Summer Reading

I love to nerd out over summer reading. I think it dates back to my elementary school days- my mom would take us to the library to get a sticker chart thingy to keep track of our reading, and then at the end of the summer we would earn prizes based on how many books we read. Can we bring that back as adults, please?!

If you’re a book lover, then you know that it’s next to impossible to choose a favorite. So, in the spirit of summer reading and indecisiveness, I decided to share a list of my current top 20 favorite books of all time!

cold tangerines

1. Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

2. The Hiding Place – Corrie ten Boom

3. Hacker – Ted Dekker

4. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

5. Love Does – Bob Goff

6. The Kitchen House – Kathleen Grissom

7. Seabiscuit – Laura Hillenbrand

8. Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

9. High Tide in Tucson – Barbara Kingsolver

10. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

11. The Giver – Lois Lowry

12. Ruthless Trust- Brennan Manning

13. Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller

14. Bittersweet – Shauna Niequist

15. Bread & Wine – Shauna Niequist

16. Cold Tangerines – Shauna Niequist

17. Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist

18. Wonder – RJ Palacio

19. The Pact – Jodi Picoult

20. Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood – Rebecca Wells

There are so many more that come to mind (just realized I left out Harry Potter…), but I will leave it at that for now. Tell me something you’re reading this summer!

 

Advertisements

A Foretaste of Heaven

As summer begins to envelop us in its haze of humidity and dripping popsicles and splashing at the pool, I want the sweetness of the longer days to point me to Christ. Summer is so unique- the heat, the cookouts, the lightheartedness that seems to permeate evenings as people stroll and bike and enjoy the “cooler” weather after a long day of work or play. I love remembering that these small joys are just a tiny glimpse of our future in heaven!

figgies

“Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel. God made summer as a foretaste of heaven, not a substitute. If the mailman brings you a love letter from your fiancé, don’t fall in love with the mailman. That’s what summer is: God’s messenger with a sun-soaked, tree-green, flower-blooming, lake-glistening letter of love to show us what he is planning for us in the age to come—“things which the eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Don’t fall in love with the video preview, and find yourself unable to love the coming reality.

Jesus Christ is the refreshing center of summer. He is pre-eminent in all things (Colossians 1:18), including vacations and picnics and softball and long walks and cookouts. He invites us this summer: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). This is serious summer refreshment.”

-John Piper (full blog post here)

New York Wedding

Alternate title: That time I had an amazing time at my friend’s wedding but also Ubered to the wrong location, missed the rehearsal, and then regrettably smashed my phone against a railing in a fit of rage, damaging it beyond repair.

train
Waiting at the train station (with our homemade PB&J! 😉 )

First things first- my friend’s wedding was incredible. It was at the Highlands Country Club in upstate New York, and the whole thing felt like a fairy tale. It was so so so much fun to catch up with college friends, dance all night, enjoy amazing food + wine, and of course, stand beside my friend as she married the love of her life.

wedding
During the Jewish “hora”- so much fun!

I also want to share the not-so-great parts of the weekend, which, to be perfectly clear, had nothing to do with my friend’s wedding and everything to do with myself. I so desperately want my writing to be genuine, and I never want to gloss over the imperfect and messy parts of life or curate some unrealistic view of myself. If I ever begin doing that, husband and best friends: please let me know!

So basically on Friday evening, I completely messed up and had Josh and I Uber out to the wedding venue instead of the restaurant for the rehearsal, and once we got there we realized we were an hour away from where we were supposed to be. We tried using Uber/Lyft again but neither were available in that area, and our first Uber driver was already long gone. A very kind staff member at the country club drove us to a nearby train station, but then we realized trains only came every hour and went to Manhattan, which was still far away from where we needed to be. If we had utilized the trains, it would have been cheaper, but we also would have gotten back way after the rehearsal + dinner had finished.

I was so mad at myself. I had made a dumb mistake and it made me miss my friend’s wedding rehearsal. We also soon discovered that the only way to make it to the restaurant in time (and by “in time” I mean 2 hours late instead of missing it completely) was to take a taxi, which was going to cost us triple digits. Cue the hysterics. As I was throwing a temper tantrum and acting a fool, Josh was calmly calling a taxi service and trying to make sure his wife maintained some semblance of dignity. Unfortunately, before he could talk sense into me I whacked my handbag angrily against a railing, not thinking that my phone was in there and would be smashed into several pieces. Whoops. (The silver lining? It was actually really nice having a phone-free weekend!)

friends
Cocktail hour 🙂

Once we finally got into the taxi and were headed towards the restaurant, my sweet husband took my hand and looked me in the eye and said, “Megan. What really matters here?”

In that moment I realized how silly my little freak-out was. I had been so mad at my own mistake, worried that it had hurt my friend, and also angry about spending unnecessary money. But guess what? My friend was so gracious about it. The money doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. And, God’s grace is big enough to cover all of my mistakes and sins, even if I am unable to muster up the grace to forgive myself.

 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” -2 Corinthians 12:9

nywedding
My handsome wedding date!

All in all, it was such a lovely weekend and Josh and I both had a blast at the wedding. I feel like God brought something really beautiful out of my own sin and selfishness, and that was a renewed perspective on the enormity of His grace and on what truly matters as we live life here on earth. Despite the fact that I apparently have anger management issues and an often graceless heart, Jesus continues to pursue me in my brokenness, and for that I am thankful.

Smoothie Bowls

Summer is officially upon us (!!!), which means I pretty much crave smoothie bowls nonstop. Instead of spending a fortune on tiny acai bowls at coffee shops, I love making them myself at home and then adding whatever toppings I have on hand. Here is the basic “recipe” I use:

-1 cup(ish) frozen fruit
-1 frozen banana
-frozen spinach (maybe 1/2 cup?)
-protein powder if you have it (keeps me fuller longer + adds flavor)
-cinnamon (duh)
-enough milk to mostly cover all the ingredients in the blender

Blend, pour into a bowl, add toppings and enjoy! Easy peasy. 🙂

smoothie bowl

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! Josh and I are headed to a friend’s wedding up in New York and are super excited to celebrate with them!

Perfect Love

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” -1 John 4:18

I have to confess: I forget this truth so often. I can spend hours and even days wallowing in fear- fear of the future and the unknown, fear of failure, fear of the opinions of others- without ever stopping to remember the solution. The solution to my fear isn’t knowing how my future will turn out or having all the answers, but instead resting in Christ’s perfect love.

08-27-2016_megan&josh-RSP-5703
[Photo Credit]
Thinking on the above verse always leads me to Romans 8…

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ “ -Romans 8:15

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39

08-27-2016_megan&josh-RSP-1040
[Photo Credit]
These beautiful truths resonate with my spirit every time I read them, but it doesn’t mean I always fully believe them. When anxiety wells up in me and my mind seems to override what I know in my heart to be true, I want to pray these Scriptures back to God. Do I trust His word, or do I not? Do I trust that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ, or do I not? In those moments of fear that can come so unexpectedly, I want to practice remembering my identity and what it means:

I do not have the spirit of slavery, but the Spirit of adoption as God’s child.

Nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

There is no fear in His perfect love.

Shepherd Youth Ranch

I grew up riding horses and have been missing it so much lately! On Saturday I went to a volunteer orientation at this place called Shepherd Youth Ranch in Creedmoor, NC (just outside of Raleigh). They basically use horses as “therapists” of sorts in order to help a variety of kids- those who have been abused and are recovering from trauma, and also those with autism.

syr2

I am so into their mission statement:

“Our mission is to provide restoration and hope to those in need, through the unconditional love of Christ and a unique relationship with horses.” 

It seems like an amazing organization that genuinely seeks to love and serve others, not to mention it would be a great way to get my horse fix. 😉 Hoping to get involved there soon!

syr1

“all true delights”

“Christ is the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and substance of them. As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is the meeting-place of all the waters in the world, so Christ is that ocean in which all true delights and pleasures meet.” -John Flavel

I heard this quote in church last week and just had to share. So beautiful!

flowers
Bouquets at the Raleigh farmers market 🙂

Celebrating Smallness

I love any book that reminds me to slow down and take notice of the beauty in small, everyday moments, and Simply Tuesday does exactly that. Highly recommend!

“Noticing, celebrating, and embracing our Tuesdays is an outward expression of an inward posture. Maybe if I practice noticing the small in my daily life I will come to identify with the small in my soul. Maybe small won’t be something I fear or shrink from, but will be something I learn to embrace- slowly, quietly, with practice and intention.”

book

As I begin to slow, I see smallness is not a punishment but a gift. Rather than something to fear or run from, my smallness can be a celebration, an invitation for me to lie back on the wide, green earth and let the world spin the sun right up above me. I can breathe a sigh of sweet relief as I realize I had nothing to do with it.”

Chapel Hill Evening

It’s no secret that I love Chapel Hill. This past Saturday we met up with Josh’s parents (and their cute new dog, Bo!) to eat at our favorite restaurant there, Med Deli.

meddeli
“This is what dreeeeams are made of…”Hilary Duff

Afterwards, Josh and I walked past the place where we got engaged (pictured below!) and listened to a jazz band playing outside on the patio. We also meandered down to Weaver Street Market and got a few “delicacies” (Josh’s term for random treats that we don’t need but buy anyway).

kipos

So thankful for slow, relaxed summer evenings!

Childlike Faith

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is what it would look like to become like a child the way that Jesus asks us to. To be honest, that has always confounded me. I think kids are adorable, but they aren’t necessarily known for their wisdom or sophistication. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe Jesus is telling us to stop assuming our adult selves are so wise and important and live with a little more trust and abandon.

1

“He [Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” -Matthew 18:2-4

Recently I was sifting through old photos with this verse in mind and was struck by the carefree spirit that came through in photos of me as a child. I wasn’t yet weighed down by expectations placed on me by society or myself or even the church. I know many people look back on troubled childhoods in which they were forced to bear burdens meant for adults, and that saddens me. However, I am grateful that when I look back on my own life as child, I see someone who lived freely in each moment and trusted her parents for the rest. Isn’t that what God wants of us, too, as His beloved children?

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” -1 John 3:1

3
Who’s ready to rock an orange one-piece this summer?!

One thing my counselor told me is that Jesus never told children to become like adults, but He did tell adults to become like children. That has stuck with me, and it is something worth pondering. I often read Jesus’ command to become like a little child and brush it off, pointing to other verses in Scripture that esteem planning and responsibility. It’s true that Jesus calls us to a higher standard of living, one characterized by wisdom and discernment. The more I think about it, though, I think that childlike faith actually goes hand in hand with those virtues. It isn’t an uninformed faith, but rather one that is simple and uncomplicated. It isn’t clouded by constant doubt or worry. It is one that loves God, loves others, and lives in joy and hope without being anxious for tomorrow, because “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

2
That poor dog, though- not so carefree 😉

I once heard a story of this concept being illustrated by a pastor during children’s church, when the kids came down to sit at the front and hear a mini lesson. According to the story, the pastor took a $20 bill out of his wallet and held it out to the adult members of the congregation, asking if anyone would like to take it as a free gift. Of course, everyone was skeptical. Why is he doing this? They probably wondered. What are his ulterior motives? There may have even been several people who needed that money, but pride prevented them from publicly accepting it. Having no adult takers, the pastor then turned to the group of children gathered at the front and asked if any of them would like the $20. The kids went wild, waving their arms and jostling around excitedly in hopes that he would pick them to receive the gift. I think this is how Jesus wants us to receive the Kingdom of God- excited, expectant, and trusting that there is only good coming from His hands.

Give us childlike faith, Father.