Thanks to Emily, I’ve thought about what I’ve learned this summer for, well, all summer. Emily’s Let’s Share What We Learned in (fill in the month or season) is my favorite online place to gather with fellow writers who are looking for God on the move in little and large ways. It’s not only fun, it’s good for the soul.
The worlds of politics and culture are increasingly audacious and frightening, but a curious life – one that looks for God on the move, even in ordinary places – is able to move as well, stepping forward toward hope, trusting that God is still actively working toward redemption.
The ordinary places of our lives hold extraordinary potential when we take a break from the hustle, open our hands, and receive simple moments as reminders that God has always been in charge and finishes what He begins.
As I consider what I’ve learned this summer, I remember people who have inspired me, writers who have challenged me, and random things that invited me to try something new. There may or may not be pictures, as in # 1 –
1) I learned how to boogie-board. In the ocean y’all. Those who know me well may find this a little surprising because I’m not very adventurous when it comes to water and sand in unintended places. But the opportunity to laugh & play with my girl was worth every bit of awkward. I actually “rode” a few waves successfully, but let’s all be thankful that our best moments can happen without a camera. Just trust me in this.
2) As I wrote last time, I learned the importance of traveling light as we ventured out internationally. Since then, I’ve been introduced to the idea of rideable suitcases. Have you seen this?
Anyhow, the current version of rideable suitcase has less packing room than a carry-on, so perhaps it fits within my pursuit of simplicity after all (that’s what I tell myself because I think this looks fun in a ridiculous kind of way).
No matter the type of suitcase, I’m still hopeful that traveling light is possible in everyday life, even in a culture where more is seemingly better. Which leads us to #3 …
3) Did you know that there are now at least 20 varieties of Oreos, from classic to cinnamon bun to Swedish Fish? My daughter and I counted. We took pictures.
Yet, as you know, simplicity isn’t about Oreos. If you have a passion for blueberry pie Oreos, there’s no judgment here. (Full disclosure – I caved to the Key Lime Pie Oreo. It’s pretty tasty.) I can’t see our culture backing away from the pursuit of more, but I can think about how I respond.
Earlier in the summer, I heard a pastor speak on the “tyranny of choice,” a phrase which intrigued me. So I googled “tyranny of choice” and discovered 13,300,000 results (which, in itself, is kinda ironic). Anyway, research studies consistently conclude that the “more is better” assumption actually increases the potential for disappointment and regret.
The “tyranny of choice” theory makes sense to me. Even more, it confirms that the Holy Spirit knows our hearts and understands the temptation as old as Eden to experience more, be more, own more.
There is Spirit-inspired, and counter-cultural, wisdom in the Apostle Paul’s teaching to be content in all things.
Philippians 4: 12 – 13 ~ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do this through Him who gives me strength.
1 Timothy 6: 6 – 7 ~ But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
Now I don’t think that traveling light requires me to shun unique flavors of Oreos. I can enjoy a Caramel Apple Oreo (doubtful) without throwing the weight of happiness-expectations upon it. I know it’s a silly example, but perhaps we do the same with clothes, cars, houses?
There’s a balance here somewhere. I want to be a little wiser, a little more aware about my response to “stuff” in general. I long for the peace of fully trusting that God provides my portion (see Psalm 16:5), and that’s joyfully enough for me.
4) While waiting in a doctor’s office, I flipped through a Martha Stewart magazine where I spotted these ideas for DIY jewelry organizers. I love repurposing things, so I painted a spool rack, and now I have a new way to keep my necklaces and bracelets in one, neat place.
5) Early in the summer, our family enjoyed a beach trip, a mission trip to Albania, and then a side trip to Austria and Germany within one month. Then we stayed home for the rest of the summer, for obvious reasons! So, to keep the spirit of learning and curiosity going, we became hometown tourists. In Davidson, a small town nearby, we visited the old-timey Soda Shop and the South Main Sweet Shop where my daughter entered one of those guess-the-number-of-candies-in-the-jar contests.
In this case, the candies were those teeny cinnamon red-hots. And about a week later, my daughter received a phone call to let her know that she was the undisputed winner of the contest because she guessed the number exactly at 282 red hots!
In Davidson’s Rumor Mill Market of local artisans, we stumbled upon a desk that fit what my daughter has had in mind for a while now. Bonus – the price finally fit what I had in mind 🙂
To match the white/gold theme in her room, we learned how to paint furniture, thanks to The Nester’s How to Paint Furniture Like a Real Pro. (It’s not as difficult as I thought, though we may or may not have taken some short-cuts).
In Waxhaw, another small town outside of Charlotte, we visited Jolly Rolls ice cream where they make your custom flavor while you watch. I picked Key Lime Pie (obviously), so my server chopped up a piece of pie, poured cream over it, spread the mixture out over a cold slab, and scraped it up into yummy rolls.
We took Mom to see Sister Act at our hometown theatre (Central Piedmont Community College) where we enjoyed a great evening filled with talent and laughter – and prayer 🙂
“I believe anything can be a spiritual discipline when we recognize the presence of God with us in it. So whether you moved here just last month or if you were born in the hospital down the street – this place is part of who you are now. This place holds your story, at least a piece of it. This is the place where God wants to meet you, for better or worse.
One way to honor the place where you are is to tour it on purpose.” ~ Emily P. Freeman
6) One of my favorite stories in Scripture is that of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha. I’ve long identified with Martha, who grew frustrated with her frenzied meal preparations while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, absorbing his teaching. As I reread the passage in Luke 10, I noticed some wording that I hadn’t noticed before … Verse 38 says, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”
Because I struggle with hospitality, it struck me that Martha opened her home to Jesus but not her heart (in this moment). Like Martha, I push myself to make everything just so when I open my home. I thought this is what hospitality looked like. But sometimes I wonder if just so is more about my need for approval and less about my guests. Distractedness and perfection prevent me from opening my heart to them (and this isn’t what love looks like). This summer, I’ve discovered GraceTable, an online community that reassures me that hospitality isn’t perfection but presence:
“We believe that the hospitality Christ calls us to is one of brave surrender–a willingness to open our hearts and homes to people who may or may not fit neatly into our personal categories. (Romans 12:13) … This table is for the expert chefs and the microwave queens. Hospitality isn’t about what or how you eat–it’s about setting the table with love.”
7) You know that notification symbol at the top of your Facebook feed – the one that looks like a (flat) globe?
I learned that when you travel to another part of the world, it changes with you. When we were in Austria, I noticed that the continent switched from the Americas to Europe. I found this surprising, then – duh – obvious, and then sorta creepy.
8) One of my favorite summer-reads was Ian Morgan Cron’s Chasing Francis, a novel about a pastor who loses all the “answers.”
During a pilgrimage to Italy, Pastor Chase explores the spiritual legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi who was a humble yet powerful, enduring voice for peace and justice. Francis sought to follow the Savior’s way of sacrifice at a time when the Church was consumed with self-serving opulence and power. In Cron’s novel, the disillusioned pastor’s faith is invigorated through Saint Francis’ passion to see Christ-followers serving as His hands and feet to the least of these.
Francis’ words still challenge the living Church today –
A Franciscan Benediction
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen.
8) I love inspiring quotes, so I conclude (finally, I know; it’s what-I-learned-this-summer after all) with new (to me) favorites:
“Sometimes our journeys need airplanes and sometimes they are quiet, 30-minute walks in our neighborhood so we can clear our heads and figure out what it means to be rooted — wherever we are.” Ashley Hales
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see to it that they don’t remain the way they are.” Saint Augustine
“Here’s Francis’ strategy–if you want to critique something, just do it better. Don’t go off at the mouth criticizing everything that’s wrong with the Church. Just do it better. Let the excellence of your life be your highest form of protest.” Ian Morgan Cron
“Faith is the only way of knowing that is also patient with not knowing.” Richard Rohr
“It’s the differences between us that make us a Body and not a uniform.” Ann Voskamp
“We position ourselves to be better listeners–we more easily set aside our assumptions and anger and start to ask questions with an intent to understand what is unfamiliar to us … We can only start the process here…real change has to happen in our communities and neighborhoods. As I heard Pastor Derwin Gray say once, “Proximity brings empathy.” Trillia Newbell
Thanks for reading, my friends. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned this summer. What did you read, discover, or see with new eyes? Let me know in the comments below!