Tag Archives | summer

What I’m Learning: Summer 2017

What I'm Learning: Summer Edition

I like the quiet habit of sitting down each season and looking back to remember. It remedies my rushed soul and invites me to recognize the lessons I tend to unintentionally discard.

I scribble out this causal list, determined to make it to number ten. At seven, I put down my pen. I’m learning that God’s ways are perfect, and since seven is synonymous with completion, I choose to accept that this list of seven things I’m learning is also complete… for now. For this season.

I’ll end with three tiny dots, a sure sign I’m still learning. The walk continues, the pursuit continues, growth continues, and love continues to carry me on into the next season ahead.

Seven things I’m learning this summer…

  1. Gratitude can turn any threat into encouragement.

My only defense against comparison for so many years was striving. Try harder, do better, be someone else. Striving only left me wounded. But then a friend’s precious wisdom helped me see a more effective defense when tempted to compare.

She challenged me to redirect my focus back onto God by thanking Him for the beauty I see in others. I’ve practiced this summer, (and when I say practice, I do mean it’s a work in progress) but I’ve noticed a faint trace of peace in my heart. I love the notion of imperfect progress, and this is where God has me.

  1. You’re never too old to try something new.

My picky eater tried ice cream for the first time this year. He’s seven. (I know.) Our family outings to the ice cream shop end with cups of ice cream for all but one. He’s always been content with his bowl full of toppings. Until he tried the delicious stuff at school towards the end of his Kindergarten year.

This summer my girl suggested we grab some ice cream cones on a weekly grocery run. That night after dinner, we all piled heaps of ice cream onto perfectly shaped sugar waffle cones—Homemade Vanilla for the boys and Southern Blackberry Cobbler for the girls, thank you very much Blue Bell!

You're never too old to try something new.

Watching my boy at age seven attack an ice cream cone for the very first time was a little bit like witnessing pure joy. When I start to tell myself I’m too old to try new things, I want to remember the grin on my boy’s face!

  1. The recipe for righteousness has always been and will always just Jesus.

Words like faith and abide fill my Christian vernacular, yet so often my understanding of their true meaning is lacking at best. I’m learning how to embrace the simple side of faith and how to let go of striving in my own strength.

Who knew an anniversary trip to Napa Valley with my man could have such drastic effects on my relationship with Christ? I’m thankful for the travel time, but even more thankful for the way Jesus is never ever finished with me.

  1.  God’s story cannot be silenced.

Our enemy is power hungry, but since He cannot steal the power of God within us, He comes after something else: our voices. I’m learning that God’s story cannot be silenced. Since my story tells His story, I cannot be silenced either.  

The stunning book of Daniel has captivated my heart this summer. God is teaching me that He is sovereign, unchangeable, and the ultimate pursuer of hearts.

  1. Only God can turn shame into beauty.

I don’t see my friend Julie very often, but when she visited a few months ago, I had the precious privilege of hearing her storyThough we grew up together, so much of what she shared was new to my ears. Her story gave me new eyes to view my own story.

I’m learning that my wounds and scars and battle stories reveal that I’ve been redeemed. The cross, the utmost symbol of shame, is a beacon of beauty and a representation of perfect love for all who trust in Jesus.

  1. One of the hardest, most costly aspects of discipleship is a willingness to let our hearts break.

I have struggled my heart out over this one this summer. Jesus washed the feet of His own betrayer and willingly gave Himself though many would never choose Him. My heart does not have the capacity to love like this, but Christ in me does.

This summer Love is leading me through rejection, hurt, and loss. I’m learning that love is always worth it in the end.

  1. Water balloons and sunshine are overrated. Bring on the rain!

We had big plans for our first day of summer with our box of 350+ water balloons and plastic water guns. When the rain came and stayed for a while, we exchanged our water war plans for puddle jumping instead.

When we finally got our day of water fun, the big kids and I raced to fill water balloons before their baby sister launched them into the grass, making a neon mess. The fun lasted minutes; the cleanup, however, lingered on and on.

The next day, as we wiped away the Texas sweat, the kids begged to pull on their rain boots and twirl their umbrellas. The impromptu shade made a hot summer day a little more beautiful!

Water balloons and sunshine are overrated.

I pray your summer was sweet and refreshing and full of learning adventures! I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Sharing what we’re learning connects our hearts in such a simple yet beautiful way.

Until next season…

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What I’m Reading: Summer 2017

When I share What I’m Reading every few months, I pay closer attention to which titles I’m drawn to, which genres I typically gravitate toward, which authors I admire.

I’ve discovered that I haven’t always been a very balanced reader. So in an attempt to bring a little harmony to my bookshelves, today I’m sharing 3 Memoir, 3 Fiction, 3 Christian Living, and one BIG book for the entire family this summer.

three M E M O I R

On Writing, by Stephen King

This memoir offered a faint glimpse into the life of an American icon. After a serious accident that left him wheelchair bound for weeks, King wrote the section titled “On Writing.” I lifted some of the finest writing advice off these pages.

Space at the Table, by Brad and Drew Harper

Authored by an evangelical theologian and his gay son, this tender yet heart-breaking memoir is full of unconditional love and the deepest kind of hope. What a brave book! The conversation Drew and his dad began has followed me long after I read the last page.

Undone, by Michele Cushatt

In this highly relatable memoir, Michele Cushatt tells a beautiful tale of embracing unfinished progress, accepting the undone-ness of real life, and learning to see beauty in upside-down places.

 

three F I C T I O N

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

I could not put this book down. Chris Cleave is a master at demonstrating the strength and resilience of the human spirit. You will fall I love with these characters, especially Little Bee. My favorite quote in the entire book: “Our stories are the tellers of us.” (Little Bee)

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

In this historical fiction, Cleave juxtaposes the uncertainty of love with the cruelty of war, then demonstrates with poignancy that, in the end, love is stronger than war. The Author’s Note at the end brought tears to my eyes; the novel was inspired by Cleave’s grandfather who died during the writing of the book. Though he never read a word of it, it is a beautiful tribute to the way love restores all that war steals.

The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict

Marie Benedict answers, through fiction, the questions in the life of Albert Eistein’s wife, Mileva Maric. The enchanting story reveals the humanity of one of the greatest physicists who ever lived and the brilliant mind that was hidden in the shadow of his pride and fame.

 

three C H R I S T I A N   L I V I N G

The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It, by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel

This was such an important book for me. Goggin and Strobel gave me a better understanding of what power is and what it is not. This is an important book for all believers, I think.

Introverts in the Church, by Adam S. McHugh

Introverts in the Church celebrates the introverted way, especially in an extroverted culture. McHugh reveals the quiet yet uniquely profound mark every introvert leaves on this world. If you are an introvert or you love an introvert, this is a must read!

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, by Lysa TerKerust

This is such an intelligent and profound book on the topic of rejection. Lysa introduced me to the concept of “living loved.” And what I love about Lysa is that she doesn’t just tell us why living loved is so vital, she shows us how… on every single page.

 

one for the whole F A M I L Y

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden, by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark

I love this book for all ages because it tells the gospel plainly through story. One big story from Genesis to Revelation, one big story of love. You’ll love the gorgeous, modern illustrations, and you’ll walk away with a fresh understanding of the gospel message.

 

Thanks to all who shared your favorite Memoir last month! Be sure to check out my Good Reads page for more of my favorites.

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What I’m Reading (and not reading) This Fall

What I'm Reading: Fall Edition

It’s taken me years to learn how to abandon a book and not feel guilty.

Usually, the reason I put a book down isn’t because the author and I have different views. I think reading books from a variety of authors gives me a better perspective. It doesn’t change my view; it actually deepens my beliefs, because it challenges me to think deeply about why I believe what I believe.

Sometimes, it’s just not the right season, but most of the time, I’m just not in the author’s audience, so I struggle to I relate. And it’s ok to move on.

Today I’m sharing six books I love. Two others didn’t make the list, because I didn’t finish reading either one of them. Though there’s no guarantee that you’re going to love these as much as I did, I think there’s always value in sharing what you love with someone else—especially when it comes to good reads.

So without any strings attached, here’s what I’m reading this fall:

What I'm Reading: Fall Edition

{Christian Living}

Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me, by Alexandra Kuykendall

Alexandra Kuykendall devoted nine months to this experiment deeply rooted in finding joy in her current season. She focused on a different aspect of her life for an entire month and kept a journal of what worked, what didn’t, and what she learned in the process.

In the preface she lays the ground rules: “In this experiment we’re going to hang out in the element that is. Not what we could be, should be, or wish were true about our lives, but what actually is…. Because God gave us each one unique life. Meant to be lived out in our actual situations.”

The chapter on passion spoke most of all to me. Something shifted inside me as I underlined these words: “I balance the belief that God has made me for both mothering and whatever that passion might be, with the ‘do what only you can do’ decision-making grid…. I can do my best to make plans, but truly, if I was made to do something I must figure out a way to do that something now, even if a little at a time.”

I love Alexandra Kuykendall’s realistic approach in not implementing all the things all the time. Loving My Actual Life inspired me to make a list of my own experiments I want to explore, because it just seems so intriguing.

{Spiritual Growth}

Unashamed, by Christine Caine

The lavish grace Christine has for herself as she tells her story stood out to me immediately in Unashamed. She explains how renewing our minds involves replacing our thoughts (as well as the enemy’s lies) with God’s thoughts.

When I look back at certain seasons of my life, the thoughts and attitudes I have towards myself are often filled with judgment, frustration, and embarrassment. Christine’s way of telling all the parts of her story through a redeemed perspective reminds me that God has only ever looked on me with love.

He loved me at my very worst—that’s the essence of the good news.

For the past year, I’ve been meeting with a group of girls. Woven throughout every one of our stories is this common thread: we believe Jesus came to free us. As I read Christine’s story about her journey to freedom these words sprung right off the page: “Freedom comes when we see ourselves as God sees us!”

{Self-Help: Creativity}

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, by Brené Brown

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown unpacks essential guideposts for whole-hearted living. She believes cultivating things like authenticity, a resilient spirit, creativity, play, and meaningful work involves letting go of something else. For example, to implement rest, Brené says we must let go of productivity as self-worth.

To further explain this theory, Brené and her husband made a list of practical things that make their family work. They asked themselves a simple question: “When things are going really well in our family, what does it look like?” Sleep, healthy food, meaningful work, family and close friends made up their “ingredients for joy and meaning.” They discovered that the things they were working toward did nothing in terms of making their lives fuller.

I got curious about how my own joy and meaning list would compare with my to-do list and my to-accomplish list. This simple exercise brought a sense of calm and much needed refreshment to my very busy season with little ones. I learned that I, too, am living my dream in ways I hadn’t even considered.

{Memoir}

Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home, by Amber C. Haines

This book was an important one for me. Amber Haines put into words everything I have felt my whole life. She helped me understand my longing to fit in and find belonging. I never would have defined these cravings as homesickness.

She is honest when she describes the church as the place she felt least at home.

“I wanted intimacy and belonging with the people of God but still had trouble reaching out because I saw in us all a deep dissatisfaction. I was chief among the dissatisfied, and reaching out to the dissatisfied church didn’t make sense….

She was beginning to see the church as “the kingdom of the dissatisfied powerless.”

Wild in the Hollow helped me navigate my own unrealistic expectations of community. I recognize how the constant desires for community, intimacy, and relationship can become an unhealthy searching for satisfaction outside of Jesus.

God used this book to rekindle my love for the Church—the same Church I’ve held responsible for hurting certain people in my life, the same Church full of broken people who need Jesus, the same Church God calls His beloved Bride.

{Spirituality}

Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor

When God draws us into darkness, it is unique to what He wants to teach us. Yet the ache felt our hearts is similar. Darkness can be uncertainty or silence. It can be a debilitating affliction- physical, emotional, or spiritual. Darkness can be isolating and terrifying.

But darkness is often a catalyst for growth.

In Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor eloquently describes how she has grappled with this mystery. She points out that God spoke from darkness, one that is both “dangerous and divine.”

We all possess this inherent fear of the dark, but Learning to Walk in the Dark encouraged me to consider my own view of dark emotions, like grief, fear, and despair. Through her research, Barbara concludes that there really are no dark emotions. She says we just have “unskillful ways of coping with emotions we cannot bear.”

Learning to Walk in the Dark has helped me lean into the discomfort of the dark. I am beginning to see that when I acknowledge the dark, I rely more heavily on God. The more I lean into Him, the more I discover how much I don’t know. And that’s right where I need to be for Him to teach me something new.

{Historical Fiction}

The Muse, by Jessie Burton

In this fascinating historical novel, two different stories unfold simultaneously—one set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, the other told by a Trinidadian immigrant living in England in the late-1960s. The waves made by one painting, and its secret, are felt in a new, yet not so different, era.

These stories remind me of the interconnectedness of all our stories. Sometimes we’re linked together in very obvious ways and sometimes in hidden, mysterious ways.

These overarching questions swirled throughout my mind as I read The Muse: What makes an artist an artist? How does the response to the art impact the identity of the artist? Is art ever separate from the artist? Is there ever such a thing as a whole story?

As an artist as well as a woman, I recognized the familiar undertones of society defining what women can and cannot be. If you look closely, you can still see glimpses in this generation. The Muse depicts this struggle. On every page, I thought of the Artist of all who created every one of us to be artists. Whether we embrace our creativity or not, we were all designed to create—in our own time and in our own unique way.

fall good reads

What are you reading this fall? When do you decide to set a book aside, or do you feel obligated to finish every one you start? I’d love to hear from you…

Kelly

 

 

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{GIVEAWAY} What I’m Loving: Summer Edition

One of the sweetest moments in life has to be when a friend shows up on your doorstep with an unexpected gift for absolutely no reason at all. The other day a friend gave me a bag of mint M&Ms—a whole bag, people. Her timing was perfect, too, though I’m not sure there’s a bad time to receive chocolate!

Think of this as an unexpected gift from a friend. I’m certain you’ll thank me later. Here’s what I’m loving this summer.

I know you’re going to love it, too.

What I'm Loving: Summer Edition

The same friend who understands my mint M&M addiction, plopped this pretty little gift in my lap a couple months ago, just because. Besides her endearing gift-giving ways, one of my favorite parts of our friendship is that we study the bible together. We don’t go to a bible study together; we just read the bible at our own pace and share what we’re learning. It’s pretty simple. And beautiful, too.

When she gave me Quieting Your Heart Six-Month Bible Study Journal created by the Time-Warp Wife, I fell in love for five reasons.

loving-summer-journal

I’m loving how it encourages God-centered application.

Whimsical text boxes on every page read, “GOD IS…” It’s a perfect place to start once I’m done studying a passage, because it reminds me that the bible is a book about God, not a book about me.

I’m loving how it evokes a thankful heart.

The “Three Things I’m Thankful For” text box helps me remember it is a blessing to read and study God’s Word. I love the way it launches me into prayer with a grateful posture.

I’m loving that it satisfies my artsy cravings.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, I bought her an adult coloring book to take with her to chemo treatments. Until then, I was unaware that a colored pencil in hand could have such a calming effect on me. The playful illustrations in this journal are delightful whether they’re colored in or left black and white.

loving-summer-color

I’m loving that it will last me six whole months.

I need a new journal every couple of months, so six month’s worth of pages means less space occupied on my bookshelf. Though I don’t write something down every single day, I love the idea of having one journal that will last me half of the year.

I’m loving how it helps me embrace the mess of learning.

Bible study is messy. I’m learning to embrace dissonance as I wait on God to teach my heart at a pace that’s right for me in this season. Knowing I have a pretty place to collect my thoughts as I read God’s Word helps me appreciate the mess that’s necessary to get there.

messy-study

The winner of my August Giveaway is…

Eva Haier

Congratulations, Eva! Thank you everyone for all of your support in the launch of Carried by Love. Here is the link if you’d like to grab your own copy of Quieting Your Heart Six-Month Bible Study Journal.

Giving away something you love is just a simple way of saying thank you…

Kelly

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What I’m Learning: Summer Edition

What I'm Learning: Summer Edition

I get together with a group of women every Sunday night. We laugh, we cry, we pray for one another – oh, and we stuff our faces with yummy (sometimes healthy) food. It’s a safe place where we’re free to be our real selves. It’s where healing and learning and growing happens.

My favorite part is when someone shares what she’s learning.

I love hearing things like, “This is where God has me, but I don’t know why we’re here,” or “He’s teaching me about this, but I don’t quite understand it.” It’s like looking through a well lit window right into a beautiful soul where God is just doing His thing.

There is freedom in laying these lessons out on the table long before they’re tidy and clearly articulated and understood. We learn better when we process together. We need people along the way who are willing to just sit back and listen. We need people who are willing to ask us the hard questions. We need people who are willing to say, “Yeah, me too.”

Sharing what we’re learning is a lot like handing over a really messy rough draft.

There’s a certain level of vulnerability that comes with sharing something that’s still in the works. Life is all about recognizing that we are all still a work in progress. Today I’m sharing what I’m learning in hopes that it will encourage you to do the same. After all, rough drafts eventually become beautifully polished stories.

I’ve been unpacking Jesus’ response to His followers when they asked Him who was the greatest.  Jesus’ answer reveals so much about His heart and sheds some light on my own, too. Jesus’ response isn’t a recipe for how to become great; it’s a lesson on humility.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

My kids are home for summer, so there have been endless opportunities to reflect on the phrase “like little children.” Sensing that God wants me parked here this summer, I started a list of words that describe little children. Every time a new word comes to mind, I pull out my journal and jot it down. Nothing fancy – just a simple, scribbled list. This is what I’ve written so far:

L i t t l e  c h i l d r e n :

h u m b l e

s m a l l

p r e c i o u s

h o n e s t

n e e d y

d e p e n d e n t

b e l i e v i n g

t r u s t i n g

n o t   p o w e r f u l

v u l n e r a b l e

t e a c h a b l e

It’s the last one that has caused me to look at my own heart and ask, “Am I like that? Am I teachable?” Maybe it’s because of the one hundred and one questions being hurled in my general direction on a daily basis, all of which begin with the word, “Mommy,…? Mommy,…? Mommy,…?”

Little children ask questions because they don’t know, and they’re not the slightest bit ashamed to admit it.

Discovering the answer is more important than making sure no one finds out they don’t have it. Little children aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.” They know that the very words mark the beginning of an adventure.

So, why do these three little words feel so uncomfortable coming out of my mouth? After all, only God is all-knowing. I will never have complete or unlimited knowledge and understanding. But, I’ve started to notice how much saying this phrase frustrates me.

This summer Jesus is asking me to get comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.”

In Women of the Word (one of the books I shared last month), Jen Wilkin talks about how patience is part of the learning process, especially when it comes to studying God’s word. She uses the word dissonance a bunch. I looked it up in the dictionary the other day just so that I could understand it a bit better.

Dissonance is defined as “a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion; lack of harmony or agreement; tension.”

My restless soul craves completion. Engaging the dissonance between “I don’t know” and “I understand,” helps me come to terms with my limitations in light of a limitless God. Willingly entering the tension means placing myself in a position to learn.

I’m learning that humility means choosing to be teachable, and being teachable begins with saying, “I don’t know.”

What is God is teaching you this summer? Is there a phrase (like mine) that you’re learning to embrace? Leave a comment… I’d love to hear from you!

Kelly

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What I’m Reading: Summer Edition

carriedbylove.com/summer-reading

I have a thing for old-fashioned books – you know, the ones with pages that actually turn. I love the feeling I get when I open to the very first page, and I love savoring the last words of a story that has transported me to a different place and time.

I scribble thoughts in the margin that I don’t ever want to forget, and I dog-ear important pages I want to come back and read again. But, my absolute favorite part of reading is passing books I love on to someone else. Today I’m sharing four books, three of which were passed on to me by people I love and respect.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown 

I was amazed at how much Brené Brown’s message resonated with me. Her relatable style is engaging, and though her findings are strictly research based, many of them are actually biblical. Rising Strong is all about having the courage to get back up after a fall.

Our brains are wired for story, so when we have gaps in our understanding, our brains fill in those gaps with a story, whether the information is true or not. Brené talks about confronting these stories we’ve made up in our heads.

Satan lies in such subtle ways, and sometimes it’s hard to recognize that we’ve believed a lie until the story has gotten away from us. Rising Strong is about taking responsibility for our stories. This book taught me the importance of paying attention to what I’m thinking, feeling, and believing especially when all I want to do is dismiss, deny, or hide.

You can listen to Brené Brown share more about Rising Strong in this interview.

TLS #124: How to Compassionately Set Boundaries in Relationships with Brené Brown

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 

Me Before You is about life and love and the hope it requires to move past shattered dreams. It’s about losing control and deciding what defines us. It’s about asking ourselves whether it’s possible to protect our own hearts from breaking. It’s about coming to terms with the vows we make and the lies we believe.

I couldn’t read a page of this book without thinking about a dear friend who suffered a similar spinal cord injury from a car accident at the age of 15. Throughout Me Before You, I was enraged and also heartbroken, but I found it to be a very thought-provoking read. I love stories that make me reflect on what I believe and why I believe it.

My belief in Jesus has changed every other belief I hold.

Our decisions in life are wrapped up in what we live for. The pursuit of contentment is the heartbeat that pulses throughout this entire book. Me Before You was a good reminder to continuing sharing with the world how true contentment can only be found in a relationship with Jesus.

This book gave me a renewed passion not to use my opinions to try and change people’s minds, but to use my life to point to Jesus, the only One able to change people’s hearts.

 

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin 

I read this book a while ago, but a conversation with my daughter led me to read it again. When I was not satisfied with my best response to her question about a well known bible story, I realized that it was a passage of scripture I needed to relearn. As I began to search for clarity for my daughter’s sake, I found myself reaching for Women of the Word.

Jen Wilkin has helped me understand how the Bible is, first and foremost, a book about God, not a book about me. Women of the Word will change the way you view the Bible, challenge you in gracious ways, and give you courage to seek God with all of your heart and mind and soul.

If you are interested in reading along with me and live in the West Houston area, I will be leading a book discussion this month at my church. Email or message me for more details. I’d love to connect with you in person!

 

The White Umbrella: Walking with Survivors of Sex Trafficking by Mary Frances Bowley 

Mary Frances Bowley, the founder and president of Wellspring Living, has carefully and beautifully strung together delicate stories from women who have been victims of sex trafficking. Each story will unravel you in a heart-breaking, but necessary, way.

The color white represents purity, and the umbrella represents protection against the storm. The White Umbrella provides a profound picture of our willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with survivors of sex trafficking. We all have a place in this fight. If you don’t know where you fit in, reading this book is a perfect place to start.

I love this quote: “You see, it isn’t about what you do or all the excitement of joining a compelling cause. It really is about you and God. He is the ultimate Restorer, and His work never fades… Walking with survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking is a messy and complicated opportunity. But how beautiful is it that God has given us His white umbrella of love so that we can spread it over someone in the storm. When we do that, they too can experience the love, protection, and care that Christ longs to give us all.”

I am not the same after reading this book. My eyes have been opened, and God is answering my “what now?” prayer.

carriedbylove.com/summer-reading

What are you reading this summer? Leave a comment… I’d love to hear from you!

Kelly

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