I had enough of parenting books years ago. Not that I didn't have anything to learn, it was more that I had so much to learn that I gave up on easy answers and lists of things to do. So what am I doing with a book like Somewhere More Holy ? I am not sure, but what I do know is this: I read a few quotes that Ann posted and I found the narrative pulling me in.
And the reason I stayed? The reason I found myself sitting on the bathroom floor reading in the middle of the night, afraid to wake my husband with the light and yet unwilling to put the book down? Tony Woodlief knows grief. Someone who has experienced the death of a child knows something about what stands still when the rest of life is spinning. He knows sin and suffering and annoyance and regret and how risky love is. He writes:
How can God's invisible attributes be clearly seen? Perhaps they are invisible because we look in the wrong place, on the wrong terms, with wrong expectations. Grace is in the small places, if it is anywhere. 'Paradise has simply clothed itself,' goes a hymn by the Syrian Christian Saint Ephrem, 'in terms that are akin to you.' Later he writes:Woodlief can tell a story. A believable story. A sweet and scrappy and lovely story. He is honest and encouraging and self-deprecating:
The breath that wafts
from some blessed corner of Paradise
to the bitterness of this region,
it tempers the curse
on this earth of ours.
Perhaps to speak of earth's bitterness is too negative for some; but who has not tasted it in his suffering? If you have not suffered, then you have not lived, for to persist on this earth is to endure the brokenness of things, perhaps chiefly of ourselves. But still a sweetness blows from heaven, grace in the small things."
"Maybe it is closer to the truth to admit that the times when we force ourselves to be loving and patient and selfless - even though it can be a struggle - are really part of who we are just as much as the us that snaps at our children. And maybe all of us have a better view of our fitness to raise children if we remember three things: that everybody messes up, that our children love us in spite of it, and that God gave us particular parents these exact children. These blessed mirrors reflecting what we are and what we strive to be. I don't believe God is accidental about the children he gives to us."
My only regret? His children are young. I am eager to hear his thoughts on raising teenagers, on bringing boys to manhood. I am confident it will be a story worth reading. For now, I highly recommend Somewhere More Holy . And you can read other eclectic thoughts from the pen of Tony Woodlief at his blog: Sand in the Gears.