Summer Graces

When you live in the middle of a desert, you grow used to the oven that greets you in the middle of the day. But I will never adjust to having temps over 100 once the sun goes down. I do my best to get out of the house so we aren’t cooped up every day, but it’s still a challenge to keep from going just a little bit crazy.

I do well for pockets of time and then something happens to frustrate me: the cup of water dumps over, the website won’t load, the batteries died, the price changed, or the creative juices won’t flow. I am pretty bad with frustrations. But I’ve found that one of the quickest fixes for my mood is music. It’s an instant way to lower my pressure gauge. Sometimes I turn on kid music and dance with my daughter or blast top 40 radio and run laps in the living room. But the best fix this summer?

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Morgan Harper Nichols – this album is so, so good. My friend Carey pointed me in this direction a few months ago and I find myself listening to it at least once a day. The truth stops me in my tracks. The music is medicine to my soul. Here’s my current favorite off of the album, although I will probably switch to something else tomorrow.

 

 

Cooking through Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around breadthe Table with Recipes has also been aiding my summer sanity. I love me some Shauna Niequist. I feel like we sometimes share the same brain. This book did wonders for challenging my ideas on community and hospitality – as in – a paradigm shift. Some basic observations.

  1. Hospitality is not the same as entertaining.
  2. I want a tribe of people who know which drawer holds my spoons.
  3. There is something sacred that happens around a table if I will simply take the time to notice.

I don’t have the space to give you a full run-down, but know that this has been one of my favorite reads of 2015. I’ve also given away three copies of this book thus far. There’s another sitting in my Amazon shopping cart. The food is good, but I really love rereading my favorite passages and notes as I prepare to cook. I’ve never cooked all the way through any book, so this seemed like a great start. I made salad dressing for the first time. (As a Chopped fanatic, I’m only mildly ashamed to admit this to you.) I purchase almond meal and crafted homemade breadcrumbs. I just purchased new towels to try to make my own bread in the coming weeks. WHO AM I?

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the book:

“I felt within myself the desire to shoo her out, to hide, to keep her from the disorder that is my real, actual life some days. But I took a deep breath, and she sat there listening to me across my dirty coffee table, and we talked about community and family and authenticity. It’s easy to talk about it, and really, really hard sometimes to practice it.

This is why the door stays closed for so many of us, literally and figuratively. One friend promises she’ll start having people over when they finally have money to remodel. Another says she’d be too nervous that people wouldn’t eat the food she made, so she never makes the invitation.

But it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t about performance. You’ll miss the riches moments in life–the sacred moments when we feel God’s grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love–if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door. I know it’s scary, but throw open the door anyway…” – Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

I feel like reading this book pushed me to pursue deeper friendships, especially when it comes to the girlfriends in my small group. We’ve committed to eating together once a month in the coming year. We will meet in a home to break bread, ask the “how are you REALLY doing” questions, and study the word. I have no doubt that this tribe will come out of this experience changed. My people, my tribe – I like how that sounds.

 

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And lastly, I feel like I should tell you that yesterday was pretty much a wash. I struggle daily with balancing my various roles. On the days I get good time in the word, play with my kiddo, and maybe exercise, I feel some guilt about not working. And on the days when I try to make calls or send e-mails while my daughter is awake, I feel guilty about screen time or just not spending time with her. Yesterday I tried to cram way too much into her nap time. I wanted to clean the house, record a podcast, send e-mails, read, and exercise. Sounds like I have 6 hours to work with, right? FALSE. I get on average about an hour and forty-five minutes. At the hour and a half mark I began crying. Do you ever feel like you have so many “I HAVE TO DO THIS” that it’s hard to ever get to the “I WANT TO DO THIS”?

I was still living in that frustration around 7:30pm. My daughter was in bed, my husband left for the gym, and I was gearing up to do a workout DVD in my living room. But I was tired. I was sore. And a dear friend text to say, “What if you just don’t?” So I thought, “Lord, can you take care of me tonight?” I filled my water-glass, took a shower, lit a candle, and then wrapped myself up in clean sheets. I had recently checked out a new book at the library and I was finally giving myself the space to read.

small victories

Enter Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott. I love tender, crass, poetic, thoughtful Annie Lamott. She has eyes open to things I often miss. This quote in particular brought a smile to my tired face.

You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you’re dirty and rattled. Who knew?

The lesson of this summer has been to remember that God loves all of me extravagantly. He cares about my obedience, my service, and the condition of my heart- but He also cares about my body, my soul, and my spirit. He sees my weakness and He promises to match and exceed it with His grace.

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Summer On,

Ginger

 

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I didn’t post anything yesterday. Two years ago I would have agonized over that fact. Little by little I’m learning to accept imperfection. The good girl trapped in me really wants to do EVERYTHING by the rules. Believe it or not, there are not rules for blogging. Last year I made the switch from posting five days a week down to four… and even sometimes down to three. But I had yet to give myself permission to miss posting on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Don’t even ask where that OCD bit came from.

I spent yesterday packing my hospital bag and organizing my house. I’m nine months pregnant and nesting is in full swing. I don’t even have a kid yet and it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything I have planned. So rather than beating myself up for not finishing every task, or for taking time to read over my lunch break, I’m learning just to let go. I’m a much more pleasant version of myself when I’m not stressed or anxious.

All of the progress I’ve made in the past year with my counselor is fueling the other aspects of my life. This self-shamer is leaving guilt at the door and learning to give grace more readily. My mantra…

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28, MSG

 grace

Here’s how I’m practicing grace this summer:

1. The house doesn’t have to be perfect. Invite people into your mess.

2. It’s okay to play hookie every once in a while. I don’t want to miss an appointment or be rude, but sometimes I also just need to tell myself that the world will not stop spinning if I don’t write a blog post.

3. Sometimes we say “yes” to others in order to bless them, even when there’s nothing gain on our end. I will always remember my mom telling me about the shift she made in her thinking about funerals. She doesn’t attend for the person who has passed, instead she attends in order to love on those who are hurting and grieving. There are a lot of things I don’t “feel” like doing – but it’s not always about me, is it?

4. Give the benefit of the doubt to the cashier, waiter, or staff member. We never know what kind of day someone else is having. Atticus Finch will always remind me how “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird) Demonstrating patience is a tangible evidence of grace.

5. Write letters. There’s something so enchanting, exciting, and wonderful about seeing your name on an envelope that does not contain a bill. Perhaps your note might be the perfect picture of grace to someone struggling this week.

6. Daily connect with the Author of Grace. I’m working through a book that I’ve owned for nine years and yet have never actually read. I needed a workbook so I pulled Soul Feast by Marjorie J. Thompson off my shelf. I’m only in the second chapter but this book is getting highlighted quite a bit. This section is sticking with me today:

“Spiritual disciplines are like garden tools. The best spade and hoe in the world cannot guarantee a good crop. They only make it more likely that growth will be unobstructed. They mystery of maturation lies in the heart of the seed, and the outcome of planting depends largely on the vagaries of weather. Still, tools are important in helping to ensure that planted seeds will bear fruit. Tools can remove stones and roots, aerate the soil, weed and water the garden.

Disciplines like prayer, scriptural reflection, and hospitality have the character of garden tools. They help keep the soil of our love clear of obstruction. They keep us open to the mysterious work of grace in our heart and our world. They enable us not only to receive but to respond to God’s love, which in turn yields the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.” (Marjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast)

I know the list isn’t long, so feel free to suggest some more. This is just what came to mind at the moment. I’m sure I will be seeking more grace in the coming weeks and months.

Following,
Ginger

And suddenly, it’s time for Fireworks!

Happy Summer!

Thank you so much for your patience during June. I appreciate your answers and candor to a month full of questions. I feel like I was able to take all the energy I pour into the blog to finally finish up a manuscript that I’ve been working on for almost two years! Hopefully I will have more news on that front in the coming weeks and months. But in the meantime… WHEW.

We are going to get back into a routine soon, but I’m treating today like a phone call with a close friend. So… Hey, Friend! Thanks so much for calling, things are good. Yeah, wow, where to start? Well…

1.) Aside from focused writing, this has been such an exciting month! Engagements, birth announcements, new jobs, travels, volunteer opportunities, growing community, adoption news, spiritual journeys, and emotional breakthroughs – I feel like my circle of friends and family has had so many things to rejoice about. PRAISE THE LORD!

2.) I spent the first few weeks of my writing project working at the local library. I loved the atmosphere and found myself bringing home way too many new books to read at the end of the day. It was so nice to finally have some fun reads to mix in with my usual serious reading. (My favorite new read was “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen Lee Billon!)

3.) On top of some Ireland travel guides, travel memoirs, and foodie books, I also brought home several cookbooks. My husband and I love to cook together. We especially enjoy tackling complex Italian cuisine. We braved homemade fig and prosciutto ravioli, pizzas, orecchiette, and roasted onion risotto. It’s been a good day in the Ciminello house when you see two aprons draped over the counter and flour everywhere.

4.) To feed our appetite for cooking, we’ve now become slightly addicted to cooking shows. Anyone with me? I feel like I can’t get enough of them. I can do without the ones full of drama – just show me how to combine ingredients!

5.) I’m going to a counselor for the first time at age 30. I’ve wanted to go for years and now I can honestly say that counseling has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. Seriously, I look forward to the one hour with my counselor the way some people anticipate a new movie release. I love it and feel as though we are making some awesome progress.

6.) I’m continuing to read and treasure a book of Puritan Prayers that my friend Becca gave me for my 28th birthday. “The Valley of Vision” is part of my daily read and I love starting my day with the prayers. If you’ve never heard of the book be sure and check it out!

7.) I know it’s really hot wherever you live. It’s probably more humid in your state than here, but can I just say that 112 degrees is miserable no matter what? Remind me again why anyone goes outside in Arizona in the summer…

8.) I received a great question from a friend regarding the fear of being left behind when your friends move into new seasons of life. I’m really looking forward to addressing it this week or next on the blog. I’m planning out the next month, so if you have a “Dear Ginger” question that you’d like to have answered, be sure to send it my way soon!

9.) Just one last group of questions, I promise! What’s your: favorite summer read thus far, favorite cooking show, or 4th of July plans?

10.) I’m excited to be back, to share my heart and continue to hear from you.

Happy July, my friends!

Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Summer Reading

I’m not actually going on a vacation this summer, so there’s no time set aside for more reading than usual- but it just feels right to stack up the books and make a goal. Jordy Liz posted her pic this week and inspired me to do the same. Here’s my list, in no particular order.

The non-fiction titles:

1. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller: “Facing the complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God.”

2. God’s Story, Your Story by Max Lucado: “When His becomes yours.”

3. Under The Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken: “A sequel to A Severe Mercy.” (*A Severe Mercy is one of my fav books of all time!)

4. Worldview Conversations by Stanley J. Ward: “How to share your faith & keep your friends.”

5. Breath for the Bones by Luci Shaw: “Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on creativity and faith.”

6. Love Does by Bob Goff: “Discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world.”

7. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp: “A dare to live fully right where you are.”

8. The Well by Mark Hall: “Why are so many still thirsty?”

I have to keep a steady diet of non-fiction… otherwise fiction would keep me from having a functional life! During college I would spend my breaks reading through entire series lying on a couch and soaking in stories. But for a treat, here are my few pieces of fiction for the road:

9. The Arabian Nights: “Sometimes called The Thousand And One Nights, is the title of a collection of fanciful Oriental tales first brought to the notice of English readers in 1704, by Antoine Galland, Professor of Arabic in the Royal College of Paris.”

10. Hole In My Life by Jack Gantos: “A memoir, by turns harrowing and hilarious, about a huge mistake.” (-Miami Herald)

That’s the list, but I’m sure it will grow with each passing day.

And now I’m curious. What’s on your nightstand, dresser, or list for this summer? Do tell!

Happy Friday,
Ginger