Weekend Daybook: July edition

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

(1) photo from this month

I love this photo my sister took during our annual Hill Family Vacation at LeTourneau Camp on Canandaigua Lake in NY. Sweet moments.

I love this photo my sister took during our annual Hill Family Vacation at LeTourneau Camp on Canandaigua Lake in NY. Sweet moments.

(2) things I published this month

  1. What I Read January - June, part 1 [from the book pile 2019] (Life’s been a bit upside down lately, and I’m especially grateful for the companionship of good books. Hope you enjoy the micro reviews + publisher blurbs!)

  2. Why Am I Here?”: A Missional Approach to Identity and Vocation (I’m grateful to contribute to the excellent conversation at The Telos Collective and was pleasantly surprised to see it published this week. We live in a culture of workism where people both define themselves by their work and struggle to find its meaning and purpose.)

(3) summer-related blessings and encouragements

  1. Summer Benediction by Malcolm Guite via The Cultivating Project (Short, but oh so sweet.)

  2. Summer Stress and Summer Rest: A Spiritual Director’s Thoughts on Holidays via Kutsu Companions (In a season of intense caregiving, Brian and I are trying to best discern what it means to rest. Anyone else in the same boat?)

  3. Seminary Grads: God’s Name for You Matters More Than Your Masters by W. David O. Taylor via CT , excerpted from Master of God, Beloved of God: My Commencement Speech at Fuller Theological Seminary via Diary of An Arts Pastor (A good word for all of us from our beloved friend, David. “And so, beloved, remember your true name and, as you exercise your Jedi powers of naming the world faithfully and responsibly, carefully and graciously, remind the people of God of their true name, too: the beloved.”)

(4) links about the person I’d vote for if I had to vote today

  1. Mark Charles for President 2020: “Building a nation where ‘We the People’ truly means: All the People” (You can see his campaign announcement here.)

  2. An Independent, Native voice: Mark Charles launches 2020 presidential campaign by Dario Thundercloud via Last Real Indians

  3. Navajo man wants the nation to hear its official apology via CNN

  4. Mark Charles on Reconciliation, Lament, and a Campaign for All the People via Pantsuit Politics

(5) podcast episodes I’ve enjoyed this month

  1. Touching Eternity: A Conversation with Scott Cairns and Malcolm Guite on The Image Podcast (A bit literary geeky, but cozy as a cup of tea.)

  2. Tony Hale on the Creative Life and Process on Fuller Studio's Conversing with Mark Labberton (Is it possible to be a fan of an actor without actually being a fan of any of his shows? That’s me + Tony Hale.)

  3. Episode 32 - The (Beautiful) Reality of Befriending Someone with Down Syndrome on The Lucky Few (A good word for all of us, and especially for families.)

  4. #18 Hell and Heaven on Ask NT Wright Anything (I’m really enjoying the format of this podcast!)

  5. Season 2 | Episode 1: Raising Peacemakers on Preemptive Love’s Love Anyway (A new way to think about what it means to care about our children’s safety.)

(6) posts from the archives

  1. 2017 - In past years, July seems to have been a fruitful writing month for me, at least at Think Christian. These are 3 of my favorite articles I ever wrote for them. Catastrophe’s Refreshingly Ancient Take on Marriage  , Lindy West, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Embracing Our God-Given Bodies , and in July 2015, Instead of Facebook, a book of Faces

  2. 2015 - Monday morning thoughts: dancing bear act, crash helmets and a Doxology (A, hopefully undramatized, stream of conscious meditation about Sunday worship which I try often to recall.)

  3. 2014 - The 14th Annual Epic Family Tradition (It’s 2019 and we’re still managing to keep it going!)

  4. 2012 - Dying the Many Little Deaths of Ordinary Service (Still accurate: “I am a weakling when it comes to everyday service. There's a whole set of psychological reasons -- some rather legitimate -- I could give as rationale. At the end of the day, though, I don't like to do mundane, grubby work. Plain and simple. The purpose for this disclaimer is to say I've only just begun to learn what I'm about to share here, four practices of everyday service.”)

  5. 2010 - "Sometimes we have to change jobs in order to maintain our vocation." -- Eugene Peterson (That year Brian had to lay himself off, and we’ve never been the same since.)

  6. 2009 - Meditation [disciplines of the inner life] (Another epiphany I still find relatable: “God wants to form a Grand Canyon in me and all I want to be is a rain gutter.”)


13 years ago

Hill Family Vacation 2006, Bethany Beach, DE


this year

Hill Family Vacation 2019, Canandaigua Lake, NY

(a bunch of) photos from this year’s Hill Family Vacation

Natalie and my niece Karis spent hours making this video highlight reel of our 19th annual family vacation. It’s kind of epic. (Avenger Endgame fans keep your ears open for the credit score.)

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

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

8 things I learned this summer

Nephews sunset swimming during our annual  Hill family vacation  on Canandaigua Lake, NY.

Nephews sunset swimming during our annual Hill family vacation on Canandaigua Lake, NY.


1. Staycations are a great solution (& Jones Beach was better than I expected). 

Since our kids have begun to leave home and our subsequent move to Connecticut, we've been exploring new rhythms of being together. Our kids are still in that transient stage of college and post-college years so I think we'll be figuring this out for a while. We don't need destiny vacations or travel-brochure excursions; just finding times to be together under one roof for a few days and nights is a major feat! In July we flew our kids to Connecticut to spend a week together, and we had a really, really good time. I'm kind of a fan of staycations anyway (I've noticed some bloggers refer to this practice as being a "hometown tourist") and we've got a long way to go to discover all the wonderful places to enjoy here in Connecticut. 

2. Ice cream stands in Fairfield County & Ferris Acres Creamery in Newtown, CT

We love the good, old-fashioned, seasonal ice cream stands scattered throughout the Northeast, and think we may have found our new favorite, thanks to our friend Amy's advice.

3. Working together with Brian - using our individual gifts and callings - is a dream come true.

In the abundant grace of God, we were invited to facilitate a couple of days of debrief for a group of Mexican and American staff championing students in the small fishing village of Chiquila, Mexico. While they worked in the rugged beauty of rural Mexico all summer, we only went as far as Cancun to meet with them which felt a little bit like cheating. We did our best to see the work through their stories, hearts, and - thanks to the help of a skilled and generous interpreter- their native language.

My heart for the work of Hands Offering Hope grew three times larger. As did my heart for my husband and to the Good Shepherd who kindly leads us to the people and places that make us more like Christ and more like our truest selves. To be able to combine our pastoral, spiritual direction, global community development, and organizational leadership passions and skills was life-giving for us, and, hopefully for those we served. My heart is full - like the liturgy we pray each week - with “gladness and singleness of heart”.

We took very few, and mostly poor photos, but here’s a glimpse.

August.Cancun edited 10.jpg


4. When I most need comfort is often when I'm least able to ask for it.

I've mentioned a few times that this has been an emotionally challenging season and that I'm learning how to navigate it with integrity and gentleness. On a couple of occasions in the past year, especially, I've experienced an intensity of anxiety that I haven't for many years. Brian has walked next to me through these experiences with so much gentleness even when my reflex is to push him away. I've learned that, among other important strategies for caring for my body and soul preventively, what I most need when my anxiety is hitting the fan is physical soothing. Now, rather than the anxiety coming between Brian and me (because often I can't quite tell what's set me off, and sometimes I point it at Brian), I ask him to just give me a hug. That's it. There are a time and a place for me to talk through and reflect on what's bothering me, but it usually isn't in the heat of the moment. This is not revolutionary and maybe the rest of the world has figured this out, but for some reason, it's taken us almost 28 years of marriage to understand the soothing power of a hug.

5. Why we live in Bridgeport, CT (aka, "Who the [flip] goes to Bridgeport?")

After a year renting a house in a more traditional neighborhood in Fairfield, we made the decision last summer to move into an apartment complex in Bridgeport, an area of Fairfield County - which includes nationally-coveted properties in Greenwich and Westport - that is an unconventional choice for several reasons including crime and blight. This move surprised a few of our friends and church community and I've been trying to figure out the best way to explain to myself and others why we made this choice. I'll share more in an upcoming post, but I've been grateful for the people who've asked us questions because each time helps me articulate better to myself why we're glad to live here. 

In related news: Brian and I just discovered an Amazon original series set in Bridgeport and Trumbull, CT. If you don't mind the language, here's a scene that made us laugh out loud: Who the [flip] goes to Bridgeport?!?

6. Voxer is pretty great and so are my sisters.

In the past, I've tried to stay up to date with my sisters lives through Skype sessions, but we find it harder to pick a time that worked for all of us. There's a ten-year age gap between us and our seasons of life are not in sync. My sister Alicia suggested we use the Voxer app and, while I'd used it sporadically with various friends, I didn't quite understand the way it worked. It's been the perfect solution for us to stay in touch with each other in real time. When one of us has a question or a story or an insight we want to share we record a brief (and sometimes not so brief) message on our thread and the then listen and respond as we're able. I need my sisters and value their friendship and insights so this is the perfect solution for us right now. 

7. I can live (for a limited time at least) with two dogs.

When Kendra made plans to spend two months with us this summer, she asked if she could bring her beloved pit/lab, Juliet. Have I mentioned I'm not a pet person? We've had Leo since 2013 and Duchess for about five years before that. That's because I like my husband better when he has a dog. Also, we live in a loft apartment with very few separate spaces and I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have TWO furry, smelly, occasionally raucous creatures in our space. But we gave it a try, and it wasn't too bad. The dogs played together non-stop which was sometimes cute and other times annoying. In the end, I survived and it was totally worth it to have Kendra here with us.


8. Rule of Life is not the end of the world

As part of my training to become certified as a Spiritual Director I've been tasked with writing a Rule of Life. If you've never heard about this practice, developed first in early Christian monastic communities, is a holistic description of the regular, intentional practices we engage to live out our life's calling. As a recovering "to do" list addict, I've spent approximately ten years avoiding the sort of lists that I could never quite match between my ideals and my current realities. This assignment has been hard for me. Really hard. A gentle nudge from my supervisor (and some helpful suggestions from this site) helped me finally buckle down. I'm working with rough draft, hoping to orient myself toward God's invitations for my life rather than forcing outdated ideals on myself. Some of the time this has felt joyous and other times frustrating. My hope is to take God at his word that the work he calls us to is not burdensome and that, in some mysterious way, we can order our lives in the way of Christ's unforced rhythms of grace

I hope you are aware of the rhythms of grace you're being invited into at the start of a new season. I'm looking forward to showing up here again on the blog a couple of times a week - it's part of my Rule of Life!

A July afternoon with my Brother's family on Jones Beach, Long Island. 

A July afternoon with my Brother's family on Jones Beach, Long Island. 

How was your summer? What are your hopes for fall? Read any good books lately?

I love to hear from you! Let me know in a comment or any of the following places:




Peace, friends.



{pretty, happy, funny, real} in a season of abundant celebrations, part 5

| a weekly capturing of contentment in everyday life |

After Christmas, the real party started!  We began welcoming family and friends (about 30 in all!) from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kansas, and Minnesota.  Tracking all the arrivals, departures, transportation and lodging needs was one of the most fun spreadsheets I've ever created! (Yes, I realize how nerdy that makes me sound.) 

The reason for being together was a wedding, but the joy encompassed even more than that.  I know I must be among the world's most fortunate people that I truly LOVE being with my extended family.  Thanks to outrageous generosity by our Christ Church friends and neighbors who helped provide beds, vehicles, and even entire houses, we were able to let the Wedding feasting last a whole week (sort of like the old Jewish customs, maybe?)

Here's a mishmash of a photo diary from our time together - which obviously included a lot of time eating, drinking, talking, squeezing together on couches and in living rooms and around tables.  As more family arrived we took our dear, generous friends up on the use of their rental house for our New Year's Eve party (and, yes, some of us DID swim outside that night - in a heated pool).  We got in bits and pieces of Austin, including a private tour of one of our favorite locations in the whole city, Community First! Village. One of the highlights for our time together was the party game my brother-in-law and sister brought which allowed all ages to participate in hilarious games via a plethora of digital devices. In smaller crews we visited restaurants, parks, movie theaters and, even, San Antonio.  

The entire time was a dream come true for me.  It was a dream come true for my mother, who'd never enjoyed having all 6 of her children and their entire families (4 generations now) in one place before.  Here's the one and only group photo we got of everyone together (during the wedding reception).

I'm really, really sad I didn't get a photo of Brian and his sister and brother who were also here.  We *did* manage to get a photo of the four Murphy cousins, though.

(Here's part 1part 2part 3 and part 4 recapping this season of milestone celebrations for our family.)

| pretty, happy, funny, real |

Have YOU captured any contentment this week? 

 I'd love to hear about it!

| Join in at P,H,F,R to see other wonderful people practicing contentment. |

{pretty, happy, funny, real} there and back again

| a weekly capturing the contentment in everyday life |

It's taken me so long to share photos from our first trip home in the beginning of June that we've been there and back again!  Honestly, we didn't plan to go to the Northeast twice this summer.  Well, first we didn't plan to, and then we hoped to, and then we told ourselves we shouldn't, and then -- on the very first day of the annual Hill Family Vacation -- I was so sad to not be there (for the first time ever in my life) that Brian and I packed suitcases Sunday night and at 4:30 a.m. Monday morning started driving the 27 hour trip in order to rendezvous with the family in Pennsylvania, two days into the vacation. 

There were more reasons in the "Cons" column than the "Pros" when we tried to make this decision like grown-ups.  Among the negatives?  It was too much money to travel cross country twice in one summer, I don't get paid vacation time anymore, and for the first time ever, none of our own kids could join us. So we told ourselves this is how it needs to be sometimes.  And, maybe, it does.  My friend Andrea is moving to Africa at the end of the summer, and probably no matter how homesick she gets she's not going to be able to hop in a car or grab a flight off the continent.  So, maybe it was good that I tried to be willing to give up this annual tradition of together-ness.  

But it's even better that -- in the end -- I didn't have to.  As an added bonus, I also got to have a last chance to see Andrea, too.

| pretty |

road trip scenery (somewhere in central PA)

I am (almost) never happier than during a road trip.  I can stare out the windows for hours.  The Northeast in summer is a beautiful sight.  I kept thinking I should take photos of everything, but -- and I mean this literally -- all the views were so idyllic that I realized I could just find stock images to show you a red barn on a green hill with white clouds and a blue sky.  Or foggy mist covering mountain valley with pine trees.   Or Independence Day fireworks over major league ballpark while crossing bridge under full moon.  I mean, really.  It was that pretty.

| happy |

all the big surprises

Since we didn't even know we were going on this trip ourselves until the last minute it was easy to pull off a few fun surprises.  Among them, we managed a quick stop by to see our favorite summer camp lifeguard as well as my dear friend Andrea (whom I will now forever quote as she came running down the driveway toward me  "Shut! UP!")  

also, all the little people

catching fireflies!

| funny |

1.  My 2-year-old niece prepared for our arrival by inspecting all of the hotel bathroom toilet paper.

2.  We spent some time at an indoor water park and, friends, I have *never* laughed this hard on a water ride.  Ever.  (I've also never been completely underwater inside a chute before...)

3.  What my daughter told me when I tried to record her singing camp songs.  She's always excelled at clear communication

| real |

"In a key event of the American Civil Rights Movement, nine black students enrolled at formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in September 1957, testing a landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The court had mandated that all public schools in the country be integrated “with all deliberate speed” in its decision related to the groundbreaking case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. On September 4, 1957, the first day of classes at Central High, Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas called in the state National Guard to bar the black students’ entry into the school. Later in the month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in federal troops to escort the “Little Rock Nine” into the school, and they started their first full day of classes on September 25." (source)

Little Rock, Arkansas

When we make the trip home we try to see something new to us each time.  Normally, we just try to grin and bear our long drive through Arkansas (see my son's first impression of the state when we drove through on our move in 2011).  We decided it was time to get off an exit and see what better views we might find.  We've also always talked about seeing Little Rock Central High School.  The experience was more profound than I'd expected.  Something about walking on the grounds of a still-active high school and imagining my own children around the same age as the courageous nine teenagers who stared hatred in the face in order to attend high school.  My knees quite literally shook.  I was also struck by the juxtaposition of such a beautiful building housing such a grotesque view of humanity.  

May a beautiful reconciliation spring up from the ground in every place that so much hatred has been planted.  Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. 

| Join in at P,H,F,R to see other wonderful people practicing contentment. |

I belong with you, you belong with me

Another beautiful week for three generations to rest and play together. We sorely missed those who couldn't be with us this year. To put it in the words of my 11-year-old nephew, "People in this family keep disappearing." 

I tried to tell him that's part of family -- the ebb and flow of our lives coming together and apart for seasons of time. Neither one of us was too happy with that answer. 

Still, I am grateful.  

HFV2014 by Slidely Slideshow

"I think it is a very important thing to pray for a vacation that will help year by year to keep the family close together and to make a reality of something to share. It is not just the physical, psychological, and emotional rest that is needed, it is a great help in discovering gaps in our relationships which need mending or real loneliness that is growing because of never having time to talk about certain things or to make discoveries together. To play together in sand, swim together, discover new fish together, hike in the mountains together, read books in strange and new places together, eat strange foods in new surroundings together, bicycle through winding roads together, walk through old city streets together -- whatever it is you like to do gives an atmosphere which will melt away some of the "scratchy places" in your relationships, and which will remove you from some of the ordinary irritations of day-by-day life. But don't expect too much! If you expect perfection, then a vacation can be the most dismally disappointing time of the year."
- p. 195, What Is A Family? by Edith Schaeffer