I don’t know what first led me to Melanie Shankle’s writing. She blogs at thebigmamablog.com on things such as raising her daughter. I’m an empty nester. Been There Done That.
Her blog features “Fashion Friday” every week, and I have never, ever been there or done that. I’m just not that into fashion. My daughters plopped me in front of the TV for multiple episodes of What Not to Wear, but I was not converted.
Sooooo why do I keep reading thebigmamablog.com, listening to the BigBoo podcast with fellow writer Sophie Hudson and buying Melanie’s books.
I think it’s Melanie’s ability to find the humor in the mundane some days and crazyiness in others and package that in a way that teaches a spiritual truth. She’s sort of an Erma Bombeck in the inspirational genre. Her latest book, In Church of the Small Things, she shares those moments of life in a way that makes you wish she was at your kitchen counter, sharing chips and queso with you.
She’s written books on marriage (The Antelope in the Living Room), child raising (Sparkly Green Earrings) and friendship (Nobody’s Cuter Than You). The latest is Church of the Small Things. I’m thrilled to be on the book launch team. That meant I got an advance copy of her book which releases Oct. 3. But this review is my own. In fact, I wouldn’t agree to be on the launch team if I wasn’t fairly sure I would enjoy the book.
The good news for you is there are some pretty neat incentives to pre-order the book before Oct. 3, including access to the first three chapters now, Church of the Small Things video study session one, family recipes, discounts on Melanie’s favorite things and more. Click on the image to pre-order and learn more about the freebies.
One connection I have with Melanie is that she’s an introvert. In a chapter called “The Glamorous Life of a Writer” she talks about driving to meet some friends for lunch and wishing she would get sick or plans would get cancelled and she could back out. That totally resonated with me, and I so appreciate her honesty.
In the end, she usually goes as I do too, and enjoys the whole experience. But I have to repeatedly battle with the urge to be a recluse and stay in my comfort zone.
In the 19 chapters in Church of the Small Things, Melanie humorously shares the “small things” that have shaped her life – owning dogs, battling exercising, overcoming bad bangs. Many of the chapters end with a combination of silly and serious “Things I Wish I Had Known” at various stages of her life.
Time has a way of collecting those small things and magnifying them into the big things. Each chapter includes some honest snapshots of her inner heart. In a chapter titled, “How Walmart and a Frito Pie Made All of the Difference,” Melanie recounts the days spent at her grandparents lake house in a way that made me want to sit down and write down everything I could remember about my own grandparents house.
And, then in the last chapter when she is sharing her family’s journey in starting a new church, she talks straight from the heart about her initial resistance.
“I am not a church plant kind of person. I am not organized. I am not overly spiritual,” she writes.
All of her inadequacies were racing together in her mind with the companion questions of why me, why not me and why is this so hard?
“At that moment, I felt God speak to my heart,” she writes, “saying ‘You need to quit asking ‘Why?’ and start asking me ‘Where?’ “
Where would you have me go?
Where would you have me serve?
Where are you leading me?
Getting to the where question is a game changer in that it takes the focus off of me and my failures and puts them on God, who has plans and a purpose for us. We just need to take the next step.
That’s where the “where” comes in.
So if you’re like me and keep waiting for big things to happen, this book makes you more aware of how everyday things can fit into God’s big picture.
“If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves,” –Emily Dickinson.
“Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back, and realize they were the big things,” –Kurt Vonnegut
“Is my ordinary life actually significant? is it OK to be fulfilled by the simple acts of raising kids, working in an office and cooking chicken for dinner?”–Melanie Shankle