paying attention.

“The practice of paying attention serves as an anchor for the soul in a fast-moving world.” -Emily P. Freeman

I need this reminder over and over again. When my life feels crazy or hard or simply too fast, it is so good for my heart to slow down and pay attention.

What am I noticing about myself? My people? This place? The Lord?

What is Hard and am I leaning into that or escaping?

What is good and am I grateful?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. What do I notice?

In the moment, something can feel so big or all-consuming, but only a few weeks later, those details can all but be forgotten. I don’t want to miss today.

I want to savor and notice and pay attention to these gifts, even the ones that are painful and that I don’t understand. I don’t want to miss anything that the Lord has for me in this story he’s telling. And I know that doesn’t come with more hustle. It comes when I slow myself down and pay attention. It comes when I slow down and notice what he’s doing in me and around me. It comes when I open my hands and my heart to the life I’ve been given here and now.

Today, I’m slowing my heart down to pay attention. I’m taking time to notice and appreciate some of the details this past month. I’m saying thank you for these May graces, straight from Jesus.

I’m grateful for…

A whirlwind trip to DC for the weekend. My brother and sister were in town for his business trip, and it was a chance we didn’t want to pass up! It was a lot of hours in the car, but such a gift to be together in person, sharing meals, and talking in person.

Our hammock, after months in storage, has made an appearance as summer starts to come to PA. I’m still working on gracefully getting in it, but already am in love with being in it.

We had a friend give us a Blue Apron meal that they wouldn’t use. Chicken, kale, purple potatoes and apple, sauteed with mustard and butter, salt and pepper to taste, was absolutely delicious. We’ve already repeated the recipe and it’s a new favorite.

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Pennsylvania thunderstorms, especially when you’re snuggled up in bed, watching the lightning flash.

A leather couch, that we bought for thirty dollars on the side of the road. We laughed so much as we tied that thing to the roof of our car on a long drive home in our fancy clothes.

Tick bravery. I loathe ticks more than almost anything. I’m choosing to celebrate the courage it takes me every time to pick one of those devils off of myself or those I love.

In addition to a lovely sushi date and an indoor picnic, Mother’s Day also included nail polish and gluten free donuts (that I’m still slowly working through.) Simple but sweet.

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House hunting. It isn’t glamorous and my heart feels like it is on a roller coaster, but it is a gift to consider this possibility of somewhere different to live with the Lord for our family.

Wild turkeys have been gobbling in our backyard on occasion, which I’m quite entertained by. L says, “Oh yeah!” to the gobbling and I can’t help but agree.

Our friends’ “second” wedding. When Jesus asked our friends to get married in December, instead of May as originally planned, they were totally on board with making it happen. This month we celebrated their marriage with a wedding-like party and renewal of their vows. L had flower girl status, which she interpreted as eating throughout our time pre-wedding and post-wedding and being extra friendly to the guests.

Date night to see Civil War. (I’m totally Team Captain America, by the way. I will say I can appreciate Team Iron Man, even though I’m not on it.) Such a fun movie!

Compassion Sunday. I had the opportunity to speak and ask my church family to consider sponsoring kids. I was shaking and oh, so nervous, but Jesus answered my prayers, and my words came out clear, and at least 12 children were sponsored. I’m still blown away and praising Jesus!

I’m getting more of a vision for a book, which means I’m stepping back from blogging quite so often. As much as I love our bi-weekly conversation, I’m choosing to celebrate the gift it is to work on another project too.

I’ve really been enjoying Parenthood, Season 2 this month. I know I’m ages behind the rest of our culture watching this show, but I’m slowly getting caught up. My husband doesn’t like the drama and tension shown and always wants to know why I like this show. I tell him that I like that they aren’t afraid of the mess of doing life together and keep showing up for each other. I really like the messy, imperfect Bravermans.  

Rainboot tromping. I love walking through puddles in my rainboots, and now that L has her own pair, we get to tromp together.

Flowers. I just can’t get enough of peonies and irises, roses and daisies, buttercups and wild phlox. I love all the green and life that is showing off this May.

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Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 was a fun way to continue our recent superhero kick. And bonus, I didn’t just imagine Mulan’s voice. Agent May is the same actress who voices Mulan. “Let’s Get Down to Business…”

Celebrating those I love. It was graduation day for so many that are near and dear to my heart. I’m grateful for the long-distance cheering and celebrating that I was able to do from my corner in PA.

I read…

A lot this month. I’m pretty sure I could say this every month, but May felt FULL of books in the best of ways.

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I already wrote about Hope Heals & Colors of Goodbye, but they were both stories of tremendous grace in the midst of tremendous heartache and pain. (You can read my thoughts here and here, if you’re interested.)These are people who have suffered WELL and I am truly grateful for their stories. I also read them the same week, followed by Where The Light Gets In, so it seemed appropriate to dub these “the depressing book brigade” as my husband found me in tears, multiple nights in a row.

Where the Light Gets In

Kimberly Williams-Paisley does the brave work of taking off the sheen and shine of a celebrity’s life and letting you see her and her family in all their human-ness. In this vulnerable story of her’s mother memory and motor decline through a devastating illness, Kimberly shares openly and honestly about what it was like to journey that as a daughter. Dementia is a painful, awful process and her book ends with her mother still living. I was impressed and grateful for courage behind this story, validating and affirming the mess of loving someone well.

[And as a side-note, it was fun to hear about other parts of Kimberly’s life, like how she met her husband (Brad Paisley) or how she got her role in Father of the Bride, as she followed her mom’s mantra. “This might make a good story someday!”]

As much as I enjoyed this book, I can not deny it felt a little hollow. It is clear that Kimberly believes in God and attributes several instances of personal comfort to him. However, the Lord does not feel integral to the facing of such deep and heartbreaking suffering. He feels more like an sidenote, present but not the foundation for all hope. I would have liked, not merely for my own sake, but for the Williams and Paisley families, to see Jesus woven throughout this story, as their anchor and safety in this storm. B for me.

*Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Where the Light Gets In,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Humans of New York: Stories

I loved this book and the stories it holds. Just like the social media account by the same name, this book took me beyond the surface to see someone’s story. There’s no agenda other than letting people’s stories be seen. I love the range of funny to serious, deep and surface. I’m a huge fan. A for me.

 

Rescuing the Gospel

So often I forget to look back at my own life, let alone the history of the Church as a whole to see God’s hand in the midst of it all. I liked this clean, concise history of the Reformation and the parallels for today’s Christian. Priests selling indulgences feel like a thing of the past until I see the comparisons to certain rituals today, and can recognize humanity trying to earn salvation all over again. I think my favorite part of the book (other than the color illustrations throughout) was the emphasis on the imperfection of those used by the Lord in the Reformation period. There is so much hope found in seeing the Lord use the messy and flawed to bring about his kingdom work. B+ for me.

We’ll be encouraged to learn that God uses imperfect people in His work. We’ll marvel at Luther’s courage and be bewildered by his anger and personal vendettas. We’ll be impressed with John Calvin’s mind and yet question his wisdom in agreeing with the decision of the Geneva city council to have the heretic Michael Servetus burned at the stake. We’ll be deeply disappointed in Zwingli for agreeing with the Zurich city council that those who rejected the doctrine of infant baptism (and therefore baptize one another as believers) should be put to death.

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Rescuing the Gospel,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Resolved

This book might have been a quick read, but it was certainly not easy. Lina Abujumra challenges the reader again and again to follow Jesus and to resolve now to do it, instead of waiting for the “perfect moment” or “feeling ready.” Her ten resolutions point back to Scripture and the truth that following Jesus is a difficult road, but the only way to truly live. I was encouraged and challenged reading her words. She is a fierce and courageous woman and is preaching to herself as well as us. B+ for me.

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Resolved,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Unparalleled

Pastor Jared Wilson starts the book by openly sharing about what it looks like to explain what he does for a living to a relatively unchurched region of the country. I appreciated his candor about the awkward, and felt at ease with him almost immediately. He quickly dives into the popular idea that all religions are basically similar, differing only in unimportant details. I truly appreciated his explanations and compassion while exposing the truth that Christianity is not like any other religion. He shares his own stories and others’, Scripture and research to demonstrate that who Jesus is changes everything. He simply is unlike anyone else and we get to choose how to respond. B+ for me.

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Unparalleled,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

They Were Christians

I was looking forward to reading this book and was not disappointed. Cristobal Krusen sheds light on the faith of well known men and women. I found myself deeply appreciating the look into these stories, some of which were quite familiar to me, only to discover the Lord’s hand so clearly present. I am grateful for this volume that felt like it gave tribute to some of the “great cloud of witnesses” that has gone on before me. One of the things that struck me was how vast was the range of how one’s faith played out, but the common thread was working out of one’s giftings and following the Lord. I only hope to do the same. B+ for me. 

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “They Were Christians,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

All Summer Long

I read Melody Carlson as a teen, and remembered enjoying her books. I picked up this one to see if adult Alison would still enjoy her. This book felt like a light chick-flick. The story felt predictable. The guy is recently engaged to a girl who is all wrong for him (this is revealed in the first few chapters), so most of the story is spent pointing that out. I honestly felt more sure about the engagement breaking, than I felt sure that the two characters should end up together. The happy ending felt a little shallow to me. This is an easy, light summer read. C for me.

*Revell Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “All Summer Long,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Unashamed

Christine’s stories of shame drew me in from the first pages. She is brave and vulnerable, sharing some of her first memories of shame and beyond, and how Jesus has worked in and through her to take that shame away. She offers Scripture and her own personal practices of intentionality to invite the Lord into her shame. She speaks like a friend, offering her own scars as examples, to help others with their own shame. I am so grateful for the truth she speaks in these pages. B+ for me.

Begin each day by first checking the destination board and picking the right train of thoughts. Ask yourself where do I want to end up today? And then set your course going in the right direction. Take God’s thoughts and replace yours with his. This is the process of renewing your mind–of becoming someone who thinks, and consequently lives differently than you do now. (140)

*Zondervan and BookLook Bloggers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Unashamed,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Sea Rose Lane

This book initially felt just like another simple romance, predictable as you wait for the two main characters to figure out they like each other. It was that, but it was also more. The themes of immigration and the ways a community can care for those who find themselves on foreign soil, the challenges the elderly face, body image and even how to manage transitions took this story to a deeper place than I anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised and it was a fun read. B for me.

*Revell Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Sea Rose Lane,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

A Table by the Window

When I discovered the third book in this series, I figured I should probably start from the beginning and not work backwards later on. I’m not sorry I did. This fictional story felt like everything I ever want a food book to be: funny, real and constantly making me hungry, and it was a wonderful story. I loved the main character, and couldn’t help but root for her in the midst of her dating life, family crisis and career changes. I loved the secondary plot of the grandmother’s story and Juliette uncovering her family history. A wonderful fiction read. A for me.

 

Reservations for Two

This book is definitely the middle book. The only way I could read it was online from my library, and I’m still pretty into paper version of books, so I almost skipped it, since I had the next book waiting for me. But I’m so glad I didn’t skip it. So much happens in this book to develop the characters and a summary at the start of book three wouldn’t have done it for me. And some crucial stuff comes out about the family history storyline! A- for me.

 

Together at the Table

This was the perfect ending for this series. It was happy, but not too cliche. I loved the ending for this couple. The food element stayed true throughout all of the books. Food played an appropriate and fun role in bringing this family together and caring for one another, and not merely for the restaurant profession of several family members. I loved the secondary plot of this family’s history being uncovered. That was a beautiful and redemptive surprise to see that mystery be revealed. I loved these books. I recommend them, and definitely in order. A for me.

*Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Together at the Table,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Chase Away Cancer

Another contender for my “depressing book brigade” but I think my favorite part of this story was the hope found in a family sharing the real rollercoaster ride of a child with cancer. I deeply appreciated this dear momma’s heart and her candor in the feelings that came with this Hard, especially when Chase is not their only child. Jesus’ presence and care are felt throughout the book. I loved that the story ends, still in progress. This family is still living life, uncertain and trusting Jesus. I came away educated and encouraged by the tangible love of Jesus. B+ for me.

*Tyndale Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Chase Away Cancer,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Girl Defined

First of all, I liked the cover. Ranunculus are some of my favorites. I also loved the heart behind this book and the sisters writing it. Kristen and Bethany share from their own stories, and from Scripture about being a lady in today’s culture. I think one of my favorite things about this book was an honest discussion about how to be a godly woman in different life stages, whether single or married, in a career or stay-at-home mom, teenager or college-age. This book speaks truth into how women get to uniquely reflect God’s glory. It is empowering and encouraging. B+ for me.

It doesn’t matter if you are single, married with children, married without children, or past childbearing age, the truth about your life producing design can be fulfilled in every season of life. (89)

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Girl Defined,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids & Sex

I’ve mentioned before that I tend to shy away from books with numbers in their titles, and I almost did it with this one. I’m so utterly grateful that I didn’t. Anne Marie Miller shares her own story throughout these pages. She is kind and sincere, humble and knowledgeable. She wants to help parents and children be healthy, for parents (not Google) to be the teacher and to empower parents to have meaningful conversations devoid of shame about sex. This book is incredibly practical for every age of child (although there is definitely more information for older children and teens) and a resource that I would recommend to every adult and parent who engages with children regularly. Anne has written a courageous book and it was my privilege to read it. A for me.

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “5 Things,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Face to Face

I’m a tremendous advocate for mentoring and discipleship relationships. It was one of the best parts of my work in Residence Life and I have been on both the receiving and giving ends of these life-giving types of relationships. I felt my heart reminded in such good ways of why we need these people AND need to be these people for others. Jayme Hull walks through why mentoring is a good, how to go about finding a person to mentor you, and how to walk through the mess of relationship with someone else. This book is practical, full of personal stories, pointing back to the truth that we were made for life with others. This is the church at work, Christ in us. B+ for me.

*Moody Publishers  has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Face to Face,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Loving my Actual Life

Can I start with the cover? Beautiful. I try not to judge a book by its cover, but this one felt easy to say yes to. I enjoyed learning from Alexandra Kuykendall. She’s a busy mom of four and creates an experiment for herself to be more intentional in nine different areas, over nine months. I appreciated her candor as she provides journal-like entries for each day of the month, sharing what she’s learning and concluding with what will “stay” out of the experimental period. Her goals starting out are not always what she ends with. Both practical and authentic, Alexandra felt like a friend as she shared, sharing from her heart. I especially appreciated her practice of breath prayers, saying a name of God on the inhale and a desire of our heart on the exhale. Hers were simple and I’ve taken to adopting this for the full moments of my day. B for me.

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Loving My Actual Life,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Worth Living

Mary DeMuth grabbed me in the first pages with her depth and honesty. She is sincere and humble, sharing from her own weakness and seasons of Hard to convey the truth of who we are in Christ. She speaks of the irony of someone writing a book about worth, when it is something she struggles with tremendously. Yet, her still-figuring-it-out confessions, only made me appreciate and believe her all the more. This is not a book for the person who feels confident or put together. This book speaks truth that sank all the way to my heart about how incredibly LOVED I am. I am so grateful for this book and Mary’s brave writing. A for me.

I am not meant to sing for crowds. I am meant to sing for me, for Jesus. It’s okay. God gives us some gifts simply to heal us, not to proclaim them to the world. (157)

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Worth Living,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Silence in the Dark

This book was suspenseful, and a look into the corrupt government of another country. Although I appreciated the surprise ending, and the deeper look at another culture, the main characters weren’t as developed as I would have hoped. Bailey and Danny were formerly engaged, but after breaking things off and much time apart, they find themselves back together. I was rooting for them individually much more than to end up together as a couple. It felt like a fast-paced movie. C for me.

*Revell Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Silence in the Dark,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

Take Hold of the Faith You Long For

Sometimes I want something fresh. A new perspective. Something I’ve never heard before. But other times, I need the same stories. I need the same thing I’ve heard before because it is still true. That was what this book was for me. It was all the things I’ve heard before, but everything I need to hear again. I was so grateful to have picked up this book and made my way through their pages. The truth found here was everything my heart needed to hear to remember what it looks like to be faithful to the Lord. I felt braver as I read. A- for me.

History is full of untold stories of men and women who did not complete their assignments from God but stopped too soon in the face of disappointment. Perseverance is fueled by moving beyond the circumstances that are seemingly against you with confidence in the Holy Spirit who is within you.

Pressing on in the shadow of discouragement is hard work. Giving up is easier. But those who persist in the shadow of disappointment experience the sweetness of success. They are the ones who live the adventurous faith God intended all along. The ones who live bold. (173)

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Take Hold of the Faith You Long For,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I think this ties for the spot of my favorite Harry Potter book. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon, and there didn’t feel like any better medicine than curling up with this book and soaking in some magic. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter books, may this plea reach your heart to pick them up. They shouldn’t be missed. A+ for me.

 

May apparently was the month for enjoying children’s books about birds. Each of these had their own darling illustrations and some witty humor. We were big fans of these bird books.

Penguin in Peril

Owl Babies

Penguin in Love
*I joined up with Emily Freeman as she lists what she learns each month and invites others to do the same, and with  What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer’s blog. What a gift to reflect and learn together!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you Alison! Sending you many blessings of Light and love

    Like

  2. Gayl says:

    Hi Alison! I’m your neighbor at Leigh Kramer’s linkup. Wow, you’ve read a lot of books. I have plenty I’m in the middle of and hope to finish soon. Your reviews and concise and informative and I like that. 🙂 We have also enjoyed watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Marvel movies. Haven’t seen the Civil War yet but I’m sure I’d be for Team Captain America. We’ve recently watched the two seasons of Marvel’s Agent Carter. It was good but we liked S.H.I.E.L.D better. Oh, and I might be a grandmother, but I loved the Harry Potter books. Blessings to you!

    Like

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