summer journal {July}

Happy August, everyone!!  What have you been up to?  I know summer always goes so quickly, but it’s always a little strange to finish July and be looking right at September.  Looking back on what you just finished is easier, sometimes.  🙂  So, July in review…

{what I did}

I got back from New York, and then, it was the 4th of July.  My cousins came over to our house for dinner and fireworks.  What is it about fireworks — and sparklers, too — that is just so absolutely amazing??

The week after that, my Dad and brother and I got to be part of a creative writing class led by author Douglas Bond in Oxford — the one in England!  As a native Virginian, I’ve always loved visiting colonial Williamsburg and getting to absorb all the incredible history.  Visiting so many historic sites in England was fascinating at an entirely different level.  Williamsburg, after all, is only about 300 years old — practically modern in comparison.  😉  In England, we visited one church that was about 900 years old.  So. much. history.

And what could be better than a literary tour of Middle England, learning writing in the context of some of the most influential writers of the past??  I may need to do another post on all the things I learned from England…  Quick question for you all — would that be something you’d want me to post about?  If so, I will actually make the effort to make the post happen.  😉

In between the more exciting parts of the month, I mainly just did the little things — work, babysit, family stuff — you know, the stuff that makes the world go round.  🙂

{what I read}

Since I’ve been rather busy this month, I only have two books that I finished since my last post.  Oh well.


I just got a handful of new Douglas Bond books this summer as part of a fiction writing contest, and so I’ve been working on reading some of those in between other things, as well.

This one is set in France during the Reformation.  Phillippe, an apprentice in a Huguenot (French Protestant) family, is wrestling with what camp he falls in.  The family he lives with has practically adopted him, but he still can’t see why they decided to break away from the beauty and tradition of Roman Catholicism at their own risk.  Coming out of an orphanage run by nuns, he is still ill at ease with Protestant practices such as reading the Scripture in French instead of Latin and singing Psalms in French as a congregation instead of listening to the superior voices of a choir.  As the story goes on, and the tension between the Huguenots and the Catholic monarchy increases, Philippe’s turmoil becomes a whole lot more complicated– even a matter of life and death.

The Huguenot story is one I’ve heard about a lot.  I knew some of the big names and terms and all that, but I didn’t honestly know that much about what went on in the individuals at the times.  Having both Protestant and Catholic background in my family, I was interested in seeing how the two views really interacted in this period of history.  While the story itself took a little time to really pick up plot-wise, I discovered a lot about the ideas and worldviews that shaped this history, and really ended up with a lot to think about.


This book is big — probably the biggest book I’ve ever read at 650 pages.  But it is well worth the length.  At first, my thoughts were something more along the lines of, “Oh my Mr. McCullough.  I appreciate your thoroughness and all, but this doesn’t even really have much of a story line, being a biography and all, and well, I’m not sure you needed to tell us quite so much about Mr. Adams.”  By the end, however, I found out how wrong I was.  It was 650 pages of getting to know a person — all his ups and downs and joys and struggles and passions.  By the end when he died, I was crying because I’d been on such a long journey with him.

It was amazing to read the story of the American Revolution at personal level.  The history books make it sound so grand and glorious and impressive.  Here, you are reading about the difficult people, the long delays, the family struggles, and the sinfulness of human hearts that somehow don’t seem to go away whether or not you’ve written the Declaration of Independence or invented a Lightning Rod.  One of my favorite lines in the book was a letter exchange between Adams and Thomas Jefferson:

“Who shall write the history of the American Revolution?” Adams asked.  “Who can write it?  Who will ever be able to write?”

“Nobody,” Jefferson answered, “except perhaps its external facts.”

There’s a line in Elegy in the Churchyard that describes those can “read their history in a nation’s eyes”.  John Adams was definitely one of those people.  His story is so much the story of the creating of our nation.

He was all through the process, a pivotal character all the way, an amazing thinker and writer, genuine, and willing to say what needs to be said.

He does not have the style of Jefferson, the commanding presence of Washington, or the drollery of Franklin, but he is dedicated to his country, to making it happen, to building it up.

He was such a real character, stumbling at his own personal weaknesses, yet continually striving towards something greater at such personal cost.

So many people at that time period — and now that I think about it, ours too — seemed to throw all their weight between one side or the other, content to jump in the fray without having wrestled with the issues themselves.  John Adams wasn’t like that.  Just about any and every issue, he was always thinking about, reading about, writing to Abigail about.  He didn’t play the games of party and faction, and it was something that seemed to, strangely enough, alienate him from those on either side.  He wanted to build his country, not tear it down, and it took an incredible amount of character to live that out.

{what I wrote}

The bulk of the actual writing I did this month was in England.  Mr. Bond gave us a couple of writing prompts, but largely encouraged us to work on our own projects if we had brought them along.  I worked on a short story I had started back in February and nearly forgotten about until the drive to the airport on the way there.  x)  I’m still not sure if I like it or not, simply because it’s in a dystopian setting, and if you’ve looked around my blog to any extent, you can tell I’m not much of a dystopian person…  But I like the characters in it, so we shall see if it comes to anything more.  🙂

Also, inspired by some of the places and stories in Oxford, particularly visiting the hometown of William Cowper, I’ve been working on a poem with a proper meter and foot.

the church pastored by Cowper’s friend and mentor, John Newton

{what I thought}

The past couple months have been a lot of new experiences.  If your world is made up out of puzzle pieces that are all the things you’ve done and seen and read, I feel like I’ve just had hundreds of puzzle pieces dumped on my table, and I’m still working on trying to fit them all in.  How to process all the extremes I’ve seen?

Mountain-top intensity at the Guild and the fact that life and the rest of the family and work goes on as it always had no matter what’s been going through my head.

Seeing homeless people sleeping in ancient, stone niches in historic Oxford; standing on the stones where men of old were burned at the stake; walking the paths C.S. Lewis took.

Wrestling with wanting to tell someone everything you’ve been thinking about, but not wanting to show off, not wanting to explain it wrongly, and afraid that if I try to tell them, they might not get or even want to get it.

But I think that’s what writing is for, right?  Working out all the knots inside your head.  ❤

What’s a part of history you love?  How do you process your puzzle pieces?  What have you been thinking about recently?  I’d love to hear about it!


6 thoughts on “summer journal {July}

  1. Pingback: Sometimes My Heart Can Feel the Gale – Highlands of Halaran

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