Officially, summer is still days away, but we are already knee deep in it.
The sprinkler is making its rainbow arc for Elsa and her two-year-old cousin. Even the big cousins have stained their t-shirts with grape-juice popsicles, and we are shifting our Friday-night, homemade pizza from the oven to the grill.
Everything is a little hotter, a little louder, a little messier. Everyone is a little happier, a little more relaxed, and a little more likely to lose their temper.
We’re still waiting for the last day of school and the longest day of the year, but summer has already arrived.
I feel incredibly grateful and more than a little nervous about the coming months. My kids will all tell you that their mother is not at her best when the air is humid and the house is crowded and the children are singing, “I’m bored.” Because, like afternoon storm clouds, time can hang a little heavy in the summer.
I am grateful for these words from Abby Perry. She is a writer who lives with her family in my Texas hometown, and she knows summer heat. She also knows that time is a gift and every season reveals the One who first established its rhythm.
by Abby Perry
Two little boys found their way into my bed this morning, snuggles turned to wrestling each time one felt the other had greater access to me than he did. They are Owen and Gabriel, whose birthdays at the end of summer will turn them 4 and 2. Their dad is out of the country for two weeks on a mission trip. We have Backyard Bible Club each evening this week.
Summer has begun.
We live in Texas, where it has been unseasonably rainy recently; the scorching weather holding off just a few weeks more than usual. But today, it is in full force. 90 degrees before noon and I am remembering what it was like to work long, hot summers at camp in East Texas, what it feels like when my legs stick to the chair at an outdoor wedding, what our air conditioning bill will soon be.
A husband out of the country, two little boys so dependent, so rosy cheeked in the sun. Gabriel, the youngest, has a neuro-genetic disorder that results in the need to wear braces everyday, his pudgy legs covered just below the knee to his toes. Owen asks to go to the pool and I fight immediate overwhelm, wondering how I will make it work with Gabriel’s schedule since he is only supposed to be out of his braces for an hour of each 24.
It can be hard for me to believe that the summer is a time for flourishing.
“Can’t I just take this season off?” I wonder. “Go quiet, hibernate a bit?”
I internally answer my own questions before I’ve even finished asking them. It is not hibernation that I’m truly craving, it’s rest. It is soul quiet, whether my hands are busy or calm. It’s certainty that I am thriving in my place, that I am where I should be, that I am contributing and not merely letting the days pass me by. What I crave is the confidence that I am redeeming the time given to me, with all of its caveats and demands, expectations and interruptions. What I crave is not something I can find by looking into myself, or by gazing at my calendar. It is not something I can conjure up through scheduled breaks, nor hard work, nor abounding family time, though each of those endeavors have great merit.
I wonder if you’re craving the same?
What we crave is something only to be found by looking upward. There is treasure we search for that is only discovered when we seek an orientation to the True North, when we remind ourselves of our position and protection under a good and sovereign God.
I glance at the Liturgical Calendar sitting near the sink and am reminded that it is the season of Ordinary Time. It is the season for ministry and discipleship, the season for hands to the plow and eyes fixed upward and forward, the glory of God and the service of others ever before me. The calendar reminds me that though I do not wake up each morning convinced of God’s sovereignty over time, nor go to bed each night certain of His goodness, His grace abounds all the more and sets a cadence for my days. He makes my paths straight, allowing me to be oriented to him, to set my pace by Him, to move my feet in rhythm with Him.
As we seek to live well in the summer months, through work and play, labor and rest, may we find ourselves certain of the infinite One who is not limited by the finite restraints we live within on this earth. May we exchange the complaints of the hurried heart for the gratitude of the surrendered soul, confident and joyful in each commitment we make, resolute when we need to say, “no.” May we carve out space for long evenings on the porch, kids making up games late into the night and falling into their beds with that outdoors induced exhaustion that produces the sweetest sleep. May we find opportunities to serve and to seek the peace and prosperity of our communities, our hands and feet guiding our eyes away from ourselves. And in it all, may we remember our desire to flourish and to see others do the same comes from the Giver of all good gifts, and that time, in all of its wildness and wonder, is one of them.
Abby is an old soul, a Jesus girl, better in writing. She is a pastor’s wife and mom of two boys, one of whom has a neuro-genetic disorder, which Abby writes about (among other things such as faith, liturgy, depression, social issues, and literature) at www.joywovendeep.com. Abby directs communications for a nonprofit organization and co-facilitates two community efforts – one promoting bridge-building racial reconciliation conversations, the other supporting area foster and adoptive families. She has a soft spot for books, podcasts, learning about human relationships through television and movies, personality typing, and pasta. Abby holds a B.A in Communication from Texas A&M University and is completing her graduate degree at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Twitter & Instagram @abbyjperry | Facebook Page: Abby Perry
My friend Erika Morrison is an unconventional soul. But hers isn’t the sort of uniqueness to make the rest of us feel dull.
Rather, she has that special knack for helping everyone around her to wake up and be more themselves.
Her new book Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul is out today. I am so pleased to host Erika in this space as she tells us more about it.
The cardinals make it look so easy. The honeybees make it look so easy. The catfish and the black crow, the dairy cow and the cactus plant, all make being created appear effortless. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate.
None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.
But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed. We’re told by our mamas and mentors that–like snowflakes–no two of us are the same and that we each have a special purpose and part to play within the great Body of God.
(If your mama never told you this, consider yourself informed: YOU–your original cells and skin-print, guts and ingenuity–will never ever incarnate again. Do you believe it?)
So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.
And yet . . . even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of manmade definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities and more often than not,
The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather. ~Frederick Buechner
So, let me ask you. Do you know something–anything–of your true, original, shimmering self?
I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama. Those are your interests and investments.
I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?
Who are you before you became a Jesus lover or mother or husband?
Who are you without your church, your hobbies, your performances and projects?
I’m not talking about your confidence in saying, “I am a child of God,” either.
What I am asking a quarter-dozen different ways is this: within the framework of being a child of God, what part of God do you represent? Do you know where you begin and where you end? Do you know the here-to-here of your uniqueness? Do you know, as John Duns Scotus puts it, your unusual, individual “thisness”?
I can’t resolve this question for you, I can only ask you if you’re interested. (Are you interested?)
I can only tell you that it is a good and right investment to spend the energy and time to learn who you are with nothing barnacled to your body, to learn what it is you bleed.
Because you were enough on the day of your birth when you came to us stripped and slippery and squeezing absolutely nothing but your God-given glow. And who you were on that born-day is also who you are now, but since you’ve been living on this planet long enough to learn how to read this article, then it follows that you’ve also lived here long enough to collect a few layers of horsefeathers and hogwash.
So, yet again, I’m inquiring: What is it that you see before the full-length bathroom mirror after you’ve divested of clothes and masks and hats and accessories and roles and beliefs and missions and persuaders and pressures– until you’re down to just your peeled nature, minus all the add-ons mixed in with your molecules?
Do you see somebody who was made with passion, on purpose, in earnest; fearfully and wonderfully, by a Maker with a brow bent in the center, two careful hands, a stitching kit and divine kiss?
Can you catch between your fingers even the tiniest fragment of self-knowledge, roll it around and put a word to it?
Your identity is a living organism and literally wishes to unfurl and spread from your center and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for the unique shine of your own soul?
One of the central endeavors of the human experience is to consciously discover the intimacies of who we already are. As in: life is not about building an alternate name for ourselves; it’s about discovering the name we already have.
Will you, _______, rise from your own sacred ash?
Because the rest of us cannot afford to lose the length of your limbs or the cadence of your light or the rhythm of your ideas or the harmony of your creative force. The way you sway and smile, the awkward this and that and the other thing you do.
These are the days for opening our two clumsy hands before the wideness of life and the allure of a God who stops and starts our hearts. These are the days for rubbing our two imperfect sticks together so we can kindle another feeble, holy light from the deep within–each of us alone and also for each other.
There is no resolution to this quest; the only destination is the process. But I hope there’s a small spark here that will leave you wanting, that will leave you with a blue-fire lined in your spine, that will inspire a cellular, metamorphic process in you; an odyssey of the soul unique to you and your individual history, organisms, and experiences.
There is maybe a fine line between being lethargic about learning ourselves and not being self-obsessive and with that tension in mind, how do we begin (or continue) the process of unearthing and remembering the truth of our intrinsic selves?
Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul was written because sometimes we all need a little hand-holding and butt-nudging in our process; someone or something to come alongside us while we pick up our threads of soul discovery and travel from one dot and tittle to the next.
We are the Kingdom people and learning your own fingerprint is something of what it means for the Kingdom to come in response to an earth which groans forth it’s rolling desire for the great interlocking circle of contribution to reveal the luminous and loving Body of Christ and slowly, seriously–like it’s our destiny–set the world to rights.
Kingdom come. Which is to say: YOU, [be]come and carve your glorious, powerful, heaven-appointed meaning into the sides of rocks and communities and cities and skies.
Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.
Come with me? And I will go with you and if you’re interested, you can order wherever books or ebooks are sold.
Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click HERE.
All my love,
Visiting from Ann Voskamp’s place today? I am glad you are here. My name is Christie Purifoy, and I live in a Pennsylvania farmhouse with my husband, four kids, thirteen chickens, two cats, and rather too many woodchucks. I am always watching for beauty, wonder, and mystery, and I write dispatches from the golden hour. Welcome to Maplehurst.
What a pleasure it is to have my words and images hosted today by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. This is the first in her new photographic blog series “Unwrapping Summer.”
I’ve never considered myself a photographer, but I have come home to such a beautiful place. Next to such beauty, words feel inadequate. My photographs always feel inadequate, and yet, together? Well, sometimes, words and photos together help me crawl just a little bit closer to the source of everything good. Everything beautiful.
I hope you’ll join me over at Ann’s place to unwrap the great gift, always beautiful but not always easy to receive, of summer at Maplehurst.
I am a creature of habit. I thrive on routine and ritual.
In our home, if something happens twice, it’s a tradition. And it will keep on and keep on and keep on.
Sometimes, this is how I create heavy burdens and too-high expectations. I’ve had to teach myself how to let things go. I’ve had to learn to find the humor in the fact that a child will hold tightly to some ritual they never liked all that much simply because you’ve canceled it.
But the rhythm of daily life changes. Rituals come and go and, yes, sometimes they come back.
I’m writing about one such family ritual for a Tuesday blog series hosted by the wonderful Cara Meredith. Every Tuesday you’ll find a new story inspired by this thought: “The boring rituals make the story deeper.”
Because they do, don’t they? Life is composed almost entirely of small, boring things. Silly things. Inconsequential things. But if we take the time to stop, to look, to trace the pattern of just one or two of these very small things … well, we may see how a bubble of water becomes a spring becomes a river.
I’m sharing the story of one of our own silly, little things. It’s a very small thing. But I know that if my parents or siblings are reading, if my children were reading, they would feel something very real, and deep, and powerful when they read these words:
Shake the love around.
I hope you’ll read my story. And while you’re there, I hope you’ll explore Cara’s website, and I hope you’ll read through all her Tuesday guest posts. It’s a treasure trove.
I have wanted to share a guest post from my friend Laura for a long time. That I am finally able to do that, and on Christmas Eve, is one more good gift of a season that is full of them.
Laura is a dear friend. She is also a writer of rare talent. I sit up and take notice whenever I read something of hers.
Read the following reflection and then search out her gem of a book Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories, and you will understand why.
After an evening meeting last spring, I turned on my phone and saw messages from my daughter. She wanted to Skype. The last time she asked, two years earlier, it was to announce her engagement. I figured this had to be job or baby. I drove home through the silent night with a sense of wonder, hope, anticipation. I tried not to speed.
Once I got to the desk and logged on, we chatted for a moment. Then she said, “We have some news,” and slid a grainy black and white image up into the frame.
The church tribe I grew up in didn’t observe the liturgical year. I knew Christmas carols from school music time and TV. Advent was a countdown calendar, a surprise picture or bit of chocolate behind each day’s cardboard doorflaps.
This past Sunday — same tribe, decades later — we sang some carols. The lyrics are projected on big screens, but not the notes. When we got to the chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” as I sang the alto “Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ri-a” (which has six fewer o- than the melody), I had a passing thought: How do I know this harmony so well?
Not from singing. In the little church where my daughter grew up, Advent culminated in a Christmas Eve service. We are both flutists, and for several years we played a duet. We’d test-driven several carols and hymns at home, and settled on that one, precisely because it was enjoyable, more musically interesting, to play the glorias.
She took the melody. I tried to keep my volume a degree lower than hers, to support but not overpower. There’s a kind of communication between musicians, part keen listening, part familiarity, part intuition. There’s a way that music memory gets in your body. More than once, someone came up to us afterwards with tears in her eyes and told us we somehow sounded like one flute playing harmony.
At the end of the service, someone would dim the lights and we’d assemble ourselves in a circle around the sanctuary, holding our little white candles with their little paper skirts. One light. Two. Silent night, we sang as we shared the flame. Holy night. All was calm. And eventually, all was bright.
I didn’t cry when I met him. I expected to. But it was such a calm moment. I had just arrived in their bright corner apartment. She went in the bedroom, where his daddy was changing his diaper, and I sat down in the living room. Then she brought him out, so relaxed, already so at ease with him, and introduced him. I stood, the way you would to meet anyone for the first time, and introduced myself. I sang “Happy One Week Old to You,” softly, and stroked his sweet head.
“Would you like to hold him?”
The answer will always be yes.
I have nothing profound to say about Advent. No neat way to swaddle up this series. I’ve been in churches where it was the focus of worship for four weeks, and churches where it’s not on the radar and some people have never heard of it. I’ve taken and eaten the daily morsel of chocolate in years when I went into a church only to attend a friend’s wedding.
But I know something about waiting. Don’t we all?
I know the story never gets old, that story of the most powerful force in the universe coming to earth to be with us, to be one of us, starting out helpless and needy and soft and beautiful, just as every one of us did.
I held and beheld that baby boy over the next few days, for hours and hours. Talked to him. Sang to him. Soothed him when he fussed, which was hardly at all. Studied his surprisingly expressive face.
His mama was studying him one afternoon, on the sofa with her knees drawn up, cradling him on her thighs. It’s still amazing to me that we made him, and he grew inside me and then I pushed him out, she said.
Do you ever look at him, I asked, and wonder what he’ll like, and what he’ll be good at, and who he’ll become?
Her heart swelled, and the overflow, you could practically see it rising in her chest and spilling out her eyes. She just nodded. The wave swamped me too.
Let earth receive her king.
Laura Lynn Brown vanquishes errors and makes the rough places plain as a copy editor at a daily newspaper. Her writing has appeared in Slate, the Iowa Review, Art House America and the High Calling, and she is an editor at The Curator. Her book Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories was published in 2013 by Abingdon Press. More of her work can be read at her website, lauralynnbrown.com, and her one-year daily gratitude journal, Daylilies.