what’s saving my life this summer.

With an enthusiastic & busy three-year-old and a sleepy, homebody 4-month-old, these summer days tend to fall into one of two categories.

The first category is the “I’m going to make it” sort-of-day. The kind of day that I am able to finish a load of laundry AND put it away, where I drink some coffee while it is hot, where naptimes line up and when I don’t feel terribly overstimulated.

But the other category is the “I’m not sure I’m going to make it” sort-of-day. These days often are filled with someone’s tears, something spilling, some toddler discipline, and lots of loud feelings.

But the truth is that whether or not I feel like I am going to make it, there is grace that finds me. There is grace that finds me on the days that are easier and fun and sweet.  There is grace that finds me on the days that are hard and I am at the end of myself and wonder how I’ll make it until bedtime.

I’ve written before about what is saving my life. And as dramatic as this may sound, it is more a prompt to help my soul practice looking for the ways the Lord is offering me life. It is easy for my eyes to drift to what is sucking life from me; to focus on what feels draining and soul-killing. But I want to put into practice what we’re told to do in Philippians 4; fixing my eyes and thoughts on what is good, right, pure, lovely and admirable. This practice never ceases to open my eyes to the ways the Lord cares for me so personally and so kindly.

As we’re enjoying August, I’m intentionally pausing to take stock of what these past few months have held for our family, still in the throes of transition. I think it can be easy to see the large and profound ways the Lord is working, but it can take real determination, particularly in a difficult season, to look for the ways the Lord is working in the ordinary and mundane.

So, here’s my determination to see what is saving me this summer.

Birthdays. 

My husband, daughter and myself all have summer birthdays, in addition to a smattering of other family members. It always feels like grace to pause and celebrate the people I love dearly. It breathes life into me to say thank you to Jesus for the people he’s given me, whether that be through mail love or a chocolate chip cheesecake or an ultimate frisbee party.

Baby rolls. 

I have such a squishy baby and I can’t get enough of all his chubbiness. Snuggling him is one of my favorite things. Making him laugh is up there too.

Caramelized onions.

For some reason, I don’t think I’ve intentionally made these before a few months ago. While they take a little time, they take very little effort. Just butter and thinly sliced onions cooking on low for a while. They seem to make my salads this summer magical, especially when I add dried cherries, grapes, feta and walnuts to the mix. YUM.

Thunderstorms.

I grew up in Washington where thunderstorms and cold weather went together, just like sunshine and hot weather went together. Although the humidity of Pennsylvania can be a bit tough for this West Coast girl to reconcile/handle, I’m in love with summer thunderstorms. They feel like a treat every single time.

CSA.

We have a half share at a local farm and it is a treat to head there every other week to pick up all sorts of organic fruit & vegetables. We often get to enjoy some pick-your-own crops (flowers, strawberries, cherry tomatoes & beans are all favorites so far) and somehow our food tastes so much better when it reflects the season we’re in. I’m totally in love with our time at the farm and getting to soak in the beauty of seeing where our food comes from. And it feels like a fun adventure to create our week’s menu from the bounty after each farm visit!

The Great British Baking Show.

This is my current favorite show. I love that I actually like these decent, normal, kind contestants, the fair and pleasant judging, and all the creativity that leaps from the screen. It has encouraged me to be a little more adventurous in my own baking (I made lemon meringue torte last week!) and it doesn’t stress me out the way other reality shows sometimes do. Bonus, the accents are lovely.

I loved this commentary on the show, bringing more of the show’s redemptive themes & beautiful subtleties to light.

The Enneagram.

I’ll admit that I avoided learning about the Enneagram for a few years now. It felt overly complicated with the arrows and wings, and didn’t I already know enough about myself between Myers-Briggs and StrengthsFinder and the rest? But I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. When the library would only buy me the audiobook, I picked up my own copy of The Road Back To You, as a birthday gift to myself.

And now, I’m totally hooked. I can’t seem to get enough of the Enneagram. I’m a full-fledged Type 9, and learning about myself through this lens has been a true gift. I am beyond thankful for the ways the Lord is using the Enneagram to show me things about myself, as well as those around me. And I’ve especially loved nerding out with my mom & sister-in-law, as we’ve jumped in wholeheartedly to learning about this together.

Harry Potter. 

Not only did I dress my kids (and myself) up for Harry Potter’s birthday (July 31, for you Muggles who might not know) but I’ve been enjoying thinking about different HP characters in light of the Enneagram (ie. some very nerdy dinner conversation), as well as this fun article that combines Hogwarts houses and Myers-Briggs. And I still have friends who are discovering Harry Potter for the first time. Talking about the books as they make their way through them is a delight.

Writing again.

After giving myself the grace of a short sabbatical with the birth of my son this spring, I feel so grateful for the energy to be writing again. It feels like a challenge sometimes to figure out how to fit it in with two little ones, but it also makes me appreciate the life it breathes into me every time I make the space for it.

Date nights-in.

In a season with a nursing baby, date nights are still much appreciated, but also take that much more planning and energy to make happen. I felt like Jesus gave me the idea to work towards being more intentional at home with my husband in the evenings, as our introverted hearts are often quite content to connect without leaving our driveway. We’ve been enjoying two such nights a week; one featuring a beverage and intentional conversation and the other featuring a movie or show to enjoy together. It feels so simple, but it has been tremendously life-giving to spend time together, while simultaneously working within the restraints of our current season. I’ve loved all of our coffee on the porch and wine near the firepit and sitting close on the couch.

Hamilton.

I know I was late jumping on the Hamilton train, but in a season where I often feel overstimulated (introverted mom to two!), listening to things often feels like too much. After hearing yet another friend talking about it, I checked the two discs out from the library and got hooked pretty quickly, even if it did take me over two weeks to listen all the way through. Although I could do without a few moments of language, the clever lyrics and relatability to the story of one of our founding fathers is utterly brilliant. I have loved singing along to this interpretation of a flawed man’s moving story.

These 3 books. 

Before I launch into telling you about the books I’ve been reading. I just want to highlight a few ultimate favorites of my summer: The Road Back To You, Whole & Gracelaced. These have deeply impacted me and can’t recommend them highly enough. It literally felt like Jesus put them into my hands at the time I needed them. And considering I was reading advanced release copies for two of the three, it was even more obvious that the Lord orchestrated these to be in my hands in this season.

The Road Back To You

If you’re intimidated by the Enneagram at all or just want to learn about this tool, this is the book for you. With stories and examples, I felt like I was eased in and welcomed to a new lens to understand myself. More than just strengths, this personality-like tool helps pinpoint (sometimes uncomfortably so) your sin proclivities and tendencies and how to courageously live. I refer back to my copy OFTEN and truly want everyone I know to read it. This is one of my favorite books right now.

Whole

I already written about how this book impacted me here. If you are serious about wanting wholeness and restoration in your life and those around you, this is the book for you. It asks good, hard, soul-deep questions, helps bring the reader to the Biblical narrative and feels like the perfect companion to a braver, costly life. I underlined so much and certain sections felt like they were written just for me. This book has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf.

*Tyndale Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Gracelaced

I’ve followed Ruth’s Instagram for a while now and always appreciate her beautiful watercolors and vulnerable truth-telling. When I heard she was coming out with a book, I knew I wanted to read it. I have not been disappointed in the slightest. This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in ages, but the wisdom and space to reflect in the pages have fed my soul in some deep ways. I’m savoring this book in my time with Lord and found myself sharing the things I was learning after only being a few pages in. This is a treasure of a book. And the companion journal is BEAUTIFUL too. 

 

PS. If you pre-order before September 1, you can get some free gifts! More info here:gracelaced.com/gracelacedbook.

*Harvest House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

And reading in general.

The Way of Hope

I picked up this book because I wanted what it promised, “a fresh perspective on sexual identity, same-sex marriage and the church.” I was not disappointed. Instead of a celebration or condemnation of the LGBT community, I read a story of hope and healing. Melissa Fisher honestly shares her own story, which was far better than instructions of how to engage with people different than us or an argument of why her thinking is right. She shares her past and the pain and bondage that she experienced, whether that be from what others inflicted on her or what she inflicted on herself. Her story is one that points straight to Jesus who knows and sees us fully and does the most loving thing of giving us what we NEED not what we WANT. A for me. 

PS. A special bonus of the book is that Melissa interviews her mother & her father & the woman she was previously in a same-sex marriage with, as appendixes at the end, giving their perspective and voice to her story. That felt especially redemptive and beautiful to me, as a powerful conclusion to an already riveting story.

*Baker Books Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

The Almost Sisters

I loved this book. It made me laugh and feel deeply. I liked the quirky voice of the narrative, as she finds herself single and pregnant, and in the mess of all sorts of family drama.  It felt serious and real and funny and I was sad when it ended. There was some hard parts like some sexual abuse/rape and racial prejudice (so be aware, if you are sensitive to this.) And it wasn’t perfect by any means with a sprinkling of language and a general acceptance of certain kinds of sexual activity (The main character gets pregnant from a one-night-stand) while simultaneously showing the pain of rejection and utter devastation that sex can cause when not done “appropriately.” (While this definition of appropriate seems loose, I can appreciate that the complexities of sex were actually addressed instead of glossed over.) A flawed, but delightful and meaningful book. A for me. 

Dreamland Burning

This one felt intense to me, but appropriately so. It gave voice to the pain of the Oklahoma race riots (that I previously knew hardly anything about.) I really liked the modern and historical parts, as two stories were interwoven. My main complaint was that there was an asexual character, which felt like a political statement and didn’t honestly add anything to the book for me. This was not a comfortable book to read, but it felt important and necessary for that to be true. B for me. 

My Name is Lucy Barton

This book was simple and profound and beautiful. It felt like poetry about this woman’s complex relationship with her mother and surprised me with the depth of feeling in its pages. I wasn’t in love with it, but I liked it and wasn’t sorry I read it. B+ for me. 

High as the Heavens

I enjoyed this story of a British nurse, acting as a spy in German-occupied Brussels in WWI. While her story is a fictional one, I knew that her circumstances and the courage in the midst of hardships represented very real tales from this time. It was a fun surprise to see a romance between a married couple unfolding, after several years of war-time separation, instead of a couple just at the beginning of their relationship. I can’t quite put my finger on why I didn’t love this book.I did enjoy the read, but something about the writing felt a little cliche, despite the hard elements. B for me. 

*Bethany House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Egypt’s Sister

I mostly picked this up because I don’t know much about Cleopatra and it sounded interesting. While I didn’t connect with the main character initially, I loved her development from a spoiled, naive girl to one who has been weathered and endured suffering and become strong and kind. It was a interesting look at what life might have been like for Hebrews living during that time. I liked it. B for me. 

*Bethany House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Praying with Eyes Wide Open

This book felt like permission to engage with the Lord in more meaningful ways, instead of merely lamenting a lack-luster prayer life. Sherry Harney gives practical and meaningful ways for prayer to permeate the life of the Christian. My favorite chapter was “The Father is Fond of You.” Truth is given about who the Lord is in a way that makes it easy to approach the throne of grace with confidence. I may have heard much of this before, but it still felt fresh and helpful somehow. A- for me. 

*Baker Books Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Saints For All Occasions & Commonwealth

Although these are two separate books, I’m pairing them because they reminded me of each other. They were well written and explored the themes of family dysfunction and connection. They both had an air of hopelessness to me and I walked away feeling a little off. I was totally hooked on finding out about these characters, but the prevailing theme was one of broken relationships and there wasn’t enough resolution or redemption for me. I don’t fully know what to rate them, since the writing was so good and characters were well developed. But I didn’t like how I felt when I finished them.

Full

I deeply appreciated the truth of this book. Asheritah Ciuciu shares her own food struggles, and doesn’t doesn’t dismiss certain struggles by only addressing more socially acceptable things. She is bold and transparent about the issue not simply being what we eat or don’t eat but why we eat. “Our problem is not really what we eat. It’s why we seek fullness in something that will never satisfy.” (17) I love how clearly she points to Jesus on each page, and points the reader to a difficult, heart evaluation of when food is used as a comfort or consolation or to control instead of being submitted to Jesus. If food in any capacity, feels like a struggle for you, this book is for you. A- for me. 

*Moody Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

One by One

I picked up this book partly because how deeply I care about the singles in my life. I haven’t forgotten the difficult parts of being a single in the church. This population is near and dear to my heart. I wasn’t surprised by some of what was shared, but appreciated the charge to listen instead of telling what the problem is and how it might be solved. This book offers a more full picture of what faces the Christian single and the many heartaches and struggles they face, some of those the church unintentionally contributes to. This isn’t a how-to-book for get yourself hitched, nor is it a book condemning unmarrieds believers, or even the church for how they engage with singles. This is a book that goes beyond stereotypes to help us understand and love each other better. Well-written and insightful. A- for me. 

*Baker Books Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Praying for Girls

As a girl mom, I am often asking the Lord for wisdom about how to parent specific to the needs of L. This book gave beautiful prompts and truth to pray over our growing girls. Teri Lynne Underwood offers no condemnation or shame for the challenge of not always knowing how to pray for our daughters, but offers prayers based in Scripture to pray for our girls. This book feels applicable as a tool for daughters of any age, with thoughtful suggestions of how to engage with different ages and prayers for any season. I know I will be coming back to this book and using it when I pray for my daughter. A- for me. 

*Bethany House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Almost There

I really enjoyed this memoir on Bekah Difelice’s experience of home while married to a Marine. While my specifics are different, the pain of living far from the familiarities and comforts of home is shared. Told with humor and vulnerability, Bekah shares the past few seasons of her life as a military newlywed and later, parent, living away from “home” and discovering “home” in the places the Lord had placed her. I loved that her story was neat and tidy, but felt like a friend being honest about the heartache of living far from family and the unique ways we get to experience the Lord when we find our home in him. A- for me. 

*Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Fearless Parenting

This book is a solid, practical look at many downfalls of current parenting go-tos. Without shaming, this book gently guides and offers help to the parent who wants good for their family but doesn’t know how to get there. For any parent who feels stuck or doesn’t know why they aren’t getting the results with their kids that they want, this book is a great place to start. It feels like an overview of many problem areas while offering helpful, Biblical ideas for modern parenting. A- for me. 

*Baker Books Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Winning the Battle for the Night

This book wasn’t what I expected. I expected a call to rest and sleep well. And while that was included, it also addressed the theology of dreams and revelation, and how the Lord uses those to care for the believer. I enjoyed the combination of Scripture, personal stories, research and practical implications for sleep and its far-reaching effects into life as a whole. This would be a helpful read for anyone who struggles with sleep or rest and wants help inviting the Lord into this area of life. B+ for me. 

*Chosen Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Forever, or a Long, Long Time

This middle-school reader was one of the best fiction books I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Written from the perspective of a traumatized fourth grader, who grew up in the foster care system and has recently been adopted, this book was absolutely beautiful and redemptive and messy. I loved the contrast with what was going on in her head with how everyone was experiencing her. A- for me. 

 

Also, these are my two recently-discovered children’s books that we LOVED.

Room for Bear & The Lion and the Bird.

Both are utterly darling.

 

*I joined up with What We Learned at Emily Freeman’s blog and What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer’s blog as they share what they are learning and invites others to do the same. What a gift to reflect and learn together!

 

*affiliate links included.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. ghoyum says:

    Oh my gosh, Alison, I have been listening to that Enneagram podcast too!! I love it!! My counselor told me about it, and we use the Enneagram frequently in therapy! It’s so fun and so helpful. I am a 2w1 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone

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    Like

  2. Leigh Kramer says:

    I miss getting a CSA share! Glad you’re enjoying yours and also glad you’re enjoying exploring the Enneagram- and that you have family willing to explore it with you!

    Liked by 1 person

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