If it were possible to physically latch on to a single month, you would find me right now with a firm grip on July. I thought May was my favorite month and then July 2018 rolled around and set the gold standard. It was all the things.
Jake and I kicked off the month on the shores of Lake Erie with a kid-free weekend and rounded it out by celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary at our kitchen table with some takeout Indian food. In between, we mostly filled our days with trips to the pool, afternoons by the backyard waterslide, and walks around the neighborhood. It was all made possible by Jake’s miraculous July residency schedule which allowed him to be home more than he was at work.
Like I said, all the things.
But, time marches on as it always does. So, I’m loosening my hold on July and letting it slip into the memory banks. After all, who’s to say July will still have the gold standard by the end of next month?
In any case, here are a few things I read and wrote the past few months. (June included, because summer Molly is super flexible and let myself off the hook for that particular monthly review. I’m also working on letting unreasonable expectations slip through my fingertips.)
Books I Read
At the end of May, I was 84 pages into Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and, because my library loan ran out after my third renewal (oops), I’m still only 84 pages in and waiting for it to be available again. I did manage to read 3 books between June and July though, and they varied wildly in terms of content and topic. They all made me think and reflect in such different and powerful ways.
Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
I won this book in a drawing (as one does) and then let it sit untouched for a few months. I picked it up on a whim at the end of June and then finished it a week later. In short, DeMoss-Wolgemuth takes an in-depth look at the discipleship method found in Titus 2. My favorite chapter was her take on what it looks like to be workers of the home, and, more specifically, this excerpt:
Jesus, too, is a homemaker. “I go to prepare a place for you,” He said to His disciples on the eve of His betrayal. “I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
At the heart of the gospel, at the heart of the cross, is the Lord Jesus opening His arms wide and saying, “I want you to come Home with me.”
And when we cultivate homes where others can grow and be nurtured, where they feel welcomed, loved, and cared for, we put the heart and character of God on display.
A few paragraphs later, she quotes her friend Jani Ortlund who similarly spoke to this thought:
Our homes, imperfect as they are, should be a reflection of our eternal home, where troubled souls find peace, weary hearts find rest, hungry bodies find refreshment, lonely pilgrims find communion, and wounded spirits find compassion. (222-223)
For the Love of Discipline: When the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs by Sara Wallace
I can’t say enough good things about this particular parenting book. It’s quick and to the point, and Wallace gave me a lot to think about in terms of the words I use when correcting my kids. She has a great chapter on helping kids deal with fear as well as some really wise thoughts about the difference between childishness and disobedience. My favorite part though was in a chapter about finding the balance between disciplining too much and too little:
Consider this scenario: A mom pours her daughter some cereal in a blue bowl. She sets it down in front of her. The little girl screams in anger and pushes it away. “I want the pink bowl!” she screams, scowling and wildly kicking her legs under the table. The mom glances inside the cupboard. Yes, there is a pink bowl there. Sighing, the mom thinks to herself, “I have to choose my battles,” and she gets the pink bowl out of the cupboard and re-pours the cereal.
We’ve all be in similar situations. We’re tired. We want to make our kids happy. We think, “I’ll discipline my child when he does something really bad.” If we continue with the analogy of a battle, we can see how dangerous this thinking is. Imagine walking onto a real battlefield. The enemy comes rushing toward you. You’re seconds away from being face-to-face with your foe. You don’t have the option of saying “I don’t feel like fighting today” or “The enemy doesn’t look that strong. I’ll fight when a bigger enemy comes along.” We don’t get to choose whether or not we will battle our kids’ sin. We enter into the battle the day we become parents.
It’s important to remember we are never fighting against our own children. We are fighting alongside them. When we lay down our swords, we expose our kids to attack. They are too young to fight for themselves. We have to do battle for them. Doing battle with sin means getting our hands dirty. It means fighting for our kids’ hearts even when we’re too tired. (53-54)
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
I’m really late to the party on this one. This was published in 2014 and has been sitting on my shelf since last September when my friend Jess sent it to me for my birthday. At times it reads a little like a John Grisham novel except it’s written by Bryan Stevenson, a real human being who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system (per the back cover of the book).
Toward the end of the book, Stevenson reflects on what he has learned about brokenness and mercy and touches on something I’ve been thinking about since I read Brene Brown’s thoughts about “moving in” a few months ago.
Whenever things got really bad, and they were questioning the value of their lives, I would remind them that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I told them that if someone tells a lie, that person is not just a liar. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you are not just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer. I told myself that evening what I had been telling my clients for years. I am more than broken. In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us. (290)
Things I Wrote
In May, I mentioned a 10,000 word writing goal that I had for myself. I came up a liiiiittle short with just shy of 8,500 words, but I did finish a fun project I’ve been working on since March.
But, since that’s all still a little in-progress, it’s also worth noting that I published some smaller pieces this month, too. I put my research cap on over at Mighty Moms to write about pacifier weaning (you know, the most fun thing ever) and toddler pool safety while also penning this love letter to first-time moms.
More personally, I also reflected upon our family’s two favorite July holidays: National Doctors’ Day and Our Wedding Anniversary. (Did I mention we celebrated a DECADE? It still feels like kind of a big deal.)
So Long, Sweet Summer
It’s possible that the impending addition to our family and the fact that Lily is only 16 days away from starting kindergarten have something to do with the fact that I’ve been over here trying to squeeze everything I can out of June and July before summer and the general status quo escapes my grasp.
But, if there’s something I’m learning as I reflect on the end of each month, it’s this: The looking forward to what’s to come is far superior to the wishing to hold on to the past.
So, so long sweet summer. We’re ready for all the things that are next.