Have a middle schooler? Work with middle schoolers? Don’t ever want to remember anything about your middle school days? (Well, can’t help you with that last one…unless you want to commiserate.) Middle school is a rough time for everyone. These great books give a look into the life of middle schooler and would be good reads for people surrounded by that age:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio: This book made my best book list from last year, and I can’t recommend it enough. Telling the story of a boy with a face deformity, and how he manages the 5th grade world, it is a great read and shows how kindness can be seen and found in so many different ways.
Graceful by Emily P. Freeman: I read this book as an adult, and knew that it was written for young girls, but gosh…it hit home with me in big ways, and most definitely would hit home with any young girls you are around. Talking through the struggle of trying to be the “good girl” and what God has in store for us instead. Even us big girls could really use this message.
Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt: This sure was a fun and good read. A young boy in middle school who deals thinks his teacher hates him…but really digs into the heart of some middle school stuff, like dysfunctional families, friendship, finding mentors in unlikely places, and the true goodness of people. Definitely one of my favorite books from this year.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt: While this book is about high schoolers instead of middle schoolers, it is still a good read for that age group. The book really delves into family dynamics and how sisters grow, develop, and lose connection over the years. It made me really think about how people communicate, and how I might be missing what people are saying to me.
Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs: One of my favorite Annie F. Downs books, it is written for young girls…but makes a great read for anyone that works with young girls. Talking through issues like self-image, praising God, and loving yourself, Perfectly Unique gives great advice and suggestions on making it through the tough middle school years.
Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay: Once again, not a book about middle schoolers, but it hits on such big things that kids deal with growing up (like loss, pain, fear, tragedy, hope, love, etc.) It does a good job laying out the social dynamics of the school scene and how people who are different try to find their way in it. One of my favorite books from last year as well.
What books do you recommend for someone surrounded by middle schoolers?
In the last edition of Best Friend Friday, I talked about some wonderful, engaging non-fiction reads that I have really enjoyed in the past year. I had a few people ask me for some nonfiction, memoir-type books that are more fun, not so serious…there are so many! Here are four great ones to get you started, if you’re looking for something really fun:
• Food, A Love Story - a great book by a funny comedian. I found myself laughing out loud at this multiple times. I never knew so much talk about food could be so funny and just plain enjoyable.
• As You Wish - If you love the Princess Bride, this is a real treat. The book is written by Westley, and he narrates the audio book as well (many of the characters from the movie also give short audio clips throughout the narration of the book, which is so fun!) It is a great look at how the movie was made, with some really interesting facts and humorous stories.
• Yes Please - This is one of those that everyone seems to know about or read recently….I enjoyed it too. Pohler does an excellent job of being very humorous but also talking about some bigger life issues in a really uplifting way. I really enjoyed the audio book on this one as well.
• Carry On Warrior - Also diving into some tough life issues, this book is a great mix of serious and comedy. I found myself understanding and nodding my head in agreement at many parts, while also laughing out loud numerous times too. Real good read, with the touch of humor you need.
What would you recommend as a fun nonfiction memoir-type read? Have you read any of these?
If you’ve followed along here for a while, or follow me on Instagram, you know that I read lots of books. I often get asked for book recommendations, but whenever I mention a nonfiction book, many people give me the “ewww” face and tell me they aren’t interested.
Some of my favorite reads from this past year have been nonfiction books, and if you haven’t read a nonfiction book in a while, summer is a great time to give it a try. Here are some of my favorites that are easy to read, suspenseful, and extremely interesting:
• Being Mortal: So, if I told you this was a book about death and dying, would you still be interested? Hang with me - it’s very good…a real look into what it is like for the older generation who is facing things like nursing homes, hospice, and upcoming death. Written by a doctor, he questions decisions doctors make and how they talk to older patients in medicine today. Not morbid - instead, very eye-opening.
• The Smartest Kids in the World: I think everyone knows that American students are not scoring as well as many other countries in the educational realm. A journalist looks into why this is, traveling to different places, as she learns about the top-scoring countries. She delves into how and why other countries do so much better than Americans. Fascinating look at our educational system!
• Five Days at Memorial: Anyone who hangs out with me has heard me talk about this book in the past few months. I loved it! Detailing the horrific conditions in a New Orleans hospital after Katrina, and the decision some doctors made to euthanize patients, it read like a mystery novel to me. It’s a tad longer than some, but worth it.
• Just Mercy: A lawyer who works to help those on death row, this book was shocking to me in so many ways. I learned so much about how our legal system works (or can fail to work) in death row incarcerations. It was also a wonderful book about compassion and what one man can do to help another. Really great read.
Have you read any good non-fiction books recently? What would you add to this list?
Fourth of July is always so much fun. We are celebrating this year with lots of inflatable rides, carnival food, and an amazing fireworks show. I just can’t wait.
Naturally, this holiday always reminds me of the word “Freedom” and what it really means in my life. We are so lucky in many ways; we are afforded so many freedoms in our country.
During this 4th of July holiday, I also can’t help but think about the freedoms I am given in Christ. These freedoms are so easy to overlook, and so easy to take for granted…but shouldn’t we be celebrating these Christ-freedoms as well? Sometimes the Christian life can feel so constricting - lots of rules, lots of no-can-dos. But this life is also about such glorious freedom.
Because I am in Christ, I have freedom in:
• Not having to please people all the time
• The ability to let go of so many things the world tells me are important
• Finances - they don’t have to control me
• Being forgiven over and over
• Marriage, as I can understand that 2 broken people are involved
• Being honest and vulnerable with like-minded friends
• Confidence, as I know that there is so much more than what I know now
I need to celebrate my God-given freedoms more often, not just the ones I remember each 4th of July.
May we all celebrate our freedoms long after this July holiday, and choose to rejoice throughout the year in what we have gained as children of God.
I don’t read a ton of Christian fiction (can’t get past a lot of the book covers…why do they all have young women in bonnets?!), but I do read some every year, based on recommendations from friends and family. And, over the years, I have read some great Christian Fiction series that would make for some perfect easy summer reading.
The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson - I recently finished up this series, and I highly recommend it. It’s got the mystical, legendary feel of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, but with an amazing message and story line. You’ll read through these fast! A good family-read too…can’t wait to start with my son!
Chronicles of the Kings by Lynn Austin - This series is just so good. I found myself quickly buying the next book as I just couldn’t wait to keep the story going. It really brings some Old Testatment stories to life in a way that is fun, exciting, and suspenseful. I also found myself really thinking about an aspect of my faith and belief in God at the end of each book, drawing me to the Lord in a different areas - very good indeed.
Mark of the Lion by Francine Rivers - Probably more well-known than some of these other books, this series is excellent. Great historical Christian fiction around the time of the 1st century. It has the love, the betrayal, the death, the gore…good reading.
The Mitford Years by Jan Karon - I am still working my way through this series, so can’t speak for all the books, but the books provide easy and fun reading, perfect for summer. If you like small-town life and detailed character development, you’ll enjoy these funny Mitford folks. They are a tad slower to me, but many people just love them.
What Christian Fiction series would you recommend? Read any of these? If so, what did you think?
For me, summer is a hard time for quiet, alone time with the Lord. There is no consistent schedule provided by school or church programming. Many people take numerous trips or vacations during the summer. I also tend to do quite a bit more, soaking up those long summer days, so I am just not inside as much.
It seems like YEARS ago since I made my New Years Resolutions and set some spiritual goals for the year. Some things have been working okay (some things not at all), but the change in the summer schedule sure doesn’t help my consistency in reading my Bible or praying.
So how do you keep Jesus in summer vacation? How do you find time to spend with the Lord, when your life feels without structure or you’re constantly traveling?
Here are some things I have tried before that could work for you:
1. Just try for a Daily Ritual. I talked about this back in January, but instead of feeling like you have to complete this HUGE list of spiritual accomplishments each day, figure out one thing you can do this summer, that no matter how chaotic your day, it stays consistent. For you, it might be reading a chapter of the Bible before going to sleep. Or, praying a verse for your husband every morning while drinking your coffee. One thing you do each day that doesn’t change.
2. Put your phone to good use. When traveling, I feel like I would have to pack a separate bag for all of my quiet time stuff (Bible, journal, books, concordance, etc.) Because it can feel like a pain, I often leave them at home and put my phone to good use. I will take a picture of the verses I am praying over in my Husband journal. I will use a Bible app on my phone to read through Scripture. I will have a Christian audio book on my Audible app so that I have something to listen to while on the road. My phone ends up helping me stay focused on vacation when I don’t have other resources available.
3. Use your active time as a way to pray. Summer is a natural time to be more active, as lots of people will walk the dog, take a bike ride, or run on the beach. I’ve talked about Prayer Walking before, and using your active time for prayer is a great idea. Out for a bike ride with the family around the neighborhood? Change it into a time to pray for your neighbors. Watching your child play on the playground for the 100th time? Try praying for your child’s different body parts as ways to serve the Lord (his hands to be giving, mouth to be encouraging, head to be wise).
4. Add some good books to your list. I read a lot less during the summer months, but many people read a lot more. If you’re snagging a book to read this summer, try one that is about or points you towards the Lord. You can check out some Christian books I have read this year and last year to get some ideas.
5. Give yourself some grace. I also don't put too much pressure on myself...I am going to miss a few days here and there, and you know what? No big deal. Give yourself a dose of grace!
What ways do you remember Jesus during the summer? Any suggestions for the less structured, care-free summer days?
I talk quite a bit on the blog and on Instagram about what the Lord is teaching me and what I am learning about Him. By doing that, I find that I rarely talk about myself…to the point that I have started receiving some comments and e-mails asking if I will share more about me - I was surprised! This is a great time of year to do that, so here’s some highlights of our life right now:
-I work another job full time. I’ve mentioned quite a bit on the blog about being a working mom and having a heavy work load, but I found out recently that most people thought I was just talking about Glowing Local. Actually, I have a full-time job that is my “main shebang” and run GL on the side.
-My job causes me to move away from home for 3 months. So, what is this job? I work as a director at a Christian summer camp, doing lots of marketing and relational work. I work from home during the year, which allows me to stay home with my son, but during the summer, it’s full on camp, so I move to camp (with my son) for the summer months.
-Summer-time is amazing and rough. I absolutely love my job - I work at the best place with some amazing people and do so, so, so many things I love. What’s not to love about working so that children can have the time of their lives while also learning about Jesus? It’s great. But, it’s also rough - I move away from my husband, my friends, my life, and have very little free time.
-Summer is an unknown road for Glowing Local. This will be the first summer I have had Glowing Local during my camp work. I don’t know what to expect…it’s already been a tough thing to manage this spring as the camp load has picked up immensely! This summer, I’ll still be shipping lots of journals (thanks to the shipping team aka my husband). I have some great blogs planned and plan to still share what I’m learning from the Lord. But, reality is, I have no free time in the summer. I might go days and days without posting something…I just have no idea. So if I do start to slow down quite a bit, that’s why!
-Glowing Local has LOTS of exciting things planned for the fall. I was hoping to debut some new journals this spring, but with the seasonal nature of my work, spring is CRAZY for me. It just didn’t happen. But, come fall, there will be new products, revamp of the Praying for your Husband journal, new resources and more. I get giddy already thinking about where the Lord is leading this company!
I hope this gives you a better idea of what’s going on over here at Glowing Local and what my life is like behind the scenes. My favorite part about starting Glowing Local has been the community of people I have met and interacted with because of this work - I would have NEVER thought I would have “online friends” (and kind of used to make fun of the whole idea), but I’ve truly met some great folks through Glowing Local - the Lord is so good.
Thanks for the continued support, and be prepared for an unknown summer over here!! As Corrie ten Boom said, “never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God” - here’s to that!!