Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Category: Book Reviews (page 1 of 2)

Fitting in vs. Belonging

I sat my two months shy of his 13th birthday son down and told him I wanted to talk with him about a book I just read.  Me reading a book certainly isn’t unusual to him, and we often talk about what I read, so he wasn’t too suspicious.

You see, I just finished reading Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. In chapter 7, she talks about the difference between belonging and fitting in. She interviewed 8th graders to find out how they would define the distinction between the two. The three conclusions that she included were spot on, but my favorite was this one: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” What a huge topic for a middle schooler to explore!

If you are reading this and you are a parent, then you know the worry of hoping your kid can find a tribe. And, usually we say we want our kids to fit in, but I think what we should want more than anything is for our kids to belong. I don’t want my sons to be anything other than what God created them to be. I want them to be loved for who they are, not who they try to be.

The part of the chapter that made me think more than any other part was the fact that the kids told her that not belonging at school was one thing, but not belonging at home was ultimately even worse. I thought home is where everyone is supposed to belong, but that’s just not the case. Here are some of the examples the kids gave her:

  1. Not living up to you parents’ expectations.
  2. Not being as cool or popular as your parents want you to be.
  3. Not being good at the same things your parents were good at.
  4. Your parents being embarrassed because you don’t have enough friends or you’re not an athlete or a cheerleader.
  5. Your parents not liking who you are and what you like to do.
  6. When your parents don’t pay attention to your life.

So, my son and I talked through these. I wanted to make sure his dad and I weren’t doing any of these six things. I remembered at the end of last school year when he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue with trumpet. He was so remorseful when he told us since his dad had been such a great trumpet player. Neither of us cared, but he had been so worried. Then, I thought about how he loves Pokemon and I am 100% clueless about it. He reassured me that he knows we don’t care if he plays an instrument, and as for Pokemon, we listen to him tell us about his great finds and take him places to play. For him, that’s enough.

We had such a great conversation, and I can’t believe the young man he is turning into. And, I’m so relieved he feels like he belongs at school, church, and at home. There have been various scenarios throughout my life where I felt like I didn’t fit in, but ultimately I knew it was okay, because I always had a place to belong. Some of us are square pegs in round holes and instead of complaining about it, maybe we need to embrace it, or go look for a square board.

If you haven’t read any of Brown’s books, I highly recommend them. She puts language to things we feel inside, but weren’t sure how to define. Braving the Wilderness was an easy read and opened up great dialogue with my kiddo.

Where do you feel like you most belong?


Just Wait a Minute (a chance for something free!)


How many times in your life have you said, “Just wait a minute?” If you have children, then the number of times you’ve used it increases dramatically. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve been on the phone or talking to a friend when I’ve had to pull out that phrase.

I hate being interrupted. Anything from an unwelcome phone call, or knock on the door, to a traffic jam can be annoying.

Yet sometimes there are welcome interruptions. Like today for example. When I got home from work my husband was here and we got to have lunch together. I had other plans in mind when I pulled in the driveway, but I was thankful for the interruption.

Recently, I’ve been reading Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. I frequently read her blog and love her sense of humor. She’s made me laugh harder than about any other blogger I know.

Jen and her husband are church planters in Texas. This was not the original plan. Her husband had been a pastor at a large, wealthy suburban church, and after a series of convicting moments for both of them, he turned in his resignation without a plan. Did you read that? He gave up his job without another job lined up. Yikes!

There have been times in my life that I have seen a theme of some sort develop. Recently, that theme has involved simplicity, minimalism, and contentment. Something is prodding me towards these ideals. Interrupted provides a worldview that resonates with my heart.

My recent post of not wanting to be called a Christian any more got a lot of hits, and was shared several times. Good for me, not so good for the reputation Christians are obviously getting. Those of us in the church are somehow missing the mark. Jen states, “In a nationwide survey, 94 percent of churches either were not growing or were losing ground in the communities they serve.” Some of us don’t even seem to know there is a target. She also says, “Stick your head in the ground like an ostrich if you wish, but perhaps it would be more helpful and courageous to admit we have a problem and begin dreaming up solutions.” I’m hoping Interrupted will help me figure out a better trajectory.

If you are interested in reading Interrupted, I have a copy to share with one of you. Simply enter a comment below with how your life is being interrupted right now or why you would like to read this book, and I’ll randomly select a winner this Monday, August 18th.
The winner is Jenny Schmitt who commented on my Facebook page.

You can purchase the book here, if you just can’t wait!


Too Good to Be True? Not This Time

waiting I often wonder what my life would be like without hope.

There have been days in my life I wondered how in the world I could make it through. Even breathing seemed hard.

I read a quote the other day that said this, “On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100% and that’s pretty good.” There is so much truth in that! That fact alone is hope to cling to.

Recently, I read a profound story of hope. The book, The Waiting, by Cathy LaGrow (with Cindy Coloma) will release next week on May 6th. I don’t normally like biographies, but this story was simply amazing. At the age of sixteen, Minka’s life changes forever. During a sewing class picnic, a stranger takes advantage of her while she is on a walk in the woods with a friend. Minka becomes pregnant, and doesn’t even realize it at first. You see, Minka literally still thought the stork brought babies, the naive young girl that she was.

Even after giving up the baby for adoption, Minka continues to send letters to Miss Bragstad at the House of Mercy year after year inquiring about her daughter and her happiness with her adopted family. Minka never received much information in return, but she continued to write for years and make donations to the house on behalf of the daughter she was unable to raise as her own.

Little did Minka know at the age of 94 she would be reunited with her long-lost daughter. This tale of truth is crafted by Minka’s very own granddaughter. Related in a gentle, yet stirring way, this is a story you will not soon forget. Her character comes alive as an endearing soul from the very beginning.

Minka is still going strong at her current age of 102! She travels and continues to volunteer her time. She and her daughter Ruth just  taped an interview with The Today Show. So incredible! The cover is my favorite part of the whole book. It pictures Minka’s own hands holding the only photo of her and her baby she called Betty Jane (now known as Ruth). She treasured this photo for so many years, and it would become the symbol of eternal hope realized.

This past weekend I had the joy to speak to a group of women from various churches at a women’s retreat. Some of them shared their stories with me. And some of them had experienced a lifetime of pain in just a short amount of time…situations that seemed one might be unable to endure. Yet, there they were learning, growing, and seeking.

Minka is a woman who endured much tragedy in her life. The story of her attack is only one devastating circumstance among many you will learn about in the book. I am impressed by the faithfulness of this woman who continued to endure life, and even thrive, in spite of her obstacles. I cannot help but believe it is her tenacious spirit that has contributed to her long life. If only we could all mirror her resilience!

I received this book as a gift from a friend, and I cannot say enough good about it. If you choose to read it, you will be so glad you did. You can view the trailer and find out more about the book here. Look for it May 6th! hopequote

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