Weekend Daybook: the what-we-did-this-summer edition

A curated list of what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

I’m happy to be back sharing some of my favorite things. It was a hard and good summer, and we’re celebrating the kindness of God and our community in walking through some hard things. Thank you, too, friends, for your encouragement. I’m grateful

(1) photo from this week

Walking with a friend around the pond at  Grace Farms  in New Canaan, CT.

Walking with a friend around the pond at Grace Farms in New Canaan, CT.

I adore the end-of-summer’s overgrown wildflowers and vegetation. It feels like the entire earth (at least in the Northeastern United States) gave up mowing the lawn in favor of snoozing in a patch of sun. Last week a friend and I drove to one of my favorite spots in Connecticut for a writing day. We managed a little bit of writing, a lot of life-giving conversation, and a sweet ramble across the meadow and around the pond at the always-gorgeous Grace Farms. Along the way we met a robust cricket, comical praying mantis, and debated picking apples off the bulging trees that didn’t belong to us.

This is the way to spend a day in September, friends. I hope you’ll get a similar opportunity this weekend wherever you call home . Here’s some of my favorite good things for your browsing enjoyment.

(2) non-nonsense literary women, I kind of adore but who also intimidate me

  1. The Woman Beside Wendell Berry: The Most Important Fiction Editor Almost No One Has Heard Of via Yes! Magazine | On women’s work, small-town living, and editing Wendell. “I brought in a review, somebody praising my work, and I said, ‘Look at that.’ Tanya said, ‘It’s not going to change a thing around here.’”

  2. Flannery Film from filmmakers Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco and Produced with the support of the Mary Flannery O'Connor trust, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Emory University, and the Georgia College & State University. | We zigzagged through the Deep South on our route from Austin back to Connecticut this summer. Imagine my delight when we realized Milledgeville wasn’t too far off the beaten path!

(3) photos from our tour of
Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, GA

I seem to be especially drawn toward authors I’d be afraid to actually visit in real life. Brian and I were the first ones to arrive and managed a private tour of the home Flannery lived with her mother from 1951 until her early death in 1964 at age 39. When Flannery died from complications of Lupus, her devoted mother left the house untouched. Georgia College (formerly Georgia College for Women), O’Connor’s alma mater, has meticulously recreated the property. I found her bedroom especially meaningful as all of the furniture collected near the doorway to accommodate Flannery’s increasing immobility. Her bed, dresser, desk,, typewriter, and aluminum crutches cluster around a large Bible and simple crucifix. Other than the peacocks, ducks, and chickens wandering the grounds and the visitors who kept company with Flannery and her mother on the screened-in front porch, this bedroom contained O’Connor’s universe. Such a small, tightly-gathered space for the imagined characters that still haunt Flannery O’Connor’s readers today.


(4) helpful resources to ground your days in a meaningful way

September and January. These are the months I feel like I get a second chance to order my days. Here’s some of the resources that are helping me frame my life with intentionality this fall.

  1. Common Rule Fall Reset via The Common Rule | I’ve been reading this book slowly and am grateful for this two-week Scripture-reading plan to help me dig in more fully. The tagline “habits of purpose for an age of distraction”? Yes, please.

  2. My Daily Bookends via Art of Simple | Tsh Oxenreider’s been sharing her morning and evening routines for years and I’m always glad for her reminder. If nothing else, we can all join her in the first thing she does each morning after turning off her (non-phone) alarm.

  3. Start With This Simple Rhythm via The Next Right Thing podcast | Emily Freeman shares a basic structure for her morning that looks and feels the most like my own.

  4. Crafting A Rule of Life | Steve Macchia’s book is the guide given to me as part of my spiritual direction certification process. I’ve been revising my own Rule of Life for the past two years and hope to share it with you in the near future. For now, enjoy browsing through the posts to see different examples from differing people hoping to live by a “well-ordered way”.

(5) excellent articles on the Gospel implications of our daily work

Read this first: More Work Stories: bringing back a favorite for Ordinary Time

Last fall, during the waning weeks of Ordinary Time, I invited a dozen or so friends and acquaintances to share a day in their work-life as a contribution to a weekly written series called “Work Stories.” In all my years inviting stories on diverse subjects ranging from lament to favorite hobbies, I’ve never had an easier time finding willing participants.

As I began to have more volunteers than weeks left in the series, I recognized the benediction I’d inadvertently conferred on each guest. The invitation to present a snapshot of their weekday work life in a space committed to liturgy and sacrament helped the contributors rightly frame their livelihoods as participation in the kingdom. The guest contributors seemed energized by the opportunity to share a bit of their everyday occupational lives, and in turn, told me they’d received a renewed sense of gratitude for the community with which they spend the majority of their lives—their colleagues.

This year again, I’m delighted to share some stories from a few friends who are on the same journey of living out their callings one day at a time. I’ve asked them to give us a one-day snapshot into their work life that will help us see what they know to be true right now about who they are made to be. Some live out their callings in a way that they get paid to do the thing they’re most uniquely suited to be in this world, others work jobs that pay the bills so they are able to pursue those callings. Most are a combination of the two.

Here’s more encouragement to view your work life through the lens of the Gospel:

  1. Our Work, God’s Work by Bill Haley via In the Coracle | “Our work in the world was designed to be and continues to be how God does God’s work in the world.”

  2. Finding Christ in Our Work by Dallas Willard via Renovare | “If one will simply learn from Jesus how to do our work we will find the promise, “I am with you always,” to be the sure basis of abundance of life, whatever the “job.”

  3. A World Without Work? by Steven McMullen via Comment Magazine | “Our true challenge is not to avoid work but to figure out how to do the most good possible as we participate in commercial life.”

  4. Thinking And Writing About Your Work by Nancy Nordenson via The Livelihood Project | You’ve probably heard me reference Nancy Nordenson’s beautiful book, Finding Livelihood (which was recently republished by Metaxu Press). In this post, Nancy offers a free journal download to accompany the book or use it on its own. The guided journal that you can download, print out, and write in offers 18 excellent writing prompts to help you think well about your work life.

  5. Christianity and Labor – Essential Books for a Deeper Understanding via Englewood Review of Books | On Labor Day weekend, ERB shared a list of some very helpful books for Christians that reflect on the virtues of labor and its role in flourishing human societies. Some of the books explore the relationship of Christianity to organized labor, others explore crucial facets of vocation and work. (And here’s a counterbalancing list of books on Sabbath, rest, and recreation.)

(6) photos from our visit to The National Memorial For Peace and Justice

Speaking of books we’ve read with our church friends, Brian and I we detoured into Montgomery, AL to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum (created by Bryan Stevenson’s @eji_org) on our drive from Austin back to Connecticut.

I don’t have words yet for the entire experience yet, except for this: Go.

The emphasis the museum makes on the progression from the slave ship to the auction block to the plantation to the back of the bus to the prison cell underscores everything Bryan Stevenson has spoken and written in an unforgettable, multi-sensory experience. The lynching memorial itself - each metal block representing one COUNTY in the US where lynchings occurred (as recently as 1950) - left us speechless.

May God’s Spirit open our eyes, hearts, minds, hands, and mouths for Peace and Justice.

7 years ago2.jpg

7 years ago

May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

Advent Daybook, 19: O Clavis David (Key of David)

Advent Daybook, 19: O Clavis David (Key of David)

An Advent daybook for these 24 days of prayerful expectation. Join me, won't you?

For an introduction read this post: Advent Daybook explained. You can see previous Advent daybook 2018 posts here.

Look: Religion In Prison, 2002-03, Serge Levy (source)

Listen: “O Holy Night / Hallelujah” from Oh For Joy, David Crowder Band

Read: Isaiah 22:22-23, 9:2-7, Revelation 3:7, 11-12, Matthew 16:13-19

Pray: “O come, O Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.”

Do: Get involved with Equal Justice Initiative (or a similar organization).

Read More

7 quick & flowery takes

What I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) playlist for Spring

Oh my goodness, spring has sprung! Here's some favorite tunes about flowers, birds, rain, and love. Enjoy!

Spring on Spotify


(2) links to celebrate May flowers

  1. 21 Fresh Cut Spring Flower Arrangements and Bouquets: Love these!
  2. All Things New (A Springtime Giveaway): Christie Purifoy makes beauty with words and with flowers, and I follow her blog, newsletter, and all of her Instagram feeds religiously. With the help of a delightful illustrator, Christie's giving a free download (what she calls four pages from the "book of her dreams"). On a related note, read Christie's real-life book, which I found beautiful and inspiring: Roots & Sky: A Journey Home In Four Seasons

"We participate in spring. 

When our hearts are broken, when our eyes are open, we don’t simply wait for spring. We join in. We dig our shovels into the dirt, and we help to release rivers of justice and peace. When the flood finally comes, I like to think we will turn to our Jesus and say, we made things new, didn’t we?" (Christie Purifoy)


(3) podcast episodes I've enjoyed lately

  1. Introducing the On Being Project | On Being: I find these sorts of conversations fascinating, and so helpful in my understanding of what spirituality means in our culture - particularly for those who are younger than me."What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? Who will we be to each other? These questions have been at the heart of On Being from the start — as it grew from a radio project into a thriving public space for delving into the big questions of our lives together."   FYI, you can read some of my thoughts about the gracious, if not altogether orthodox, content of this excellent podcast in this piece I wrote for Think ChristianOn Being with Krista Tippett—and Jesus?
  2. Duplass Brothers On Working Together And Growing Apart: 'We Are Ex-Soulmates' | Fresh Air: When two brothers who love making art and spending time together very, very much they sometimes end up making something that gets our attention. I couldn't help but think of my kids' relationships and creative endeavors as I listened.

  3. Burning For Justice: Exploring the work of...Martín Espada | Poetry Off the Shelf: A couple of months ago I attended a conversation of artists at our former home church in Austin. Our friend Rachel, a poet, read aloud Martín Espada's profound "Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World" for the community of Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty students and six educators lost their lives to a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. I'd been stunned to hear the poem for the first time, and to realize that our church meets once a month in the very same building that Mr. Espada describes in the poem ("Listen to the bells in a town with a flagpole on Main Street, / a rooster weathervane keeping watch atop the Meeting House...") With all of that in mind, I enjoyed hearing more about Martín Espada's life and work in this interview-format episode. The interview doesn't include the Newtown poem, but you can listen to the poet read it here.

(4) farewell photos

Last Saturday, our youngest daughter Natalie made the big move to Austin. She's been living with us for the past year and a half, and we've covered a lot of emotional ground together as she navigated post-high-school life decisions and we settled into our new home and work in Connecticut. She joked a lot that her only friends were all under the age of 8, but the truth is that her work as a babysitter brought her so much joy. It seemed fitting that the crew of kiddos and parents would be our guests at Natalie's farewell party. (Thanks also to the Dominguez Duo for sharing their spectacular backyard with us!) We prayed that these months of participating in the daily lives of children would not be an incidental speed bump on Natalie's journey, but rather a lifetime reminder that children lead us into the kingdom of Jesus. 

Also, there's a couple of photos of Natalie's last day worshiping with us at Church of the Apostles. A sweet congregant caught Natalie and me during the closing song. 

(5) links re: EJI's new lynching memorial

Since reading Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy, I've been following his organization the Equal Justice Initiative. I am moved by the photos and video footage of the new monument the organization spearheaded in Montgomery, Alabama. I can't even imagine what it's feel like to visit in person. Some day I hope to do that. In the meantime, here's a brief list of links related to the work.

  1. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice | EJI's website

  2. New Lynching Memorial Is A Space 'To Talk About All Of That Anguish' | NPR

  3. In Apology For Decades-Old Lynching, Police Chief Aims To 'Interrupt The Past' | NPR

  4. Communion, a Counter-Monument | Missio Alliance ("Communion as a monument against White Supremacy.")

  5. Why Build A Lynching Memorial? | EJI

(6) flowering photos from our town

After dropping Natalie at the airport last weekend, I spent some time trying to capture the beauty of the flowering trees dotting the roadways toward home. These represent two favorite scenes in Southport and in Bridgeport (a couple of blocks from our home.)

When I shared the photos with a friend, she reminded me of this lovely line from one of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's journals. 

Miracles, indeed.

After all, I don’t see why I am always asking
for private, individual, selfish miracles
when every year there are miracles like ... dogwood.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh

(7) blog posts from the archives

2017: S-Town's Limited Understanding of Empathy [sharing at Think Christian today] - My feelings haven't changed about this review one bit. "Yet as Reed gets spun into the story as a character invested in the lives of the people he encounters, his empathy morphs into a voyeuristic pity, one that fails to intervene for the truest good of those he’s encountered."

2016 & 2015: Murphy people updates in a season of Fortunate Events & 7 quick family update takes - We're just said good-bye to one daughter, and are getting ready to welcome one of our kids back home for the summer. Sort of like in 2016. "In the meantime, we're going to soak up as much time together as we can in the coming weeks - drinking morning coffee, packing suitcases, fighting over the bathroom, and thinking deep thoughts. God bless us, every one."

2015: Book Pile - I mentioned last week that I'm way behind in updating my book posts for 2018, and thought it might be a good time to point out the page I've got devoted to everything I've read for the past 12 years as cataloged on the blog. Phew! "When I first started this blog in 2006 one of my goals was to nurture a forum that kept me accountable for the cultural goods I consume."

2013: A poem and a playlist for my dear momma - In honor of Mother's Day, some of the best words and songs I could come up to tell my own mom how much I love her.

2012: Landing on our knees - I've been thinking lately how much my personality dislikes transition. For example, the weeks of the year between seasons when one day is hot and the next cold. Or the part of the day that isn't quite evening but no longer afternoon. I've been thinking about it because I feel like our family has been in a non-stop transition season for about eight years, and it's taken a huge emotional and physical toll. I wouldn't trade any of it, really, but I'm also a bit wrung out. In 2012 when I wrote this post, I was only just beginning to understand. "I could swear I've been holding my breath for 9 months and am just now coming up for air. Gulping in God-beauty, warbling out grateful worship."

2011: Tuesday is for Hospitality: did not our hearts burn within us? - Still my favorite post-resurrection story, and the older I get the more I realize God's invitation to my own calling is embedded in these biblical account. "I love this God who refuses to be pinned down to one method of revelation. This God who knocks Saul off his horse in a blinding light on the Damascus Road is the same God who dimmed Himself, trudging along with the disheartened disciples on the Emmaus Road."

2010: Liturgy of a Laity Lodge retreat [the word, part 2] - Speaking of naming and vocation, this post is calling me louder now than it did eight years ago! "But, of course, this retreat conversation was much more than etymology -- derivations and the like - - it was about ontology, about our is-ness. Naming as soulish, Adamic, dusty work. Naming and being named represents our first God-given task, and, it seems, we've all but lost the instinct to do the job. We're walking around as a great unnamed mass, attaching self-adhesive tags to ourselves like dimestore trinkets, so hungry are we for this ancient rite."

Alex & Bekah.5.jpg

3 years ago!










Alexander & Rebekah got engaged during a private tour of the White House Rose Garden. 

May your week ahead include true, good, and beautiful things, friends!