Friday, January 30, 2015

spoken in the shop, vol. 20.



On New York Times bestsellers
Customer: "I couldn't get into Gone Girl. I just like bestsellers."
Me: "Well, Gone Girl was on the bestseller list for about two and a half years, so..."

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On day drinking
"If I seem a little drunk, I'm not. I just have vertigo right now."

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On trash TV
Customer commenting on my reading habits: "A book a week? Do you ever just watch Jerry Springer or something?"

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On our special Cheers-like atmosphere
Customer: "I just love that you guys know my name."

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On Unbroken
"You haven't read Unbroken yet? Oh, you must! I didn't like the movie though. Well, really [whispers], I don't like that woman director."

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On living the dream
Former coworker to me: "I just had to come see you. It's rare to know someone who vocalizes their dream and then makes it happen... in record time! And you were so right about Gone Girl; you were an early adopter!"

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On that generic vibe we're definitely not aiming for
"It's like a little Books-A-Million. You know what? We need a Books-A-Million in Thomasville."

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On what not to do at a free letter writing event
Customer: "Oh, I thought this was a letter writing club. These are all just notecards."
Manager: "We have some paper on the table as well, if you'd prefer that."
Customer: "I'm used to writing 12-page letters to my friends, so that won't work either."

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On why sometimes, you should shop Amazon
"Do you guys have cereal here?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

4/52 :: seeking.


It's those unborn, not-yet-conceived children I worry about. When I wonder why Jordan and I haven't made a decision regarding church, I realize it's because I don't know what I want my children to believe. I don't know if I want to baptize my infants or teach them four-part harmony. I don't know what kind of hymns I want them to sing or if I want them to give up things for Lent or if I want them to call another human being "Father." 

--

When we moved to Thomasville, we decided we were going to find a new church home. And there are all kinds of places on the Internet devoted to discussions about church and what it means for millennials and whether it's important to our generation. I won't debate that here, because to me and to Jordan, it is important. We grew up going to church; we love the act of gathering together with believers, even if it's painful, even if it's inconvenient. 

So we go to church, every Sunday, just like we've done for the past 29 years of our lives. 

Only now, we go to a church where a priest blesses the bread and the wine. We pull out benches and kneel in prayer. We say the Nicene Creed. We sing songs I don't always know, and a choir sings with us. I don't lift my hands in worship or clap to a beat. I bow when a cross comes down the aisle, and I stare at a 10-foot Jesus hanging on a large, wooden cross.

And I am happy. 

But the thing no one really tells you about growing up and making adult decisions is that rarely are they clear-cut. Maybe it's just me, but I see a lot of grey in this life, and a lot of grey in my faith. 

I am happy in this new church setting, but it is not easy. 

For years on this blog, I have avoided talking specifically about my church denomination or faith identification. That's been intentional, because I think we can talk together more safely when labels aren't being brandished about. Often, we're more alike than not, and labels can get in the way of conversation.

So I've avoided mentioning I'm a member of the church of Christ. Not just in label, either. I am third generation church of Christ. I went to a church of Christ college. My brother graduated from a church of Christ seminary program. Jordan's dad is an elder in the church of Christ; his granddad is a church of Christ minister and professor. 

That faith is in our blood, so when I talk about attending an Anglican church, it isn't easy. In fact, it's something we haven't told a lot of people, because in the traditional, more conservative church of Christ, attending a new denomination can be seen as conversion. This isn't a "pick what's best for you" situation; this is a "choose between right and wrong." 

We are choosing, at the moment, something many people in the faith we love and grew up in might believe is wrong.

In my family, we have always talked about faith openly and honestly. Some of my happiest memories are of gathering around the dining room table, discussing tough decisions about church and faith and life. So my parents are well-versed in these discussions. Our current choice to attend an Anglican church is one we've shared with them, and they've asked questions and they've been respectful, and I am grateful. But one night, a few weeks ago, I was talking with my mom on the phone. And we were talking about church, and I think I asked, up-front, what they thought about what we were doing. 

My mom said, "You know, honey, I think we're just a little confused, but we'll be okay."

She didn't mean to, but her answer broke my heart.

To my knowledge, I have never confused my parents. I have been the kid who does right. The kid who makes straight As, who wins awards, who marries the really nice guy. For the most part, the decisions we make, even still, make our parents happy and proud, so to confuse them? It hurts. 

So every Sunday now, I am happy. There are no stomachaches, there are no headaches. Women read Scripture from the pulpit and pour wine into my mouth. I kneel in prayer and go forward for communion and recite a creed I'd only ever heard about. And I love it. The robes and the priests and the pomp and circumstance are foreign to me, but I don't mind it. So I am happy, but I am also sad. Because the songs they sing aren't familiar to me yet. And my parents aren't sitting beside me, and the faces in the crowd still belong to strangers. 

I don't know what to do with all of these feelings yet. Shauna Niequist says “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” Each Sunday, then, is an exercise in both celebration and growth, and some days are better -- or worse -- than others. 

The decisions Jordan and I make together as a family are never ones we make lightly. (We are both notorious over-thinkers.) And I wonder if our different sets of parents are both asking: Which one is pulling the reins here? Meaning, do my parents think Jordan is leading me down the path to Anglicanism? Do Jordan's parents think I've pulled him toward liturgy?

The comforting truth about all of this is that we both have questions we're asking, and the answers we're getting are leading us to the Anglican church, individually and together. Jordan's questions are more about church history, and even his closest friend showed absolutely no surprise when Jordan told him where we were going to church. It's not all that surprising, given the questions Jordan has been asking since I've known him.

My questions have to do with culture and women's roles and never quite finding my place in a conservative church of Christ setting. We both know, too: The answers we're reaching might be very different if we were living somewhere else. The church of Christ lives and breathes in autonomy, meaning if we lived in a different town, in a different part of the country, we might very well be able to find a church of Christ that could live comfortably with our questions. But we chose Thomasville, and for now, this is home, and our questions, right now, are being answered in the same place.

Of course, anyone who asks questions knows: The more questions you ask, the more you'll keep asking. 

And so there has been no confirmation for us. We are not members of the Anglican church. We haven't finished asking our questions. 

Instead, we go to church every Sunday. We worship the same Jesus we've always worshiped; we seek comfort in the Father and wisdom from the Spirit, just like we've always done. These are things we believe can be done in somber, quiet acts and in happy, celebratory ones, in tiny, wooden churches of Christ and ornate Anglican cathedrals. The God we serve is so big, we believe He's got all of us wrapped up in His gentle hands.

We are not Anglican. Probably, maybe, we are still members of the church of Christ. But if you're slapping labels on things, maybe you should know: We are simply two kids asking questions, doing our best to please the Father. And we are both hopeful His grace will cover us, because sometimes, that has to be enough. It is my prayer, regardless of the decisions we make, that it will be enough for our children, too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

on supporting makers + doers.


When you own a shop, I think it can be easy to get bogged down by the consumerism of it all. I worked the Saturday after Christmas and warred against myself, first wondering how on earth people could still be shopping, then rejoicing, of course relieved that they were. It can be conflicting work, retail. 

Then two weeks ago, my mom and I traveled to Atlanta for market, and we found some lovely, American-made lines for the shop: wooden blocks, book-inspired jewelry, delicious shortbread, those Annie B's caramels you all love. And somehow, our Atlanta trip made it all better: seeing the artists, meeting the people who make the goods we sell. It made me feel like we're making a difference, like we're doing a good work. 

Growing up, my dad would pray before dinner every night, asking God to bless all the hands that helped our meals reach the table: the farmers, the truck drivers and delivery men, the grocers. It was a nightly reminder of where our food came from, and now, as a shop owner, I find myself appeased by the idea that we're helping makers and doers get their work to the masses (or at least the masses in Thomasville, Georgia). 

Last Friday, my friend Sidney and I had the chance to drive to Bainbridge and meet with Jessica, the brains behind The Refinery candle operation. We've been selling Bainbridge-made Refinery candles in the shop since before the holidays, and we consistently sell out. (And before you cry, "BUT YOU'RE A BOOKSTORE," let's all agree sweet-smelling candles make for pretty cozy reading company, amen?) 

The Refinery also supports Still Waters, a safe place and shelter for women and children in South Georgia. The women make candles every week, combining new scents, cutting wicks, stamping the signature tin tags. They take ownership of the candles and learn valuable skills for future employment. 

Sidney and I were able to see firsthand the work The Refinery is doing, the beautiful making and doing these women are accomplishing. It's a pleasure -- a privilege, really -- to be able to share in their work, to bring their candles over to Thomasville. We learned just how hard candle-making can be; a thirty-minute project took us an hour and a half! So many scents, so little time. 

These are the stories that make this job so much fun. It's getting to support the makers and the doers, the people are around us who are working hard to make their dreams happen. This is the part of retail I love, the part that makes owning a storefront so very worth it. 

We had a blast following Jessica around, learning the amount of thought and effort that goes into each candle, and I'm pleased to announce we'll be carrying our very own Bookshelf- and Thomasville-inspired candles this spring. Freshly-baked bread and books, anyone?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

3/52 :: children.


I wrote this essay while thinking about my upcoming 29th birthday. Jordan and I are surrounded by peers who we love, most of whom have children, and one day, we hope to join their ranks, either by having biological children or by adopting someday. The thing is: We're not there yet. But we're talking and dreaming and open to what God has in store. So I wanted to write an essay about where I am right now on the subject of children and fertility and pregnancy. I know these are personal subjects, and your views and my views might not be the same. That's okay. This is just the view from where I sit right now, and maybe by writing and talking about these things, you'll know your views are okay too. 

--

I might be the only woman on the planet who questioned her fertility after watching an episode of New Girl. 

The Fox television show isn't even one I typically watch -- Jess' immaturity grates and what on earth do they ever do with Winston? -- but once in a while, the convenience of Netflix wins, and I watch a few episodes while cleaning the house or folding our clothes. Then, about a year ago, I watched as Jess panicked about the dearth of her eggs after 30, and I promptly scheduled my annual physical. (So much for mindless television.) 

On February 2, I'll turn 29 years old. I own a home and a business and a dog. I'm happily married and take long walks and occasionally try a yoga pose or two. I read a lot of books and decorate our house and sit on my front porch. I ask big questions and journal and play the piano and sometimes cook dinner. I am incredibly fulfilled, and yet the assumption seems to be that I should be constantly preoccupied with my baby-making abilities (which, by the way, may not even be up to me, but no one seems to be concerned about that little detail).

It is hard to be a childless woman in the South, to be asked incredibly personal, intimate questions about babies and fertility and timing.

And I would like to clarify that I want children. We want children. It's really no one's business when we have them, but the desire is certainly there. We talk a lot about raising children, about our hopes and dreams for parenting and what it will be like if and when this tiny house has another little person in it. Those are the things we are excited about, the things we love talking about on date night. 

But there are other things to consider, of course. This business of ours, with its infantile temperament and the resulting sleepless nights. My bordering-on-absurd fear of pregnancy and childbirth, only exacerbated by the horror stories the Internet leaves at my fingertips. Our mental and physical heath, which we'd like to have under control before caring for another human being. So many details and discussions, none of which we should have to share publicly or with well-meaning family or friends. It is hard for me to understand when conversations about baby-making -- conversations that really boil down to sex and biology -- became the norm.

Here is the reality: Last January, I went to my gynecologist, a kind, gentle, rational, faithful woman I adore. She didn't bat an eye when I told her I'd heard on a television show that 90 percent of a woman's eggs cease to exist after age 30. Instead, she smiled. She told me I had nothing to worry about, that she would help me prepare for baby-making and childbirth when the time came. She appeared completely calm and unconcerned, and I thought: thank you. And I wish I could send all of my friends to my doctor. Because I might have reached near-hysteria thanks to Zooey Deschanel, but other women I know whisper and share the same fears -- sometimes more concrete and realistic than my own -- and here is what I wish for all of us: women who will not rise up in fear with us, but who will instead talk us down off the ledge, who will assure us we are fine. We are going to be fine.

Last Friday, I bought a set of Childcraft encyclopedias for my unborn, unconceived children. I've got a couple of Christmas stockings I've bought, too, set aside for future use. 

I am hopeful for the growth of my family. I trust it will happen exactly when and how it should. I am excited for back-to-school dinners and colorful nurseries and an excellent husband who will undoubtedly make an excellent father. 

But I will not live in fear, and I will not answer all of the pointed questions -- are you still on birth control? are you trying? don't you guys want kids? -- because they don't deserve to be answered. I will not wish my beautiful life away, because one day I want to tell my children what a very good life we welcomed them into, what we worked hard to create both for them and for us. 

This life is too good to worry or wish it away, and so I will continue to read and to play the piano and to enjoy dates with my husband. And one day, when we are ready and it is meant to be, our family will grow, and we will, I think, become parents to the loveliest, smartest, silliest children in the world.

Friday, January 16, 2015

an invitation to donald miller.


I have no idea if this is kosher or not, but I guess I just figure: What's a girl got to lose? And Don, if you're reading this, I tried really hard to find your email address, really I did. (And I mean that in the least creepy way possible.) 

--

Hi, Don,

I've been meaning to write you for months now, maybe years. I was in college when I read Blue Like Jazz for the first time, and a few years later, I was in a corporate job I liked but didn't love, when I picked up A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. You were the first person -- in my life, anyway -- to point out this idea of life as story, and I knew I didn't like the one I was living. Parts of it were beautiful, but I worried about whether I was being brave, taking risks. Together, my husband and I prayed for new openings, and as if on cue, they arrived. Big and scary opportunities that have brought us to a life that looks completely different from the one we were leading a couple of years ago.

And no, we're not missionaries in a foreign land. We didn't make a cross country move. But we did buy a bookstore. And we did move to a small, Southern town unlike any place we've lived before.

The story we're living? It's pretty darn good, and we owe our adventure to a lot of people, including you. 

After I read A Million Miles and prayed a lot of prayers and cried a lot of tears, I quit my decent corporate job and began managing a newly-opened bookstore in my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida. One year in, the owner had a proposition: She wanted to close the Tallahassee store, but maintain her larger shop in nearby Thomasville, Georgia. She was done -- ready to raise her family and begin new endeavors -- but she didn't want to see the store die. I didn't either, and because I've always had Kathleen Kelly-inspired dreams, I bought in.

Because my husband and I never half-ass anything (we're oldest children and don't know how), we moved. While other friends were leaving for Nashville and Boulder and Jacksonville and Atlanta and Chicago, we packed our bags for tiny Thomasville. So I own a bookstore in a world where people like cheap books shared instantly on their phones and tablets. We live in a small, slow town when most people our age are going bigger, farther. Our story is weird and risky and scary and honestly? Not always fun. But it's good, and it's better than it was, and I wanted to say thank you. 

And yes, I also have this tiny little wish that you might consider a book signing at my independent bookstore. Your new book comes out the week of my 29th birthday, and I think it'd be so fun to celebrate by hosting you at The Bookshelf in Thomasville. Thomasville is a lovely town, and The Bookshelf is something special. And I know it's a long shot, but I read this book once about taking risks. And I guess I figured: Why not? So thanks for encouraging this journey. My life is better -- really, truly -- after reading and thinking about your books. 

See you in the shop?