Thursday, June 30, 2016

fun summer mom

Every morning of the week week we dragged our lazy summer selves out of bed, dressed, breakfasted, driven in stop-and-go traffic, and deposited Boy 2 at an art class downtown for three hours.

Then my tired, slightly grumpy crew of three kids and I sought adventures. We splashed in the river, rode a train, climbed a mountain, played at the park, ate in caf├ęs, and sipped hot cocoa by Lake Austin.

With my list of fun places and things to do in hand, my cape firmly tied around my neck, and a smile on my face, I transformed into Fun Mom.

My kids were loving it. And for a while I was, too.

But by Thursday morning, I was a tad tired from all the cavorting about, all the planning, all the lugging of ice chests, the packing of extra clothes and towels, and the managing of children.

Being Fun Mom is exhausting.

Then I pulled up to a stop light on the corner of Lake Austin Boulevard and there it was, like a beacon shining in the night. "Live a Great Story", the sign said. And I remembered what I know deep in my bones.

I get one shot at this.

I get one chance to take the kids along broken paths to ancient boat slips where they can fall in the lake and fall in love with summer.

I get one chance to lug lunch up a mountain and eat in the shade while the kids pretend to be stranded forever in the woods.

I get one chance to meander through sculpture gardens and stop when my 10-year-old is excited to watch cardinals and squirrels scamper and fly around overhead.

I get one chance to pay way too much for hot cocoa so we can sit by the Lake where turtles and fish swim up from murky waters to eat our muffin crumbs.

I get one chance to lose track of time and literally drag the kids out of a store, laughing nervously and shouting, "We're late! I'm in SO MUCH trouble!" because I am supposed to pick up their brother in one minute and we're at least fifteen minutes away.

I get one chance to walk with my head held high through the art school campus with all the fancy moms gawking at us because we are wet and slimy, dripping with river water.

I get one chance to write this story called "Motherhood". I remembered today what kind of story I want to pen. My words, my choices, my attitude, and my ability to lead my kids, it all puts ink to paper and what I am really writing is a guidebook for them called, "How to Live, Love, Learn, and Lead."

Fun Mom is back on her feet. The world is our oyster and we have things to do and places to conquer. We won't let our one chance pass us by.

It's time to write our story.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summer Book List 2016

I love book lists, don't you? In the summer I feel completely allowed to read all sorts of impractical fiction because in my book brain I am still in sixth grade and summer is when I get to read whatever makes me happy. Summer Book Lists are like a trip  to Disneyland, except there are no lines and you can stay in the air-conditioning.

I used to choose one author in the summer and read everything I could get my hands on. In college I chose classic authors every summer. That's how I read everything F Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote, the Brontes, and everything by Jane Austen. I'll never be sorry I did that. Reading old books by choice is a special kind of winning in life. Reading new books is for all the cool kids, the hipsters, the high on lifers. So you need both.

Reading both is how you end up standing at a dinner party saying things like, "Oh, yes, I've read all the Brontes.", and then "You're from Seattle?? I died laughing when I read Where'd You Go Bernadette!" Then find your people when they jump up and down a little and you talk for hours about Jane Eyre or Big Little Lies. Or you alternately get odd stares from people who would rather see the movie. At which point, move on, honey. They just don't know your life!

These days, I cherry pick various authors and genres with random abandon. There are simply so many books I want to read in life, I can scarcely keep up. Here are my summer reads, for your perusal. I've divided it by genre, as usual. Comment and tell me if you've found an amazing book I have to read next, because that's true friendship, and I'll never forgive you if you keep your books to yourself.

1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I had a little difficulty getting into this book at first, it is told through letters, and they didn't "grab me" at first. But now I'm hooked. I am halfway through, and thoroughly smitten. The story takes place in England post WW2, and is about an author and her correspondence with her editor, her friends, and a literary society on the Channel Islands. I would put it in the same category with A Fall of Marigolds, which was on my reading list last summer.

2. The Flavia De Luce Series by Alan Bradley. I adore Flavia. She is a cheeky British preteen obsessed with chemistry living in the post WW2 English countryside. Flavia likes to solve murder mysteries, and she is completely delightful. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first book in the series, and the latest one, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd, is being released in the Fall. I want to read the whole series again before my pre-ordered copy arrives in September. These books definitely work well as YA Lit for older middle school and high school. I can't wait for my boys to read them! 

3. A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. Backman writes beautifully, with a poetry that sort of sounds more like wisdom literature. This story takes place in modern day Sweden, but also tells Ove's life story, so it jumps back and forth a little. Ove's life is a sad and yet funny tale. It seems so true you easily forget this is fiction. The book is about a man of another era who is forced to accept the post-modern world he lives in by the neighbors around him. This is not Christian literature, so if you don't like to read books with very post-modern morality and worldviews, it's not for you. But it is a redemptive story in a lot of ways, and so if you can hang with the secular ways of the characters, you'll find yourself loving these awkward, broken people with great sincerity of heart. If you liked All the Light We Cannot See, I think you'll like this book.

4. After You by Jojo Moyes. I am going to shoot you straight. I didn't like Me Before You, the first book in this series. And I won't see the movie, because I'm scared of it, frankly. It was too tragic, too sad, and made me furious. Moyes's book The Girl You Left Behind made me crazy angry, too, so I have a little chip on my shoulder with this author. She makes me really care about her characters and then something happens to them that RUINS THEIR LIVES. It's hard to take, man! But lots of people have told me this sequel is redemptive, and so I am slowly reading it whenever I am at Barnes and Noble, because my library doesn't have a copy, and I can't buy it if it ends up making me mad, too! I know, I'm weird. I'm about a fourth of the way in, and so far, I am liking it, but I still don't trust her. LOL.

5. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I have pre-ordered this book, which releases July 26. Moriarty writes fun beach reads, and I love her books so much! She writes well-written fluffy stories about life and people, and her books are completely worth reading in one sitting if you can get your kids to leave you alone and stay up until 3AM dying of joy. I loved her books What Alice Forgot and The Husband's Secret so much, I will probably read every book she ever writes, because when you love a writer, you stay loyal.

1. Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg. I've only cracked this book, and then I tragically left it at the gym yesterday, so I'm dying inside. But I've heard amazing things about it, and I will go hunt it out of the lost and found so I can experience it firsthand.

2. Home is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson. This is a fun, funny, southern memoir. It's delightful in so many ways, like sitting on the backporch with a tall glass of sweet tea and hearing your best friend's truest tales. It's about faith and church and home and family. It's perfect summer reading material. 

3. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I pre-ordered this one, too. It releases in August. I enjoy Nieqist's writing. I loved Bread and Wine, Cold Tangerines, and Bittersweet. I have a feeling this one will be just as good.

4. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. Another book on writing. Because I want to write so well about God and life that the people who read my words yearn for the love and freedom and the hand of God upon their weary brow. I don't know another way to say that, and I don't know any other life that could make my heart sing. The books we read can help us fulfill our dreams, live better, more whole lives. So, yes. Another book on writing. 

Well, that's it! Have you read any of these? Did you like them? What are reading, you guys??? Tell me, tell me! I'd love to hear your book recs, and please say someone else struggled with Me Before You. Because seriously, it sent me into the darkness for several hours. 

Peace out, book peeps. And happy reading!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

shalom: for these days when nothing is as it ought to be

I'm starting to feel like the world is one giant swirling gust of wind.

Swoosh... there are ants in my kitchen and I can't seem to get rid of them. The bug guy says they live in the walls. SUPER!

Swoosh... my left eyelid is starting to wrinkle at an unprecedented rate, like it's in a race to look eighty-five before I hit fifty. It's so ahead of its time. I think I may name this new wrinkle "Adele" because it says Hello to me every time I look in the mirror.

Swoosh... my daughter asked to be baptized spontaneously last weekend.  We squeezed this monumental moment between first service worship and my son's baseball game. She also cut all her hair off last week, so basically my baby is all grown up now. Waaahhhh!!!!

Swoosh... so many people we know have hit a wall and  are believing for a miracle of some sort. Miracles and justice are hard to find when we really need them. I'm pretty sure they're out there, but they hide in plain sight and it takes time and faith to see them.

Swoosh... the election is more complicated and confusing than we can bear. Every election reminds me that I don't actually understand the intricacies of the political process, but this time around I also am learning I don't understand anything about people, the media, psychology, speech writing, political parties, or the best way to fry an egg. (That egg part was randomly placed in there because I am that confused about all the other things- I don't think it actually has anything to do with the election. But maybe it does. I don't really know.)

Swoosh... people are gunned down in an Orlando night club. Girls are trafficked right off our streets. Foster kids have nowhere to go. What are we going to do, you guys? How can we right the wrongs when they are in such great abundance?

Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. I can barely stand some days.

James 4 says our life is like a mist, appearing one day and disappearing when the sun appears. No wonder the swirling wind of life affects us this way.

Then I pull out this old video of my daughter when she was three years old, and somehow her disjointed theology makes me laugh and remember that faith doesn't always have to make sense to be true.


Can you see God? Yes. Can you see God? No. But God is always with you. It makes me think of the disciples on the boat in Luke 8, stormy winds swirling, and Jesus right there asleep in the boat. I want to shake Him awake with my prayers, but I also want to amaze Jesus with my faith that because He is God with us, everything will be okay in the end.

Gosh, I just want everything to be okay in the end.

Morgan preached about Shalom on Sunday. Shalom means peace- the kind of peace where all is as it ought to be in the world. My new dream is to make space for shalom in the lives of the people I know and love. Even if my personal shalom is small, I am trusting it will grow.

And so today, I am making cookies for the neighbor who has never spoken with me until last week, when she told me in broken English that she "want to be friendship" with me. I want to be friends with her, too, and cookies are the best way to say "friendship" I know.

I'm folding laundry and filling the pantry with food and playing a card game with my kids, because shalom is in all those acts, too.

I'm saying Hello back to that wrinkled eyelid, telling my aging skin it's doing a great job facing the world without the collagen it once boasted. Shalom looks like being a little more kind to my own self some days.

I'm writing a book about ministry and all the ways we bear in our lives the gospel of transformation, and all the ways we suffer for the sake of a higher calling. Because shalom comes in the form of pastoring and shepherding our churches.

Most of all, I am praying. I pray you find shalom in God's presence. I pray that even though the wind blows and it seems nothing is as it ought to be in the world, you find you find a way to lie down beside Jesus in the boat and rest until the wind dies down and the boat carries us all home.

Shalom also means being brave and clinging to this promise Jesus gave us:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
-John 14:27

Peace, shalom, and Happy Tuesday, you guys. I love ya bunches.