I’m learning to pause at the end of each month to reflect on a few questions, to look back and make a note of just a tiny sampling of God’s goodness to me.
1. Where did you see God in July?
I love sunflowers. Something about them makes me smile. I have a permanent one on my patio that, while not real, is uplifting. My garden produced sunflowers this summer. It took multiple plantings of seeds and protecting the flowers from critters, but I was rewarded with a few beautiful sunny faces. In July, we saw a Van Gogh exhibit. Van Gogh painted a series of sunflowers. To the painter, yellow was an expression of joy and contentment. Van Gogh also wrote that his painting represented gratitude. I echo Van Gogh’s sentiment – the sunflower turns its face entirely to the light as if in worship to the Creator – in joyful thanksgiving! May my heart, too, be lifted in thanksgiving!
2. What’s creating noise in your head and heart this month?
I have resisted reading about the Enneagram for a long time, but I have spent more time reading, digesting, thinking, and comparing tests in the last few weeks. It’s not that I don’t know with what number I identify – that was easy. I relate to descriptions of fives. On the most recent Myers-Briggs type test, I scored INFJ. Typical lists include having a measured amount of energy, being a good listener, being creative at problem-solving. I regret it when I over-extend myself; I need time alone – that seems to be increasing with age!
What’s interesting to learn is that people who identify as INFJ tend to be the most social of introverts. A friend recently told me she thought I was a high-functioning introvert, and I laughed. I am drained in social situations that require small talk. And in larger groups, I tend to hang back, observe, and feel a bit awkward. But I do seek out friends, people with whom I can relate. I desire to be known and understood.
And that’s the draw in studying personality tests – being understood, and understanding those close to you.
3. What is one word to describe what you hope for as we move into August?
I am thinking about the word “purpose.” I tend to operate on the school year schedule; after so many years in the classroom, that’s a tough habit to break. I see teachers setting up their classrooms, parents shopping for supplies. And this preparation reminds me that I have a different purpose in this season of life than in previous ones. As I look forward to August, I eagerly anticipate God helping me to see how He wants to work out His purposes in my life this fall. I’m excited about His plans!
In July, I went on a search for theology written by women. I bought six books – which blew my book budget for sure! First I read, Hannah Anderson’s Made for More!
“The paradigm is simple: God intends to reflect His identity through your identity. What He is, you will become. He is holy; you must be holy. He loves, so you must love. He forgives, so you must forgive. … They are not demands; they are His promises—promises that He is fulfilling through Jesus Christ. He promises that as we center our identity on Him and live lives dependent on His nature, He will live in us. His promise that He will be a well of life, bubbling up inside of us, overflowing to life for all around us. His promise that He will give us the strength to both will and do His good pleasure. His promise that through Him, we will finally be the image-bearers we were meant to be. That through Him, we will finally, fully be human.”
I didn’t read all six books yet, so I’m sure I’ll mention them over the next few months as I dig in. I plan to read Nancy Guthrie’s book, Even Better Than Eden, next. She says about her book, “Every chapter traces a theme that runs from Genesis to Revelation and revealing an aspect of the excellencies and superiorities of the new heaven and the new earth … superior not only to life in this sin-affected world we live in now but superior even to what Adam and Eve experienced in the original Eden.”
“There’s … a story, a story that is found in the pages of the Bible—from the book of Genesis through the book of Revelation—that shapes and defines where I came from, why I am the way I am, what my life is like day to day, and what is ahead for me in the future. This story explains my deepest joys as well as the empty places where contentment can be elusive. This story explains my drive to be somebody and my sensitivity to feeling like a nobody. It explains what makes me cry and why I can laugh. This story explains my desire to look good, my craving for the good life, my longing for home and security, and much more. …And whether you know it or not, this same grand story—the story found in the sixty-six books of the Bible—shapes the world you live in, who you are, and what you want also. That’s why you and I need to know this story.”
I have two other books in my stack, Mary Wiley’s Everyday Theology: What you believe matters and Ruth Chou Simons, Beholding and Becoming, that I may read alongside Guthrie’s book. Beholding and Becoming is a beautiful book – you might be familiar with Simons’ watercolors! She is new to me, and I am having fun looking for her work online, wanting to choose a print for a wall in my house. Her book is gorgeous, and the text is beautiful as well. It looks like her book works well as a devotional – short chapters, first examining “beholding” and then applying to “becoming!”
Project – Sentence Prayers
Praying can take many forms. Liturgical prayers are prayers prayed responsively in public. I don’t attend a church that practices liturgy regularly, but I love the classical feel of liturgical praying. A book that speaks well to my heart is Every Moment Holy, a book of modern liturgical prayers for specific events in our everyday lives. One of my favorites from this book is a liturgy for the ritual of morning coffee! If you like to read prayers written by others and enjoy the poetry and rhythm of liturgy, this is an excellent companion to your devotional life!
Breath prayers are another form of praying – I see them mentioned often. One IGer I follow did a week-long series on breath prayers last week. I highly recommend … check out her thoughts and instruction!
As I have been reading the Psalms this week, I started jotting down sentence prayers. Maybe you would find these helpful! I have 31 so far, enough to pray one a day for a month. Typically, when using sentence prayers, you choose one and pray it often during the day. Since it is only one sentence it is easy to bring to memory throughout the day. You can even jot a sentence prayer on an index card and place it in a spot you often see during the day to remind you to pray. Here are the ones I am praying this month –
- List – 1 – 31 sentence prayers (black & white)
- List – 1 – 31 sentence prayers (color background)
- Printable cards – 1 – 31 sentence prayers
That wraps up thoughts about July. If you don’t already follow Emily P. Freeman, I found her late summer reflection amazingly poetic, artistic, and encouraging! Check out her work! She offers these questions to ponder as summer begins to fade away:
- What gifts of summer have you unwrapped?
- What mirror is summertime holding up for you?
- What do you see when you gaze into your own reflection?
- What do you miss as you move into an unknown future?
- What are you glad to leave behind?
Maybe in a future reflective post, I will attempt those questions – ha!