How Our Social Circles Shape our Identity

In our earliest days, all of our communities– our circles of influence– are chosen for us.

Our families, churches, schools, neighborhoods.  All chosen by those responsible for our lives.

But, the day comes–on the playground, in the lunchroom– when we start to build our own communities.  To choose the people we tell our secrets to.  To forge friendships and gather tribes.

This happens in the context of the universe that was already predetermined.  But, the process has begun.  Some kids are friends and some are not.

We begin to choose groups with common interests:  band, soccer, drama, chess club, youth group.  Now we are with people who have similar gifts, goals or passions.  We share time pursuing activities that we are mutually interested in.

Belonging to a group shapes our identity, and in turn, our identity shapes the group.

We jockey for position, for a pecking order, for our role in the group.

Someday we will leave that circle.  But the memory of that group and the part we played in it becomes an integral part of ourselves.

Eventually, we move on as autonomous adults who choose the communities they belong to.  At least, most of them.  You might not choose to be a prisoner or a widow, but you choose your church and job and spouse.  You choose book club or AA or Mary Kay.

This is one of the many reasons why family reunions and schools reunions are so important.  Our identity is formed by the communities we didn’t choose as well as the ones we did.

The better we understand what shaped us, the better choices we can make in choosing and creating the communities of our present and future.

5 Can’t Miss Books for Introverts

Understanding introversion changes the game.

Books filled with aha moments deserve a special place on the shelves.

These are the ones.

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Reading Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert Advantage was the first time I heard the term “phone phobia”. It had a name. It was a real thing. And other people had it. I can’t tell you how freeing that was.

I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t defective. I was an introvert. A very normal introvert with all the normal challenges.

It made a huge difference in my mindset.

The very name of the book and the whole tone put introversion in a new light. It highlighted the upside. It pointed out the strengths. Yes, it showed the advantage.
I was able to embrace my quirks in a new way, and actually come to appreciate them.

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Susan Cain’s Quiet has quickly become a classic on introverts, with good reason.

Another positive look at introversion and the benefits for individuals and society as a whole.

“At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society. “– Goodreads

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Even though Richard Swenson’s Margin doesn’t address Introverts directly, these concepts are key for introverts to be able to manage their lives.

Swenson deals with the need to build margin into four important areas of life:  time, finances, physical energy and emotional energy.

Before reading Margin, I didn’t realize that emotional energy was a finite resource– one that could be conserved and protected.  Game changer.

For introverts, social energy is intricately tied to physical energy. When one is depleted, the other is depleted. Recharge time becomes imperative.

One of the best ways for introverts to recharge is by reading.

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Which brings me to Anne Bogel’s book, I’d Rather Be Reading.

Bookish kindred spirits know exactly what Anne is talking about when she mentions reading under the blanket with a flashlight and staying up till 2 am to finish a book because you have to find out what happens next.

For the introvert, living vicariously through the lives of the characters you’re reading about replenishes the social, emotional and physical energy that’s been depleted.

Without the further drain of social interaction, the introvert can recharge the batteries and be ready for the world again.

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Lauren Sapala’s The INFJ Writer was full of aha moments for me. I don’t know how many INFJ writers there are in the world, but she really nailed it.  She also spends time in the book discussing the INFP writer, as well as the other intuitive types.

Developing a thick skin isn’t really an option for the INFJ. Better to protect the creative process and only show your work to sympathetic souls until the process is essentially done. Then the critics can have at it.

She talks about how she quit writing for a period of years after a creative writing class in college devastated her. But, without writing in her life, essentially her soul began to shrivel.

When she took it up again (after a round of AA meetings proved helpful), she found a non-judgemental group that allowed her to create without attacks, criticism or opinion.

This fed her soul and she was able to thrive in life again with writing as the outlet she needed.

I can identify with all of that.  Well, everything but the AA meetings.


Other book lists you might like:

Love Stories You Feel Good Recommending

Awesome Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love


Five Minute Friday: Crowd

Happy Friday!

I’m thankful for some cooler temps, for incremental changes and hope for the future.  How about you?

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community.


What do you do when you don’t want to go along with the crowd?

When you don’t agree and think they’ve been deceived?

How do you find a way to engage? A compassionate way. A grace-filled way.

People don’t want to pry their fingers loose from deeply held beliefs, even when they are irrational.

So, how do you start the conversation?

How do you foster openness and receptivity?

How do you express your convictions to a hostile crowd?

Does logic matter or is it just an emotional decision?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know I’m looking for a way to get my foot in the door.

Somehow, there has to be a way to engage. Somewhere, there is an answer.


When you juggle glass balls and rubber balls

Life is a juggling act.  The trick is figuring out which balls are glass and which ones are rubber.  

Identifying our top priorities is critical to life success.

To use a parallel metaphor, the classic illustration of putting the big rocks in first has to do with a jar. If you fill your jar with pebbles and sand first, you won’t be able to fit the big rocks in. If you put the big rocks in first, then the pebbles and sand and water will fill in all the cracks and you accomplish more with your life than when you’re just chasing all the little things and ignoring the most important priorities.

Putting in the big rocks means choosing to prioritize the glass balls. Making everything else fit into the smaller cracks.

So, if you’re going to avoid overwhelm, you’re going to have to assign your priorities and make peace with them. That means if you slip up on something else, you extend grace to yourself. You keep your focus where it needs to be. On the most important things.

Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Amy Lynn Andrews in Tell Your Time talk about organizing your life around roles.

This is one way to identify which of your balls are glass and which are rubber. In general, your relationships, especially family, are going to be glass. Work is generally rubber, meaning if you drop a ball at work, or something slips through the cracks, it will bounce back. You can make apologies, clean up the messes and keep going.

Prioritizing your important tasks helps you fight the urge to always be a tyrant to the urgent. Even prioritizing your relationships isn’t enough, though. As well as quality time, you also have to be doing the right things with your important relationships.

So many people get stuck in life. They keep going in circles making the same mistakes over and over again.

It takes some down time to identify priorities.  It takes some quiet reflection and some hard mental work.  Who can do that when you’re overwhelmed?  But, it still needs to happen.  Fight for it.  It’s totally worth it.


Five Minute Friday: Rain

Happy Friday!

It’s been an overcast, drippy day here in northern Indiana.

Perfect for thinking about Kate’s word prompt:  Rain.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community.


Would we ever choose the rain, if it were up to us?

Wouldn’t we always choose sunny days?

And, yet, God knows we need the rain for growth.

It’s essential. To have cloudy, overcast days. To have the storms in our lives, even the ones that do damage.

No, we wouldn’t choose them.

Sometimes we have to ride them out. Sometimes we cry out to the One in Control, “Please still the wind and the waves.” Sometimes He does.

Other times He holds us, sustaining us through the worst of it.

We know the rain is essential, even when we don’t choose it.


Feeling Overwhelmed? Time Management for Busy People

At the core of a rushed life sits a tenacious belief that just isn’t true:

We don’t have enough time.

The truth is we DO have enough time.

We have enough time to complete our mission on this planet.

If there’s too much on the list to be completed in 168 hours a week, maybe we need to scratch something off the list.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

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Amy Lynn Andrews has a great little ebook on time management called Tell Your Time.

It does the job that some longer and larger books aren’t able to do.

You effectively set up a time budget, and tell your time where to go, just as you would tell your money where to go.

It presents a system of time management that is centered around your the roles you have in life:  parent, spouse, employee.

You prioritize your time by assigning tasks to your roles.

In this way, you time is spent in the way you pre-determine, rather than frittered away, or spent mindlessly or without focus.

The principle of big rocks applies here.

You need to first put in the big rocks of your time and fit in lesser priorities (small rocks, sand and water) in the cracks around.

Being able to handle your schedule is one of the major victories in conquering overwhelm. Deciding ahead of time what you can delete or delegate makes your schedule and responsibilities manageable.

Maybe we need to pry our fingers off, one by one and let go of that lie that there’s not enough time.

We don’t have to live rushed.

We can breathe deeply. We can live slowly. We can live fully.

Five Minute Friday: Rush

We’re finally pulling out of our busiest season at the store.  I’m grateful for the busyness.  I’m grateful that we’re pulling out.

We’re gearing up for a church labor day party at our house on Sunday.  There’s comfort in annual traditions, knowing what to expect.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community to write full speed for five minutes on the word prompt rush.



Stress. Hustle. Deadlines.

Time crunch. Overwhelm. Too much to do.

Running late. Frustrated. Short temper. Blow a gasket.

At the core of a rushed life sits a tenacious belief that just isn’t true:

We don’t have enough time.

The truth is we DO have enough time.

We have enough time to complete our mission on this planet.

If there’s too much on the list to be completed in 168 hours a week, maybe we need to scratch something off the list.

If we waltz by God-ordained interruptions, maybe we lived too hurried.

Maybe we’re out of step with the Spirit.

Maybe we need to pry our fingers off, one by one and let go of that lie that there’s not enough time.

We don’t have to live rushed.

We can breathe deeply. We can live slowly. We can live fully.


Are you in a season of personal evaluation?  Is a young person in your life unsure about their future?  Try asking the question, How do you want to spend your days?

How Do You Want to Spend Your Days?

Maybe because my youngest is starting college.  Maybe because I’ve been wrestling with this concept for the past decade.  Maybe because I’d rather philosophize than do most things.

Whatever the reason, I find this question rattling around in my head since I found it on Amy Lynn Andrew’s blog:

How do you want to spend your days?

It’s a great question for the young person looking at educational options.  It’s a great question for someone in transition re-evaluating their life.

It reveals a deep insight to ask this question first and work backwards from there.

What is your ideal life? What is the dream life that you want for yourself? What do you want your legacy to be? What is the meaning and purpose of your life? What is the mission of your life?

This is really at the heart of creating your best life.

Choosing the path that allows you the freedom to spend your days doing what you love.

How do you want to spend your days?

Do you want to work inside or outside?  Do you want to shower before work or after?  Do you want to work with your hands or with your mind?  Do you want to work with people or be alone?

Do you want to do creative work or maintenance work or organizing work or work with numbers?  Do you want to teach or clean or sell or counsel or diagnose or research?

Do you want structured work hours or do you want flexible work hours?

Do you want to work for a huge corporation, a small business or be a soloprenuer?

Do you want to work with children or young people or adults?

Do you want to help the disadvantaged or the gifted?

What have people told you that you’re good at?

What are you doing when you totally lose track of time and miss meals?

As the old adage says, figure out how to get paid for doing what you love and you’ll never work a day of your life.

What gets you out of bed in the mornings?

What is your bigger why?

How do you want to spend your days?

Then the next question follows, how do you get from here to there?

What training will you need?  What experience?  Who are the experts that can show you the way?  What steps do you need to take to get you from where you are to where you want to be?

Are you doing what you need to do today to be where you want to be tomorrow?

I think it’s valuable to invest some mental energy into these questions.

I think it’s key to creating your best life.

How do you get from where you are to where you want to be?

What are the steps from here to there?

Because, the fact of the matter is, we get stuck.

We settle. We end up living a life that we don’t love.

Of course, often life doesn’t end up the way we planned. Illness, accident, losing loved ones. We can get a curve ball that wasn’t on the radar.

Then you have to regroup.

Do some more soul searching. Spend time in prayer and evaluation.

I’ve been hearing lately that you shouldn’t necessarily be following your passion. Some are saying you should follow your curiosity. Because that is what will continue to motivate you after the passion has cooled.

Getting from here to there isn’t necessarily going to be easy. It might require some education. It might require some crazy hard work. It might require aprenticeship or internship or sitting at the feet of the experts. It might involve some false starts. It might involve new friendships, taking initiative, getting out of your comfort zone. It might take raw courage. It might take blood, sweat and tears. It might take failure. Falling down and getting up. Again and again.

You can’t steer a parked car. Move forward and then alter your course if you need to.



Five Minute Friday: Loved

The summer is over.  At least, school is back in session.  And for the first time in more than twenty years, we’re not sending a kid back to school.

With two in college this year and grandparenting on the horizon, we step into a new phase of life.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minue Friday Community, today’s word is loved.


One of the deepest longings of our hearts is the need to be loved.

It gnaws at the soul, it follows us like a lonely puppy, it skirts the edges of our consciousness like  craving for chocolate.

When we live from the solid and secure foundation that we are loved, life is good.

When we question that security, worry creeps in.  And fear and uncertainty.

What a gift to give to a child:  eighteen years of knowing she’s loved.

Our (stolen) philosophy of parenting boils down to two questions a child is asking.  Am I loved?  Can I get my own way?

The answer to the first one is Yes.  Emphatically.  Without question.

The answer to the second one is No.  Unless it’s good for you.  And the timing’s right.  And your work is done.

What a wonderful privilege and opportunity and responsibility:  to demonstrate to a child that’s he’s loved.


Looking for Love stories you can feel good recommending?

Love stories you can feel good recommending

Sometimes you just need a good love story.  Sometimes you need to give or pick a good love story for someone else.  Here’s ten that you can feel good about recommending.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

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Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freeman

“A moving love story set in the Canadian wilderness, Mrs. Mike is a classic tale that has enchanted millions of readers worldwide. It brings the fierce, stunning landscape of the Great North to life—and tenderly evokes the love that blossoms between Sergeant Mike Flannigan and beautiful young Katherine Mary O’Fallon.”  — Goodreads

One of my all time favorites. All the feels.

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Christy by Catherine Marshall

“The train taking nineteen-year-old teacher Christy Huddleston from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, might as well be transporting her to another world. The Smoky Mountain community of Cutter Gap feels suspended in time, trapped by poverty, superstitions, and century-old traditions.

But as Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home, some see her — and her one-room school — as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove.”  –Goodreads

Catherine Marshall takes her mother’s own incredible story and tells it superbly.


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Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austen

“‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ Thus memorably begins Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice, one of the world’s most popular novels. Pride and Prejudice–Austen’s own ‘darling child’–tells the story of fiercely independent Elizabeth Bennett, one of five sisters who must marry rich, as she confounds the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy. What ensues is one of the most delightful and engrossingly readable courtships known to literature, written by a precocious Austen when she was just twenty-one years old.”–Goodreads

Rightly hailed as one of the greatest love stories of all time.

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Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay

“Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.”  — Goodreads

I enjoyed the Austen references in this book that enhanced the story.

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Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

“When Jerusha Abbott, an eighteen-year-old girl living in an orphan asylum, was told that a mysterious millionaire had agreed to pay for her education, it was like a dream come true. For the first time in her life, she had someone she could pretend was “family.” But everything was not perfect, for he chose to remain anonymous and asked that she only write him concerning her progress in school. Who was this mysterious gentleman and would Jerusha ever meet him?”  –Goodreads

A long time favorite of mine that stands up to re-reading.

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These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

“A moving, exciting, and heartfelt American saga inspired by the author’s own family memoirs, these words belong to Sarah Prine, a woman of spirit and fire who forges a full and remarkable existence in a harsh, unfamiliar frontier. Scrupulously recording her steps down the path Providence has set her upon–from child to determined young adult to loving mother–she shares the turbulent events, both joyous and tragic, that molded her and recalls the enduring love with cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot that gave her strength and purpose.

Rich in authentic everyday details and alive with truly unforgettable characters, These Is My Words brilliantly brings a vanished world to breathtaking life again.”–Goodreads

Unpredictable.  Well-written.

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Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

“Hannah Coulter is Wendell Berry’s seventh novel and his first to employ the voice of a woman character in its telling. Hannah, the now-elderly narrator, recounts the love she has for the land and for her community. She remembers each of her two husbands, and all places and community connections threatened by twentieth-century technologies. At risk is the whole culture of family farming, hope redeemed when her wayward and once lost grandson, Virgil, returns to his rural home place to work the farm.”–Amazon

Less of a love story, more of a life story the narrative spans decades to get a panoramic view of Hannah’s life.

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Papa’s Wife by Thyra Ferre Bjorn

“This novel follows the lives of a conservative, Swedish minister, Pontus Franzon, and his pretty young wife, Maria, through their years in a parsonage in Lapland, their eight children, and their journey to a new life in America.”– Goodreads

You can’t help but love the Franzon family. This is one I like to re-read.  I enjoy it every time.  Maybe because it’s based on the author’s own history, you are drawn in and feel like one of the family.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they’re putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there’s one thing they can’t help wondering: Will Father return home safely?”–Amazon

The heart-warming story of Little Women is a classic for a reason.  The March sisters will find a place in your heart.

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Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown

“Sharon Garlough Brown tells the moving story of four strangers as they embark together on a journey of spiritual formation: Hannah, a pastor who doesn’t realize how exhausted she is. Meg, a widow and recent empty-nester who is haunted by her past. Mara, a woman who has experienced a lifetime of rejection and is now trying to navigate a difficult marriage. Charissa, a hard-working graduate student who wants to get things right. You’re invited to join these four women as they reluctantly arrive at a retreat center and find themselves drawn out of their separate stories of isolation and struggle and into a collective journey of spiritual practice, mutual support and personal revelation. Along the way, readers will be taken into a new understanding of key spiritual practices and find tangible support for the deeper life with God.” –Goodreads

I found these characters to be well-rounded and relatable.  I also liked an inside look at spiritual disciplines outside of my experience.

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These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Laura is teaching school, and it’s terrifying! Most of the students are taller than she is, and she must sleep away from home for the first time. Laura is miserable, but the money is needed to keep Mary in a college for the blind.

And every Friday—no matter what the weather—Almanzo Wilder arrives to take Laura home to her family for the weekend. Laura and Almanzo are courting, and even though she’s not yet sixteen, she knows that this is a time for new beginnings.”– Amazon

One the lesser known books in the Little House series, Almanzo and Laura’s love story is heart-warming.

Have you seen Awesome Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love ?  Check it out here.