What I’m Into: The Off-The-Grid July Edition

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Let me say, first of all, that July is a terrible time to try to write a book.

I took this month off from The Internet in order to focus on my second book. I didn’t blog. I barely tweeted or Facebook-ed, and I only Pinterested recreationally.

I carved out time to write. I made hefty goals. I booked a hotel room alone for a night to work, and I spent lots of mornings at Caribou and Panera and my favorite local coffee shop/wine bar, The Bean. And it all would have totally worked had it not been for, you know, sunshine. And the river. And sidewalk chalk and afternoon matinees and parades and road-trips and beach days.

It wasn’t that I didn’t write this month: I did. Almost every day. And yet, the world that I inhabited in these last weeks wasn’t the ethereal world of memoir. I meant to spend the month looking through a telescope at the universe that is The Past. I meant to focus in and out and then back in again until I began to see light I hadn’t noticed before. I meant to get something done.

What I learned is that it’s a little impossible to fully inhabit the interior world of memoir when the world of Minnesota July is happening all around you.

Word-count wise, the month was a little frustrating. But also, everywhere around me, the world was awash with light and water and sprinklers making rainbows in the grass. Every night, my sons smelled like sweat and earth and had came in with dirt streaked across their faces. When I washed them down in the bathtub, the whole thing became grimy with sand.

So, all in all, I think I’m gonna call it a win.

What I’ve Been Reading 

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Half-Price Books is located right next to one of my favorite writing spots, and this summer, they’ve made me deviate from my Summer Reading List in unexpected ways. I picked up a copy of Prep there at the beginning of the month because I’d heard good things about Curtis Sittenfeld. I bought The Round House because I’d heard even better things about Louise Erdrich, and because she’s Minnesotan, so it’s like we’re kin.

Both books were well-written, though I found Prep to be a little depressing and disconcerting. I kept wanting to shake the main character. She was so withdrawn, so self-isolating, constantly standing in her own way. Never taking a chance. It was only after I finished reading the book that I realized that probably it elicited such a reaction from me because I was so much like her in high school. If I hadn’t been a Jesus Freak, this might have been how it went for me. Which was sobering.

The Round House was brilliant in ways I still can’t quite figure out. (Some of the best books I’ve read this year feel a little over my head, a little out of my reach. I kind of wish I could go back to class and have a brilliant professor help me uncover the nuances.) Still, it was also a bit depressing.

So then I read about Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, a young adult book that was light and fun and well-suited for summer. No, I don’t need any English professor to help me with it. And yes, that was a bit of a relief in the middle of July.

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I finally read Capotes Breakfast at Tiffany’s…and then I took some high school girls from my church to see it downtown in the park. They all wore black dresses and pearls, and I brought pretend champagne and plastic flutes, and we sat on a blanket and watched Audrey Hepburn embody Holly Golightly. The movie keeps whole pages of text exactly as is…but introduces some major changes. Including the ending. And the romance factor. In the end, I love both the book and the movie for different reasons…though they are far from the same story.

I read Shauna Niequist’s Bread & Wine, which inspired me to try my first risotto and to throw spontaneous a wine and cheese party for my 31st birthday. After falling in love with Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World, I burned through Learning to Walk in the DarkI found to be extremely insightful and interesting. I’ll be unpacking some of the things that I underlined there, I think, for a long time.

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Not pictured here is my friend Liz Bolz Ranfeld’s unpublished manuscript Teen Maniac, which I read on my phone in the dark at my parents’ house while I waited for my kids to fall asleep. I met Liz in a strange coincidence outside one of the sessions at the Festival of Faith and Writing, where we bonded quickly over Teen Mania experiences that overlapped in really strange ways.

When she told me she’d written a manuscript about her experience, I asked if she’d let me read it. She did, and it was beautifully written and powerful for me in ways I didn’t expect. There was something about seeing my experience mirrored in someone else’s, hearing the words that she spoke so similar to the language I used in those years. It got me digging through some of my Teen Mania baggage again, and I’ll probably be revisiting some of the language I internalized there (Lady in Waiting, Guard Your Heart, Revival, Sinner’s Prayer, etc.) over the next months.

What I’ve Been Listening To

It’s been a big Sleeping at Last month for me. I downloaded both their Yearbook project and their Atlas project, and it’s been a source of inspiration and grace to me as I’ve been writing and thinking and untangling this next volume of my story.

Andrew and I also saw Begin Again with Kiera Knightly and Adam Levine this month and really liked it. I downloaded a couple of songs from the movie and have been quite smitten with them as well.

What I’ve Been Watching

Desperate Housewives. I meant to only watch one season. Now I’m somehow on Season 7. I blame the laundry. And the dishes.

Seriously though. THIS CLIP. Lynette is my favorite.

We’ve also been watching Master Chef. That plus Bread and Wine make me want to cook all the things. All the time. And use things like shallots and smoked paprika. Instead of, you know, Velveeta.

Other Things I’ve Been Up to This Month

Another year at the Andover FunFest parade…another giant bucket of candy, most of which I’ll end up throwing out. Ahh America.

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Cheese curds.

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Fireworks. We (tried to) keep the kids up late and walk over to the fireworks for the first time. Dane did great. Liam slept through the entire thing, including the grand finale, even though we were so close to the action that we could actually see the big pile of explosives they were setting off.

The real question here is, how can he sleep through that but not through his mother quietly creeping down the stairs first thing in the morning and sitting down at the table? Mom Radar. It’s a real thing.

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River tubing. We figured bought some river tubes and went down the nearby Rum River for the first time every. And then the second. And then the third. It has officially ruined me for any waterpark lazy river ever. Heavenly.

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A week in Chicago with the kids so that I could get some writing in while they did VBS with their Grandma. While we were there, we also got to swim in my favorite neighborhood pool and visit the Butterfly Garden at the Chicago Botanical Gardens.

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Hanging out on our awesome new patio with my husband.

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Two beautiful weddings. During one of the receptions, I may or may not have jumped into the nearby lake for a late night swim. Because JULY.

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Blog & Writing

I’m officially back to blogging…though I may not be quite as prolific as usual. There’s still a lot of writing to do on the book, and I can already feel the crazy energy of August mounting around here. School! Deadlines! Emails!

I’m getting a late start going through all of the beautiful posts you linked to in the Celebration of Blogging last month, but I’m loving every piece I read.  Sorry about the lack of timeliness, but I will read every single one…eventually.

I’m making progress on the book, but it’s S-L-O-W. At this point, I think I’ve deleted at least twice as many words as I’ve kept. Possibly three times. Sigh.

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I’m linking up with my lovely friend Leigh Kramer as usual. Did you know she just started a brand new Enneagram Coaching business? I’m SO EXCITED for her and planning to schedule some sessions later this year to figure out more about what my enneagram type means for my spiritual, writing, and mothering journeys.

What about you? What have you been into in July?

A Time to Be Quiet

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In my blog series last week, one of the practices of sustainability that I talked about was taking intentional breaks from your blog. And it’s time for me to do that here.

I’ve talked a little bit here about my struggles with my second book. The truth is, I’d forgotten how much this kind of writing — memoir writing – seems to require from me even as it heals me. It’s long, vulnerable work. It means deleting a lot of perfectly lovely words to get at the One Big Thing beneath all the other things. It means a lot of tears and insecurity and coffee and chocolate.

And what I’ve found is that I’m struggling to do all this while maintaining the blog. Even when I write about less emotionally taxing subjects (like favorite books and blogging practices), the time it requires to put these things out into the Internet is more than I have to give right now.

So, that said, I’m going to be stepping away from the blog for the rest of July and perhaps a bit of August to focus more fully on the book.

I’ll miss working things out in this space over these next few weeks, but I know that what I need in my creative process right now is a little breathing space. A little more quiet.

Even though there won’t be anything new here, there’s a ton to explore in the Archives. Check out the Glossary of Terms to see posts on your favorite (least favorite?) Christian cliches. If you’re looking for some simple ways to embrace acts of social justice in your everyday life, check out some of the brilliant guest posts from the One Small Change Series. Or take a break from my blog altogether and check out my first book instead! It’s way easier to read on the beach than a blog. And that’s exactly where you should be right now. Because July.

I’ll also be around a bit on Twitter and Facebook. Please follow and catch up with me there!

Thanks so much for understanding and for being here, on the other side of these blog posts, encouraging me in so many ways.

See you in a month or so!

What I’m Into – June 2014

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Is anyone else just totally baffled as to where June went?

Truly. It is absolutely terrifying to me, how fast summer is going.

Still, it’s been an incredible month of sunshine, swimming, reading, and resting. We are scratched up, mosquito bitten and a little bit blonder. I am grateful.

What I’m Reading

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I loved everything I read this month. What Alice Forgot is a great, fun summer read, and I think I Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments was fantastic, and she captured the year 1999 perfectlyI finished Daily Rituals: How Artists Workwhich I raved about already here. And I finished my first Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the Worldwhich may have actually changed my life.

What I’m Watching

I had every intention of quitting my re-watching of Desperate Housewives after I got through the first season. But really, who are we kidding? I just started Season 5.

My name is Addie Zierman. I am addicted to TV.

Also this month, I took myself to The Fault in Our Stars and sobbed alone in the theatre for two hours. (Good, cheap therapy.) And I saw the new X-Men movie with Andrew. Summer is for comic book movies.

What I’m Listening to

This month, all the country music. But also Of Monsters and Men, Cat Stevens and Angus & Julia Stone.

One of my favorite bands, Sleeping at Last, is giving away their entire 36-song Yearbook project on Noisetrade for a limited time (July 1 – 14). All the tips that you leave go to the Preemtive Love Coalition, which facilitates life-saving heart surgery for Iraqi children in need. Awesome. (I downloaded it yesterday. I know what I’ll be into for most of July!)

Other Things I’m Into

- Lots and lots of mornings spent at the park

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- Frog catching. (This was the morning that we found the motherlode of frogs and toads in the egress window: SEVENTEEN!)

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- Spring cleaning. I cleaned our insanely messy guest room and play room and went through all the kids’ toys. For kicks, I counted our accumulated tiny animals as I cleaned. (Tiny animals are my kids’ major obsession. Some kids like cars. Some kids like blocks. My kids? All the animals.) Any guesses on how many we had?

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The grand total was 695. And I didn’t look under any couch cushions. So I’m guessing the total is actually somewhere over 700. We have a problem.

- Falling cotton seeds. Summer snow.

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- A spontaneous family getaway to Duluth…

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- …where my five-year-old lost his first tooth. Woah.

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Blog & Writing Stuff

This summer, I’m deep in the process of work on Book 2. As I’ve been thinking deeply about my own struggles with my faith in that draft, I’ve had less energy to do it here. So I featured some of the brilliant words of other writers on the subject this month instead. (The one slightly deep spiritual post I managed this month was over at Deeper Story and was about that rotten phrase, “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?”)

Instead of writing about my usual faith-y topics, I shared some of my favorite books on writing and my favorite literary memoirs and did a week-long series on everything I know about blogging. At the end of the series, many of you shared your own blogs, and I’m looking forward to checking them out over the month of July!

I’m linking up as always with the lovely Leigh Kramer. What have you been into this month?

What Do You Have That You Haven’t Received? [Guest Post]

I’m happy to introduce Brandon Chase here today. Brandon has a new ebook out – The Path of Freedom – which is available free from his website. I’m honored that he’s sharing his thoughts here today. Please join me in welcoming him!

So much of Freedom is realized in apprehending just who we have been set Free to be. Much of the Christian life, and the realization of its Freedom, is receiving what we already have.

Or, this Life of Freedom is becoming who you already are.

Paul’s letters continually reminded his readers, the early Church and believers, who they were in Christ. Often, Paul was addressing a specific issue or problem within a local gathering. But he would never address these head on. Instead, he began with reminding these saints who they were.

He continually edified them to receive what they had – to act like who they really were. We must also continually edify one another in this regard. It is too easy, and too often that we allow the natural, flesh, Self to order our opinion and receipt over our identity. We need each other. We need to remind each other the Truth. This is the essence of “speaking the Truth in Love.” Not a command of judgment, but an invitation to speak Life into one another, that we may be reminded of our worth in Him.

What does it mean to receive? It means to agree by faith with what God has said. There is a chasm of difference between mental, human acknowledgement, and spiritual, eternal agreement or receiving. One can say in their mind and with their mouth that they are a forgiven Son or Daughter of God, and are worthy and loved. But when this moves from the mind into the spirit, is said from the heart, with faith, and is acknowledged as a Testimony of words – receipt has taken place.

I was sitting outside on a cliff overlooking a river a few years ago, alone with God when He said, “Brandon, you are my Son. I love you, and am proud of you. Can you receive that? Can you receive Me?”

It wasn’t until I could say in faith, “Yes! I receive that, and You,” that I tasted the Freedom at hand. The Freedom was there within me. I was already a Son. I was already loved. He was already proud of me. I just hadn’t agreed with it, and Him…yet. When I agreed, by receiving what He had long ago, before time said was True, I received what I already had. Does that make sense? I hope so.

What do you have that you haven’t received?

 

brandon chaseBrandon Chase is a baseball player at heart; a practicing Crossfitter, golfer, hooper and guitarist; fueled by meat, cappuccinos and chocolate. He writes about Life, Love and Church – and how Jesus is all of these – on his blog Zōē Perissos (www.brandonchase.net).

He is the author of the eBook The Path Of Freedom: Few find it. Fewer walk it. Be one of the few. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Marie, and has two daughters McKinley and Delaney. They live in Fort Worth, TX.

You can connect with Brandon on Facebook or Twitter (@ZoePerissos).