The Superlatives {August 2014}

Lots of transition in August. School starts. Summer sort of ends, but the heat stays on a while longer here in Atlanta. Here's some favorites from the month.


Bible is already the Sunday School answer for "Favorite Book," so you know, I thought I'd kick it up a notch with my latest favorite in the category. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.

I have actually heard rave reviews of this one in the past, but I started reading it with Ella this week. It was so different than I expected. Given that I've grown up in church my whole life, it was a suprise. Here's a little quote for ya -

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn't do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn't mainly about you and what you should be doing. It's about God and what he has done.


I have seriously been searching quite some time for the option to schedule when my emails are sent out. Someone asked me why on earth I would ever need to do that and I quickly responded with socially acceptable answers. But the real reason is that sometimes I don't want to respond two seconds after someone emails... but I do what to keep my inbox practically empty. Enter Boomerang.


Well, it may not actually be the best, since our neighborhood also hosts an annual kickball tournament and an amazing Halloween party (that, give my love of costumes and candy, I help organize). But every year, we do a progressive dinner. And it's always a fun time to walk through the neighborhood together and eat amazing food all along the way.


You decide. Personally, I think the one one the right has an authenticity to it that is unbeatable.

Turned out the first day of school for Isaac was also his first day in shoes. (Some have suggested this is the reason for his distress.)


Heroes. I know. It's old. Naturally, Billy and I just discovered it. We've been binge-watching with glee. In fact, I heard myself say, "I think I am just a person who likes sci-fi." Really? Ah, well....


If you follow me on the socials, you already know that Billy took me on a fan tour of the Hunger Games Filming Sites from the second movie. It was quite the special birthday gift, and we had such a blast. President Snow's mansion. Archery Tag. District 12. The lake that was the Cornicopia. (I even got to stand on one of the pedestals!) I now fill equipped to offer my own bootleg tours, if you're interested.

Runner up for this category are these headphones I bought Gabriella. She was super stoked.


I shared reviews of Interrupted and Overrated this month. Both quality reads. I also started Americanah. It's the story of a Nigerian immigrant to the United States and talks about race, cultural identity, falling in love, and the immigrant experience. As you might imagine... I'm interested.


Why Does Kale Taste Like Dreams Deferred?
The Secret To Having a Marriage That Never Goes Stale
Justice & Discipleship & Worship
Hand It Over: Cultural Differences In Giving
10 Dating Customs From Around the World
Global Parenting Habits That Haven't Caught On in the US

What were you into this month?

Am I More In Love with the Idea of Immigration Reform than Actually Reforming Immigration?

Image Source: David Ludwig

Today I have an announcement and a confession. Let's do the fun one first! I'm excited to tell you I have another book to recommend - Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?

Wow. What a subtitle right? I mean that right there was enough to get me interested in the thing. Here's a quick video about Eugene Cho's heart for the book.

You might think to yourself, "Is this book going to make me feel bad?" Because I wondered that a bit after I saw the video. But I've read enough by Eugene to trust him in the questions.

Because not everybody can pull off a provocative question like the one in the book's subtitle. But Eugene's style is super genuine and down-to-earth. He's a pastor first and foremost. It doesn't read like an indictment as much as an honest question to himself and all of us.

And quite frankly, I can use the discussion. You might guess this is the confession part.

As much as I care about immigration, I must admit that there are times I post on social media to "call your representative - it's super easy," and then... I don't. Do I forget? Or does my brain just somehow think tweeting was enough "social action" for one day? I'm embarrassed to recognize it's probably some of both.

Overrated is an accessible read, yet the words are not easy. He shares honest struggles and reminds me of values like simplicity, waiting (this is definitely not my forte... or Ella's), and depth in the pursuit of justice. I loved this post on Eugene's charge to dive deep into justice without becoming overwhelmed by all the injustices in the world.

Billy and I love college-aged folks, and we have worked on and off with them during our marriage. This is a book I will use with students in the future. It offers a Biblical foundation for a justice lifestyle and breaks it down in bite-sized chapters perfect for discussion.

"God's justice is renewing the world to where He would have intended it to be." 

I hope you'll check it out, too. I'd love to hear your thoughts. The book releases on September 1, but you can pre-order now and get the digital copy right away! (Seriously... I think you should.)

What's your confession? Have you ever cared more about the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world?

Full disclosure: I received a copy of Overrated to read and was encouraged to share about the book. But no one told me what to write. The words are all mine, my friends.  

Spanish with Ella [Video Interview]

I write a lot about raising our kids bilingual. It's been a mixture of jubilant fist pumping and dramatic declarations that it's never going to work. And mostly, it's been a process of constant recommitment.

So instead of my thoughts on the matter today, I decided to go straight to the source. I asked Ella a few questions about growing up bilingual. You'll hear me fail vocabulary quizzes and her share some garbled Spanglish. She even offers a bonus: your very own Spanish lesson. 

And if it couldn't get any better... she's wearing her "singer" costume. Naturally. Hope you enjoy the video!

(Note: If you're reading this via email or RSS, you may need to click here to watch the video.)

What have you heard kids say about being bilingual? Or what words were easiest for them to learn in more than one language?

Why I Don't Ask "Where Are You From?" (And Why You Shouldn't Either)

Knowing where someone is from gives you clues about them. For example, when you find out I'm from the South, you may think, "Oh that's why you ate grits every day as an after school snack... and you think it's totally normal!"

Yes. It's also why I grew up wearing tights... or panty hose for the more sophisticated among us. And finally, I give my Southern heritage for having a college minor in English while still trying to make a case for the phrase "must have could."

"Where are you from?"

This question is a common conversation starter, even among homogeneous groups. Place gives us basic information and a context for getting to know someone.

Oh, I've grown up in Cleveland my whole life.

Well, I was born in Hawaii, but moved to Salt Lake City when I was five, so that's where I say I'm really from.

I grew up in the military. I'm from everywhere and nowhere.

In cross-cultural situations, however, I've found that "Where are you from?" can be a loaded question. 

The person with the accent is tired of the question. And if they take pride in their American identity, it can feel like a slight against being fully accepted into the group.

The multiracial person may feel it's a "polite" attempt to ask "What are you?" which is almost always offensive. And I discovered undocumented immigrants shy away from this question, concerned the asker may be fishing for information about legal status.

Of course, I was never trying to offend anyone by asking "Where are you from?" But just because I didn't mean to be hurtful with my words doesn't make it any less true. When we come from different backgrounds, sometimes changing our language, even if we don't intend disrespect, is the most loving action we can take.

So now I never ask that question. Even when I really, really want to. Even when I'm super nosy. Even when I think I may have visited that person's country of origin, and I'd love to share that experience in common with them.

Nope. I wait for others to choose to tell me about their past on their own terms. I've had conversations with folks from diverse backgrounds about this very topic. Their responses encourage me to encourage you to take this question out of your ice breaker repertoire.

There a different question I ask now instead. Download the e-guide below to read more!

I promise not to spam you. (I'm not even sure I know how to!) 

Racism, Prayer, Tears, & Michael Brown

I have started and stopped so many posts after Michael Brown's death last week. Racism and the issues facing minority communities are so close to my heart. I feel compelled to say something.

But words have failed me. I can't seem to articulate my sadness and anger and frustration into a cohesive paragraph. I've had some nightmares on the subject. And I just generally feel overwhelmed.

So I've been trying prayer.

I feel like I have needed God and the church this week in ways I haven't felt in a long time. I need the body of believers to remind me how we live graciously in a world broken with violence, racism, hate, and hurt. Because sometimes I just want to curl up in a ball and cry.

So I did a little of that, too.

And I was listening to Pandora when the song "How He Loves Us" came on. I've always been a bit uncertain about this song. It's always struck me a bit self-involved and some versions include the phrase "sloppy wet kiss." Except you never know if the worship leader is going to use that version until it's too late. It's like the Lord's prayer... when the congregation mumbles because everyone's unsure if we're using "trespasses" or not.

Anyway, this song came on and I was just sitting and listening. Quiet and still. When my mind wandered to what I can only describe as a mental video montage.

Everyone was singing: Protestors. Police officers. Children crossing the border. Islamic extremists. Inmates on death row. College students. Images from the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag. My family.

How He loves us so.

So that's where I am this morning. Praying to a God who hates racism and injustice, and who loves us all so much I can't even comprehend it.

"Surely his salvation is near to them that fear him: that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed." - Psalm 85:9-10

"God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God." - Matthew 5:9

Below are a couple links of thoughts on Ferguson that I want to share as well:

Black Bodies White Souls by Austin Channing Brown
Please Don't Ignore It. 5 Ways that Christians and Churches Must Engage Michael Brown's Death by Eugene Cho
I Raise My Hands: A Prayerful Response to Ferguson by Osheta Moore

Irresistible Revolution for the Mamas & the Papas {+ Free Book Giveaway}

Eight years ago, I was living in L.A.'s Filipinotown. I had been trying on this downwardly mobile lifestyle for about six years then. Sometimes it fit, and sometimes it was just too scratchy.

It was around that time I read Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution. I was inspired by the book to be sure. But I also found validation. When I first moved into the city, I only knew a handful of people making similar life choices. Social justice, simplicity, solidarity... these words weren't as trendy as they are now. (Apparently, I'm 108 as I write this.)

Maybe most important of all, Irresistible Revolution offered me language. It helped me talk about the ideas stirring in my heart in mind. The book articulated some of my experiences of faith and the world.

Also, when I read Shane's book, I was single. I had zero children. And I felt free as a bird to live as an ordinary radical.

Recently, I've been reading Jen Hatmaker's Interrupted. She describes her own paradigm shift from giving talks entitled "How to Be a Woman of Confidence" to leaving a church post, future unknown, with a desire for "barefooted church."

Jen's story occurs when she was in a life station more similar to my current one. So the book has helped me reevaluate some of the ways this lifestyle is still influencing and challenging me.

I read about her and her husband feeling deeply that God was asking them to leave their jobs. And then the silence. She writes, "God may be leading you away without a clear final destination yet. As maddening as that is, could it be that He needs you to release what was before you can appropriately grasp what will be?"

I can relate to that tension of feeling certain what God is asking me to do, but panicked because I don't know why or how it's going to play out. That kind of drama was fun... before I had bills and kids and whatnot. So I have appreciated Interrupted because Jen is writing from a place that truly understands how uncomfortable it can be to throw off the comfortable.

When I made the decision to live in urban communities and be a part of the good things happening here, I wasn't really giving anything up. I may have been choosing a life direction that was different than expected. But people weren't shocked as I flung off my titles and my wealth and my influence. I didn't really have any of those things.

Not saying I have those now. But I do have experience and a house and my little plans. I was super challenged by these words:
"When Jesus told us to "take the lowest place" (Luke 14:10), it was more than a strategy for social justice. It was even more than wooing us to the bottom for communion since that is where He is always found. The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are freed from the exhausting stance of defense. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved form the burden of maintaining some reputation. we are released from the idols of greed, control, and status. The pressure to protect the house of cards is alleviated when we take the lowest place."
Interrupted is encouraging me to take notice where complacency, materialism, and that "always seeking more" has reared up or taken root in my life. Are there areas I need liberation?

As much as I don't love thinking about that (who does?), I'm thankful for Jen's signature humor throughout the book. (To give you an idea, the first sentence in the Introduction is: "My parents rented our old house to murderers." Well, now that I think of it, maybe that wasn't supposed to be funny...)

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of Interrupted from Jen's team. But I'm glad I did. The book has come at a good time for me personally. I'm almost finished, and I'd like to pass it on. I think you'll enjoy her wit, her honesty, and her commitment to the Word and following Jesus.

If you'd like a FREE (gently read) copy of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, just leave a comment on this post. (Must have a U.S. address to receive the book.) I'll randomly select a winner on Friday, August 22, 2014.

Speak Spanish. Eat Candy.

Okay, so we're not quite at candy yet. But we have definitely started dabbling in bribery in raising a bilingual toddler.

I'll admit. It's not exactly how I imagined teaching our kids another language. I thought we'd stick flawlessly (ok, loosely) to the OPOL method and our daughter would soon be switching back and forth like a bilingual rockstar.

Ella has always been pretty vocal in resisting her bilingualism. She passionately told some friends, "I only speak one language." She held up her lone finger. "Uno." We laughed. She was not amused.

She has also stopped saying, "I can't hear you." Instead, she's replaced it with, "Say it English, Papi. I can't understand you."

But actually, bribery is working pretty well. (And I felt better when I read it on this list of educational strategies.) She has a behavioral chart that basically guides her life. Those stars are made of gold in her little mind.

So after I watched her video chatting with her abuelos, I knew need to once again up the ante on our Spanish. I offered her a star if she would stop complaining and listen to Billy read her two books in Spanish. Worked like a charm.

We're thinking about ways to incorporate bribery into other bilingual areas as well. I'd like to encourage her to speak in sentences in Spanish. She translates a lot or throws out a random vocabulary word. ("Say it, Mom. Tor..... tor... yes, tor... tuga! That means 'turtle' in Spanish.")

So that's where we're at on the bilingual kids front. I'm not sure if her active resistance is normal for this age. It's normal for Ella, so I don't feel worried. I am just always trying to figure out how to encourage her to listen more, say more, and practice more Spanish.

Have you ever bribed your kids?

Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?

Image Source: fanpop
I've become obsessed with the show Switched at Birth. With the information I've just given you, you've probably already guessed the storyline. Teenage girls, raised by the wrong parents.

And plot twist! One daughter is deaf.

There are silent scenes in the show where everyone is just signing and I'm reading subtitles. (You know how much I love subtitles!) I've gotten the whole family pseudo into it. It has resulted in Ella trying to speak to me "with her hands." And Billy, tearing up with me at the drama, waving his arms, hollering, "Why do you always make me watch these things?"

It's a fascinating show, especially the romanic relationship between the hearing daughter and her deaf boyfriend. (Sorry if that's a spoiler for you...)

There was a conversation between the boy and his mother, who is also deaf. She said something that has stuck with me: "She doesn't know your language. She will never know you."

Billy does know my language. Still, when we first met I was worried he wouldn't truly "get me." I have such a love affair with words that I have been asked more than once, by native English speakers, if I read the dictionary for fun. I do not. (I cannot say the same for my friend Thesaurus.)

But I do not know his language. And sometimes I worry that it could be a problem. Naturally, I like to run crisis scenarios by him for practice. For example, I'll concoct a situation where he's in the hospital, his only injury being the part of his brain that knew English. "What will we do????" I badger him dramatically.

"Um... you'll learn Spanish," he says like it's that easy. Or laughing, he replies, "Or probably I'll re-learn English before you can learn Spanish." It's the perfect time to punch him... aiming for the part of his head that speaks Sarcasm.

In reality, though, I know Billy is really funny in Spanish. It's not that he's not funny in English. But whenever he speaks Spanish, people are laughing. I always wish I could keep up.

I feel like I've always known his funny side. It's one of his main attributes that attracted me. But I also notice that in English-only settings, he's a little more quiet. He's not constantly cracking jokes.

We were leading a workshop at CCDA a couple years ago, and I made an off-handed comment about this topic. In response to a question, I mentioned that sometimes I feel Billy is a different person in English and in Spanish. Afterwords, a man came up to us. "Thank you for saying that," he told me. "My kids say that to me all the time. They think I'm a different person depending on the language. I thought it was just me!"

Recently, I came across this article in New Republic. They noted a commonality "that people who are actually fluent in two languages also feel their personality shifting as they switch between languages." Fascinating!

But it does leave the deep questions from Switched at Birth ruminating in my mind. Can you really know someone when you don't share their language?

Obviously, I'm counting on that answer being yes. But I also think I have to acknowledge there may be aspects of others we can only truly know when we learn their language. It doesn't mean we can't connect. And of course, there is an aspect to marriage that is lifelong discovery, so maybe language just happens to be a more obvious layer in our particular case.

What do you think? Have you seen personality shifts with language?

I'm linking up with the August 2014 Synchroblog: Connection. Check out other links below:

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv

What I'm Into {July}

July was full of parties and celebration. Given my love of hype, I wish I could relive July.

First, the World Cup final. It was awesome. I know. We're a big Argentina fan fam, but the outcome did not dampen our spirits.

We found an Argentine restaurant here in Atlanta. And they didn't just show the game. They like roasted an entire cow over an open flame. True to the Argentine reputation, it was delicious.

Some friends joined us, and we squeezed at tables with strangers. We painted our faces. We cheered. We were disappointed. And then we went home. It was incredible.

Isaac turned one. I am so happy. It's not that I don't love those baby months... but yeah, I don't. Delighted to watch him becoming a little boy. He's started walking around, rearranging furniture like it's his job. So much fun.

I also had some moments this month that Ella is just becoming such a kid-kid. (These are official child development stages, by the way, "little boy" and "kid-kid.")

Basically, she's like a professional puzzler. She picked out a 36 piece floor puzzle at our local thrift store, and I thought, "Oh, this is not going to go well." Then she came home and put together pretty much all by herself. I was stunned.

So she's been growing her puzzle collection, although the original one (pictured) is still my favorite. It's gender neutral and the images are like mini-puzzles she can complete and then hook them all together.

She and I also discovered the Photo Booth app on my MacBook. Needless to say, these gems are only a sliver sampling of the gazillions of images now in existence.

My high school BFF and her hubby came to town, which was such a delight. We enjoyed a Braves game. In my opinion, baseball should wrap it up after about the 4th inning. But we made our own fun, walking around the stadium and chatting.

She got me all caught up on her amazing new bakery. If you're in the North Carolina area, you should totally check it out. I have two years of roommate experience to verify her delicious sweet treats!

Billy and I vacationed sans kiddos. (Awesome.) It means I had a lot of extra time to read this month. I finished The Circle, which was an eery novel about the Internet taking over our lives. There were moments I wanted a touch more sophistication, but it was creative and raised some super thought-provoking questions.

I loved The $100 Startup because I have a strange obsession with business/entrepreneur books. This was one of my favorites I've read, though. Practical, varied, and inspirational.

Attachments. I discovered this playful, romantic novel via these "What I'm Into" link-ups from Addie Zierman's June edition. It was the quintesential beach read. Quick, fun, and a lot of fear about the impending Y2K. (Ah, the good 'ole days...)

Also in July I read Love Does by Bob Goff. He is super entertaining and has lived a big life. I thoroughly enjoyed his storytelling. I would've read the book just to read antecdotes from his life.

The book encouraged a bold, big life lived for God. Very attractive. But since my life involves a lot of typing and diaper changing, some of the ways the book tried to universalize his experiences I had to take with several grains of salt.

In July, I also received copies of Jen Hatmaker and Eugene Cho's new books. I've already started Overrated by Cho and am so excited about the message. Posts on these books coming soon!

I'll wrap this up with a few favorite links from July.

On the topic of immigration and children crossing the border:

And because I like to mash-up serious stuff with funny:

What were you into this month?

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.