Weekend Daybook: breaking of bread edition

A curated list of what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

 
We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.
— Dorothy Day
 

— 1 —

photo from my week

Central Square, NY

Central Square, NY

Man, I love weddings, and we were lucky to be invited to celebrate with this precious couple and their families this weekend. We used to live across the street from each other in the best little town in the Southern Tier of NY.

They were more than our neighbors, but also our friends, class and teammates, students, and first doors to knock on when we needed anything. In those days Brian and I were barely figuring out how to care for our kids, our home, and our jobs. These neighbors welcomed us and made us part of a tight-knit community. We literally walked through floods and fire together.

In all of our moves since 2008 we’ve never had better neighbors. We haven’t seen each other for about a decade but it felt like no time at all.

God bless you, Chelsea and Jeffrey. You’ve got pretty great people surrounding you, and we’re really proud to know you. If you ever need us, we’d be honored to return all the favors your family’s given us all those years ago. ♥️


— 2 —

posts to praise my old hometown

  1. The Beautiful Bones Of Binghamton via Urban Phoenix

  2. Binghamton: A City of Two Tales via Urban Phoenix


Illustration:   Sarah Lazarovic

Illustration: Sarah Lazarovic


— 4 —

favorite autumnal movies

  1. Dan in Real Life starring Steve Carell

  2. Hoosiers starring Gene Hackman

  3. When Harry Met Sally starring Meg Ryan & Billy Crystal

  4. Fantastic Mr. Fox directed by Wes Anderson

 

— 5 —

links to help us celebrate and thank indigenous peoples on October 14

  1. Being Native American in the US via Mark Charles

  2. The head of National Museum of the American Indian on what we should all know via Washington Post

  3. Layli Long Soldier: The Freedom of Real Apologies via OnBeing with Krista Tippett (Don’t miss Layli Long Soldier’s poem excerpts here.)

  4. What reconciliation is and what it is not via Working Effectively With Indigenous Peoples Blog

  5. Buy this book! Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery by Mark Charles & Soong-Chan Rah

    Find Publishers Weekly’s review here.

 

— 6 —

important words about the justice required for true reconciliation

  1. Let’s not ask Botham Jean’s family to choose forgiveness over justice by Shane Claiborne via RNS

  2. Botham Jean’s Brother’s Offer of Forgiveness Went Viral. His Mother’s Calls for Justice Should Too. by Dorena Williamson via CT

  3. Jemar Tisby On Race and the American Church via Fuller Studio’s Conversing With Mark Labberton (also this episode with John Perkins)

  4. Reparations is a spiritual issue by Nibs Stroupe via The Christian Century

  5. Racial Reconciliation: No Handholding Kumbaya by Rev. Dr. Brian A. Tillman via ReThink Church

  6. What Is the Father’s Heart For Justice? by Jacalyn Barnes, Director of the Repentance Project via Coracle


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8 years ago

During our first autumn in Austin both my daughters chose to homeschool in order to give themselves time to acclimate to our new city. Here Kendra’s reading Shakespeare to Natalie, and my heart kind of explodes whenever I look back on this hard but beautiful season.

You can read more of our adventures here: Homeschool Daybook


May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Weekend Daybook: how the light gets in edition

A curated list of what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

 
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
— Leonard Cohen
 

— 1 —

photo from my week

September.bpt mural3.jpg

We had the privilege of attending the unveiling of a mural painted by a collaborative of Bridgeport students. The Aim Higher Together To End Gun Violence Mural was unveiled during a ceremony in a park behind Bridgeport’s City Hall on Saturday, September 28. The students created the mural in cooperation with several community artists, mentors, sponsors, and partners, including two of our very favorite neighbors and church community friends, Adiel and Amy Dominguez.

Several of the student artists shared their personal motivations for participating in the project. Each of them had experienced the death of a family member or close friend to gun violence in Bridgeport. I loved being able to observe the way the adult community members supported and celebrated the students, and pray the experience will give them a sense of connection as they continue to grow up. Lord, have mercy.


— 2 —

recent, Biblical reflections on gun reform in the U.S

  1. Ted Cruz takes Alyssa Milano to Bible study — with an NRA edition of the Bible by Shane Claiborne via Religion News Service

  2. Shane Claiborne and Omar Saif Ghobash: Called and Conflicted via OnBeing with Krista Tippett


— 3 —

links on current events exposing our need for

a better vision of justice & mercy

  1. A Pastoral Response to the Hug Seen Around the World by Rich Villodas via Missio Alliance

  2. The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong? by Michael H. Keller and Gabriel J.X. Dance via NYT

  3. World Vision Flips the Script on Child Sponsorship by Jeremy Weber via CT

    In the ministry’s first major innovation in seven decades, the children now do the choosing.


— 4 —

playlists I made for you to celebrate the many moods of autumn

I consider these personal masterpieces. Listen with pleasure!

  1. Autumn Worship

  2. Folk Autumn

  3. Autumn Instrumental

  4. Loungy Autumn

 
 

— 5 —

photos from my first walk in the Connecticut woods this fall

This autumn I’ve taken a #100WalksChallenge and within that challenge, an autumn walks challenge. In Connecticut, we’re filthy-rich in scenic walk options. I tend to walk by the sea in summer and winter and in the woods in spring and fall.

Here’s what I posted from my first walk in the woods this past week.

Welcome, Fall!
🍁
I took my first autumn walk in the woods this week, just before all of this blessed rain.
🍂
I’m energized by change but terrible at transition. My body fights transition by acting weary, sniffly, headachy, unfocused, and unsettled. Walking anywhere outdoors helps ground me in seasons of transition, and autumn is the best of the best times to walk in the woods. It’s also my third annual season to thank God for this place we live so abundant and diverse in walking landscapes.
🍁
I’m looking ahead to a continued and renewed sense of grounding in our city, home, and church community. I’m looking forward to celebrating a new worship space for Church of the Apostles here in Bridgeport. I’m looking forward to making wedding plans with @kenjedelm . I’m looking forward to celebrating our 29th wedding anniversary just before Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to weekly #workstories2019 guest posts on the blog, various speaking engagements, and writing projects. I’m savoring each conversation with God and those who invite me into their lives as a Spiritual Director. And, yes, I’m looking forward to the pumpkins, cider, doughnuts, and homemade apple crisp.
🍁
Welcome, Fall! I’m excited to get to know you better over many walks in the woods.


— 6 —

lovely links on the pleasure of reading with children

  1. On my all-time favorite YA book (which I re-read every summer) A Ring of Endless Love: Family in Madeleine L'Engle's Young-adult Fiction via Forma

  2. Evergreen Classic Reviews of Beloved Children's Books: EUDORA WELTY ON CHARLOTTE'S WEB, DOROTHY PARKER ON WINNIE THE POOH, AND MORE

  3. Children Need Stories That Tell the Truth About Life and Death By Rebecca Bratten Weiss via Image Journal’s “Good Letters” blog

  4. Five Children’s Books That Honor the Body of Christ by Aarik Danielson via Think Christian

  5. Tomie dePaola’s books help us find the sacred in stories of service and stillness via America Magazine

  6. Our Favorite October Picture Books via Read-Aloud Revival


Visit to NY1.jpeg

8 years ago

Autumn in Austin brought major bouts of homesickness. In my first fall away from NY, I slipped home for apple-picking and pie-baking with my sisters.(October 2011)


May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

Nancy Nordenson's Work Stories: Finding Livelihood In The Middle Of Work

Welcome to the second post in the second annual series of guest posts on the subject of our everyday work lives. For the remaining weeks of Ordinary Time, I’ve invited some friends to share a one-day snapshot into their work life that will help us see what they know to be true right now about who they are made to be.

This week’s guest shared here last year and I’m sharing again because Nancy is one of the voices I’ve listened to most deeply on the subject of work. Her book Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure is a good and true reflection on the tension between light and shadow that most of us hold every single workday. In the book, she tells her own story of the work she chooses and the work she’s been given which, on most days of her life, are two separate kinds of work. The fact that she shares this sometimes-discomfiting message with literary beauty puts the book at the top of my list of favorites on the subject of faith and work.

Imagine my delight when, unexpectedly, I met Nancy in person at a writing event a couple of years ago. I’d been wandering around the campus in a self-conscious daze, searching for a friendly face who saw me for me and not my credentials. And that’s when I met Nancy and her husband, Dave. We’ve remained online friends ever since, and I treasure her hopeful, thoughtful, authentic voice in the middle of all the digital clamor.

No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum of doing the work you’ve always wanted to do or just doing the work you’ve found, may you find encouragement and hope in Nancy’s words.

p.s., I’m honored to be the first place Nancy’s publicly shared the title of her newest book! Please visit Nancy’s website to read more about her new project, and do sign up for her email newsletter. It’s a gem!

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I have two kinds of work. Creative writing: this work doesn’t add financially to our bottom line, and in fact, has taken away a fair amount, but I consider it a spiritual vocation. And medical writing: this work pays the bills and takes up the bulk of my time. Given, however, that medical writing is about the human body and what makes us sick and what makes us well, even this is within the spiritual vocation realm to a considerable extent. My guess is that most jobs intersect with this realm if you consider them a certain way. Hopefully, both my kinds of work contribute something of value back into the world.

Creative Writing

My day typically starts with prayer and some devotional reading, often from the Bible, and often taking place somewhere near a window looking out on the backyard, preferably in the direction of a river birch tree that we planted about 7 years ago. I then work on my current creative writing project. I’d like to say the creative writing work happens every day, but honestly, it often gets usurped by my other work that overflows its parameters. But for the purposes of this piece, I’ll assume it’s the best of days. I use this hour or so before I start my paid work by writing or by editing something already in process. I often work with pen and paper, tape and scissors.

Currently, I’m working on my third book, this one about hope. My current working title is Being on The Way: The Practice of Hope (and this is the first time I’ve named that title publicly). I started this project about four years ago, and it’s not yet clear how much longer it will take before I can call it complete. Hope, once you start considering it deeply and over time, is not as simple as it initially seems. A first piece from this work was published at Art House America, and if you’re interested, you can read it here: https://www.arthouseamerica.com/blog/knotted-gossamer.html

MY CURRENT WRITING PROJECT AS IT WAS THIS PAST SPRING; IT’S IN A LITTLE BETTER SHAPE NOW.

MY CURRENT WRITING PROJECT AS IT WAS THIS PAST SPRING; IT’S IN A LITTLE BETTER SHAPE NOW.

My creative writing work started about 23 years ago and could be described as slow-moving. I’ve always had another job and a good amount of that time was also spent raising my sons. The two books I’ve written have each taken about 8 years or so to write, find a publisher, and be released. I sometimes get uncomfortable admitting to this slow pace, but on the other hand, it is what it is considering my other work expectations. Plus, on a deeper and very real level, I think it often just takes a long time to think about and live into complex topics, let alone write about them.

Thirteen years ago I went back to school to get an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University, a low-residency program with a unique art and faith emphasis. My primary goal in enrolling in the program was to become a better writer. My secondary goal was to deepen and broaden my understanding of faith and how it informs and is informed by art. In the program, I realized just how deeply these goals were intertwined. Better writing necessitates a deeper and broader spiritual sensibility and vice versa. I mention the program now not to name a credential, but because it continues to have so much to do with who am I am and what I’m about.

I try to re-enter the creative writing work again in the evening. This is mostly in the form of reading rather than writing, but reading always feeds writing. I usually write posts for my blog (Markings) and my newsletter (Dear Reader) on the weekend. Other things always compete with this evening and weekend time, however—including cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping, and spending time with my friends and family so not everything on my list gets done and things take longer and longer. Plus, honestly, my brain is often very tired at the end of a workday, which is another reason my creative work takes a long time.

WEBSITES FREQUENTLY ON MY COMPUTER SCREEN DURING MY WORKDAY.

WEBSITES FREQUENTLY ON MY COMPUTER SCREEN DURING MY WORKDAY.

Medical Writing

When it’s time to start work, I usually move away from the backyard windows to the desk in my home office. For about 16 years, my medical writing was all freelance, but a little over 2 years ago, I shifted to working as a full-time employee for one of my long-term clients. I am very grateful for the routine paychecks, the camaraderie of colleagues, and the opportunity to be part of something bigger than what I could conjure alone at my desk. My medical writing is typically for a physician audience under the umbrella of continuing medical education. For each project, I’m the writer on a team that’s led by a faculty comprised of one or more physicians. Most of the completed projects are available online, but sometimes they are presentations at medical meetings. A few of the topics I’ve written a lot about over the years include hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. There are always new topics as well and so much to learn. Lately, my projects have included Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple other kinds of cancer. I spend a lot of time on the websites of the National Library of Medicine, including ClinicalTrials.gov and PubMed.

St. John’s University Guest House in Collegeville, Minnesota

St. John’s University Guest House in Collegeville, Minnesota

Nancy Nordenson.Finding Livelihood.jpg

Final Thoughts From Behind the Scenes

I’m very grateful for my work and creative writing projects, but I don’t want to end this post suggesting a glorious life where all are living happily ever after. Too often, when we talk about work in an all-positive frame, those reading or listening may be left feeling like they’re doing something wrong. To be honest, if readers of Tamara’s blog were all sitting around a dinner table together, I could share troubling stories about work-life, starting with the first day of my first real job, in a hospital microbiology lab, when my coworkers voted on whether to walk off the job in protest for how the staff were treated. I could tell you of the evening many years after that first day in the lab when my husband came home late from work, holding a cardboard box filled with his office stuff, and told me he’d lost his job, just as we had two sons in college and I had started grad school. If we were together around that dinner table, I would listen to your stories as well. We could talk about the hard questions associated with work that books by “experts,” particularly Christian books about work, or dare I say sermons about work that we occasionally hear from the pulpit on Sundays, seem to want to avoid. Work is not just a place from which to serve others or a place to earn money, but a place of human struggle for the one who works, a place of human transformation.

I wrote an essay shortly after my husband lost his job called “A Place at the Table,” first published in Relief Journal, and that was the crystal for my second book Finding Livelihood. I wrote that essay as an effort to deal with his job loss, to make peace with it, but I kept writing what became the book to make peace with work and to explore where work fits on a lifelong spiritual journey.

Peace and hope to each of you in your work lives, paid or not. And thank you to Tamara, for inviting me to be part of this series.


Nancy Nordenson is the author of Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure, (Kalos Press, 2015), and Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul (Baker Books, 2004). Her writing has appeared in Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Indiana Review, Comment, Under the Sun, Relief, and in other publications and anthologies, including The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God (Cascade), Becoming: What Makes a Woman (University of Nebraska Gender Studies), and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage (Kalos Press). Her work has earned multiple "notable" recognitions in the Best American Essays and Best Spiritual Writing anthologies and Pushcart Prize nominations. By day, Nancy works as a medical writer and has written for a variety of venues, including continuing medical education programs and national and international medical symposia. Nancy graduated from North Park University in Chicago with a BA in biology and chemistry and earned an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University. Her website is www.thelivelihoodproject.com.


A song and a prayer for all of us this week

 
May you have livelihood in the fullest sense of the word.
May your eyes be opened to the larger transcendent reality that enfolds your work.
May you live and work in the flow of God’s love and grace, to you and through you.
May your work be absorbed into the overall spiritual journey that is your life.
May your longing for meaning be satisfied even when your daily work fails to satisfy.
May you be refreshed in the time and space of Sabbath-like leisure.
May we all make peace with the shadows.
— The Benediction from Nancy Nordenson's book Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure

We Labor Unto Glory, The Porter’s Gate, featuring Liz Vice

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What about you?

In what ways do you think of your work as a spiritual journey?

Drop me a comment below.


(You can read all of this year’s Work Stories here.)

Weekend Daybook: so many reading recommendations to celebrate the first weekend in autumn!

A curated list of what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from this week

September.M+D1.jpg

My thoughtful and generous parents drove to Connecticut (from central NY state) just to have lunch with us and take a walk in the September sunshine. They also delivered some bedroom furniture that my grandparents no longer need that will eventually go into Kendra’s home after she GETS MARRIED next spring! We managed to fit in a first-look in real life of the stunning engagement ring, a visit with the engaged couple, lunch around the table, and a walk at Seaside Park. Family is a good gift and I’m so, so grateful to God for my parents.


(2) posts in the second-annual Work Stories series

  1. More Work Stories: bringing back a favorite for Ordinary Time - This year again, I’m delighted to share some stories from a few friends who are on the same journey of living out their callings one day at a time. I’ve asked them to give us a one-day snapshot into their work life that will help us see what they know to be true right now about who they are made to be. Some live out their callings in a way that they get paid to do the thing they’re most uniquely suited to be in this world, others work jobs that pay the bills so they are able to pursue those callings. Most are a combination of the two.

  2. Matt Evans' Work Stories: One Job, Many Titles (including "the worst") - Here’s a teaser from a day in Matt’s life as a “husband, a father, a small business owner, equine veterinarian, amateur painter and uber-amateur stand-up comedian”. It’s a pretty great kick-off to this year’s series!

    “…here we are, smack in the middle of Ordinary time again like we mostly are, and Tamara asked me to write a bit about what I fill my Ordinary time with, my Vocation if you will (you will.) Vocation seems to be a popular buzz word among the liturgical thinking community just now. Our church has hired a Director of Vocation recently and while I’m not any more sure of what he does than the Canon, I haven’t seen him at my office helping me extract a horse tooth as of yet, so I’m guessing Vocation is a term that, like Ordinary, is used to encompass that part of the Christian life that is, well, most of it.”

Matt Evans10.png

Matt Evans' Work Stories:

One Job, Many Titles (including "the worst")


(3) links to reorient our concerns about the border

  1. “If we aren’t showing up for immigrant families before the raids happen, we’re already too late.” Jessica Courtney shares her experience I’m an Immigrant in Another Country. I’ve Been Arrested and Separated From my Children. Here’s What I Want You to Know via Preemptive Love.

  2. When a small town loses 100 people in just a few hours, kids come home to find their parents missing. In Sudden Departure, This American Life producer Lilly Sullivan talks to people trying to make sense of where they went and if they’ll come back.

  3. One of the voices I continue to appreciate most on the subject of immigrants and refugees in the United States is Sarah Quezada. Over the past month, she’s invited her weekly newsletter readers to join her in prayer for Stephen Miller, immigration policy advisor to the president. Because Miller’s strong anti-immigrant sentiment is woven throughout each of the policies he writes, Sarah Quezada encouraged her readers to pray for the Lord to soften Miller’s heart. Read more about The Adviser Who Scripts Trump’s Immigration Policy, join us in prayer, and subscribe to Sarah Quezada’s weekly newsletter.

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Sarah Quezada’s newsletter

The Road Map is a “weekly digest navigating faith, justice and culture”


(4) bits & bobs related to work

  1. Plough’s autumn quarterly just released and - fun surprise! - it’s on the subject of Vocation. You can browse the articles online here (or better, yet, subscribe to the print version): Plough Quarterly No. 22: Vocation.

  2. Hear! Hear! It’s Time To Destigmatize Service Industry Jobs via The Urban Phoenix - “With a changing economy and a “new normal” when it comes to making ends meet, we must begin to accept that service jobs are opportunities for growth and stability, not evidence of an unsuccessful life."

  3. Something I’m pretty sure many of my teacher friends and family would endorse, a new monthly column, In Praise of the High School English Teacher via LitHub. “In order to survive as a high school English teacher, you have to be an idealist and a realist in equal parts.”

  4. A sweet and poignant gift from my friends at Think Christian, A Theology of The Office. “In six funny and relatable essays, an array of TC writers break down your favorite episodes, characters, and moments from The Office to unveil the way God’s story can be seen even in Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch.” (Don’t miss the companion-themed Work Playlist on Spotify!)

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A Theology of The Office

Free Ebook from Think Christian!


(5) links to celebrate the beginning of Autumn!

  1. For my local friends - 15 Places To Get Apple Cider Donuts In CT

  2. For my regional friends (and everyone else who wants to visit NYC at this exquisite time of year!) - Where to see fall foliage in NYC: 10 of the best spots for leaf-peeping in the five boroughs

  3. From our Canadian neighbors: The science behind the smell of fall

  4. For my reading friends: Weathering the Books by Rebecca D. Martin via The Rabbit Room

  5. For all of us: 3 Autumn Poems by Jane Tyson Clement via Plough

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3 Autumn Poems by Jane Tyson Clement

image: Swamp In the Forest, detail, by Fyodor Vasilyev


(6) personal favorite book recommendations for atmospheric autumn reading

  1. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

    My first rapturous words for this book and author are written in this post all the way back in 2007. While the Pulitzer-prize winning title chronicles the author’s entire year exploring on foot the Virginia region surrounding Tinker Creek, my imagination has always been captured by the autumn Monarch butterfly migration. This work is nothing if not an atmospheric depiction of the life (and death) cycles of nature.

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  2. September: A Novel by Rosamunde Pilcher

    “September...when the heather is in full flower, the first chill of autumn cools the air, and the countryside stirs with the hunt, balls, dinner parties, and dance.” A simple, cozy read which requires a mug of tea and a fluffy quilt.

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  3. A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis From A Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll

    The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi is October 4! Hug your pets and buy Abigail Carroll’s warm, lighthearted and substantive book. Interwoven through the letters, we get a glimpse into the life of the infamous saint, the author's life, and our own lives as well. This book is an autumn fixture on my nightstand since my first read back in 2018.

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  4. Still Life: An Inspector Gamache Novel (Book 1)

    Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal just after they celebrated a Canadian Thanksgiving (always the second Monday in October). As they go traipsing through the woods to discover clues around the dead body, they kick up loads of autumnal chill and intrigue. If you’re knee-deep into the bestselling series, this first story is worth a re-read!

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  5. Harry Potter: The Illustrated Collection by J.K. Rowling and Illustrated by Jim Kay

    Since the entire series revolves around the rhythms of a Hogwarts’ school year, autumn is the perfect time to re-read or dive in for the first time! I’m planning to borrow the gorgeous illustrated full-color editions from my children who’ve been pestering me to finally, and for Christ’s sake, finish reading this series!

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  6. The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

    If your typical fall reading includes a couple spooky tales, Flannery O’Connor’s got you covered. Our church’s reading group read the entire collection of short stories together last autumn and it reminded me just how chilling and grotesque O’Connor draws her characters. If nothing else, read her masterpiece A Good Man Is Hard To Find

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers


 

(7) posts from the archives

  1. Related to the Work Stories series and highly recommended! 5 of my favorite authors on discovering & honoring our calling (2018)

  2. What would you say? If you could talk to the world right now (2016)

  3. Still one of my favorite stories from our newlywed days. The time we got mac & cheese as a wedding gift [a mini story] (2013)

  4. Always a needed reminder for me! Becoming forgiven [imperfect prose] (2011)

  5. Last week I was trying to describe to a friend my favorite childhood place. Here are the best words I’ve been able to write so far. On the Subject of A Place: an essay, imperfect prose: a Place for rest, pondering words and pictures on a Wednesday morning (2010)

  6. I’ve never forgotten this epiphany. As through a glass: trying to imagine myself a young widow (2009)

  7. The years I was learning what it meant to make friends as an adult - the good, bad, and the ugly. Good medicine & Bad medicine (2007)

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12 years ago

An ordinary weekend overflowing with the good medicine of friendship and beauty.



May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Matt Evans' Work Stories: One Job, Many Titles (including "the worst")

Welcome to the first post in the second annual series of guest posts on the subject of our everyday work lives. For the remaining weeks of Ordinary Time, I’ve invited some friends to share a one-day snapshot into their work life that will help us see what they know to be true right now about who they are made to be.

Today’s guest is a friend from our days in Austin whom I once mentioned on this blog with this stellar description: “Since coming to Austin, we have come to love many, many people, but none more than the inimitable, bow-tie-wearing, country horse veterinarian, pipe-crafting Matt Evans. He oversees the [Christ Church] garden and blog. He's pretty awesome himself.” I can’t think of a better introduction now and am so thankful to Matt for kicking off this second annual blog series.

p.s. I hope you’ll take a few minutes after reading Matt’s post about the day in his life as an Equine veterinarian, oil painter of pictures, business owner, husband, and father to check out @evanspaintingandstuff on Instagram. For an extra shot of fun, watch Matt’s stand-up comedy debut at this year’s Funniest Person in Austin contest.

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First of all, I’d like to say I’ve always liked the idea of Ordinary Time. I think it started when I was in junior high and learned that the Episcopal Church I went to was part of a diocese that had a dude that was called “Canon to the Ordinary”. I didn’t have any idea what he did for a living, but any job who’s title was “Canon” had to be a pretty kick-butt job, and I certainly considered myself at best to be ordinary, so turns out, he wasn’t just a Canon, he was my Canon. Actually, he was just an assistant Bishop and probably divided his time pretty equally between bureaucratic logistics and hoping to get a promotion out of canon-dom, but it captured my imagination all the same.

Now I’m all grown up and have read a few things and I know that Ordinary is a liturgical term that defines this large period of our year and lives that are not Advent or Easter or Pentecost, but Ordinary. And here we are, smack in the middle of Ordinary time again like we mostly are, and Tamara asked me to write a bit about what I fill my Ordinary time with, my Vocation if you will (you will.) Vocation seems to be a popular buzz word among the liturgical thinking community just now. Our church has hired a Director of Vocation recently and while I’m not any more sure of what he does than the Canon, I haven’t seen him at my office helping me extract a horse tooth as of yet, so I’m guessing Vocation is a term that, like Ordinary, is used to encompass that part of the Christian life that is, well, most of it.

So, here is a day in the life of Matt. I am a husband, a father, a small business owner, an equine veterinarian (that explains the whole horse tooth bit, better, I’m guessing), an amateur painter and a uber-amateur stand-up comedian. You’ll see a little of all that here. Hopefully what you will also see is what I know but often miss – I am the worst person (get in the sinner line behind me, Paulie!) who the best things have happened to and my daily life is filled with innumerable opportunities to serve, to love, make a difference to God’s creation and his people. You know, Ordinary Vocation.

My day usually starts with a jog. When it’s hot here, which is almost always, I run without a shirt, so I spared you a photograph of that. You’re welcome. I listen to podcast and audiobooks while I jog, which might make me occasionally laugh out loud or cry (the ending of The Tale of Two Cities comes to mind as inducing a tearful jog) and I like the idea that a shirtless, middle-aged man, wearing a headlamp, who is laughing and or crying, might at any moment come hurtling out of the darkness and startle a passerby. I live out in the country so that never happens, but, it could, and that makes me happy.

I do see Patrick, the paper man, every day. He flashes his lights at me so I know it’s him and I yell “morning, Patrick!” and he greets me as he drives by. I mention this here because that little endorphin release we get when we great a familiar person – Patrick for me, the people on your commute, the coffee person, whoever your people are – is the way God made our bodies react so that we would want to be in community, (I think – I am not a psychologist or a theologian or in any way qualified to comment on the human condition. This is the last time I will make this disclaimer, but keep it in mind as we go). By the way, Patrick and I met formally when he accidentally almost hit me with a paper one morning and I yelled a surprised and angry explicative, prompting Patrick to stop, apologize and introduce himself. Told you I am the worst.

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Here’s my family all preparing breakfast and their lunches in our galley kitchen all at the same time. It’s like a scene from Kitchen Confidential if Anthony Bourdain ran a staff of children. It’s rough and noisy and I try to already have my coffee made and be out of there before it starts. I am so filled with gratitude for my wife and girls, I never thought I would be so blessed. Also, I am annoyed by their wants, needs, noise and general confusion every morning. “Put away your dishes!” “What do you mean you need help with your homework project now!” “Be quiet, I can’t hear as I re-watch last week’s football game for the third time!” are things I say routinely, yelling to be heard above the din. I know I should be the husband that Christ is to His Church, I should be the father that God is to us. But more frequently than I like, I am thinking about my day and selfish needs and literally miss the forest of this vocation for the kitchen full of noisy, messy short people. That’s an ironing board in the background. I have no idea how to use it. The one year of my life I needed to iron, I developed the patented Matt Evans pop hard and hang straight from the dryer no iron technique. I know, I am the worst.

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Here’s my morning meeting with my practice partner, Damon (his eyes aren’t always closed like that. It’s a terrible picture. But look at that hair – so jealous), and office Manager, Jess. We meet weekly or more often to decide difficult stuff about our staff, clients, fiscal matters – hard stuff - and I love it. We joke and laugh and have a generally really good time. We still get our work in and I don’t think we would get any more done if we were dour. Also, I think, as we fill up the clinic with laughter in the morning, that’s got to be good for morale. I am filled with gratitude for these two, also. Especially Damon, a business partnership is basically a sexless marriage, and we make a great couple. Yes, those are my paintings in the office. Yes, I am the kind of guy who would decorate his own office with his own artwork. I’ve been telling you, I’m the worst.

This is morning rounds with the other veterinarians. We meet at 8:30 to discuss all the hospitalized patients and any challenging cases we are working on. The effort and thought we put into our patient care and practicing high-quality medicine is a great source of pride for us at Austin Equine. We also make time to laugh and catch up, which is vital to maintaining a team feel when we all work separately for a lot of the day. If the intern is presenting a case too slowly or I am just not making myself work at it, I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for zoning out. I blame undiagnosed ADHD, but it is probably what you are guessing – that I am the worst.

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Here’s my first appointment of the day. A routine oral exam on a young quarter horse mare. The family who owns her are long-time great clients. They have three daughters who usually all come in with the horses together. Around five years ago, they brought a horse in with a minor puncture wound that I treated in a routine fashion and didn’t think about much more as I was sure it would be fine. About four days later I was pulling into the clinic in the morning and saw the family already in the drive and unloading the horse. By the time I was getting out of my car the oldest daughter had made it to me “it’s infected!” she exclaimed, followed shortly by the middle daughter “it’s infected!” and, right on her heels, the youngest “it’s infected!” They were like the Russian nesting dolls of bad news, delivered before I even had been at work for one minute. Unlike the day I met Patrick, I fought the urge to curse loudly and, even though I thought they were wrong, had a look at the horse. They were right, it was infected. Those Matryoshka Dolls had made an accurate diagnosis. And you know the rest – I’m the worst.

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Here we are with the main case of the day for me. This mare needed extraction of an infected molar. I don’t know if that sounds easy to you, but it’s not. Oral surgery of the equid is not for the faint of heart or weak of back. Unfortunately, I am occasionally in possession of both of those, sometimes concurrently. It is one of the more difficult things I do and the stress level I have about the procedure remains high 16 years into my veterinary career. There are opportunities for complications and failure and, even when it goes smoothly, it is a lot physically and mentally difficult work. But that feeling you get when the tooth is out and your patient is eating well is worth all the stress and effort. You can also see in these pictures me working with one of our interns, one of two newly graduated veterinarians that we are training at the clinic this year. The opportunity to influence the practice career of a colleague – how they think about medical cases, interact with clients, treat their colleagues and support staff, run their future small businesses – is an amazing responsibility that I relish. But somedays, in the middle of a difficult case that has me doubting myself, I fail to live up to the vocation of teacher and mentor. I don’t know if that makes me the worst, but I certainly feel like it.

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Here our other intern and I are suturing a laceration on a horse’s face. I got into veterinary medicine after reading all the James Herriot books. You haven’t read them? Stop reading this and go start All Creature Great and Small. Way better than this drivel. I never feel more like Mr. Herriot than when I am seeing an emergency out in the field. If only I had an English accent and there was a pub nearby, oh man, I would be him. Of course, I can’t remember those good James Herriot feelings when the pager goes off at 2 am and I have to put on actual pants and go back to work and I throw a one to eighteen-minute (the entire drive to the clinic) long hissy fit. My poor wife and dogs have to hear the worst of it. I wouldn’t do that if I wasn’t the worst.

I don’t go there every day, but let’s pretend it’s a Monday and I wrapped my day up with art class at the Burke Center for Youth. The Burke Center is a residential treatment center for foster boys ages 11-18 who, for any number of reasons, cannot be placed in a traditional foster home.

The Burke Center is right next door to our clinic and we work on their horses that are part of their Equine therapy program. I don’t know exactly how this transpired, but about three years ago I offered to teach drawing and painting to the boys there if they were interested. Now, I’m a pretty amateur artist and the boys deserve better, but nobody better has volunteered, so I’m still the art teacher at the Burke.

When I am drawing and painting, I move all the way over to the right side of my brain and I’m not thinking about work or what’s stressful or even funny or how I can be the worst. I’m just seeing lines and shapes and values and it as an amazing break from the rest of the world. I am fatigued when I’m done but somehow rested and filled up, too. That is the gift I want to give to the Burke boys.

So once weekly we draw in charcoal or paint in oil from life and they hear me say over and over “work large to small”, “squint to see values” and (my favorite art quote, from living painter Marc Dalessio) “if you are having fun, then you are not doing it right.”

Yep, even when I volunteer, still the worst.

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Here’s some of the Austin Equine Staff wrapping up the day in our central pharmacy. We love our people at Austin Equine, the ability to employ and make a happy place to work and grow for all these people makes all the hard parts of this job worth it. I don’t sound like the worst, just then? You should see how proud I was of myself as I typed that. Yep, back to the worst.

I hope you have enjoyed a day in my life. I hope you saw a sinner (maybe not Chief, sorry I stepped on your toes and called you Paulie, Paul) who is struggling to live the vocation that God has blessed him with. So much opportunity to love and serve his people in the every day and every activity, no matter how ordinary. Now if only I could get people to start using my new nickname I’ve assigned myself. “Dr. Canon Evans” Catchy, right?

I’m sorry, I’m the worst.

Matt Evans is an Equine Veterinarian and part-owner of Austin Equine. A rare native Austinite, Matt remembers when Austin was neither weird nor cool, but just home. Matt met his wife Ellen in the 4th grade but they didn’t start dating until their junior year at Texas A&M. That should tell you more about Matt’s tenacity than his patience. Matt and Ellen have two girls, Katy Ann, 12, and Lucy, 9. They have been foster parents in the past, but are taking a break while Ellen focuses on her work with Foster Village. (Check them out - doing really important work!)

In his spare time Matt is an oil painter of pictures, mostly landscapes, and harbors an irrational belief that he could make it as a stand up comedian, if only all of the comedy shows didn’t happen in central Austin after his bed time.

You can follow Matt at @evanspaintingandstuff on Instagram for regular updates on his life as an Equine veterinarian, oil painter of pictures, and occasional stand up comedian. You can also see Matt attempt stand-up comedy at youtu.be/kG1Q47F3Zjw


Here’s a benediction and song for all of us, and especially those like Matt who work in the area of Business.

Lord God, send your Spirit upon and empower these your servants who desire to live out their faith in their workplaces. Give them wisdom, Lord, to know what it means to be your disciple at work. Help them as they face difficult decisions and work to balance the priorities of business and your Kingdom. Empower them in their relationships at work, so that they might treat all of their colleagues, including those they supervise and those who supervise them, with respect and love. For those in leadership in their companies, may they know best to embody and live out your call to justice, for those they employ, for their customers, for their clients, and for the larger world. Help them be good stewards of all you have entrusted to them. Amen.
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What story does your daily work tell about who you are called to be in this world right now?

Share with me know in the comments below!


(You can read all of the Work Stories here.)