Choosing a Book Rhythm That’s Right for You

Well, then. I think one thing we’ve established is that Chatting at the Sky readers really like to talk about books. I loved hearing your advice about which book I should read from my 10 best books I’ve never read list.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

Several of you mentioned how you choose what to read next depends on your mood, your season of life, and state of mind. I couldn’t agree more.

Meema even mentioned she can’t have a fiction and a non-fiction book going at the same time. “I can’t mix them,” she says, “like a kid who won’t allow her food to touch on her plate.” So interesting!

I thought it would be fun to tell you how I decide when to read which books and then ask how you do it in the comments.

Personally, I don’t mind if my books touch (that still kills me, Meema!) and I actually prefer having several books going at once. Instead, what book I pick up depends on the time of day.

morning reads

1. Morning – Reflective or Theological

Sometimes I’ll get up in the 5s before the kiddos and I’ll have lots of time to read. Other times my morning reading only happens once they head off to school. Whether I have five minutes or an hour, I always choose something reflective in the morning, usually devotional, theological, or memoir. (The Bible, Ann Patchett, Eugene Peterson, John O’Donohue, Hannah Whitall Smith).

2. Daytime – Creative or Business

My work hours are from around 8:30 in the morning until 2:30 when the kids get home. Sometimes I will work until 4 or 5 if I have a particular project, but usually those 6 hours in the middle of the day are for writing, email, conference calls, and anything else work-related. Those are also the hours where I’ll throw in some laundry, run an errand or two, workout, and maybe make my bed.

All that to say, I don’t tend to read in the middle of the day, but every now and then I’ll find a pocket of time (maybe while I eat lunch or waiting at the DMV, for example). The type of book I’ll pick up during a weekday is one having to do with writing, marketing, or creativity (Seth Godin, Natalie Goldberg, Steven Pressfield).

3. Evenings, Weekends, and Airplanes – Fiction and Funny Memoir

I have to save fiction and funny memoir for evenings, weekends, or traveling for the simple reason that I suffer from story addiction.

This means my family is neglected and ignored when I get into a book. For the sake of the safety of my children and the well-being of my family life, I need to save the imaginary worlds or hilarious words of others for evenings after dinner (Everyone is fed! You’re all going to be okay without me!), before I go to bed (They’re sleeping!) or when I travel (What? Flying through the air at 500 mph? Who cares! I’m engrossed in a novel!) See how that works? (Kate Morton, Sarah Addison Allen, Tina Fey).

Now. Here’s what happened after I read your comments:

That very night I read the first chapter of Anne of Green Gables outloud with one of my daughters (Notice: Fiction in the evening). We’ve both seen the movie so know what’s coming, but it’s delightful to read together.

circle of quiet

The next morning, I settled in with A Circle of Quiet by Madeliene L’Engle (Notice: Reflective memoir in the morning) as it’s one I’ve been especially wanting to read for a while and it’s also one several of you mentioned on Instagram, saying it changed your life.

Yes, please.

(Speaking of Yes Please, I read Amy Poehler’s memoir a few months ago – I saved that one for evenings and weekends. Notice: Funny memoir).

Anyway, when I sat down to read A Circle of Quiet, I opened it to the first page and this is what was there to greet me:

a circle of quiet

Don’t you love used books! I don’t know if Elaine listened to Mary’s advice and waited to read until things settled down, but I’m learning to stop waiting until life slows down to do things. A reading rhythm helps with that.

While some things in life I can’t control, there are many things I can. My life tends to move at the pace I allow, and let me tell you with my new book releasing in 17 weeks, the pace is quickening, the lists are growing, and the deadlines are landing in my inbox like bang snaps on concrete.

For those of us who tend to think rest, fulfillment, and clarity live just around the corner, we would do well to learn now that Surprise! Life doesn’t actually have corners.

Instead, we create our own stops, our own spaces, our own circles of quiet. One way to do that is to develop a reading rhythm that works for you.

“Often I need to get away completely, if only for a few minutes. My special place is a small brook in a green glade, a circle of quiet from which there is no visible sign of human beings.”

Madeleine L’Engle

Do you have a book-reading rhythm you follow? Tell us in the comments! If you’d like to hear about the books I’m currently reading, I share that list every month in my newsletter. You can receive that monthly letter by signing up here.

The Top 10 Best Books I’ve Never Read

Back in January, I decided to join Anne Bogel (Modern Mrs. Darcy) in her first ever reading challenge. The objective is simple: read 12 books in 12 different categories in 12 months.

The first category was “a book you’ve been meaning to read” so I started to make my list of candidates in my bullet journal.

10 Best Books Never Read

After listing fourteen, I made myself stop. I hadn’t even gotten to “a book from your childhood” or “a book your mom loves” or “a book you should have read in high school.”

As I filled in potential reads in all the categories, I realized how deep the list goes of books I want to read but never have. Good books, classic books even.

Top 10 Best Books I've Never Read

So I thought it would be fun to list the top ten books I’ve never read here and then you can tell me which one to read next. Deal?

Anne of Green Gables

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I know. I’m so ashamed. I’ve seen the movie! But I’ve never read any of the books. This should be the year, right?

Love Does

2. Love Does by Bob Goff

It only released in 2012 so I don’t feel too terribly behind. But it seems like everyone I know has read this book and I love all the quotes people put from it on Instagram. I just haven’t read it yet. Blerg.

 

A Circle of Quiet

3. A Circle Of Quiet – The Crosswicks Journal – Book 1 by Madeleine L’Engle

I adored Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water and have been meaning to read more by her. I read A Wrinkle in Time in middle school but haven’t read any of the four books in The Crosswicks Journal. I found the series at a used book store last year and bought them all but haven’t read any yet.

Celebration of Discipline

4. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

The one time I met Richard Foster, I thought to myself, Now there’s a man who hangs out with Jesus. Actually, I thought Now there’s a man who has an inside joke with Jesus. I saw him first coming up from a wooded path, Bible under his arm, small smile on his face. It looked like he had just shared a sweet joke with the Trinity. I deeply appreciate the ministry Richard started, Renovare. I’ve even had the honor of speaking at one of their retreats. But I’ve never read his most foundational book.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

5. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Here’s another one I’ve been meaning to read for years, even own my own copy I found at the used bookstore. This is one of those books that feels good in your hands. I look forward to reading it.

Eleanor & Park

6. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This one has been on my radar since it came out a few years ago but I’ve not yet read it or anything else by Rainbow Rowell. I want to though, mainly because I love to say her name.

Breath for the Bones

7. Breath for the Bones by Luci Shaw

I heard Luci Shaw speak at Hutchmoot last fall and these words of hers stuck with me: “I tend to write short poems because I believe the less you say about anything the better.” She was Madeleine L’Engle’s best friend and shared a few stories about their friendship. It was an honor to hear her speak, and now it’s time to read one of her books.

The Chronicles of Narnia

8. The Chronicles of Narnia Complete 7 Volume Set by C.S. Lewis

Can I still call myself a Christian if I haven’t read these? I have read the first one (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) (I think). I for sure saw the movie. But I’ve definitely not read the others. It feels wrong to admit this on the Internet. You just unsubscribed from my blog, didn’t you? It’s okay. I understand.

Unknown

9. The Complete Novels of Jane Austen by Jane Austen

Before you develop a heart condition, I promise I have read Pride and Prejudice. Several times. But as for the others (Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park), nope. I’ve not read them. Any suggestions as to which one I shouldn’t miss?

Cold Tangerines

10. Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

I adore Shauna. The only thing is, I’ve never read her books. OH MY GOSH! I love her blog and her writing, I own all of her books and admire them on my shelves. But I’ve not finished any of them yet. What is actually wrong with me?! I think with her writing, I love it so much that I am always saving it. It’s the same reason why I’ve not yet read the last couple of pages of Walking on Water. Because once I finish it, then it’s over. So I’ve started her books but keep saving to finish them. This needs to stop.

I’m stopping at 10 but of course I could list a lifetime worth of more books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t yet. What do you think? Which one should I read next? What is a book you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t yet?

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3 Questions to Help Determine Success

The other day someone asked me a question that, at first glance, seemed like it should have been easy to answer. But when I couldn’t quickly respond, I realized the answer is waiting beneath some layers within me that will take some time to uncover.

redefine success

Here’s the question: How do you define success?

It was asked in the context of my work (writing and releasing books, in particular) but as I’ve thought about how to answer it, I’ve considered many aspects of my life.

I considered all the various ways I’ve measured success in the past:

When I was a student, success meant good grades, graduation, and living on my own.

When I worked as a sign language interpreter, success meant receiving my National Certification.

When John and I were dating and I knew I loved him, success meant marriage.

When our kids were small, I would probably have said success was having them sleep through the night.

It’s an important question to ask yourself but as I’ve thought about the various ways I’ve defined it throughout my life, I realize how tricky it can be to answer.

If I’m not careful, I will measure success based on something outside myself.

When my soul feels overwhelmed I can almost always trace it back to my trying to define success in terms of an outcome I can’t control.

For me, April has come in like a lion roaring: lots of deadlines, a hundred tiny decisions, longings I can’t quite articulate, and several creative ideas that I’m not sure where to channel.

So far this month, I’ve had to confront some of my own limitations, both as a writer and as a person. And while I know that the best place to meet Jesus is at the corner of my longing and my limits, actually standing at that intersection can feel disorienting, especially when I can’t fully discern how he’s going to show up there.

This morning I sat facing the window, palms open on my lap, breathing out the questions and breathing in hope. It’s counterintuitive to sit still when I’m feeling rushed on the inside. But the truth is that stillness is my souls greatest need.

Sifting through longing, activity, and expectation can feel like walking through a jungle, a canopy of leaves overhead, blocking out the sun. It takes real inner work in the form of silence and listening to find the open, sunlit field of my life in Christ.

Success for me is less about an outcome and more about that inner work. It has to be.

I want to base success on an outcome, but to do so betrays my souls deepest longing. And while I know there are times when real metrics have to be used to measure progress and that numbers aren’t the enemy, when my breathing feels shallow and my soul confused, I have to come back to these three questions:

Am I depending on my Father in ways I’ve not had to depend on him before? 

Am I bringing every care into the presence of Christ?

Am I becoming more fully myself?

Today, these are my metrics. For now, this is success.

Bread is the New Hustle

I invited you to procrastinate together with me on Tuesday and you did that so beautifully! You’ll be glad to know I finally got serious about the work and turned in the edits yesterday with a great hoot and holler and a frozen lemonade from Chick-fil-a. And the thing is I don’t even like lemon-y things but the photo made it look so lovely and delicious and celebratory.

So I bought it and drank half and then voxed Holley Gerth and Kendra because they are both people you want to high five when you finish something.

dinner making

Next, I promptly made dinner for the family, convinced the kids that “it’s fun to clean the kitchen!” and sat with John to talk through our weekend plans. Then, I made this list to clear my head.

Master Spring Due

What is actually wrong with me? I couldn’t even enjoy meeting a deadline for 24 hours before I was making a list of all my next deadlines. And it’s one thing if that list was just a list, but it actually kept me up last night, thinking through the timing of things.

This morning I read in Mark 8, about Jesus teaching to the crowd but feeling compassion for the people because “they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance” (Mark 8:2-3).

As if I couldn’t love him any more, reading this reminds me how he pays attention to the particularities of our needs, notices how some of the people were a long way from home and would need to eat before the journey.

How thoughtful and kind.

And then he does his Jesus thing, takes seven loaves and a handful of fish and serves them up like a feast, like a bounty, like a celebration. They eat and are satisfied with baskets left over, men and women laying back on the hillside, bellies full, needs met.

But then Jesus leaves with his disciples, gets into the boat and they realize as he’s talking that they forgot to bring enough bread for the trip. They only have one measly loaf so while Jesus is using bread as a metaphor to remind them to “beware the leaven of Herod” they aren’t paying attention because they are busy mumbling together about how there isn’t enough bread.

We forgot bread! There’s just the one loaf of bread and several of us and we need bread and where is our food going to come from and whatever shall we do because BREAD!

Never mind that Jesus has the power to look at a crumb and feed a nation. Never mind that they had just seen him do that with their very own eyes. Never mind that they didn’t only watch him work that miracle, didn’t merely hand out the bread to the people, but we can only assume they had taken the bread themselves, chewed on the grain, tasted the miracle.

Never mind they were sitting with the Bread of Life in the boat.

bread of life

But instead of rolling his eyes and pushing them all overboard so he could be alone with his sanity, he asks them an interesting question. He reminds them of that one time when he fed 5000 people with five loaves, then asks them how many basket full of broken pieces of bread they had leftover.

They answer, “Twelve.”

Then he reminds them of the meal they just had, when he fed the 4000 people with seven loaves, and asks them how many large baskets full of broken pieces did they pick up.

They answer, “Seven.”

I would have probably said, “Remember how many people I fed!?”

Instead he says, “Remember how much we had leftover?”

He reminds them of the excess.

He reminds them that he didn’t only provide enough, he provided more than enough.

I don’t pretend to know or understand why Jesus did or said many of the things he did and said. I can speculate and guess and use my good Bible exegesis skills I learned from two small years at Bible College.

But I can’t deny here that Jesus was specific about the numbers, about how little they started with and how much they had leftover.

It seems to me his desire was always to move his disciples on to kingdom conversations, but he always had to keep coming back to provision. Are we going to be okay? they seem to always be asking. So he reminds them of the numbers.

Then he answers their question with a question, “Do you not yet understand?”

He’s inviting me into living differently, y’all. He’s inviting and knocking and wooing and I keep looking around distracted for more bread. He’s pointing out the leaven of the Herods of the world, the ones telling me to hurry up and produce and ship, and he’s warning me of how something as small as selfish ambition could ruin the whole batch.

But I can’t hear it because I’m all, Where is the bread! I need me some bread! There isn’t enough. I’m not going to be okay.

But this is the Jesus who had compassion on the crowd because he knew they had a long distance to walk, the Jesus who fed them and then had bread leftover.

Bread was his idea!

Yet, I still feel like it’s my responsibility to remind him that I need to eat. To worry over where the next meal will come from. To point out the lack rather than have faith for the plenty.

I say, “What if You forget I’m hungry, Lord?”

He says, “Why have you forgotten I’m bread?”

And now it begins to come together, why he doesn’t just point out the number of pieces but also points out they were broken pieces.

The excess, the leftovers were baskets filled, not with whole loaves of bread, but with broken pieces. Because the miracle comes at a cost. Why am I always forgetting the point?

He invites broken people to come and feast on broken bread and the excess is a reminder of the miracle.

I won’t stop making lists, I won’t. But I’m desperate to stop shaking them in God’s face, to stop reminding him to meet my need in my way and in my timing, with whole loaves of bread.

This morning, I hear it, the invitation to hold the bread in my hands, to see my day with kingdom eyes, to feast on him, to move forward with the energy that comes from eating the broken pieces. This is My body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.

Let’s Procrastinate Together, Shall We?

top o the morning

Happy Tuesday, friends! I love this sunny morning photo of our son walking to school a few days ago. And it also makes me want to sing “top of the morning to you, ‘disa! You smoothie me ice cold pizza” all day because doesn’t it? Mandisa? Toby Mac anyone?

Well it’s Tuesday so it seems only fitting that my second round of edits for Simply Tuesday are due today. I made it through the first round with Andrea, my editor. She’s the first one to read the words once they’re finished and helps to clean it up so it makes actual sense. She will say big picture type of things like this whole chapter doesn’t make sense or this isn’t anything like what we talked about eight months ago.

simply tuesday edits

Thankfully this time, she didn’t say either one of those things, but we had that first round of am-I-on-the-right-track-with-this-concept-and-narrative-arc edits in January. Once she approved those, the manuscript moved on to the brilliant editors who have the great task of making sure I don’t insult the entire English-speaking world  by telling me “Emily, it’s not relate with it’s relate to.” 

What?! I always say relate with and also that’s one not-so- great thing about blogging is I don’t have an editor to read every blog post and tell me how to use my words right so I’ve developed some terrible habits.

Of course since I have this huge deadline this week, I’m doing things like writing a blog post about edits, rearranged my mantel, and watched John hang shelves. If you’re like me and have a lot of work to do but keep only talking about the work instead of finishing the work, let’s take our cues from Amy, shall we?

“You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. This is what I know.”

Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Editing isn’t nearly as fun as writing (notice how I call writing “fun” only because I’m not technically writing today), but the same rules apply. Doing is the thing. So let’s do the thing, shall we? (I’m talking to myself here).

Except one last thing.

I have started to sift through all of your responses to the Reader Survey you took last week and once I twirl my hair for a while and clean out my closets and count the fibers in my carpet and finally turn these edits in, I can’t wait to read your responses to one question in particular:

“If you and I could hang out for a day, what would you want to do or talk about?”

If you didn’t get a chance to fill out the survey before it closed but want to answer that question in the comments, I’d love to hear.

P.S. To those of you who tried to read the words on my computer screen in the photo above, I love you. You are my people. Amen.

So what are you putting off today? What would we talk about if we could hang out this afternoon instead of doing our work?

Spring 2015 Reader Survey

S-3 copy

Hello kind reader! I’m so thankful you choose to spend a bit of your time here with me at Chatting at the Sky. And while I feel like you know a fair amount about me, I would love to know more about you.

Would you be willing to take a couple of minutes to answer a few questions to help me get to know you better? Your answers will help me know ways I might better serve you in your particular season of life. Thanks so much!

takethesurvey

The Surprising Truth About Finding My Calling

When John and I first brought our twins home from the hospital, I was secretly horrified that the doctors let us take home these tiny baby girls born seven weeks too early. Shouldn’t a responsible grown up be in charge?

3 Surprising Lessons I Learned When Finding My Calling

We didn’t feel capable but we didn’t have time to wait for our feelings to catch up with our reality. There was too much work to do.

When it comes to finding my calling as a writer, I have made several surprising discoveries similar to how I felt as a new parent.

1. A feeling of competency and arrival may never come.

At first I waited for it, then I thought maybe I got this whole calling thing wrong since I still felt so inadequate. Now, I see this can be a gift if I want it to be. I refuse to wait to feel qualified, certified, or professional.

Instead, I’ve given myself permission to work from a small, curious, and willing place. From here, I watch countless brave strugglers doing the work of art around me and I’m happy to be among them.

2. Embracing my limitations is better than fighting them.

There is a temptation to think if I only had more time, energy, money, or talent then I could finally reach my potential. But I’m learning the importance of listening to my limits to see what they might have to teach me.

Instead of holding me back from what I think I should be doing, perhaps they can lead me forward into the work meant just for me.

3. The work I love and choose is still work. 

I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I’m living in step with my calling. Still, as much as I love what I do, it helps to remember that it’s still work. The great writers I admire don’t wake up feeling inspired or breathing out sparkly dust of wisdom and talent.

They wake up needing coffee and a shower just like I do. And then they get to work. Often their process looks like a lot of hair twirling, window staring, and procrastinating. But they don’t give up. They persevere through the boredom, the discouragement, and the distractions to create work that matters.

I may admire and learn from others, but I don’t disrespect their work by romanticizing their process. Work we love is still hard work. It helps me to remember that.

This week my friend Jeff Goins released a free ebook on NoiseTrade about finding your calling. He invited 15 people with different voices and perspectives to answer just one question: What’s one surprising lesson you’ve learned about finding your calling?

This post is my answer to that question as well as my contribution to the ebook. When you download it for free, you can read what Seth Godin, Sarah Mae, Joshua Becker, Bob Goff, and several others had to say.

If you are in a season of longing to figure out your own calling, be sure to check out my most recent book on calling and creativity, A Million Little Ways. You might also enjoy Jeff’s newest book, The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do - coming in March.

The 10 Best Books I Read Last Year

Here are some of my favorite books I read last year. (To get more lists of great books, you can check out Anne Bogel’s post where she shared her favorites and invited others to share theirs.) To be clear, these aren’t books released last year, simply ones I read and enjoyed. For perspective, I only read about 30 books total, so here are my top third in random order:

My Favorite Books of 2014

 

The Antelope in the Living Room

The Antelope in the Living Room

by Melanie Shankle

Melanie’s memoir about motherhood is on my Recommended Reads list and now this one about marriage is a new favorite as well. I don’t read many books that make me laugh which may be why I enjoy Melanie’s writing so very much.

The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson

The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way

by Eugene Peterson

I read this one carefully with a pen and a notebook beside me. Peterson leads the way on an in-depth look at all the ways Jesus is the way, challenging the ways of the modern American church. He explores the ways of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Mary; also Caiaphas, Josephus, and Herod, comparing and contrasting them with the kingdom way of Jesus. As I’ve studied and pondered leaning into my own smallness, this book was a key reference and encouragement for me.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical Thinking

by Joan Didion

This is the first book I read by Joan Didion. Her story has held on and won’t let go. She allows us to crawl inside her grief after her husband suddenly died in front of her. I knew it would be sad, but what I didn’t expect was how difficult it would be to put down. If I remember right, the ending left me feeling slightly empty, but the journey of the book made up for it. I plan to read a second title of hers this year.

The Seven Storey Mountain

The Seven Storey Mountain

by Thomas Merton

Full disclosure, this book took me over a year to finish with lots of stops and starts. It’s the thickest book I read this year (462 pages if you must know) but I read every word and took notes. Since I’m not Catholic, I most likely missed a lot of the important references. But I connected with Merton’s struggle  with self, faith, and vocation and the relatable, honest way he shared it. Stunning writing, thoughtful perspective, surprisingly relevant.

Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts

by Ian Morgan Cron

In the fall I had to drive to Charlotte twice a week for a month (about 2 hours one way). I chose this audio book from the library for company to help me pass the time. It did so much more than that. I actually looked forward to waking up at 4 am for the drive so I could listen to Ian Morgan Cron (who’s voice sounds like the guy who narrates The Wonder Years) tell his story. While my curiosity about his dad being in the CIA was what initially hooked me, his ability to weave a story with threads of grace, memory, forgiveness, and humor is what left a lasting impression.

Where'd You Go Bernadette?

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple

I read this one in a day or so over spring break and it came at just the right time for me. I was in a place where I wanted to say no to all the things, in desperate need of a break. Bernadette was kind, lighthearted company for me in that season. Perhaps it makes the list based more on my experience reading it than the actual content of the book, but really how can you separate the two?

Breathing Room by Leeana Tankersley

 Breathing Room: Letting Go So You Can Fully Live

by Leeana Tankersley

During a time when I really needed some breathing room, I read Leeana’s book. She speaks the kind of soul language I’m always looking for but rarely find, the kind that comes from thoughtful silence, faithful waiting, and long, dark nights. When life feels like an airplane emergency, she comes along and reminds us – put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. I needed that reminder. She is a writer who encourages us to be fully human as we turn to Christ.

The Memoir Project

The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life

by Marion Roach Smith

Not just for writing memoir, this book is for any writer who simply wants to practice their craft. Short, thoughtful, and motivating. I want to read this one every year and recommend it to every writer I know.

Learning to Walk in the Dark

 Learning to Walk in the Dark

by Barbara Brown Taylor

After becoming uncomfortable with the assumption that good things are associated with lightness and evil things are associated with darkness, Barbara Brown Taylor began to study darkness and all the ways God meets us there, when we are unsure and when things are unseen. I checked this one out at the library but after finishing it I promptly added it to my list of books I’d like to own.

511NytpsX4L

Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections

by Macrina Wiederkehr

My spiritual director introduced me to this book. It’s a book of prayers so I haven’t read it all the way through, but I was introduced to it this year and I keep it close by every morning. Her prayers are simple, thoughtful, and poetic.


I could have easily chosen more but since I narrowed it down to 10, I will include these as Honoroble Mentions:

It’s fun to talk about books, isn’t it? If you’d like to see the books I’m currently reading, I share them regularly on The Bench, my monthly newsletter. Sign up here to get the next one in your inbox next Tuesday, January 13.

What was your favorite book last year?

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet in 2015

Over the past year or so, I’ve been listening to the low, rolling hum around the Internet. It comes in as a wave on the shore of the cyber beach every few years, depositing questions and doubt like flotsam after a storm. You’ve heard it, too: the whispered rumor that blogging is dead.

It’s an important conversation for those of us who read and write blogs. It feels a little like that first time we watched The Sixth Sense – wait, he was dead the whole time? How did I not see that?! There’s a little niggling in the back of my mind – Does all this still matter?

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet

Though I know people have been asking the question for years now, 2014 was the first year I began to wonder if they were right. Is it over? Have we been dumped for Instagram and are too stubborn to admit it?

As I’ve been working on this post for over a week now (does that tell you anything about my process? I need blog writing to stay alive! I can’t think fast enough for anything else!) I saw a post Tsh wrote on this very subject in her state of the blog address. I almost considered scratching this half-written post and just telling you to read hers because she says everything so well.

Instead, I will tell you to read hers and read mine, too.

I needed to take the time to work through this in my own way. So I did the opposite of the Internet and took a walk on New Year’s Day, looked up and down and all around and thought about some of these things.

Now I want to think through them with you, okay? Okay.

Regardless of what changes, grievances, or transitions we might need to make, here are some things I know for sure about us (and by us I mean you and me):

We want more connecting and less competing.

We want more laughter and less shame.

We want more love and less fear.

Did I get that right so far?

This January marks the nine year anniversary of Chatting at the Sky. I started quietly writing here  when I was pregnant with our third baby, in the cracks of time I could find while taking care of twin toddlers. I needed an outlet for my scattered brain, a place to put thoughts I knew wouldn’t disappear, and to connect with a few friends who had blogs, too.

the girls 2009 and 2014

Now nine years, three books, and a lot of blog posts later, here we are.

I know a lot has changed in these nine years, both among blogs as a whole and here in this space. I know we aren’t going back to the old days when the comment box was filled with chatter, when you could write something online and know you had a good chance of being heard, and when most of the blog posts you read sounded like real humans wrote them.

With all the noise, we have to work harder than before to remember why we do this.

First, though, I wanted to say this: I’m hopeful about the future for blog writing.

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet

Call me a romantic, but I still think writing on a blog is one of the most important things I do as a writer.

I still think it’s the greatest medium for communicating, for story-telling, for writing through what you think about things.

I still think it’s one of the most lovely outlets for an extraverted introvert like me who loves people but needs a little time to think before I say words to them.

This is where I discovered that I am, in fact, a writer. This is where I work out what I believe. This is where all my books were born and how I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world (the world, I tell you!)

Though it may seem like an oxymoron, consistently writing and reading blogs can offer kind company for our souls and help to encourage intentionality, slowness, and listening.

Here’s why.

Early last month, Steff Green wrote a post on ProBlogger giving examples of how blogging is changing and what you can do about it. This observation of hers stuck out to me:

“With social media platforms becoming the online communication too du jour, and with smartphones and other devices becoming for many the preferred platform, blogs have fallen to the wayside in favour of shorter, punchier messages specifically tailored to hit a reader’s buttons.” – from Is Blogging Dead?

This is one of my biggest motivations to keep writing on a blog.

Continuing to write here at Chatting at the Sky is my soul’s own quiet rebellion against the fast-moving world.

I write because I need room for my soul to breathe. And sometimes I have to write my way into that space.

I need a steady, consistent, and reliable online place that will serve my own soul in this quiet way. I bet you need that, too.

For me, that means embracing the short, punchier forms (because they’re fun and a great way to connect) but not at the expense of the longer-form blog writing, my first writing love.

But that doesn’t mean I plan to party like it’s 2008. I want to move with the changes rather than fight against them.

Here’s what staying sane on the Internet means for me, both as a reader of blogs and a writer of one:

As a reader:

  • Unsubscribe: I’ve unsubscribed from everything except my top, most favorite, can’t-miss blogs. That means I only regularly read less than 10. And it’s delightful.
  • Round Ups: I glance at weekly roundups to see what other writers have found that I’ve missed in various spaces.
  • Fun: Pick the shorter forms out of love and fun, rather than fear of missing out. My favorite is Instagram because 1) I love photos  2) It’s a great way to stay connected to friends and writers alike even though I may not read all their posts 3) It’s fun!
  • Rescue Time: I’ve installed Rescue Time on my computer so I can easily see how much of my time online is productive vs. distracting. Super helpful.
  • Identify panic triggers: When I’m online and feel my soul start to shake on the inside from a low-grade scattered panic, I ask myself why. I don’t have a great solution for this yet (sans shutting off the computer) but I’m starting to pay attention. For those of us who work online, turning the computer off isn’t always an option. So I’m paying attention to the panic triggers.

Those are a few ways I’m practicing sanity in my online reading habits.

When it comes to actually writing online, I started to record some tips that help me but discovered after listing them they felt hollow. Instead, I took some time to really listen to my desire, to the why behind this blog, and what that means for me as a writer. Here’s what came up to the surface:

As a writer:

  • I will tell stories.
  • I will be myself.
  • I will remember it’s “better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self.” (Cyril Connolly)
  • I will refuse to romanticize the writing life.
  • I will write to connect, not compete.
  • I will remember fear is a normal part of the process, but courage gets the final say.
  • I will remember how ego feels pushy and afraid but calling feels kind and free. Most of the time.
  • I will remember people write online for a million little reasons and I will respect them theirs.
  • I will practice writing words I can’t take back.
  • I will refuse to write from a frantic place of hurry.
  • I will be gentle with myself when I choose to hurry anyway.
  • I will be relentlessly helpful to the souls of others.
  • I will write as a kind companion rather than a truth machine.
  • I will let love lead.
  • I will not be a jerk.

Though these are personal to me, perhaps they resonate with you as well. If so, I’ve included them in a simple PDF for you to download or print as you wish: A Manifesto – How to Write on the Internet Without Losing Your Mind. Maybe they’ll help you stay sane on the internet, too.

A Writer's Manifesto How to Write on the Internet Without Losing Your Mind

Blogging is only as dead as you treat it. I plan to have many more years of writing here, of carving out a little space in the corner to sit on a bench and connect with you. So here’s to 2015 – the year we learn to stay sane on the Internet. I hope you’ll continue to join me.

I want to be kind company this year, both for your soul and for mine. Sometimes we forget to be kind to ourselves, don’t we? If this sounds good to you and you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up here to get them delivered directly into your inbox.

If that makes you feel crazy, maybe you’d prefer something a bit more infrequent but equally as encouraging. If so, you can join me on The Bench and receive my once-a-month newsletter (2nd Tuesday of the month).

Both options come with a free copy of my ebook Seven Little Ways to Live Art, sharing one way every day to take a soul breath.

I would love to hear how you’re staying sane on the Internet, both as a reader and a writer. Leave a comment here or join the conversation on Facebook.

Simple Gifts to Encourage the Soul

Simple Gifts for the SoulHere is a collection of some of my favorite things in my house right now. These are things that help my soul breathe, some in more obvious ways than others. But I wanted to share them with you incase you have someone in your life who might enjoy one of these simple gifts. Or maybe that someone is you!

Gifts to Create Space for Souls to Breathe

Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections by Macrina Wiederkehr – My spiritual director reads aloud from this book nearly every time we meet. Macrina’s words have been a kind companion for my soul during this season, including this simple prayer, “O God, help us to believe the truth about ourselves no matter how beautiful it is.”

A bowl from the Goodwill – The easiest gift to find and give, a fifty-cent bow from your favorite thrift shop makes a lovely gift for someone who needs to remember their soul is made to receive from God rather than achieve for God. Hold it with both hands in prayer and remember to ask for daily bread.

Mortar & Stone by Jill Philips – Thoughtful music for anyone who needs to remember hope.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras – Taking photos helps me see. For anyone who wants to take a long walk without the distractions of their iPhone (and its handy camera), this lens makes for a nice extra set of eyes. I’ve used it for over seven years on my old Nikon d80 and love it. For the price you can’t really beat it.

To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue – This book of blessings makes a great gift for a new friend or family member, especially if they are in a time of transition.

Woodwick Candle, Medium, Evening Bonfire – My sister introduced me to these candles. They have a wooden wick so they make crackling sounds when lit. A simple pleasure with a fragrance that fills the house.

Monogram Mugs – I have a weakness for mugs, I do. This one is from Target but I haven’t seen the gold initials there in a month or so. The closest thing I could find are the ones I’ve linked to here from Anthropologie. They are a little fancier than my simple “e” but serve the same purpose.

Soft-bound black journal – Full disclosure, I haven’t used this one yet. But I have 2 of them because I know I’m going to love the soft-bound cover and the graph paper lines. My friend Kendra recommends these and I always love what she recommends.

Uni-ball Signo Impact 207 Pen – These are my favorite pens right now, perfect for morning pages. Make sure they say “impact” or they won’t have the same, er, impact. Trust me on this.

You may also want to check out this list from a few years ago: 10 Free Gifts to Give and Receive. And for the book lovers, here is an on-going list of some of my favorite recommended reads. Happy gifting!

*some affiliate links are included in this post