Summer Reading List: Contemplation, Contentment & Creativity.

Summer is here again, and I am over the moon excited for it.

IMG_5167.JPG

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for us, crazy in (mostly) the best ways. There has been stress, and there has been drama, but more than ever, I am grateful for the celebrations happening one right after the other this summer – my mom’s milestone birthday, our 10 year (!!!) wedding anniversary, answered house prayers, and sisters’ baby showers. I could ride the wave of champagne all the way to the end of the year, but there’s more to the story (isn’t there always more to the story?).

I believe that books, like people, come into your life at just the right time. The books in my life right now are focused on themes these that I need the most – contemplation, contentment and creativity.

Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation by Phileena Heuertz. This has been on my nightstand for months, but I just started actually reading it this past weekend at our cabin stay. She writes: “In solitude, we develop the capacity to be present. In silence, we cultivate the ability to listen. And in stillness we acquire the skill of restraint or self-control.” In just the first few pages, I’ve found so much wisdom for this journey of letting go of the “compulsions to be identified with what we have, what we do, and what others say about us” and learning how to fully experience God’s love. Hannah Brencher wrote recently, “Consume grace regularly, as if it were a vitamin” – wow, yes, one hundred percent. I fully believe in embracing practices that enable that transformation by grace and that also teach me how to cope with the unending pain and suffering in this world. Reading this book makes me even more excited to attend a grounding retreat with one of my best friends this fall.

The Contentment Journal by Rachel Cruze. I know that this is a journal and not a book book, but I love it. I listened to a podcast recently with Rachel Cruze, who also identifies as an Enneagram 3, and what she said made so much sense to me. This journal focuses on gratitude, humility, and contentment – all of which I need to intentionally cultivate daily. God is working on my heart in these areas, and the process of journaling through these values is a helpful one for me.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I’m sure I’ll be working through this book all summer, but two takeaways that I’m starting to implement in my life: morning pages (using Elise Joy’s #100dayproject tracker) and the artist date. I tend to live life on the full end of the spectrum, but I hit my capacity recently with all kinds of work and tasks, leaving me feeling creatively depleted. I believe strongly in creative work, so I plan to use this summer to recalibrate, reassess, and rebuild my routine. I came across a quote by Yung Pueblo on instagram that said, “As she shed the tense energy of the past, her power and creativity returned to her. With a revitalized excitement, she focused on building a new life where joy and freedom were abundant.” Yes to power, yes to creativity, yes to joy, and yes to freedom. I’ve heard so many good things about this book, and look forward to diving into it this season.

Reading and working through these books simultaneously, the more I see how these themes intersect. Contemplative practice teaches contentment in all circumstances. With contentment comes the peace and freedom to create well and tell the truth. Engaging with creativity enables the fostering of meaningful connections.

What books are you reading this summer that are helping you grow?

After the Rain.

It was the first sunny day after a string of rainy ones; we couldn’t wait to get out of the house. I texted my friend Heather, “Park date?” as I buckled the kids into their car seats.

Image from iOS.jpg

We arrived at the park at almost the same time in almost the same outfit – Patagonia jackets to ward off the wind chill and high-waisted Lululemon tights to rein in the postpartum sag (just me?), an unofficial South County mom uniform. We made our way from the row of SUVs and minivans to the play structures and bench seating. I unloaded the snack bags and diaper bag and extra bike helmet and the three-wheel scooter. The sky was a bright baby blue, with only traces of the clouds that covered the sky the night before.

Between us, we had five kids roaming in three different areas. Heather and I tag-teamed bathroom runs. My arms moved constantly – fishing for the fruit snacks in the zippered lunch box, catching a scooter before it tipped over, patting baby while I bounced him. We talked while the boys played, but our eyes never stopped moving either. I was mid-sentence, handing my two-year old a water bottle when I caught a glimpse of my four-year old climbing a rock structure meant for the big kids.

I hesitated, unsure of whether to move towards him or stay, when I saw her – another mom of a preschooler, with her arms outstretched to my son, ready to catch him if he slipped.

Thank you, I mouthed, when she looked back at me. “You had your hands full,” she said.

I could have felt inadequate and overwhelmed; a bad mom for having three kids and only two arms. Instead, I felt the cool release of the breath that I didn’t realize I was holding and the warmth of the sunshine after the rain.

There’s a hymn that I love called Hark! The Voice of Jesus Calling. It’s a hymn about answering the call from where you are; a hymn about doing what you can with what you have and trusting His grace to fill the gap. To me, on this day, it was a hymn about ministering as a mother.

If you cannot be the watchman

standing high on Zion's wall,

pointing out the path to heaven,

offering life and peace to all,

with your prayers and with your bounties

you can do what heaven demands;

you can be like faithful Aaron

holding up the prophet's hands.

That’s the visual I see – arms outstretched, hers in place of mine.

We can start on the playground.

We can hold up each other’s hands.

We can hold out our own.


This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series "We're Better Mothers Together"

Reset 001: Let there be life.

This is true of every month: it’s a reset. Our budget resets, which is truly the most exciting part of the month for me. I bought all the books that have been sitting in my Amazon cart for weeks. I registered for a grounding retreat in October and signed up for a couple’s cooking class in June. I made restaurant reservations for our date nights, updated the month’s goals (read 5 books, run a half marathon distance, etc), and RSVP’d to the birthday parties. Come the first of the month, I am a machine.

Easter Sunday 2019.

Easter Sunday 2019.

I listened to The Enneagram Journey podcast recently where Suzanne Stabile interviews Annie Downs who is a 7 on the Enneagram. Annie talks about how she and her assistant (who is a 3 – my type) make a great pair because she wants to have fun and her assistant wants to have the MOST… of anything, so together they have the most fun. “This is me!” I told my husband. “I want the most. I want the best. I’m insatiable.”

It’s in my nature to push harder – for better, for more, for our biggest life. But at my core, I realize that I want is what we are all wired for: an abundant life. The abundance promised to us through and in Jesus.

In the same podcast episode, they talk briefly about a verse from the story of Hannah. I love the story of Hannah so much – she’s raw and real and desperate. Her sister wife tries to bring her down; her husband tries to placate her, and she manages to shake free from both of their expectations. She doesn’t minimize her own pain. In her heartbreak, she goes straight to God, and what she prays for is essentially: life. “And God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she asked.” (MSG)

One of the posts Jess Connolly shared on Instagram recently was a story of how she was working out with her husband. She felt so defeated and discouraged, but she saw her husband working hard. She told him, “You’re killing it! You’re so strong!” She spoke life and encouragement and as a result, she herself experienced abundance.

There’s abundance in what we already have and in the power of our words – to articulate, to pray, to encourage, to speak life.

Easter has passed, but I’m still thinking about this benediction that Shauna Niequist wrote:

And now, my dear brothers and sisters,

as it was said in the very beginning,

let there be light.

And more than that, let there be life.

Let there be resurrection.

Let there be hallelujah.

Let there be dancing where there was once only mourning.

Let there be daylight where there was, for so long, only dark.

Let there be cool, clear water after a drought, nourishment after starvation, love after aching loneliness.

Resurrection after death,

spring after winter,

dawn after what seemed

an eternal midnight.

May we come to not just understand with our minds, but absorb into our very bones this beautiful, transformative pattern, like a drumbeat, like a song we’ve known all our lives—

life, death, rebirth.

life, death, rebirth.

life, death, rebirth.

May we believe in Christ’s resurrection so deeply that we begin to see the possibility of resurrection everywhere we look.

May our spiritual imaginations be renewed, and may we have the bravery to consider that things we have long pronounced dead for all time might yet come back to life—

possibly even our very own hearts

barely keeping time in our very own chests.

Let there be life.

Let there be life.

// Last week, I wrote about bringing back the blog. This post is part of a new blog series called RESET reflecting on growth and spirituality through new months and different seasons. If there is a topic that you want me to cover, email me at ruthie[at]no17blog[dot]com or leave a comment. I would love to hear from you!

The Comeback.

Word on the street is that blogs are making a comeback. I love a good comeback, so here I am.

Anyone else obsessed with everything Morgan Harper Nichols creates?

Anyone else obsessed with everything Morgan Harper Nichols creates?

There’s a fill-in-the-bubble goal tracker that captures one of the core values I strive for in my life: consistency. For my husband: you can count on me to keep growing, to keep laughing, to keep showing up. For my kids: you can count on me to keep learning how to mother you better, even when I sometimes give in to the extra fruit snacks or I don’t always follow through on discipline. For my friends: I will be unwavering in my enthusiasm in meeting you for coffee, and if you need grace – it’s literally my middle name. For myself: I want to be consistent in remembering God’s faithfulness, consistent in doing the hard work of becoming who I was called to be, and consistent in sharing that journey.

Yup, I bought all the stickers in her  shop.

Yup, I bought all the stickers in her shop.

Blogging is surprisingly time-consuming. Factor in: the writing, the editing, the re-writing, taking an appropriate picture to go along with the post or pulling together a design board. And then there’s the vulnerability hangover that you have to contend with if you’re someone like me who tends to overshare.

But here’s the thing: I believe in stories and creativity and vulnerability and in sharing things that are pretty or fun or make me think. I absolutely believe that friends can be made over the internet, and I believe in learning from as many people as I can.

I think more people should blog – I love reading and hearing about people’s faith journeys, their marathon journeys, their motherhood journeys. I want to hear about the struggles and the heartbreaks and the joy and the fight that was won and the bigger story. I want to hear all those things because they remind me that I’m not alone.

What’s your story? Don’t stop there. What’s the bigger story? I’ll be here, looking for the light.