This has been the summer of blown bubbles and newly-discovered dance moves.
Among other amenities like garbage-free sidewalks and fenced-in yards, our new neighborhood has an ice cream truck that visits daily. When it comes around the corner and the faint waft of circus music hits our house, little Molly girl starts droppin’ it like it’s hot.
With one hand braced on the couch, she waves the other in the air and begins doing deep squats in quick succession like urgent aerobics, like she was born to move. Honestly, I had no idea “Old McDonald” could be reinterpreted with so much soul, but like all redheads, Molly is exceptional at sunburning, drawing attention to herself at grocery stores, and starting young as a hip-hop prodigy.
This is my favorite feature of summer 2015, but while I’m complimenting both the season and my exquisite offspring, let me share a few more favorites from this summer.
Rachel Held Evans, “Searching for Sunday”
Rachel Held Evans is one of my writing heroes. She has a way of intertwining hilarious story with impactful theology. Her politics might be a bit more progressive than most in the evangelical world, but her writing is thoughtful and incredibly engaging. Even if you don’t agree with her views, Evans will get you thinking about church leadership, community, and the evangelical response to the LGBT community. If you have ever been in church, thought about church, or are considering it now, this book will speak to you exactly where you are.
For me, the best parts of the books were the short vignettes—or essays— that began each chapter exploring the seven sacraments. Check out a sample here.
Elizabeth Gilbert “The Nature of All Things”
I like to alternate between reading fiction and non-fiction. This historical fiction novel is grim and long-winded in parts (also contains some blush-worthy sensual content), but it explores the world of botany around the middle and turn of the 19th century. Elizabeth Gilbert’s lyrical writing style is mesmerizing and her vocabulary is astounding. I suggest reading it with a dictionary nearby.
Amber C. Haines “Wild in the Hollow”
I consumed 90% of the book in a single day, but then got stuck rereading one of the final chapters– Hope of the Exiled. I couldn’t move past it because it is literally changing my life.
Haines is a poet/blogger turned memoir writer that puts words to the inexpressible longing for home. She writes of her own struggles with such unblinking honesty, and of Jesus with such beautiful affection, that I found myself both admiring her as an artist and feeling acquainted with her as a friend.
Barbara Brown Taylor “Leaving Church”
If you like Anne Lamott, upon reading Barbara Brown Taylor you might discover that you like her more. Witty, honest, and blow-your-mind-eloquent, Taylor narrates her own story of joining the Episcopalian priesthood and ultimately finding renewal through leaving it twenty years later. Wedged into those twenty years, Taylor was considered one of most gifted and favored preachers in America. She was loved and excellent at her job, but as her external platform grew she writes in her memoir of the breaking down of her interior life. The resounding point of the book is that the jackpot of faith is not found in platform, but in the intimacy of a quieter communion with God.
Also, worth mentioning: her book of sermons “Home by Another Way” is another favorite of mine. I use it as a devotional from time to time.
Christina Baker Kline “Orphan Train”
I actually got halfway through this book and realized I had partially read it before. I guess you could say that means it took me awhile (and a second reading) to get attached.
Orphan Train is a historical fiction novel that flashes between a present day story of an orphan aging out of the foster care system and the memories of an Irish immigrant who was shipped from NYC to middle-America as an orphan in the early 1900s.
I found that the flashbacks were much more engaging than the present-day storyline, but I liked how the story highlights the redemptive and surprising places kinship can be found.
Episodes feature a single human interest story (In the same vein as This American Life). The stories are serious but moving. I loved the “Living Room” episode.
Magic Lessons Podcast: Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert has written several books but is most well-known for Eat Pray Love. In this new podcast, she discusses the creative process by having call-in conversations with new writers and giving them advice on where to get started.
Twenty One Pilots “BlurryFace”
Like a lot of my music choices, this one came on the recommendation of my ultra-cool brother. When I need some pep in my step, this album really does it. It defies a genre classification— some pop, some reggae, some rap, some screamsies at the very end. The screamsies make me feel 17 again.
This single is free for download on Noisetrade (but leave a tip!). Levv is a duo that features one of my favorites, Audrey Assad. If nothing else, download this song to hear the kick at 2:54. I TAP MY STEERING WHEEL SO HARD!
Phil Wickham “Singalong 3”
A live, acoustic worship set with Phil Wickham, Kari Jobe, and Shane & Shane (aka the DREAM TEAM). “My All in All” and “It is Well with My Soul” are on repeat around here.
Bethel Music “Synesthesia”
When I write, I either listen to nothing (with earbuds in) or to music without words. Bands like Explosions in the Sky, Helios, and This Will Destroy You are some of my go-tos, but this latest release from Bethel just got added to this list.
Ice Cream Truck.
Not a band, not an album. As previously mentioned, this circus music is a household dance track.
What about you?
What have you been reading/listening/dancing to this summer?