Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Open Boxes: A Book Review

When Christine Organ asked me to review her brand new book, Open Boxes: the gifts of living a full and connected life, I jumped at the chance. I "met" Christine a couple of years ago in the strange and beautiful blogging world to which we both belong, and we connected right away. Her writing about faith, love, family and presence is beautiful and when she reached across the vast ether of this digital world and took my proverbial hand, telling me that it was ok to share, and that my stories were safe with her, we became more than just blogger friends. We became actual friends.

Knowing her, and knowing her writing, I knew that her book was going to be special.

I wasn't disappointed.

Open Boxes is a book of Christine's essays focused on the idea that by opening our eyes to the sacred in our everyday lives, our lives become richer, more connected, and just a little holier than they were before. She writes that by focusing on the small things - words from a stranger, a first snow, laughing until you cry - we can connect with all the different parts of the life we are living and we can paint our world with a more brightly colored brush.

Christine is honest and brave in her writing. She tells stories of love, of parenting, and of the everyday. She tells stories of joy and stories that cast a spotlight on the hardest parts of life - the parts that a lot of us only whisper about under the covers in those quiet and secret moments before sleep. The result of this is the sense that she understands deeply what it means to live - really live - in her days, and how to connect deeply with all the parts of herself and of her world, the good, the bad and all the parts in between. Her optimism is contagious and her words are inspiring.

It is evident on every page that Christine has found the grace in her moments. That she has her eyes wide open to the absolute miracle it is to wake up in the morning every day and to be alive.

And because her eyes are wide open, she makes it easier for us to open our eyes as well.

In her essay An Uphill Battle, Christie writes, "It can be easy to get consumed with the uphill battle, putting our heads down and soldiering on, but sometimes we need to stop and just enjoy the view. Sometimes we need to pause, if only for a moment to catch our breath and marvel at where we've come from, and consider where we are called to go."

The essay comes early in the book, but as I read on, I kept coming back to this passage, to these words which, more than any others, sum up the message of the book. We are all going to have times in our lives that are easy and times that are tough and times where we feel like we are just trying to make it through the day. But the beauty is in noticing all of these moments - the good and bad, small and large - because paying attention to all of this allows us to hold on to the good ones and learn from the tricky ones because for better or worse, these moments make up our lives and shape the people who we become. And it is in this paying attention where we find those wells of hope, faith and resilience that help us to make it through.

Christine's essays are gripping and her voice is gorgeous, making it tempting to gobble up this book in one big bite. But if I could make one suggestion, it would be to read slowly. To settle in and to soak up every word. Because there are great lessons to be learned in these pages, and Christine is a willing and wonderful teacher.

Thank you so much, Christine, for the privilege of reading and reviewing this book. It was an absolute pleasure and I loved every word.

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