One in Christ Jesus (reflections on gender issues and equality); Knowing the True Light (what it means to teach and model the ways of Jesus in our homes); Blessed are the Peacemakers (dealing gently with those whose views are vastly different from our own); Lilies of the Field (on economic justice and living simply); and In the World (the tension of living out ideals that differ greatly from the culture that surrounds).
So easily, I fall into the trap of reading only that which is published by people in the same spiritual tradition as my own. I could name off a long list of evangelical thinkers whose works I've read recently, but Just Moms is my first real exposure to writing from the Quaker and Mennonite tradition. How incredibly encouraging and inspiring to discover that though superficially it might seem that some of these writers are so different from me, beneath the exterior we are all in the same tribe.
It never ceases to amaze me - all these denominational differences - when the reality is that we hold so much in common.
Rebekah asked me which of the essays was my favorite, and I have to say there were two that resonated so strongly for me. The first is one by Lora Jost titled "The Quagmire in My Son's Backpack," in which a class assignment for writing letters to soldiers sets off a huge internal conflict for life-long pacifists Lora and her husband. I completely related to the way this set of parents reacted so strongly to the assignment, but when faced with the humanity and realness of the teacher who gave the assignment, a young wife, pregnant with a first baby, whose husband was deployed in Afghanistan, their ultimate response surprised even themselves. My friend Sarah at Emerging Mummy labeled it best when she called it "uneasy pacifism," which is pretty much the place I camp out in. Several of the essays in Just Moms speak to that very idea.
A second essay that made me feel as if someone had unzipped my heart and spilled out everything she found there was "The Economics of Bouncy Balls" by Melanie Springer Mock. Melanie describes her angst over cheap, plastic-y toys from fast food restaurants and community carnivals - oh, how I relate to that! She writes
How do I keep my boys from feeling guilty for the lives they've been given, even as I hope they seek justice for others who have not been so similarly blessed? I want that to be the question at the heart of bouncy-ball economics, and maybe it is: My despair about the junky toys they receive at every turn - and the global inequities those toys represent to me - is countered by a desire to let my kids be kids, shooting finger rockets at each other without fretting about the exploited workers who made them.
That paragraph pretty much sums up an entire year's worth of internal conflict for me.
The essays in Just Moms cover an entire spectrum of issues that relate to just living. What I appreciated the most is that it is never preachy or didactic; just true, honest words on the victories and perceived failings of living out ideals that run so counter to our culture. The fact that it is a collection of essays makes it perfect reading for moms - you can pick it up and read an essay or two while the kids play outside or while you wait for soccer practice to finish up.
I'm sure none of you are surprised that I highly, highly recommend Just Moms for your reading list. You can join a little community of readers gathering to support the book on Facebook. It would also be excellent if, in addition to purchasing a copy for yourself, you requested copies for your local library, bookstore, and even your church's library!
If you have read it, I would love to hear your thoughts.