Summer is for Reading

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Summer is for reading. For as long as I can remember, this has been true. Falling into a good story makes deliciousness out of the longest of days, especially when it’s too hot to do much of anything else.

A couple weeks ago I asked my husband, “Why doesn’t it feel like summer?” He shrugged and I pondered. After much thought, I realized I hadn’t been reading much fiction. I resolved to change that, because, after all—for a grown-up—summer is a state of mind.

There are sooo many good books waiting for my hungry eyes to devour, but not just any book would do. To step fully into summer, one needs the kind of book that will feed the heart, sing into the spirit, and whisk you away to a different world. I asked my friend Kelli what she would recommend—because Kelli is one of those people who is always growing, always learning, and being with her makes me feel young and happy. She always knows the kind of things that will sing into my spirit. Do you have a friend like that?

Well, Kelli recommended not one, but four books! A four-book series called The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. “Are they good?” I asked. “They are so good,” she said, “that I can’t think about them without crying a little.”

Sold.

I was already familiar with Andrew Peterson’s music (thanks to Kelli and the Rabbit Room) and I knew I was in for a treat. Have you ever listened to Andrew Peterson’s music? It’s so lyrically rich and real. When we were going through the darkest parts of Jeff’s depression, this album in particular sustained me. And this song wrote deep things in my heart. If you aren’t familiar with his work, I can’t recommend it enough. Since I love his lyrics so much, I knew I would go gaga for his prose.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The Wingfeather Saga is technically a series for kids—young readers who devour chapter books (you know the ones). But in my experience, I’ve found these books to be the best for instilling wonder into the grown-up heart. This saga is the story of a family—the Igibys—who are caught up in an epic tale of dragons and dark creatures and good verses evil. The Igibys include three children: Janner, Tink, and Leeli, and their mother and grandfather. They live in a land ruled by evil but in their hearts is a memory of a time when goodness dominated the land. This is the story of their journey to restore that goodness and of all the things they learn about themselves and the world along the way. It’s pure beauty. I couldn’t put the books down, turning page after page until (in disappointment) I finally finished the last book. And then I had to wait a while before starting to read something else, because the characters were still so alive in my mind. The characters had become my friends along the way and I began to miss them even before I read the last word. Does that happen to you too? I felt sad that my boys are too old to read through these books with them. I wanted to resurrect read aloud at bedtime. But they wouldn’t go for that.

Another fiction book I’ve read recently and loved is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I’m embarrassed to say it’s the first of his works that I’ve read. Gaiman came to the West Virginia Book Festival back in the fall and I was amazed at the response to his presence among my peoples. Who is this guy? I asked my nineteen-year-old son. He’s a guy, he said. You’re probably too old to understand. So when some folks in my writer’s group were raving about his stuff I asked, “If you were going to read just one of his books, which one would you recommend?” The Ocean was it. It was another page-turner. Gaiman’s prose is beautiful and graceful and he weaves a world that instantly drew me in. If you love stories with elements of fantasy while still remaining rooted in this reality (maybe I should say, the fantasy is so well-done if feels like reality), you’ll enjoy this book tremendously.

Currently, I’m reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. I’m almost done with this book and the contrast between it and the above Gaiman selection has been an interesting thing to behold. Not many authors can effectively pull off long stretches of exposition and inner dialogue, but Berry is one. He paints a picture of small town America before, during, and immediately after the Great Depression that made me long for a simpler time. He manages to place ideas about farming and war and progress strategically into the characters’ stories in ways that made me think, and think hard. But also, his leisurely way of describing nature and human nature is a delight. A familiar to his lovely poetry (here’s my all-time favorite, and I share another favorite at the end of this post), I was expecting to fall in love with his prose. And I did. Wendell Berry’s writing is the full package.

Also on this stack you’ll see Gillian Marchenko’s Still Life: A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression. While this book is most definitely not fiction, I’ve been balancing out reading it in-between all the lovely stories described above. This is because it’s been a hard book for me to read. Marchenko describes living with Depression in such a real and heavy way that sometimes I find I’m holding my breath as I read. Our family is still recovering from the most recent episode of Depression and the pain of it remains close. If you’ve ever loved someone who has Depression, this book will help you understand what goes on in the mind and body of that person in new ways. This is a brave and much needed telling from the eyes of Depression.

I have another stack of other nonfiction books I’m reading this summer, but I’ll save that for another time. In the meantime, remember this: Summer is for reading. What’s on your summer reading list?

Welcome Summer

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Last night I dreamed I was back in college, in that old apartment on Walnut Avenue. Clothes were strewn across my bedroom floor, draped across the bed, piled up in corners. One of my friends sat on my bed and I reclined next to him, asked about his wife, his new baby. I was the me I am now—this woman quickly approaching fifty—but my heart was young and carefree. As I looked in my friend’s eyes, I knew I was old, but I felt beautiful and hopeful, as if time had no power over me.

When I awakened, I puzzled over the contradiction the dream posed.

“Why would I dream such a thing?” I asked my husband as we carpooled to work this morning.

Then I remembered. Today is the first day of summer. The summer solstice happens when the tilt of the earth’s axis leans closest to the sun, and we enjoy the longest day of the year.

I suppose if I think about it, I would say my college years might represent the summer of my life. If summer represents freedom and possibility, a time of dreaming and discovery. But the beautiful thing about the dream was that even though I was in an earlier time, I was the same age I am now. And felt the full impact of my gathered years as beauty.

I’m sitting with that for a spell. Letting it trickle down inside of me and drench my young heart—that heart with eternity written into it. The dreaming is not done with me yet.

 

“lean in a little more, honey,” says
the sun, glowing. and the night
scatters as light is sown gently

in the morning, this dream awakens
words so strong they are heard
underwater; scent of crushed flowers

the wind as stiff as stone, ushers
a sudden rain and clouds drift soft
into velveteen

amidst the tumbling
songs of robins.

Playdates with God: Yes to Sabbath Moments

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My playdates have been small lately, but rich. So many things tie me to the house—this ever-busy calendar of ours. This is the in-between time, the time of waiting for summer’s exhale when the earth and I can breathe a deep sigh.

For Father’s Day last year, the boys bought their dad a hammock and isn’t that just perfect? It’s where Bonnie and I have been grabbing our dates with the Father lately. Every afternoon or early evening we recline under the Maple tree, listen to the meadow grasses offer a shooshing to the wind, and memorize the way light falls through reaching branches.

Bonnie stretches out beneath the cupping cloth; she finds a stick to chew or digs for grubs in the grass. And I just listen. The sounds the ear tunes out in the course of a day amaze. It is more than birdsong; there is the steady ticking of metal on wood as the wiry fence gives sway, the sounds of distant traffic, the bark of a dog, squee of a young child … and if I listen closely, I can hear the buzzing of my friends the honeybees.

When I was a girl, this was what summer looked like. Exhausted by the spending of all those long, hot days, my sister and I would rest on our backs in the high grass, stare up into the sky, and study the clouds. This was true extravagance, I know, and how my heart longs for that kind of freedom once again.

In his book My Bright Abyss, poet and essayist Christian Wiman says, “To be innocent is to retain that space in your heart that once heard a still, small voice saying not your name so much as your nature, and the wherewithal to say again and forever your wordless but lucid, your untriumphant but absolute, yes.”

This is what the Sabbath moment restores to me. Innocence. A naming of my true nature. Space to say yes to a God who is always asking.

Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Summer’s Child

Last night when we took our evening walk to the creek, some of the neighborhood children shyly shuffled up to us with downcast eyes and hands held out to Lucy Mae. She took their pats and gratefully licked sticky fingers and those little faces became the moon. And then those little legs scuttled up and away and plopped down prone at the top of a thick-grassed knoll. I gaped as these three children pulled their arms in to their sides and rolled down that hill amidst squeals of delight. We watched, dumbstruck, as their limbs and trunks spun round and round and even Teddy had a grin on his face.
We resumed our leisurely stroll but I suddenly had a craving for a popsicle. I told the boys that this was one of our prime summer activities when I was a girl—this rolling down hills. This and the lying flat on the back, looking for pictures in clouds. And the catching of the fireflies. They let me ramble on a bit about going berry-picking and how a ripe raspberry melts on the tongue on a hot summer day.
Isn’t this summer? This carefree openness to the days?
I could still hear the joyful shouts of the children behind me and my heart felt like a stone inside of me. Heavy.
What does it mean to come to Jesus as a little child?
This morning, before I opened my eyes, I asked the Lord to help me live into the woman He wants me to be. He has loved me into life, into dreams, into a place of joy…but sometimes…sometimes it feels like all this growing takes me further away from Love. In my journal this morning I asked what it would look like—this living into my true self.
It means speaking and acting from truth, I wrote. Not from these fears and insecurities that plague me.
A wise woman is not one who has all the answers, but one who knows she is loved, delights in being loved, and speaks and acts out of this Love.
This morning, as the rain falls down and I watch the earth gather its luster…I am wondering if a wise woman is someone who also rolls down hills.
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With my sweet friend Jennifer: 
 

And Emily too:

This is Living

When I told my husband this morning that I want to stay in my PJs all day today, I wasn’t kidding.

There have been too many interruptions of the quiet lately and I find I just want to sit at the kitchen table and watch my birds through the bay. I’m finishing up the sermon and it feels like worship as I sift through words and thumb thin pages.

Jeffrey has been running with me on the mornings that I don’t have to work. He is in earnest to grow and do good and his golden heart makes mine stronger. While these days seem to hurl by me in a blur, summer for him is a deep breath. I breathe deeper when he is with me.

I’m reading a new book for this work that I do and in the very beginning pages the author says this:  <

Where in your life do you say, “This is living!”? If you don’t have something in your life that regularly inspires adventure, risk, and passion, beware. Because if you don’t, you will seek the counterfeit.

Every Sunday feels like an adventure to me now. It’s like surfacing from a deep pool and watching the heavens open up before me. As much as I have loved the Lord and church and Bible study all my life, I am asking myself…why is this so different? And I know it’s because my faith is being stretched. And I’m depending on God in ways I never have before. And this is the good news: the possibilities for growing my faith this way are endless.

Where are you leaning on God these days?

Just wondering. Because it sure feels good to me.

Here are a few of my favorite things this week:

I made this pasta salad for dinner with my mom last night. This dill dressing is amazing. And the avocado? Sooo scrumptious.

My neighbor gave me this tip to squirrel-proof my bird feeders: slinky! If you use a shepherd’s hook to hold your feeder, simply thread the slinky over top and it secure it by looping one of the wires over the hook. I have a double shepherd’s hook, so I had to actually wind it around the pole—which sounds laborious, but it didn’t take much time at all. Also, I used a staple gun to secure the slinky to my wooden feeder that sits on a pole. It sure is fun watching the squirrel try to get past this one! So far so good…

See that little booger sitting down there? He can’t get up!!

Jeffrey and I made this for breakfast this week and it was so simple and delicious. I’ve pinned it on my Pinterest page too.

And I can’t wait to try this with some old wine bottles I have saved. They will make beautiful vases.

Here is my [un]framed picture of the week:

This poor little nest was blown down during the windstorm that left us all a bit worse-for-the-wear. Won’t you share some of the beauty you’ve caught this week? It sure has changed the way I see things. Join us over at the [un]framed Facebook page with your shots.
Sitting with my Sandy today. Love to you all.