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I picked up these two books a few months ago. Since the completion of my PhD, I find reading anything without an abstract to be positively decadent. I’m interested in the Christian female non-fiction genre because, let’s face it, I’m its target audience. 

I think. 

In my previous posts about submission and angry God conversation books, I lamented the observation that many of these authors were in similar life situations: kids, stay at home, educated. Why are all of these female authors the same? So, in defiance of this stereotype, because I know I’m going to get slammed for that last statement, I decided to overlay what I gleaned from each of the books. 

While the authors are distinctly different, their messages were not. 
Ann – Canadian farm wife and mother of six. Writes everyday about finding joy and gratitude in the mundane. 
Brene – Texas academic, mother of two. Researched vulnerability and shame. Conducted over 750 interviews and was taught by Barney Glaser how to do Grounded Study research. (In case you don’t know, that’s damn impressive.) 

Both authors talked about shame in different ways. Ann discussed the shame of the past closing in around you, making you numb to the everyday beauty of life. Brene dealt with moving past shame and into vulnerability. In vulnerability we can be real with each other and “embrace the cracks.” 

Because everyone has cracks, right? 

Oh wait, remember this post about a local CEO who described himself as a great and powerful projection of what a man is supposed to be? That presentation wins my personal award for the most inauthentic speech I’ve ever witnessed. The audience shared my view as I’ve heard about this event for months afterward – not in a good way, people. He didn’t have any cracks. Just ask him and he’ll tell you.

Gratitude fueled joy comes to us in everyday moments. We risk missing it when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary. 

Here are a few of mine:

I surprised my daughters with a trip to Disneyland a few years ago and they had more fun at the beach. Which was free. Compare:

My youngest and I took a walk in March, in defiance of winter and captured some of the most gorgeous moments on a seemingly ordinary and gray day. 

In 2012 my husband and I went Christmas shopping with our oldest son, Devin. After the mall excursion, we had dinner at Applebee’s. A seemingly ordinary event turned into my first time feeling like a family without the “blended” label.  

A few years before that, on this trip, is when I fell in love with my other son. He didn’t leave my side for 4 days. 

While we’re on son #2, we have a completely dangerous sweet handshake that we do while riding. That is, while I’m trying to not kill myself and he’s shouting, “come on, Jana!” 
This has replaced the wrasslin’ we used to do because, let’s face it, this is less dangerous now that he’s a gigantor person. I don’t have a picture for this because my face was purple and I almost passed out during our last foray into this stupidity. I now ask him to reach things on the top shelf in the kitchen. Yep, we are this way now. I’m frail and short and weak and tired. 

Because I need hard and fast examples, I’m grateful (catch that? gratitude…) that Brene’s book illustrated the ways in which we can also kind of “fake it till you make it” in the gratitude by putting aside jealousy and instead adopting empathy and joy for one another. In the spirit of full confessions, here are some of my real examples. Some are recent, others not so. 
  • Your kid is going to college on a music scholarship? Great! Mine just flunked out of technical college. How nice for you!
  • Your home is beautiful and perfectly decorated? Congratulations! Mine is falling apart, needs another tank of fuel oil at $800 a pop and oh, our van was set on fire in the street last night. But, yes, yours is absolutely beautiful!
  • You’re celebrating your 20-year anniversary on a Mediterranean cruise next month? How nice for you. I’m going through a divorce so you can just shut up about all your happiness. 
  • You’ve just paid off your student loan? Mine are just starting so why don’t you buy drinks tonight, k?

I could have chosen gratitude and joy for others instead of throwing an internal self-pity party. Looking back, I was truly happy for my friends. I can be happy for others in my own shame and sadness and failings. I can and will. 

Ann found that gratitude fueled joy helped her find meaning struggle, God’s grace in heartache. Brene found rest and peace in not hustling for other people’s approval of her worthiness. 

Rather, in different ways, they embraced their presumed weaknesses and realized that light can, indeed, only get in through the cracks.