5 Things Keeping Me Sane This Summer

Years ago on American Idol, when they still aired the show several times a week (Girls perform! Now guys perform! One more night for results!) they used to ask the contestants to share something weird about themselves that no one knew.

American Idol Live

During that segment, Melinda Doolittle explained how a weird quirk of hers was if one of her hands got wet, she needed to get the other hand wet to even things out. Same with her feet. She just felt more comfortable in a world where here limbs were equal temperature.

I thought that was so weird that it stuck with me. Until that very next day I washed off my right hand and immediately watched myself get my left hand wet too even though I didn’t need to. What is happening?!

As it turns out, that’s one of my weird quirks, too. Maybe we all do it? Strange or not, I think it is something in me that longs for balance in so many areas but I didn’t realize it until Melinda named it for me.

All summer I have felt like one hand is cold while the other is warm, one foot wet, the other bone dry. I haven’t yet found a rhythm to settle into and finally, here at the beginning of August, I’m realizing maybe that is the rhythm – the one of no predictable schedule to depend on, no balanced out days. The rhythm is defined by the need and the now and the waiting.

And so in the midst of this imbalanced jumble of days, here are a few things keeping me sane this summer:

Roots & Sky

1. Christie Purifoy’s first book, Roots & Sky, won’t release until February 2016 but I got my hands on an early copy. Go ahead and click on my affiliate link to her book and pre-order your copy or at least add it to your wishlist because it is a beautiful narrative of finding home and discovering the kingdom of God right where we are. I’ve enjoyed spending my mornings with her.

Greensboro Farmer's Market

2. Our local farmer’s market embraced us like an old friend on Saturday. We went for the first time in a while and I forgot how much I love it there. We bought some peaches, a basil plant, and local honey from a friend. She even threw in our favorite lip balm for free, one for each person in the family. There is something healing about walking through row after row of local plants and farmers.


3. Practicing celebrating my smallness every Tuesday with you on Instagram has been so much fun. As of now we have 8,450 photos in the stream – that’s 8,450 regular moments captured on Tuesdays so far this year, remembered because we marked them. It’s a lovely stream just to scroll through. Even lovelier if you join in! (Check out #itssimplytuesday here and find me here on instagram).


4. The sunflowers in our backyard are growing out of control. But isn’t that what summertime is for? To grow a little beyond our own limits, to stretch out in the sunlight, to see the beauty in falling petals?

BEST (1)

5. With a book releasing in 16 days (!!) it’s helping me to have some people to partner with to help get the word out. I have an amazing launch team who have been such a support. Also (in)courage is hosting me for a 3-day email series you can sign up for right here. When you do, you’ll automatically be entered to win all these fun things.

So what’s keeping you sane this summer?

The Wizard of Oz(car)

When I found out John’s dad was born in 1939, the first thing I thought was, “Oh, he was born the same year The Wizard of Oz released in theaters” because I only remember the important parts of history.

wizard of ozImage from Wizard of Oz: 50th Anniversary Edition book that I own, love and cherish.

Seriously though, it’s no secret here that The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite all time movies. In the Life section of yesterday’s paper, there was a huge photo of Judy Garland as Dorothy and John saved it out just for me. I read the article in its entirety for the kids while they ate breakfast because history. I should totally homeschool.

I would be lying if I said my main motivation for watching the Oscars last night wasn’t to see how they would honor the 75th anniversary of the movie. I mean yes, star-studded audience and nominees and musical scores and Best Picture and all that. But The Wizard of Oz! When Ellen didn’t come out first thing wearing ruby slippers, I realized I might need to lower my expectations.

1 oscar tweetAnd then I saw Liza Minelli in the audience and I started to really worry. Because if they think pointing to Liza Minelli and saying Look, Judy Garland’s daughter is here! Happy Birthday, Wizard! is going to cut it for a “celebration” they may as well just shut it all down. This will not do.

After way too long into the evening, the orchestra started to play a familiar Oz tune and my heart started to pound in anticipation. And then Whoopi came out and I saw her red shoes right away and I started to nervous-twirl my hair. She gave a short tribute to the movie which I didn’t hear because I was staring at her feet. And even though she was wearing striped tights like the Wicked Witch, I forgave that poor wardrobe choice because she said this:

2 Oscar tweet

And that’s when the lights dimmed and out comes Pink wearing a ruby dress. Pink! In a ruby dress! I didn’t take any photos of my TV because I was mesmorized by all the ruby and I would share an image with you here but I’d have to swipe it from the internet and I’m afraid Getty will sue me.

You can watch the video here if you missed it. And if you have any love at all for Dorothy and the Wizard, you’ll want to because they show a montage in the background while Pink sings Over the Rainbow and you are dead inside if you aren’t moved. I thought she did a beautiful job even though she made some strange breath choices during the song and she could have used a cami under that lovely dress, but that didn’t stop me from tearing up and loving every minute of it. And when Ellen came out dressed as Glinda after the commercial break, well. It was a drop the mic moment for me.

Thank you for this Vine, People Magazine.

Obviously this Oscar re-cap is not complete, as I bascially haven’t mentioned any of the movies that were nominated (or made in the last 74 years for that matter) or any of the beautiful red carpet people like Lupita (fierce Tinkerbell) or Jennifer Lawrence (beautiful awkward genius).

This concludes my Oz indulgence. I will return to our typical soul-breathing posts in a few days. Meanwhile, (which I always used to think was meanwild) if you want to read a legit Oscar recap, might I suggest this post from Kendra Adachi? Because it’s fantastic.

Did you watch the Oscars? What did you think of Pink?! I mean, the Oscars?

for when you are running on empty

Sometimes you anticipate your vacation, make plans and reservations, and look forward to your needed time off. You pack a nice bag, shop for a few travel sized toiletries, and ask the neighbors to pick up your mail while you’re gone.


Other times, you work on your projects and try hard to finish tasks but you end up just walking in circles and writing the same to-do list items on seven different 4×6 note cards until you finally realize, Oh. I’m not getting anything done. I suppose I should take some time off.

So here’s to time off – both the kind you take and the kind that takes you.

If you are vacationing, may it be restful. If you are working, may it be fruitful.

And may you have the wisdom to know when to stop if it isn’t.

As I take a few days to readjust to the summer schedule, here are a few things I’m into this week that are helping me out:

I have the privilege of co-leading a retreat with Fil and Nathan Foster this fall (maybe I’ll see you there?)John and I have known Fil for about 12 years now and I highly recommend his books – but I also highly recommend his person. Is that weird? His portion of the interview starts in around 10:00 mins. You can also listen to it in iTunes by searching “Simplicity Podcast.”

“Here’s a guy who’s famous for what he has to say, yet what I remember most about him was how he sat and listened . . . He touched my life with his kindness.”

-Fil Anderson on his friendship with Brennan Manning

  • I’ve been listening to this album by Christa Wells and Nicole Witt on repeat. Track 5 called Pray is The Lord’s Prayer and it is beautiful.
  • I got my third Stitch Fix! I’ll share what came in that box soon, but I realized I never told you what I kept from my second one: so here’s my keeps from my second fix.

What are you into this week?

what happens when an artist chooses generosity

It was a long day of filming the Try Hard Life series in Charlotte. Several friends and family members were gathered there for the day to help us pull it off. We took a break for lunch.

As I tried not to spill salsa on my pants, I listened to Dad and Reeve talk in the kitchen about how her dad makes guitars. They talked more about music and he asked if she writes her own songs.

She said she did and he asked her what she likes to write about.

And then, the question musicians always hear, and depending on their personality, they either long for or dread:

Would you play a little something for us now?

Her face turned red and she smiled small, shrugged her shoulders and looked around the room. Was she waiting for someone to object? No one did.

We had the time and my brother in law had an old guitar. She settled in to her place on the sofa and we continued to eat as she began to strum.

Time stopped a little and we held our breath. Lucky for you, the camera was rolling.

Reeve singing Night Owl.

Reeve took us on a four minute trip into her soul. We were quiet there at the end simply because we hadn’t come back yet.

She could have said no, but I think she would have regretted it. We would have regretted it, too.

When an artist chooses to be generous, everyone wins. Even though she wrote the song about her own life, we could all somehow relate to it. The more personal you are with your art, the more generally it applies to those who are there to receive it.

It seems counter-intuitve, I know.

Add more of yourself to your work – more of your personality, preferences, and desire. The more we see you, the more we’ll see ourselves.

Go here to learn more about Reeve’s music.

Artists and Influencers :: they’re teaching me about writing

artists & influencers :: a series at chatting at the sky

Last Monday, I introduced a series inspired by this question: What do you know for sure?

I tried to come up with a response to that question, but instead of a list of answers coming to mind, I kept seeing a list of people.

And so I bring you Artists & Influencers.

For the next several Mondays I will share with you some people who are helping me uncover and affirm those things I know for sure about a variety of topics and challenge you to identify and celebrate who those people are in your own life.

So for today, let’s talk about writing.

Donald Miller has a post up today called How My Faith Has Changed Since Blue Like Jazz. It’s an interesting read, but the thing that caught my attention was simply this: his faith has changed since he wrote Blue Like Jazz.

One reason why it feels like so much pressure to write a book is because I have thought that everything I put in my books has to be Completely And Undeniably True Without Possibility Of Changing.

Writing does not represent that for me anymore. I’m not writing scripture, I’m writing blog posts and I’m writing books. The kind of writing I do is not evidence of absolute truth, but of a person who is absolutely alive.

I will always work to pursue and represent truth, but to carry the burden of only writing what I will agree with for the rest of my life? Impossible.

In the spirit of embracing change, growth, and learning from artists and influencers, here are 5 people who are helping me uncover what I know for sure about writing:

1. My husband.

My most encouraging words for you often come after a discouraging time alone. But what moves me from the “discouraging time” to the “encouraging words” is conversation, usually with my husband.

When I am stuck, trying hard to write it out doesn’t always work. I need him to remind me of what I know is true, to point out the holes in my reasoning, to ask me questions and expect an answer.

If you are a writer who is having a hard time writing, try having a conversation instead.

artists and influencers

2. Christa Wells.

Christa is a singer/songwriter living in Raleigh who I also consider a friend. Back in October, she wrote a two-post series called How to Love Your Independent Artist. Here’s something she said that resonated with me:

“I think people often believe all artists are hoping for the same things: notoriety, money, awards, platinum albums, or even just to be picked up by a label. We are all either on our way or not on our way due to unfortunate circumstances.

If we weren’t after those things, then what could possibly be the point?

The reality is that the majority of professional artists do want all of those things. But there are many of us who honestly don’t.”

And then she said this, something I’m beginning to know as true, true, true, true, true:

“The longer we stay in or around the business, the more we’re aware that all good things come at some cost. Those costs are too high for some of us.”

Not all singer/songwriters have the same goals.

Not all writers do, either.

And all good things come at some cost. Even good things cast shadows.

It is important to work out and continue to uncover why you write and who you are writing for. My reasons may not fit with the latest marketing trends and they may not produce impressive numbers. I’m continually drawn to writing content that feels like it is for a smaller number of people.

Sometimes that’s hard for me to accept. But it would be harder for me to write differently just so more people would read.

3. Jon Acuff. 

I don’t know Jon personally, but when I am in danger of feeling the weight of responsibility and overwhelmed with The Serious And Important Work I’m doing, it helps to remember these words of his:

“Have fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re not discovering penicillin. You’re writing a book. If you ever find yourself becoming pretentious about the magnitude of what you are doing, go write at the library.

There are tens of thousands of books there that some other author once thought, If I don’t share this book with the world, the world will be incomplete. Writing a book is hard work, but don’t put the pressure of ‘changing the world’ on every page you write. You’ll cripple yourself and not enjoy the process even a little bit.”

In other words:


image source

4. My editor, Andrea Doering.

Last week I received the first round of edits for my next book, to release in November. I will spare you the details of her edits, of which there are many. But here’s one thing I can say with confidence: I have a lot to learn about the craft of writing.

In the past, that was overwhelming to me. Now, it’s strangely comforting.

Andrea is an artist in the way she eloquently encourages and speaks into my strengths while also calling out a more courageous voice that she knows is in me.

I learn and embrace the rules of writing in order to release my clearest, most powerful message. I have her to thank for that.

5. You. 

Last Wednesday, I spent several hours responding to email from readers. I read every email I get but I can’t always respond to them all the way I want.

But that day, I did. There was a moment when I was overcome with emotion – it almost felt sacred to me.

The fog of discouragement and self-doubt lifted and I could see how the cycle of words given to me turned over into words given to you.

Generally it is important for me to remember what Jon Acuff says – lighten up!

But sometimes, on days like last Wednesday, it’s nice for me to remember that even though every page doesn’t have to change the world, there will be some pages that do. And it is good and right to celebrate that.

These are some of the artists and influencers who are helping me uncover what I know for sure about writing. What about you? Who are the people in this season of life who are teaching you about writing? What are they saying?