Summer books: Simply Tuesday

Emily FreemanEditor’s note: This is the third in a series of four author interviews.

If I thought I could get away with it, I’d type amen after each of Emily Freeman’s answers. Because this author? She gets it. Her latest book is Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. It releases on Aug. 18, which is of course a Tuesday.

What’s the message of your newest book?

My newest book is called Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. Tuesday offers the gift of now, of seeing how the kingdom of God hides in small things – beneath the pile of laundry and woven into the dinner conversation. This feels counter-intuitive in my world. In our culture and even in the church, we always seem to praise the Big and Important: the growing congregation, the rising star, the giant donation, or the big and amazing dream. But Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, he said God’s people are like salt, he said his kingdom belongs to the children.

Growing congregations, rising stars, giant donations, and big dreams are great! But the truth is that isn’t where most of us live. The Bible says we are not to despise the days of small beginnings. I admit, that sounds lovely and offers relief maybe. But when you have to actually live the small beginnings, when you have to get up every morning for what feels like an eternal Tuesday, it’s hard to not despise that. Too often my soul feels held hostage by hustle – which basically looks like me trying to hustle my way out of the Tuesday moments and grab on to something that looks more like a Friday night.

I sense Jesus inviting me to release my obsession with building a life and trust in the life Christ is building within me. And in my life the way he’s doing that is one small moment at a time.

In a world where we spend hundreds and hundreds on children’s birthday parties and create elaborate prom-posals, how can the small moments compete?

Prom-posals! Ha! How have I never heard that term before? Yes, it’s so true that it seems like the small-moments are over-looked and I understand why. Who would choose small if there’s potential for big? I guess my only answer to the question “how can the small moments compete” is that they can’t. Which is precisely the point. I think a lot of us are actually tired of competing – we live in this world of hustle, hurry, produce, deliver and maybe we’re successful at that. Sometimes. But beneath the surface, at the core of who we are, I believe our souls are longing for space, for margin, and for rest.

We might be able to sustain this pace for a while, but no one can do it for a lifetime. At least not in a healthy way. I don’t think it’s wrong to go all out or to celebrate or achieve in big ways. What I do think is that it’s also important to remember that Jesus came as a baby and not as a king. And that the kingdom of God shows up in ways we might not expect – in the whisper, in the seed, in the child.

3.What role do these small moments play in our contentment?

I’m still learning this. But one thing I’ve noticed in myself is that if the light of a Tuesday morning candle isn’t bright enough to light the room, a spotlight won’t be either. If the regular work I do on a Tuesday doesn’t feel important, I will become addicted to comparison and forget compassion. If the people in my life now aren’t sacred companions for me, I realize I’m competing with everyone and connecting with no one.

Jesus became less and arrived small and keeping company with him, celebrating my smallness in his presence rather than despising it – this brings a surprising freedom that seems impossible. I don’t always choose the small way, but contentment is a natural result when I do.

Join us for the 2014 Simply Faithful book club?

BookClub1I had good intentions of simplifying my life. I’d just take a year off of the whole Simply Faithful book club thing.

Who needs the hassle of scheduling interviews with authors? The struggle to balance work and home and extra reading? The nervousness of keeping up with Facebook chats?

Apparently, I do.

I’ve missed the Simply Faithful book club, and I’ve missed visiting with you.

Can we try this again? Can we read spiritual books together as a community?

The last time we did this was in 2012, and I picked a non-fiction book by Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts. That summer, we read the novel Rooms by James Rubart, and then in the fall, I chose three books for children.

This time, I’ll announce a non-fiction book on Feb. 3. I’ll sprinkle in discussion questions on for the following six weeks. Then, we’ll host an online chat with the author in late March.

I’ll be looking for people willing to host in-person gatherings the night of the author chat. I’d like people to open up their homes, or their places of worship or their favorite coffee shops and invite their friends to meet and talk about the book – and I’d like those hosts to help with the technology that night because we don’t want anyone left out of the discussion just because they aren’t familiar with Facebook or Google Chat or whichever platform we settle on.

Then, I’ll announce the fiction book June 9 and we’ll chat with that author toward the end of July.

Now, in the meantime, I’d love to hear your book suggestions. What books do you think we should all read? Are there authors you would love to visit with? 

I really enjoy discovering great authors who haven’t had a lot of attention, so feel free to suggest first-time or little-known authors. I also like introducing topics that people of all faiths would be interested in discussing.

My one stipulation is that the author needs to – how do I say this delicately – be alive. It makes interviewing the author and hosting a chat for readers much easier.

Give it some thought. Talk it over with your friends who like to read, and let me know by Jan. 20 what books you’d recommend.

I’m looking forward to reading and learning with you again.


This year we chose the book “Satisfied: Discovering Contentment in a World of Consumption” by Jeff Manion as our non-fiction pick and “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” by Sharon Garlough Brown for our novel. If you are just now reading them, you can still join the conversation by chatting with us on the Simply Faithful Facebook page. The people who participate in that community are always up for talking about great books!

Faith — and grace — for the good girls

Graceful OfficialI’m a rule follower. A good girl. A woman who often feels like she’s just not enough.

And now I know I’m not alone.

“Graceful: Letting Go of your Try-Hard Life” was written for the teen girl who feels like she has to get all As; the girl who has logged hours and hours of volunteer time because that’s what good Christians do; and for girls like me who grow up to be 40 and are still afraid to make mistakes.

I didn’t mean to choose this book for the Simply Faithful book club, but it kept choosing me. I first read about it on Twitter, then a blog I regularly visit. A week or so later, even though I had only asked about fiction books for teens, a publisher suggested I give “Graceful” a try. I’m glad I did. I hope you’ll read it, too, and join us as we discuss it in person starting Jan. 22 at Alpha & Omega Parable Christian store in Penfield, NY.

And will you invite your aunts, your grandmothers and your friends? Can we all come together – all of us women, of all ages – and talk about how we can stop trying to please everyone else and instead learn to rely more on the One who is perfect?

“I think this issue is ageless,” said Emily P. Freeman, who has also written a book for women called “Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life.” “(Being a good girl) often forms when we’re young, and it’s hard to get rid of when we’re older.”

So, who is this good girl Freeman writes about? Well, she’s the one who apologizes to the cashier for forgetting her reusable shopping bags – and then apologizes for apologizing. She’s the responsible one, the patient listener, the good influence. She’s the one who will take a peanut butter and honey sandwich even though she hates it, just so she won’t trouble you. And sometimes, she’s the tired one. The one who can’t keep up.

“We’re just exhausted,” said Freeman, who writes about learning to lean less on herself and more on God. “We’re all really busy chasing something and when we slow down, we realize we don’t know what we’re chasing. We even chase grace instead of letting grace catch us.”

It’s not a bad thing to strive for purity or good grades, she writes. But we shouldn’t allow them to become an obsession or a measuring stick for our value. We shouldn’t let other things, even good things, try to fill the space designed for God.

“We’re always asking, ‘What am I supposed to do?’” Freeman told me. “But the question should be, ‘Who am I going to believe?’”

God calls us his beloved, Freeman writes in her final chapter. And then after the notes and the acknowledgments, after the author’s bio, come some of my favorite lines.

Graceful, in this case, doesn’t mean perfect. Instead, it means free. Free to believe Jesus rather than that voice in your head that says you aren’t good enough. Free to hope even when things look and feel hopeless. Free to embrace the truth that no matter what, if you have received Jesus, then he has received you. And you are marked forever by his divine grace. Not because you’re good, but because he is.


Meet Emily P. Freeman

Learn more about author Emily P. Freeman at her blog: You can also find her page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Look for @EmilyPFreeman.

Readers have the chance to chat live with her at 7 p.m. Jan. 28 on the Simply Faithful Facebook page.

‘Jackson Jones’ offers laughs and lessons

To hear Jenn Kelly tell it, it was a very fancy wedding where you had to stand through the whole thing. Somewhere amid all the pomp and circumstance her gaze fell upon a woman with hair piled high. (No, think higher than that.)

The woman was maybe 5 feet tall and looked like she usually carried a small dog with her. She was probably mad that the dog couldn’t come to the wedding, Kelly thought. But wait!

Maybe she was carrying her dog… in her massive hair.

That’s how it started, this idea to write about a boy who falls into his great aunt’s hair and discovers a whole new world of elves and bubble-gum chewing crubbies. A book about a boy who – like many of us – doubts himself a little too much and has to be reminded that the Author has a plan and a purpose for him.

“I want readers to know that life can be funny and amusing, and they are indeed loved,” said Kelly, author of “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” ($12.99, Zonderkidz).

And somewhere between crazy Chapter 37 “In Which We Learn about the Book, the Author, and Fred the Turtle” and Chapter 38 “A Chapter that Is Not Nearly as Long as the Last One” we find gems like this one, where Jackson has had a glimpse into the future. He has improved at baseball, become a professor and won a prestigious writing award.

“So, what I saw in the mirrors, that was true?” he asked. 

“Unless you see yourself differently from the truth,” she said softly. “Unless you forget.”

Lines worth underlining.

This time all of the books in the Simply Faithful book club touch on purpose, on remembering who we are and whose we are. I hope you’ll join us and encourage the young readers in your life to give these books a try. They’ll also have the chance to ask their own questions and chat live with Kelly at 7 p.m. Dec. 3. We’ll meet online at the Simply Faithful page on Facebook.

“Jackson Jones” is written for elementary students but my almost 14-year-old laughed at some of the chapter titles, and the book practically begs to be read out loud to a classroom.

“That book is me to a T,” Kelly said. “That’s how I talk. Anyone who reads it knows me… ish.”

Jackson’s adventures continue in “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, a Troll, and a Rather Large Chicken” and Kelly has more adventures in her head, ready to escape on paper.

I can’t wait.

Meet Jenn Kelly

Photo courtesy of Jenn Kelly

Learn more about author Jenn Kelly at her Website: You can also find her page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Look for @JennKellyauthor.

Readers have the chance to chat live with her at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 on the Simply Faithful Facebook page.


About the Simply Faithful book club

For about a year Marketta Gregory, author of the Simply Faithful column, has invited readers throughout the Rochester community to join her in reading and discussing books with spiritual themes. So far, the community has read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and “Rooms” by James Rubart. The current selections – all four – were chosen to encourage younger readers to participate in the conversation. They are:

  • “Who Built the Stable?” by Ashley Bryan ($16.99, Simon and Schuster).
  • “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” by Jenn Kelly ($12.99, Zonderkidz).
  • “Replication [The Jason Experiment]” by Jill Williamson ($15.99, Zondervan).
  • “Graceful: Letting Go of your Try-Hard Life” by Emily P. Freeman ($12.99, Revell).


A chance to visit with Jill Williamson, author of ‘Replication’

My newspaper colleagues and I used to joke that there was always a local angle to national – and even international – stories. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised that one of the authors we’re featuring in the Simply Faithful book club has Rochester, NY, ties.

Jill Williamson, author of “Replication [The Jason Experiment],” used to visit the area when her sister lived here. During one of those fall visits they went to pick apples and as Williamson looked out the window at the passing orchards she wondered what it would be like if there was a farm that grew people, a farm that created clones.

She answers that question in her teen book “Replication” ($15.99, Zondervan), where she takes her readers inside a hidden human cloning facility. As the adventure unfolds, she delves into questions about the value of life and about forgiveness, even of ruthless captors.

Even though the idea for the book came from Western New York, it is set in Alaska where Williamson grew up. It features characters who are working to find their purpose in life and struggling to live a life of faith that’s really examined, that’s more than black and white.

“Being legalistic can become a habit,” Williamson said from her home in eastern Oregon. “It can get us in rut.”

And that’s not where Williamson wants her characters to be.

You can hear more about her characters, her passion for helping other writers and her upcoming books during a Facebook chat with her at 7 p.m. Nov. 16. Join us at the Simply Faithful Facebook page and feel free to jump in with questions of your own. This is your time with the author. 

I hope you give the book a try, even if it isn’t your go-to genre, and I’d love it if you would discuss it with friends and make an effort to include younger readers in the conversation. Soon I’ll be sharing more about the other three books I’ve selected:

  • Who Built the Stable?” by Ashley Bryan ($16.99, Simon and Schuster).
  • “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” by Jenn Kelly ($12.99, Zondervan).
  • “Graceful: Letting Go of your Try-Hard Life” by Emily P. Freeman ($12.99, Revell).

Even though we’re focusing on younger readers, I think you’ll find there are lessons in these books for every age.

And the next books in the Simply Faithful book club are…

I know I said I’d pick three books for the next Simply Faithful book club – a picture book, a chapter book and a book for teens – but one other non-fiction book kept showing up.

First it flashed across in my Twitter stream, later it was a blog I like to visit and then the book publisher even suggested it specifically for our book club. So, I gave in. I rewrote the rules and picked four books for us this time. I think you’ll be glad I did.

Our four books are:

  • “Who Built the Stable?” by Ashley Bryan ($16.99, Simon and Schuster).
  • “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish” by Jenn Kelly ($12.99, Zondervan).
  • “Replication [The Jason Experiment]” by Jill Williamson ($15.99, Zondervan).
  • “Graceful: Letting Go of your Try-Hard Life” by Emily P. Freeman ($12.99, Revell).

I first fell in love with Bryan when a librarian suggested his book “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” Bryan had taken his mother’s sewing and embroidery scissors to cut intricate designs out of colored paper. He pieced those together to create stunning illustrations. His latest book offers a heartwarming retelling of the birth of Jesus and artwork that is bright and inviting.

For our young readers, I’ve selected a crazy funny book about a boy named Jackson who falls into his aunt’s big hairdo and meets elves, bubblegum-blowing birds and… danger! Kelly’s writing style is so conversational that it could easily be read out loud, and her message – that we are created for a purpose – begs to be discussed.

The teen fiction book takes a more serious turn because Williamson takes her readers inside a hidden human cloning facility. As the adventure unfolds, she delves into questions about the value of life and about forgiveness, even of ruthless captors.

My bonus book, “Graceful,” is a nod to all those young women who are trying desperately to live a perfect life. May you learn early on the lesson I still need today: “As good girls, we carry the weight of things that belong to God alone.”

In the past, we’ve hosted Facebook chats with authors and organized local book discussion groups. What would work best this time? How would you like to reach out to the authors and to each other? We’ll iron out the details. In the meantime, happy reading.