Anything But “Ordinary”

Chris Steingart is from Kitchener, Ontario. A MennoMedia board member for the past 2 years, Chris is the lead designer and founder of QT Web Designs a full service online marketing company. He is the father of 2 children – Rowan (2 yrs) and Maya (1 month) and husband to 1 wife – Jillian, all show below.

Chris Jillian Rowan and Maya

About a year ago, I picked up a copy of Ordinary Miracles: Awakening to the Holy Work of Parenting.

As a parent of a rambunctious toddler (Rowan), I was excited that Herald Press was offering titles that explored something directly relevant to me, and was thrilled to read a book by a friend, Rachel Gerber!

Last spring on my way home from a board meeting I cracked open Ordinary Miracles and couldn’t put it down. Gerber’s thoughtful and relevant insights mixed with her down-to-earth wit combined for an enjoyable read that had me in stitches and tears and sometimes both at the same time. It seemed like with each turn of the page there was always something that had me saying to myself (and occasionally out loud) “that is so true!” Throughout the book we hear accounts of Gerber’s own parenting experiences and observations, cleverly woven into the “Emmaus Road” story (Luke 24:13-35). The overarching theme is that when parenting seems bleak, God is present.

Fast forward in my own life to this past month when we welcomed Maya, a little sister for Rowan. When the going has gotten tough (as it inevitably does with a 2 year old and a 1 month old), I’ve found myself coming back to Ordinary Miracles for a comforting word, a relevant chuckle, and also to ground myself a little bit in the Holy work that’s going on in our household.

In particular I found Gerber’s depiction of two different kinds of time that govern our lives to be very relevant to my experience:

Chronos is the time that we live in. It is the time that is told by the clock. It’s the five minutes left in time-out. It’s being stopped by another red light as you race to preschool to try not to be late again. It’s holding your breath as you wait to check out at the grocery store while your squirrely boys try to rip down candy displays and whine at the top of their lungs about why they need M&Ms now.

Kairos, however, is God’s time. It is time above time. It is a time with no end, when you are able to momentarily stand still in the midst of the hub-bub of life and see how things really are. It is stepping back, even in the craziness of life, to take notice of the blessings in life. To realize how God moves, how God provides and how God simply is.”

As a business owner who works from home, way too much of my life is Chronos-led time. I start work at 8:30, I work till noon – I eat, I play with Maya, put Rowan to bed – hoping that Maya’s not screaming in the background distracting his focus on his nap, only to ruin his chance at giving me an extra couple hours to work… We feed Rowan dinner, then I hold Maya for a while in the evening and if I’m lucky and not totally beat, I put in another couple hours of work in the evening – YEESH! If Chronos was the guiding force in our lives, I would be consumed by schedules to the point of insanity. Gerber helps us to remember, to take time and look for the opportunities for God’s time: Kairos. It’s only when we (occasionally) throw out the clock and the phone calendar alerts, that we can truly enjoy bath time – when more water is splashed outside the tub than remains in it, or snack time – where we discover the best place to eat apple sauce is off of a bib, not out of the bowl. Or bed time, when reading a couple more books and singing two or three more songs is a joy and a privilege, not a burden.

I wouldn’t say that I’m the model parent who makes all the good decisions, but with Ordinary Miracles as my companion, I can really come to terms with the Holy work of raising two amazing little human beings that is taking place in our home.

Whether you’re a parent-to-be, a new parent, or are someone who delights in reading about the trials and tribulations of parenting young children, this is the book for you! Ordinary Miracles also makes for a perfect faith-based gift for an upcoming baby shower!

More than that, it is a reminder for anyone of these two concepts of time—and how Kairos time is needed by all.

Ordinary Miracles is a book that is anything but ordinary. It balances funny accounts of Rachel and her boys (Owen, Connor and Zachary ) and her continuous battle to drink a hot… (no), warm… (no), reheated coffee, wipe runny noses, fit in time to work, and cope head on with the endless calamity, distractions and tearful moments that parenting in a God-centered home can bring.

–Chris Steingart

Chris was recently named to MEDA’s 20 Under 35 list of “Young Professionals Changing the World.” 

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Why I Blame Herald Press Authors for My Poor Job Performance

As an editor, I like to stay on top of what our Herald Press authors are doing: where they’re giving talks, what publications they’re writing for, and where their books are being reviewed. I see it as part of my job.

These days, however, I’m not doing too well at it. Herald Press authors are publishing so many pieces, having their work reviewed in so many places, giving so many talks, and doing so many signings that, frankly, I can’t keep abreast of it all. So while it sounds like my fifth-grader’s justification for why he’s not responsible for some recent skirmish with his younger brother, I’m going to say it anyway: it’s not my fault!

Take the other day. I went out to get my mail and was pleased to find a copy of Bearings, a publication of the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in Minnesota. I spent a glorious week at a writing workshop at Collegeville a few years ago, and I still enjoy receiving this journal from the institute, where Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox thinkers gather for study, dialogue, and prayer.

Opening up Bearings to check out the lead article, I was pleased to find none other than a Herald Press author! The first piece is an interview with Dr. Glen E. Miller, author of the recently published Living Thoughtfully, Dying Well. This spring issue of the journal deals with aging and end-of-life issues, and Glen, who was a resident scholar at the Collegeville Institute in 2011, gives a thoughtful interview on our death-denying culture, what constitutes a good death, and how Christians might “lean forward” as death approaches. When we conceive of death as a spiritual event, Glen says, “We can begin to see death as natural rather than morbid or taboo.”

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Then a few days later, I was just as happy to learn that Guideposts’ website featured an excerpt from Rachel S. Gerber’s Ordinary Miracles, published by Herald Press in March. “The Laundry Pile Miracle” reframes the ordinary household task of folding laundry into what Kathleen Norris calls a “quotidian mystery.”

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Then, late last week, I learned that Ervin R. Stutzman’s historical novel, Jacob’s Choice, the first book in the Return to Northkill series, was mentioned in The Budget, an Amish periodical. Ever since then, Herald Press customer service has been fielding a lot of calls from Amish readers who want to buy the book.

JacobsChoice

Those are just a few of the written pieces featuring Herald Press authors. I’ve given up trying to keep track of the indefatigable Shirley Showalter, author of Blush, and Saloma Miller Furlong, author of Bonnet Strings. Both of these women are on tour now or very soon. Saloma has upcoming events in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Indiana. I get tired just looking at her schedule.

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For fun, an old photo: Saloma and her husband, David, on their wedding day.

And Shirley and her husband, Stuart, are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary, but that doesn’t mean she is slowing down. May, June, and July will find Shirley doing talks and signings in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Michigan, Virginia, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Minnesota.

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For fun, another old photo: Shirley and her husband, Stuart, soon after they were married.

I haven’t even mentioned a fraction of what these authors are doing in terms of blogging, corresponding with readers, personally contacting booksellers, and, in some cases, holding down other jobs. And these are just some of our recent authors. Add all the Herald Press authors who wrote books several or many years ago and whose books continue to sell well and transform lives: well, do you see why I’m not keeping up with this part of my job?

I should add that, thankfully, someone at Herald Press is keeping up with our authors—as much as possible. As part of her sales support for authors and bookstores, Jerilyn Schrock in our marketing department keeps a comprehensive list of all the places our authors are traveling, and she usually has an idea of where they are writing and being reviewed as well. It’s just a small portion of what she does, but Jerilyn does a great job of keeping the rest of us at Herald Press informed on all the things our authors are doing. She tells me that she is thrilled to work with such an outstanding community of people.

I hope it’s obvious by now that I’m glad that Herald Press authors are outpacing my ability to keep up with them. I admire their commitment to using their gifts and talents for the inspiration of their readers, the upbuilding of the church, and the transformation of our culture. I am excited by the ways in which their ideas are circulating so widely, and I am grateful for their work and energy.

And what about the fact that their incredible output of writing and speaking means that my job performance suffers? So be it. If my failure to keep up with our authors comes up in my next performance review, I’ve got my answer ready.

It’s their fault!

ValerieWeaverZercher Valerie Weaver-Zercher is managing editor of Herald Press trade books.

You can keep up with Herald Press authors, too, on their author blogs (links above) and on the MennoMedia Facebook page. We invite you to attend their talks in your area, post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and elsewhere, and spread the word.