Summer Reading List: Contemplation, Contentment & Creativity.

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

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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?

MASH and other February Favorites.

The weekend after Valentine’s Day, I hosted a casual get-together at my house, a moms’ night in. There were a dozen or so of us, a mix of women from work and church, sisters and friends of friends. I bought all the Galentines decorations that Target had – everything heart-shaped and sparkly and pink – and a MASH game pad that turned out to be one of the highlights of the night.

Between sips of rosé and bites of macarons and mini cheesecakes, we filled out the templates with cars and cities, crushes and number of children.

In elementary school, when I played this last, it seemed like anything was possible. But when you already have 3 kids, is there really an option but to go up? I wrote 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, and breathed a sigh of relief when I got to cross off the latter three numbers, though I was truly bummed when the Mercedes G-wagen got booted off my cars list.

We went around and read our MASH outcomes out loud. Two of the girls both ended up married to Chris Pratt – sister wives – except that one got the mansion while the other got the shack. Someone ended up living in Positano; another girl driving a Toyota Highlander. I laughed out loud when I read mine because even with all of the possible options, I got, almost exactly, the life I wanted – David, three kids, a mansion, a career as an interior designer, and a reasonable, unpretentious, VW Atlas.

When I texted the photo of it to my husband (“You made the cut!”), he replied, “Yes! Phew. The G-wagen definitely would have come with Bradley Cooper, though. Too bad.”

That MASH sheet is one of my new favorite things. I saved it, in a box next to my vision board for 2019. A small, serendipitous reminder – the future is bright and the present is exactly what it should be.

Other February faves:

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+ The McGee & Co store. The fact that it’s next to Sidecar Doughnuts just seals the deal. I want everything, of course, but the Seoul wall clock and Holzer mirror are currently topping my house decor list. Chloe Hearts Art was in store doing sketches when I went, which was a bonus.

+ Khan Academy Kids. Khan Academy does such a great job with their teaching videos, and the boys love this app.

+ HP Tango Printer. Being able to print remotely from my phone, get ink automatically delivered, and have unlimited photo printing absolutely tilted our lives in favor of more efficient.

+Sleeping At Last Enneagram EIGHT podcast. The Sleeping At Last podcast is always such an great listen because of Ryan’s creative process behind the songs. This episode explored a little bit the difference between transparency and vulnerability, which was interesting.

+Elise Joy’s free daily goal tracker. This reminds me in a very visual and tactile sense that the year is made up of days, and every bubble filled in marks progress.

+Last, but not least, books!: Becoming by Michelle Obama was my book club’s pick for this month. Next month, we’re reading All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir. I started I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, which I’m simultaneously terrified by and hooked on. I finally read some Anne Lamott – Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year – and Phileena Heuertz’s new book, Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation is on my nightstand.

January: Hope and a Future.

Over and over this month, I’ve seen references to the book of Jeremiah. Hannah Brencher, my patron saint for this season, wrote a post about Jeremiah 30, “The city will be rebuilt on her ruins.” I’ve seen references in sermon notes and in books I’m reading. I’ve seen Jeremiah mentioned so many times that I’m wondering if this is foreshadowing – we’re going to have a 4th boy, and in the tradition of Bible names that end in -ah, we’re going to name him Jeremiah.

2019, and my people.

2019, and my people.

I’m kidding. I think.

But I do take January seriously – blank slate and all that. January is one of my favorite months of the year. That hasn’t changed. The thing that has changed is how hard it’s been to come up with goals for this year, in light of the next ten.

2019 is the last year of the “teens,” the last year before an entirely new decade. So how do I take this year and make it count a decade from now? And how do I take those dreams and distill progress into one year?

Right before our annual family New Year’s retreat, I wrote my goals. Then twenty-something days into the new year, I re-wrote them. And I realized that my goals weren’t just goals. They were prayers. And that “hope and a future” isn’t a checklist. It’s a promise. And after the promise is an invitation – to come, to pray, to seek.

These are a few books, etc. that are lighting that path for me:

Word By Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice – I ADORE this book. Reading it feels like she’s been going through my mail. It all applies.

Boundaries for Your Soul – Such an important book for healing from hard things.

The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth – Madeleine L’Engle is probably my favorite writer, and I’m learning so much from this book.

A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle – Thinking and planning for the next ten years has me going down the legacy/memoir/biography alley.

Always Enough, Never Too Much – My favorite devotional book right now – I’m re-reading it. And Jess Connolly’s All Good Things Collective came out with an Enneagram line that is so good.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way – This book, and the Proverbs 31 study that go along with it, are game-changers for me in this season. So thankful for Lysa’s wrestling and her words.

First, Be a Follower – This is a Bible study, and not a book (see: Come Matter Here), but it has helped me to dive into truth in the best ways. If you’re looking for a study, I would start with this one.

Looking back on 2018.

How much was a product of our decisions, and how much was in the cards all along?
— Lisa Gungor, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen

Truth be told, I’d rather look ahead than look back. I could write a book about the lessons I learned, the mistakes I made, all the ways that I failed, but in the spirit of #2018bestnine, I’m grateful for these nine “bests.”

The highlight: the news and the birth of our third baby boy and the end of being pregnant. Our favorite getaway: The Beach Lodge. Best financial goal hit: paying off my grad school loan. Best habit: recalibrating with the Intentional Living Worksheet every month. Favorite house project completed: turning our loft into a “movie theater”. Best fitness goal completed: hitting a 60-day Peloton streak while I was 8/9 months pregnant. Best relationship practice: regular date nights and business meetings with my hubs. Favorite family goal: intentional monthly adventures, like Disneyland, with the boys.

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… and, of course, the books I finished reading this year (not including the huge stack on my nightstand that I’ve started), my favorites in bold.

  1. A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living by Emily Ley

  2. Hello Sunshine: A Novel by Laura Dave

  3. Touch by Courtney Maum

  4. Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze

  5. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

  6. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

  7. Our Tiny Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan

  8. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

  9. Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza

  10. Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

  11. At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the World by Tsh Oxenreider

  12. An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones

  13. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

  14. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

  15. The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships by Suzanne Stabile

  16. Reading People by Anne Bogel

  17. You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

  18. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown

  19. You are a Writer by Jeff Goins

  20. When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

  21. A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out: A Novel by Sally Franson

  22. Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy by Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam

  23. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

  24. The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Chris Heuertz

  25. Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for an Active Life by Phileena Heuertz

  26. Come Matter Here: Your Invitation to Be Here in a Getting There World by Hannah Brencher

  27. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

  28. How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn

  29. Be the Gift: Let Your Broken Be Turned Into Abundance by Ann Voskamp

  30. What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir by Abigail Thomas

  31. Begin Again: The Brave Practice of Releasing Hurt and Receiving Rest by Leeana Tankersley

  32. Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan

  33. The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted by Gary Chapman

  34. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami

  35. The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen: Opening Your Eyes to Wonder by Lisa Gungor

  36. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

  37. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

  38. Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

  39. Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler

  40. The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

  41. Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren Winner

  42. Design Your Day: Be More Productive, Set Better Goals, and Live Life on Purpose by Claire Diaz-Ortiz

  43. Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith

  44. The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

  45. We Were Mothers: A Novel by Katie Sise

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2018 was beautiful and surprising and I won’t forget it, but I’m also glad it’s almost behind me. I’m already so excited about 2019 and what we have lined up – our annual new year’s family beach retreat, an Exhale writing workshop, the getaway that we just booked for our anniversary this summer, and a new house… maybe? So many things! Here’s to a blank slate and a new chapter. See you in 2019.

Books for the new year.

I love the fresh start of the new year.  The beginning of January is one of my happiest times of the year. I set my goals and intentions the last few weeks of December, and seeing them in action gives me so much satisfaction and joy.

#shelfie

#shelfie

A theme that’s already started emerging for me this year is help and coaching. It’s harder to accomplish goals in a vacuum. One of my self-care goals for Q1 of the year is to get our youngest sleep-trained by the end of the month. If you know us, you know that we are incredibly lackadaisical about kiddo routines, which has backfired! After three years running of sleep deprivation, I finally bit the bullet and hired a sleep consultant. I don’t want to jinx it, but so far, it's been a game-changer.

Books to me are like consultants that live in your bag. They are such low-barrier ways to access expertise and a fresh perspective.  No better time to start a reading kick than in the new year. My January reading list:

Work

Lifestyle

Home

Spiritual

  • She Reads Truth Bible – I have it in the Navy LeatherTouch and love it - it feels so special.
  • The Soul Tells a Story - all about the discipline of writing and the practice of creative pursuit - motivating and inspiring.

What are you reading? I'd love to know!