How I Learned to View Writing as a Spiritual Discipline

I read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic a few months ago. I love books about creativity and adored Liz’s Magic Lessons podcast, so I couldn’t wait to dig into this book. (Admittedly, I’ve tuned out for season 2 of the podcast, but I still recommend the first season.) I began thinking I was reading a book about one thing (writing), but it turned out to be about much more than that. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the book’s subtitle isn’t “creative writing beyond fear.” It’s, “creative living beyond fear.”

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Some of Liz’s ideas–particularly about inspiration, ideas, and how they find us–are a little…woo-woo, shall we say? Evan rolled his eyes as I relayed some passages to him (which was absolutely the reaction I expected); he is far too rational for that sort of thing. I didn’t always agree wholeheartedly, but so much of what she said resonated with me.

Liz’s writing is never explicitly faith-based (though she often alludes to various kinds of spirituality), but as she described the Muse and inspiration and ideas, I thought about the Holy Spirit. Scripture attests to the idea that he keeps fellowship with us, and that we were created in the image of a very creative God. I thought of how Jesus asked us to be co-creators and to play an active, collaborative role in building his kingdom. I thought of what Nathan Foster says about praying with our imagination.

I found myself thinking about creatively approaching every area of life: motherhood, career, marriage, friendship. Let alone writing. Books that work their way into every nook and cranny of my existence are, in my opinion, the best kind.

When talking about her favorite poet, Liz wrote, “He became a poet the way other men become monks: as a devotional practice, as an act of love, and as a lifelong commitment to the search for grace and transcendence. I think this is probably a very good way to become a poet. Or to become anything, really, that calls to your heart and brings you to life.”

In the margin, I scribbled, “This is how I want to become a writer.” But, truly, that is how I want to become everything: daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, writer, friend. I want each role I play to be lived in out in a furious, generous act of love. I want it all to be evidence of my lifelong commitment to Jesus and the building of his kingdom.

Emily Freeman writes a blog series about unconventional and unexpected spiritual disciplines: practices like beginning where you are, learning nothing, and wearing better pants. Those posts are some of my favorites, because I am learning to view all of my life as a spiritual discipline. A spiritual discipline is anything we do day-in and day-out, like breathing, that connect us more to our souls and our God.

I usually describe writing as a hobby. When I was a journalism major, I would have described it as my future, hoped-for career. At certain times, I’ve described it as a sanity-saver. But it wasn’t until recently that I also began to understand writing, too, as a spiritual practice.

I am constantly scribbling prayers in the margins of my journal and Bible, and when I blog, it’s most often about the ways I see God showing up in and around me. But the connection goes even further: The very act of writing feels like prayer, like communion, like living and moving and having my being in Jesus.

 

You can read all the posts in my series on spiritual disciplines here.

Crazy Busy

Most of the time, I live in a state of low-grade despair about all the books I will never be able to read. Choosing what to read next often feel likes an overwhelming decision. While some people have complex systems, I choose books on a whim, maybe because a friend recommend it, or because I found a used copy at the bookstore, or because my library hold finally came in. I just sort of trust that I will land on the things I need to be reading when I need to be reading them.

It usually works out.

Recently, I saw multiple bloggers make reference to the book Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. As I often do, I popped over to the public library’s web site and requested a hold.

Crazy Busy’s subtitle is, “A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) big problem.” In the first chapter, DeYoung writes, “On most days, my responsibilities, requirements, and ambitions add up to much more than I can handle.” He writes about the cultural pandemic in which “busy” is the expected answer to “How are you doing?” and goes on to identify three dangers of busyness and seven diagnoses that might cause busyness in our own lives.

I picked up book from the holds shelf and began reading it, but I admit that I was thinking, “This book isn’t relevant to me right now.” My life feels pretty…well…unbusy. I’m not working. The boys aren’t in daycare or any scheduled activities. We go to small group most Tuesdays, and Evan plays soccer on some Thursday nights, but that’s about it. I wondered if I really wanted to hand over my precious reading time or if I should just return it to the library. (It’s a good thing the book is short or I definitely would have.)

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I thought, “This doesn’t apply to me,” but had the sense that Jesus was kindly saying, “Not so fast, missy.” I kept reading.

Almost every Sunday night, Evan asks, “What’s going on this week?” And most of the time, I grumpily respond, “Nothing.” It’s true that my calendar and schedule are pretty flexible these days. But it’s also true that I feel disappointed and resentful of that.

A few Saturdays ago, we popped into a new coffee shop. The place was full of college students, writing papers with textbooks flipped open on their tables. The whole time we sat there with our coffee, I felt a tide of jealousy rising within me, and it’s been bothering me ever since. Why was I feeling that way?

It hit me later as I read DeYoung’s book: I look at empty calendar squares and mistakenly interpret them as indicating a lack of accomplishment, lack of productivity, lack of involvement, lack of…whatever. I was jealous of their deadlines and their (assumed) sense of accomplishment and the fact that they are working toward something, and someone out there will care whether or not it’s done.

Given the age of our boys and our cross-country move, my empty calendar isn’t surprising. But for all the time I’ve spent lamenting my lack of obligations and accomplishments, I’ve never once stopped to ask Jesus, “How would You like me to spend my time?”

In the final chapter, DeYoung writes, “I can’t fix your broken, busy life. I’m having enough trouble dealing with my own. But what I can give you is one thing you absolutely must do. Think of it as a one-point plan with no guaranteed results. Except that it will bring you closer to Jesus.”

DeYoung recounts the story of Mary & Martha. Mary was sitting with Jesus, listening to His teaching, while Martha resentfully bustled around the kitchen, caring for her guests. When she complains about this, Jesus tells her, “Martha, only one thing is needed.” And it’s sitting as His feet. The most important thing we can do with our life is to spend time with Jesus.

Crazy Busy reminded me that a full calendar does not necessarily reflect a full life. Busyness and productivity are not synonyms of meaning and purpose.

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On all these days with nothing scheduled, I “get to” do a lot of things, instead of “have to.” Goodness knows it won’t always be this way. I’m sure that one day, I’ll look at my calendar and think, “Gosh, we are crazy busy right now.”

In the meantime, I’m praying that Jesus will use the open space on my calendar to make space in my heart for more joy, more contentment, and more freedom.

The unexpected thing I learned from All the Light We Cannot See

Earlier this week, I wrote about how All the Light We Cannot See is the best book I’ve ever read. (You can read that post here.) Besides the amazing writing and the wonderful characters, reading this book and learning more about it reminded me of something important.

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Last week, I was listening to Episode 6 of the podcast What Should I Read Next? Anne interviewed Tsh Oxenreider, who chose All the Light as a book she loved. In the discussion of the book, either Anne or Tsh mentioned that it took Anthony Doerr ten years to write this book. TEN YEARS. That blew me away. Ten years is a long time. Talk about a life’s work.

So often, I want an immediate return on my investments. I talk to Ian about obedience a handful of times and want him to obey from there on out. I meet a new acquaintance for coffee and hope a deep and abiding friendship immediately emerges. I want to sit in front of my computer for a couple hours and hammer out a blog post or article that resonates deeply with thousands. All the Light reminds me that anything worth doing is worth doing well…and sometimes, “well” means slowly.

I can’t remember anything I’ve ever worked on that required a long runway from conception to completion. School is broken up into grades and then further into semesters, quarters, and weeks. Each of those periods is guided by objectives, and you indicate your mastery (or not) at the end with a test. Everything has a clear beginning, clear end, and a clear outcome. As an elementary school teacher, of course, that pattern continues. (And because I only taught for one year before changing careers, I didn’t have the benefit of watching my abilities gradually change and improve over time.) In children’s ministry, deadlines come fast: every single Sunday, in fact.

As a stay-at-home-mom, I now find myself in a sort of limbo. The lack of deadlines, lack of clear-cut accomplishments, and inability to say, “Here’s what I’ve been working on and here’s what I have to show for it,” has been driving me a bit crazy.

But there is value in working toward the a singular goal slowly over time and seeing it come fully to fruition, no matter how long it takes. That’s the deal with parenting. We work hard, day in and day out for years and years. Our children will long outlive us (God willing), meaning we will never see all the fruits of our labors. Those children then parent their own and so on, and the impact of our work goes far beyond what we’ll ever see our understand. This is also what Jesus talked about when he asked his disciples to pursue a long obedience in the same direction. Following Jesus is not simply a “before and after,” but a gradual unfolding and long-term transformation.

I’m not the first to say that instant gratification defines our culture these days. We text instead of waiting for people to return our calls, we order toilet paper and paper towels with the literal click of a button, we swipe cards instead of counting out our coins, we binge watch instead of sitting down at appointed times each week. So much of that is helpful and good. (And as a parent, I could not be more grateful for the fact that diapers can quickly be delivered to my doorstep.)

But I also wonder if all this has skewed my perspective on what it means to be successful and do meaningful work. I want something to show for my efforts, and fast. And when that doesn’t happen, I feel like I’ve failed.

I’m sure I knew this already, somewhere deep down, but this was the surprising truth All the Light We Cannot See reminded me of: the best things take time. I am so grateful that Anthony Doerr was willing to show up and do the work of writing this novel, day after day for ten years. No doubt, some days he wondered if the story would ever be finished, if he would ever hold the published book in his hands. But here we are.

So, friends, let’s do the work. Let’s parent the children, write the books, relinquish the perfectionism, learn the languages. Whatever your work may be, let’s remember that the work is worth it, no matter how long it takes.

I absolutely loved this interview with Anthony Doerr, from before he was done writing All the Light We Cannot See. (He alludes to the novel towards the end of the interview.) His thoughts on the hard work of writing are especially good (and encouraging!).

Simply Tuesday

When I was in high school, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series was in its heyday, and some of my friends and I were just as obsessed as you’d expect a group of high school girls to be. What I loved most about those books, though, was that the characters were progressing through life at the same pace I was. When Lena was falling in love for the first time, so was I. When they graduated from high school, so did I. Each book was released with just perfect timing.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I didn’t enjoy Cather in the Rye: I didn’t read it until almost the end of college, and all my angst and rebellion and wanderlust were pretty much worked out. I couldn’t relate to Holden Caufield. I simply missed my window of opportunity to truly get that book.

When I met Emily Freeman at the Writer’s Barn last fall (a full year ago, now!), I teared up as I [very awkwardly] tried to thank her for what her writing has meant to me, the way it has changed my walk with Jesus and subsequently the whole of my life.  Grace for the Good Girl and A Million Little Ways were each released with near perfect timing: they spoke to exactly what I was struggling with in that season and helped me uncover how sin manifests itself in my life. They helped me invite Jesus further in to the process of becoming more the person He made me to be. Emily’s writing has helped me learn to be more fully myself in the presence of others, and she’s helped me to embrace all the disparate parts of my life–interests and ambitions and responsibilities–and bring them all into the presence of Christ.

And now, once more, her new book, Simply Tuesday, is out, and the timing seems perfect.

I have been struggling with my smallness lately. I’ve been pretty open about the fact that leaving my job at the church (which had felt significant, life-giving, and kingdom-building) has been hard for me, as has moving away from our friends and community. No one expected it to be easy, right? But what I didn’t see coming was the ugly stuff in my heart and mind that this process would reveal, and a large part of the challenge has been confessing and recognizing that along the way. Moving and leaving my job revealed that I was carrying around an awful lot of pride.

The truth is, I like feeling known, significant, and influential. The prideful part of my heart took some pleasure in knowing that it mattered whether or not I showed up to church on a Sunday morning, not simply because I have value as a child of God or member of the community, but because my job description said so. My friend Eddie recently Tweeted, “One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned about myself is that being insanely busy has way more to do with ego than with time management.” That’s true for me as well. I like feeling important. It’s not pretty, it sounds arrogant, and I know it. But it’s the truth.

Now, stripped of the job title, I find myself looking for worth in a million different ways and spending a lot of my mental energy thinking about what I’m going to do next, instead of perhaps asking, “Who is God asking me to become? What does this small moment hold for me?”

In Simply Tuesday, Emily shares the stories and discoveries that have helped her embrace “small-moment living in a fast-moving world.” Part of that transformation happened when her husband left his job as a youth pastor, and while I’ve been following that journey through Emily’s blog the past few years, I hadn’t made the connection to my own journey until picking up the book. Emily writes about that, about her own journey as a writer and mom and friend and Jesus-follower, and each page felt like looking into a mirror.

My life feels small right now. I don’t have deadlines to meet or an overflowing e-mail inbox. No one is waiting for me to tell them where and when they need to show up or asking my opinion on curriculum. And I hate admitting it but the truth is, I have felt like something was missing and that I was less valuable without it. (And this is just when it comes to vocation and work…I could go on and on about motherhood and community and social media and all the other ways this is manifesting itself.)

“I know the pain of inefficiency, the addiction of ambition, the longing to build something important, and the disappointment that comes when the outcome looks different than I thought.”

Simply Tuesday is helping me remember that Jesus always chose the smaller, simpler way. “He came as a baby, small among men. He began to build his kingdom in the womb of young Mary. Jesus himself arrived small on earth, but he was not insufficient or lacking in significance. Simply, he did not hold on to his own glory.” When Jesus talked about faith, he talked about small things: salt, yeast, and mustard seeds. He distanced himself from the crowds, and asked his friends not to talk about his miracles, and built the kingdom but without seeking glory for himself. It’s the strangest of paradoxes, but it makes me love him all the more.

I have felt what Emily calls “the pain of smallness,” because I have been striving to build a life and manufacture influence: dismissing “small” as a negative thing, though it was subconscious most of the time. Instead, I’m now learning to embrace small, to accept the life that Christ is building within me.

“I’m figuring out how to walk with Christ into my day, into Target, into church, into the kitchen, and most importantly, into the lives of other people. Christ doesn’t stop being relevant just because I’m standing at my sink, cleaning out my closet, meeting or coffee, driving to the bank…Sometimes, that’s what prayer is. Simply inviting God to join us where we actually are, not because he isn’t already here but because inviting him reminds us that it’s true.”

I have underlined almost the entire book. It is dog-eared and sticky-noted and has been pulled off the bookshelf a million times. I cried my way through certain chapters and paragraphs, and when I read the prayers at the end of each section, I actually had to stop and put the book down and close my eyes and say, “Amen,” because I knew how profoundly true Emily’s words were and needed to be in my life.

Truthfully, I feel more healed and whole, and I didn’t know I needed healing before I set out. I’m more grateful for the job I held, the team I led, the ministry I was a part of.  I’m also no longer resentful of the small in my life, and as Emily writes, “small is my new free.”

My New Favorite Thing About Our Neighborhood

Are you ready for this? Look what we have!

A lending library!

My neighbors installed this pretty little library in their front yard, and now everyone in the neighborhood can swing by to exchange books with one another. It makes my heart so happy!

When Evan came home from work the other day and I started gushing about it, he said, “Oh, that makes more sense. As I drove by I thought, ‘That’s the largest mailbox I’ve ever seen.'” Ha!

Until we moved into this house, Evan and I had only ever lived in apartment complexes together, so maybe that explains why we had never built any relationships with our neighbors. Here, we’ve been so blessed with neighbors who have been intentional about getting to know us and sharing life. To be honest, it feels like a complete cultural shift for Evan and I, but it’s one we are so grateful for. I find myself wondering what accounts for the difference. Is it apartment vs. home, suburban vs. urban, or Florida vs. Michigan? I’m not really sure. It’s probably a combination.

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Admittedly, it’s hard for me to hand over books I love. I stood at my bookshelf for a long time, considering what books to pass along. I want to contribute something that I loved, that I think other people will love too, but the truth is, it makes me happy to see those meaningful, well-loved books on my bookshelf. (This is something Evan and I debate about all the time–is it worth holding onto books we’ve already read and will likely not read again? I say yes, he usually says no.)

But sometimes, I have to remind myself that the value of the book doesn’t lie in the paperback itself. It’s not so much about the passages I underlined or the surprises in the plot. It’s more about the change that took place in my mind and heart as I read; the new things I now understand about a different culture, place or time;  and the glimpses of myself I uncovered in each of the characters. The Chosen means something to me not because it sits on my bookshelf, but because it helped me learn that the tension between faith, family, and friendship is worth wrestling with. Love that Dog means something to me not because of it’s cute yellow and blue cover, but because I helped me understand more about why I love poetry and why kids need poetry in their own lives. Somebody Told Me means something to me not because of the passages I flagged with sticky notes, but because the stories within it broke my heart and helped me discover the power of storytelling. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is valuable not because of its place on my shelf but because of what it taught me about growing up and courage and family.

And so it goes.

So, when I pass along a cherished book to a friend or our little neighborhood library, I’ll remember that sharing means giving someone else the opportunity to change and grow and learn and simply enjoy as they, too, turn the pages. (Isn’t that why we teach kids to share, after all? Because it’s not about the value of the item, but about the relationship building and heart-change that happens along the way?)

And let’s be honest–I can always run to the bookstore and grab myself another copy if it comes to all that.

This afternoon when Ian and I got home from running errands, we dropped off a young adult book I had read during my teaching internship, and in exchange, we picked up a new Pete the Cat book for Ian. (Admittedly, Ian didn’t enjoy the process because he thought were going to play at our neighbor’s house, but he’ll figure it out eventually.) Even our brief time here in Grand Rapids, I’m learning that sharing with my neighbors is so worthwhile: sharing sandboxes, sharing opinions, sharing afternoons on the porch, and now, sharing books.

Book Club Saturday: Our Favorite Board Books

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Board books are a genre I pretty much ignored completely prior to Ian being born. I think I dismissed them as boring and dumb, to be honest, and it’s true–some baby books are boring and dumb. But they can be so lovely and so fun, and Ian has grown to absolutely adores them. On Episode 4 of the Sorta Awesome podcast (which is my current favorite; I think you know that because I think I have been talking about it a lot), Megan and Rebekah talked about some of their favorite books for babies…and I had so many favorites I wanted to add to the conversation. (Because, hello, when do I ever get tired of talking about books?)

Also, small disclaimer: I really don’t like Sandra Boynton books. I know that most people love them, and when you head to the board book section of any bookstore, I think Sandra Boynton books take up half the space. But I just don’t like them. In The Bedtime Book, the animals exercise before they go to bed, which is fine, but they exercise AFTER they take baths and brush their teeth! This drives me crazy. I should get over it, but I can’t. It’s the book snob in me coming out. Let’s at least have the books make sense, ok? (I’m being slightly facetious about this. No offense to anyone who loves Sandra Boynton!)

So, without further ado, here are my favorite board books:

  1. The “BabyLit” books. Each of these books is themed to match a piece of classical literature but conveys a typical “baby book” concept like counting, colors, or sounds. We own Moby Dick (an ocean primer), Romeo & Juliet, and Pride & Prejudice (which are both counting books). If you’ve read the classics, these are super entertaining for the grown-ups, too. (I almost never get tired of saying, “Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy” in my fake British accent.)
  2. Dear Zoo. This was gifted to us at one of my baby showers, and we read it almost daily for awhile. It’s a “lift the flap” book, and Ian loves to see what animal is hidden underneath. I like this one because it doesn’t just name and identify the animals; it also tells a story. There’s also some great vocabulary in here, like “fierce” and “naughty” and “perfect.” Now that Ian’s bigger, he likes to make the animal noises as well.
  3. Olivia. The illustrations (all black and white with pops of red) make this perfect to read with young babies who love high-contrast. This is one of the first books that I saw Ian not just look at or flip the pages, but actually respond to: “ball” was one of his first words, and he loved to point out her bright red beach ball. Olivia also gets high marks for being hilarious and entertaining for the parents (including a Jackson Pollack joke). We should get to enjoy these books too, right? (Olivia’s younger brother’s name is Ian, making it perfect for our family.)
  4. Goodnight Moon. When Ian was a newborn, we wanted to be super intentional about building a bedtime routine (even if he was still in the middle of crazy newborn sleep patterns). Goodnight Moon is a classic and a perfect bedtime book; it was special part of that bedtime routine. (We read this along with Really Wooly Bedtime Prayers, which is a great little book of prayers for families.)
  5. On the Night You Were Born. Mamas, have your box of tissues handy. Ian doesn’t love this book as much as I do, but it’s still a great bedtime story. The illustrations are detailed and collage-like with lots to look at. It’s such a unique and special look at the love parents feel for their kiddos. I can see this book weaving its way into the culture of a family: “Look, the moon stayed up until morning for you!”
  6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Ian’s ultimate favorite. We went with this theme for his 1st birthday party. The repetition, counting, and bright colors make this a great book for little ones. Ian loves the different page sizes and pointing to the different foods. Even when he was very little, he would smile each time we pulled this book out. I love Eric Carle, and especially this book.

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    Ian and I reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Look at that tiny, smiley baby!

Some honorable mentions: 

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (I confess that I think this is annoying to read, but Ian likes it)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You see? (A gold mine for teaching: animals, colors, sequencing, repetition, and on and on!)

I Love You Through and Through (Super sweet. Ian loves to identify his body parts as we read it.)

Are there any great ones that I’m overlooking here? I’m always up for adding to our collection, especially with baby #2 on the way!

My Summer Reading List

I have been thinking a lot over the past week or two about how I really want something to mark the transition into summertime. Admittedly, I feel like I’m still getting used to spring here in Michigan; it’s everything I can do to not walk into people’s yards and start clipping myself bouquets of peonies. So, I’ve felt a little hesitant to fully embrace summer. But then I went to the grocery store, and I saw summer everywhere I turned. Displays of mustard, ketchup, and relish for barbecues. Paper plates patterned like watermelon and American flags. Pool noodles in every color of the rainbow. I was instantly wishing for childhood afternoons on the porch by my parent’s pool, my mother-in-law’s well-stocked cooler of snacks on the beach, the smell of chlorine and hot dogs and macaroni salad, and afternoon thunderstorms. (Here in Michigan, I know I am going to miss Florida’s afternoon thunderstorms.)

Summer feels like a funny thing for me this year. I spent eighteen years as a student, with clear delineations between summer and the rest of the year, and then I kept that trend going as a teacher. Even when I was working in children’s ministry, summer was a little different: we welcomed in a new team of volunteers, a more flexible schedule, and an emptier calendar.

But because I’m not working now and Ian isn’t school-aged, I have nothing concrete to mark my transition into summertime–no shifts in my job or responsibility, no changes to our schedule. Still, it feels important to mark the change somehow, to gear up for the transition. I think it will help me truly savor each season as it comes and enjoy each day as it comes, even if it’s an unremarkable Tuesday.

Inspired by Ali, Elise, and Natalie, I’ve written up a Summer Manifesto, which I’ll share later. But the other thing I want to do this summer is read, read, and read some more. Anne Bogel (whose blog is my favorite right now) just shared her summer reading list, so I thought I would share mine as well. It’s flexible; I reserve the right to change it up however I feel like it because, hello, it’s summer. When I thought about how many books to include, I ended up with 12. It works out to about 1 per week (June-September), but I realize that I probably won’t read them all. This will at least give me lots of options, depending on my mood. My bookshelf and “to read” lists are bursting with non-fiction I want to read, but I’ve been more in the mood for fiction lately, so I tried to honor both sides of that by alternating between fiction and non-fiction picks. I’m also going to try to read only one or two books at a time this summer; it just seems like the slow, easy, summery thing to do.

So, here it is: my summer reading list!

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1. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: I am in the middle of this one now and loving it. My cousin Meaghan mailed it to me awhile back, and I’m so glad because I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise. I hope to write a little more about it later, because it’s given me lots to think about.

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry: I instagrammed about this the other day; it’s a classic that I missed out on somehow. I saw it on a shelf at the library the other day and just grabbed it.

3. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: I bought this awhile back, but it got packed up towards the beginning of our move and I didn’t get a chance to start it. It will be my first foray into Brene Brown’s work, and I’m excited about it.

4. State of Wonder by Anne Patchett: I have wanted to read something by Anne Patchett for awhile now, and again, I just saw this on a shelf in the library, so I grabbed it.

5. The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson: Emily Freeman talks about this book a lot, and it came in the same Amazon shipment as Daring Greatly. It’s sitting at the end of one of our bookshelves right now, so I feel like it’s constantly staring me down. I wanted to work some meditative, faith-focused work into the list somewhere–reading books like this is one of my biggest ways my faith tends to grow, which is especially important to me while we’re still looking for a church home.

6. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer: I’ve heard this book talked about and recommended so often, and I’ve been dying to pick it up. I’m always game for anything set during WWII.

7. Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide by Gabrielle Stanley Blair: I imagine this will be a light and easy and practical summer read. (Maybe a good one to flip through slowly across the summer.) I’ve wanted to read this because we’re in the middle of decorating and setting up a brand new (to us) place, and with Ian running around like a crazy person and a new little one on the way, it seems like a logical choice.

8. Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: I have been (very slowly) working my way through the Chronicles of Narnia series. I got stuck here before we moved, and it’s time to pick it back up again.

9. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls: My friend Missy has been telling me to read this book for forever, and I even grabbed a copy from a friend who was giving it away last year, but I haven’t picked it up yet. Now seems like as good a time as any.

10. First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett: Modern Mrs. Darcy included this in her summer reading guide as a “Book you can’t put down,” and I thought it sounded immediately interesting.

11. Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily Freeman: This book doesn’t release until August, so it will be something I can look forward to all summer long. If you’ve ever talked to me about books and writing, you know I love Emily and her work. I can’t wait to dive into this one, too.

12. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: Ok, so this book feel like it’s a bit outside of what I would normally like–apocalyptic flu and all that. But when I first heard it reviewed on Books on the Nightstand forever ago, it sounded so interesting! I expected there to be a long wait for it at the library, but it doesn’t actually look like the wait list is too bad! So I will try to get my hands on it this summer.

And there you have it! I’d love to work in a few more pieces of children’s lit (which I love even more in the summertime for some reason) and maybe a book about writing…but I’m trying to be honest about how much I’ll get accomplished. We’ll see how it goes; I’ll keep you updated.

What are you planning on reading this summer??