If you’re anything like me, when you find the perfect book, you can devour it in mere hours. When I find a new addition to my list of favorite authors, I completely immerse myself in their other previous writings and begin to take note whenever they release something new. Melanie Shankle is one of those authors for me.
A couple years ago, I was perusing a favorite store’s website when I found a book of hers. Since then, I have purchased every book that has her name on it. She is an incredible writer, hilarious woman, and an inspiration in every story she tells…along with being my Texan spirit animal. She has a way of making you nod along with her stories and: say, “Oh my gosh, me too!”, text a friend (or your mom) a hilarious line or two, and want to share the joy of her books with everyone you know.
Okay, that’s enough of my fangirling over this woman.
I was incredibly blessed to be chosen as a member of the launch team for her newest book, so I got a head start and was able dive in with an early copy to help spread the word. Church of the Small Things is in a whole new arena, with all of her best story-telling and lesson teaching elements, but even better and even more hilarious (which I honestly did not think was possible). Her main idea in this book is to stop living life holding your breath waiting for that next achievement or goal to come to fruition. You will miss the magnificence that life is all about in between those milestones. Every single day and every mundane and ordinary moment has purpose and beauty in it, even the painful ones.
No matter the chapter in life you may be treading in, Melanie has words of wisdom for you through it. She covers everything: parents divorcing, grandparents passing away, housing being sold and moving away, failed job interviews, having babies and watching them grow, life failing to live up to your childhood fantasies, getting a puppy to tearfully saying goodbye to your four-legged family members, taking a leap of faith and pursuing your wild dreams, a friend being diagnosed with cancer, self-doubt and rejection, and so much more.
The bottom line is to take it all in. Breathe in all of the memories and moments you can. Cherish the smell of that family lake house that has become another home to you. Remember how your granddaddy would cook you your favorite meal and how good it tasted. Stay up too late and laugh until you cry with your best friends. Hug your mama. Hold onto those moments and be grateful for them, because one day everything will be gone and you’ll only have the memories to keep. Each moment is fleeting, so pack your child’s lunch box, fold that load of laundry, and smile through it all. Those insignificant moments are the hidden gems in everyday life.
“It’s weird that you usually don’t know life is going to change until it’s already happened.” –Melanie Shankle, Church of the Small Things
Stop and smell the roses. Write someone some good old-fashioned snail mail, just so they will smile. Think of how your heart does a little leap every time you see a dog (I KNOW that’s not just me!). Laugh at yourself and see humor in your mistakes and lessons learned. Set goals and work to achieve them, and refuse to let any doubt from the industry, your friends or your family hinder your progress. Trust that God has a plan and has already organized and mapped out every step of your life to make that plan become a reality for you! Believe that He has your best interest at heart and every event (no matter how ugly it may be) has a purpose and will create the perfect backdrop to the masterpiece that He is creating for your life. As Melanie puts it, “What I realize now is that God used every one of those experiences to build my character, to teach me perseverance and dedication, to help me figure out my strength and weaknesses, and to shape my perception of the world”.
Sometimes it’s hard not to complain and to become disheartened while we compare our lives to others. This coming from the girl whose entire group of friends back home is currently married, and is struggling with the “what is wrong with me?” insecurities that comes with being the one who is perpetually single. But again, Melanie swoops in and pulls me out of my self-pity funk with brilliant words, “The comparison trap is and endless vortex of nothingness that serves only to make us feel insecure and discontented because we are measuring our insides against someone else’s outside”.
If that’s a touch deep for you, there are also hundreds of one-liner gems, such as: “I felt a little bit like a cat who has accidentally found itself in a tap-dancing competition” and “I’m just a girl with a popped collar and a sassy Esprit sweater lounging casually on an enormous wicker chair. As one does”, to name a few.
In every twist and turn the rollercoaster ride life has us strapped into, there is always a lesson to be learned from it and a bright side to be thankful for. One thing to be thankful for right now are friends and family members, and the strength of those bonds that can never be threatened, no matter what horrible thing life might throw at us unexpectedly. To have a community of people to support you, encourage you, and maybe even to distract you from it when you really need it, is beyond invaluable.
This book actually comes at a funny time in my life. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my beautiful Aunt Sally’s life being cut incredibly too short, 11 years ago. She has and always will be a role model and inspiration for everything in my life. I believe she is responsible for my daring boldness to travel and move and experience so much that I don’t know if I would have, had it not been for her. She blazed a trail and I’m attempting to keep the flame alive in her honor. She pushes me to never settle for something I don’t feel is meant for me. She is my guardian angel and I cherish the moments I had with her. I still cry and get upset when I get selfish and wish she could have had more time but, in the heartbreak and indescribable pain losing her has produced, it makes every memory I have with her that much more sacred and precious to me. Even her faith, through years of suffering through a cancer ravaging her body and chemotherapy to try and fight it, remained rooted like a strong, tall oak tree in the middle of a hurricane. There is no better example of a disciple of Christ than that: a living, breathing story of Job.
So, in spite of anything you might be going through right now, keep your eyes open and take it all in. Record what you can in journals, photographs, videos, …or even snapchat if you must. Just don’t take this one life you have been given (and that YOU have been specifically chosen for) for granted. Smile at the people around you and tell people in your life how important they are to you. You never know when you may wake up and never be able to again. Be thankful for the lessons learned and the storms you have survived. Trust God and follow Him. Allow Him to bless you with more than you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams. Don’t settle, don’t let fear hold you back, and don’t ever think you aren’t worth it. You are. Never forget that you are.
I highly recommend everyone read Church of the Small Things (and every other book by Melanie Shankle, for that matter). It will completely transform your life and how you live (and appreciate) it.
Church of the Small Things will be available October 3rd, 2017 BUT you can go ahead and pre-order it to get some goodies now such as: the first 3 chapters of the book, downloadable prints of the cover artists’ artwork, ebooks, coupons, recipes from Melanie, and more. To learn more, go to www.ChurchoftheSmallThings.com .
This post is dedicated to Sally Diane Ruden. My beloved, captivating, sensational aunt who taught me to appreciate every moment in life, and to take on everything it has to offer with a smile on your face and faith in your heart. Thank you for everything, you are my sunshine, and always will be.
“She lived and laughed and loved and left”. – James Joyce