It's what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.
I left supper simmering on the stove and sat out back on the porch swing with a book. I noticed all the purple I had growing, saliva, lavender full of buzzing bees and the turning hydrangea. Have you ever noticed just how low to the ground some birds swoop across the yard?
This kind of savoring of slower moments and the way the sun slants long and golden make summer so endearing. Even when the Whippersnappers were littles and these moments were harder to find, I used to give myself a bit more permission than usual to relax outside, notice small things and read good books.
Love Lives Here by Maria Goff
You may have read Bob Goff's Love Does a few years ago. It was full of his loud life and grace-filled adventure. Maria is his wife, but she has a voice and vocation all her own.
I enjoyed Maria's wise and humble writing. She elevates her role of motherhood gracefully and solidly. She knows who she is and writes from that level ground. There are good looks here into authentic, intentional, faith-walking life. I got the impression in her pages, that this is who Maria is in her life.
The author's bio reads,
"Maria Goff has made a career out of loving her family, serving her neighbors, and turning houses into homes."
The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell
Do you find hospitality difficult, even draining? is your schedule too hectic? Do you feel bad about it?
That was how Kristin Schell felt a few years ago. There is a difference between entertaining and hospitality. Kristin was after hospitality. She knew the value to her in connecting with friends and neighbors was more than just in passing. She knew it was how God designed her, but she could not figure out how to do it in her everyday life.
Then she stumbled on a wild idea. Move her picnic table from the backyard to the front yard. Paint it her favorite color - turquoise. Sit outside and see what happens.
What happened has become a movement of front yard people across America and a few seas, who are getting to know their neighbors beyond just waving from cars. Kristin tells you just how she did this with and without recipes to make the whole thing sweeter.
I don't have a grassy front yard. I have a steep front hill with natural stone steps. But my church has a vacant patio waiting to be filled with life and a front yard community.
The great thing about Kristin and her heart is that she has made the front yard community grace-full and nimble. Your table doesn't have to be a picnic table. You might have a bistro table or a pair of turquoise chairs or no turquoise at all. You can make your own table, spruce up one you already have or buy it ready made.
Kristin has partnered with Tuesday Morning to bring the Turquoise Table right to your yard. I walked into the Tuesday Morning right near my Kate's new house in Texas and look what I found!
This is a perfect book for summertime. Have fun becoming front yard people.
Holy Luck by Eugene Peterson
I've told you I have a holy crush on Mr. Eugene Peterson. He writes about God and faith with such real grit and reverence. Well, he writes poetry out of scripture which I thought was just a quirk of mine. It only endears him to me more.
Here are a few lines that spoke to me from a section called the Lucky Sad. He writes poems that speak to real hurt and the true healing that comes from being honest and resilient.
"Every old scar and cut of lament weeping washes the wounds clean and leaves them to heal, which always takes an age or two."
"Under the mercy every hurt is a fossil link in the great chain of becoming."
Eugene has a heart for holy Scripture, a connection with real life and a gritty way with words. This may not be my favorite book of his, but I can always use more of Eugene's heart.
My next Eugene read suggested by my friend, Andy, will be Reversed Thunder.
Becoming Curious by Casey Tygrett
I first heard Casey interviewed on the Open door Sisterhood podcast. He is a teaching pastor at a church and spiritual director at a university.
I remember in the interview he said something like,
'Spiritual direction sits in the middle country, a wild, undiscovered country.'
I feel I am on such a quest through a wild country that is my faith and I could use a Sagagawea. I know our God never changes, but boy does our world. I need to be alert, awake and attuned to my Savior on the long and winding way.
"Curiosity is central to movement in our lives."
He looks at the questions Jesus asked (not answered) and keeps that kind of curiosity humming. Tygrett asks,
"Does Jesus still change people's names?"
"What if we begin to look at the laws and commandments through the lens of why, not in terms of what we do but who we are becoming?"
"What if our failure is actually forming us instead of de-forming us?"
I am finding that a little healthy curiosity goes a long way. I am asking a few more questions and recovering a bit of childhood wonder. It is invigorating my soul.
What questions are you asking?
The Wisdom of Tenderness by Brennan Manning
I am struck by what conclusions a priest, writer and life-long follower of Jesus comes to near the end of his life. Brennan Manning settled on the wisdom of tenderness.
He decided after years of faith walking that we can only be truly tender with God's children after entering and accepting God's tender heart for ourselves. He finally saw how deeply Too-Much-Mercy loved his broken-down self and it changed how he loved other broken-down people.
"We're surrounded by people who are hungry and thirsty and naked in their souls, and they come to us hungry for understanding, thirsty for affirmation, naked with loneliness, and wanting to be covered with the mantle of our genuine tenderness."
He finally saw that God became "hearted" to express this deep tenderness toward us.
One night Brennan went to the seedy part of town to thank a wino who tenderly cared for him when he was a wino and there found another wino who needed tenderness.
"When I saw that you really cared, my heart began to grow wings - small wings, feeble wings, but wings."
Oh, how I don't want to miss this small beginning. Why is tenderness so hard?
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
I stumbled across Barbara Brown Taylor from this quote in my daily planner,
"Reverence requires a certain pace."
That struck a chord with me. My one word 2016 was "unhurried" and while I have a new word for 2017, I am never beyond finishing what was started the year before.
I found several of Brown's books at the library near my home. I was smitten with the simple white-toothed cover and byline, " A Geography of Faith". I find a pattern for me in loving books about inner landscapes, geographies, rhythms and alphabets.
I took An Altar in the World on a trip to the mountains and sat outside on the porch to read alongside chirping bird and skittering chipmunks.
The book is broken into twelve everyday practices such as "Waking up to God", "Paying Attention" and "Wearing Skin". There's also the practice of "Carrying Water". I liked Barbara's smart and humble voice as she write from her everyday life, peopled and reflective.
I loved this book. I can already tell her writing will help make me a better human and writer. It's one of those books I will still buy for my bookshelf, so I can visit it anytime I want.
One question I often get is, "Where do I find the titles to fill my booklist?"
The short answer is all over the place. The more practical answer is these specific places: podcast interviews, Instagram, friend's suggestions and my Sacred Ordinary Days Liturgical Planner. The SOD Day Planner is my everyday planner where I follow the liturgical church calendar, write out my daily projects and set goals for each day, week and month.
The author, Jenn Giles Kemper, could not find all she wanted in a planner in one place, so she crafted an original. In it she has sprinkled quotes from authors both timeless and brand new.
These quotes are one of my favorite parts of using this planner. They appear on every Sunday along with space to reflect and reset the goals from that week. Since I have been leaning into Sabbath rest more intentionally and creatively these last three years, since Mike's heart surgery turned our lives "upside up", I love how the pages look and feel differently on Sunday. It is just what my soul needs.
This week, I pre-ordered my new Sacred Ordinary Days Academic Planner. Mine is mint green, but I had trouble deciding because the charcoal gray is beautiful too. It is due out in August just in time for the school year. I'm not technically in school, but I love beginning fresh in the fall because it reminds me of a time of year I love and it has helped me gear up for intentionally starting my year with Advent.
I understand these new pages will be filled with fresh quotes which thrills me. I will likely find new authors for my reading list and that makes my heart sing. It will benefit you too. You can get your Sacred ordinary Days Planner here.
Happy summertime reading!
*Some of these, but not all, are affiliate links and make us both happy in that you don't pay any extra for a great curated list of books and I get a small reward.