Posts tagged #Fully2017
Favorite Reads in 2017
Photo credit:  ashleybrooke

Photo credit: ashleybrooke

"You will be the same person ten years from now except for the books you read, the places you go, the people you meet, and the scripture you memorize." Jay Strack

2017 has been a year filled with reading and learning. So much so that I thought it would be fun to write a post featuring some of my favorite reads of the year (including a favorite quote or two from each). God used this year to prune and grow me in significant ways, and He used the books I read as a big part of that process.

The following eight books impacted me most this year.

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

This has been one of the very best books I've ever read on dating, relationships, and marriage. I would seriously recommend it to every single or married person I know.
I love the book's strong foundation of scripture and the main premise that a marriage is a spiritual friendship, a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on the journey to become the persons God designed them to be.

One of my favorite quotes: "Within this Christian vision for marriage, here's what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, 'I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, 'I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!' Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse should then give him– or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory."


I truly get so excited thinking about building a marriage that looks like that! There's mission and meaning and intention to seek and serve God together, all the while encouraging one another to keep becoming more and more like Christ, through the ups and the downs life brings.

Detours by Tony Evans

I found this book at the perfect time, and it was such an encouragement to me in the midst of a season that took a painful detour I never expected. In this book, author Tony Evans uses Joseph's story as an example of the ways God works through the detours of our lives.

One of my favorite quotes:

"Detours are often those opportunities God uses in our lives to chisel us through the experiences we face. We can either cooperate with these detours by asking God to reveal to us the lessons He wants us to learn, or the skills He wants us to develop — and so on, or we can complain, kick, scream, fight, and remain on the detour much longer than we ever needed to...God uses all of our experiences to bring Him glory, when we allow Him. God sovereignly works through all of our detours to glorify Himself and achieve what is best for our development and the good we are to bring to others (Rom 8:28-30).

When God Says Wait by Elizabeth Laing Thompson

This is one of the best, most honest books on waiting that I've read. The author Elizabeth Laing Thompson writes with both understanding and humor, and it was so refreshing to read her words.

One of my favorite quotes:

"He can use your wait to shape you, make you stronger and more Christlike. Waiting is a journey of testing, fraught with spiritual danger, but rife with opportunity. Like Sarah, like us, each of our Bible heroes had to decide how to think and who to be during their in-between times. They didn't get everything they wanted, but many of them became the people God wanted them to be. God used their waiting times to shape them into instruments He could use for powerful purposes."

Cultivate by Lara Casey

I loved this book even more than Lara's first book Make It Happen. As I worked through my own messy and tension-filled year of unknowns, Lara's book was great company and great encouragement. As I read, I wrote all over the margins, underlining paragraphs, capturing thoughts, and scribbling raw, honest, and heartfelt prayers. Her book was such a gift to my weary heart.

One of my favorite quotes:

"To grow what matters in your life, just as you grow flowers in a garden, get your hands dirty, digging in right where you are. Growing what matters takes doing something that is counter intuitive to how we usually operate: embrace tension. We choose to embrace change, imperfect progress, and imperfect circumstances, and we trust that 'in all things God works for the good of those who love Him' (Rom. 8:28 NIV)."

You Are Free by Rebekah Lyons

I read most of this book in an airport and on the plane ride home from my Nashville adventure this summer. I read Rebekah's words both quickly and gratefully, finding that I needed this message of freedom and healing more than I realized. Rebekah's book ended up getting filled up with prayers and praises just like Lara's did. Each of these books is such a record of a messy, painful season of my life, and yet, as time continues to pass, I think I will look back and see God's redemption weaved throughout my notes and prayers, as well.

One of my favorite quotes:

"I believe grief is our most powerful confession, because it cracks our hearts wide open. The Spirit prays for what we need in that moment, in ways we can't imagine. This kind of physical expression of confession keeps our hearts clean. Tears are a soul-cleansing way to release any seeds of bitterness. Deep grief can take us to new depths of brokenness and surrender. In the depths of grief we realize mourning brings the comfort of God, and above all, God is waiting to rescue us in our darkest hour... Isn't that what faith is all about — trusting God is working something beautiful and and beyond our wildest imagination?"

Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk

This is such an awesome and powerful book on building healthy relationships with God and others. In the spirit of full disclosure, I still have a bit to finish reading, but I found myself both encouraged and challenged by everything I read so far, so I didn't want to leave it off the list! :)

One of my favorite quotes (so far):

"'I choose you.' This is the foundation of true, lasting relationships. It is the foundation for God’s relationship with you. As Jesus declared to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you...” Jesus chose you in the most difficult of circumstances. He chose you while you were in sin, while you were His enemy. His side of the relationship with you does not depend upon your choice, but entirely upon His choice. The question is whether or not you will learn to build your relationships with Him and others upon the foundation of your choice.”

When Changing Nothing Changes Everything by Laurie Polich Short

God taught me a LOT about perspective this year. So much of faith is about focusing on the right things — fixing our hope and heart on Him, rather than the things of this world. I love this quote from the book's synopsis: "Jesus indicates the power of focus when he says, "The eye is the lamp of the body, if the eye is good then the whole body will be full of light." It's the easiest way to find lasting meaning and purpose. Change nothing, but see differently. Your perspective has more power than you think to determine the course of your life." I found so much encouragement in the author's story (she had a very long season of singleness before getting married), and ultimately, God wrote such an unexpectedly beautiful story through it all.

One of my favorite quotes:

"The ability to reframe and view yourself in the middle of your story enables you to rest in what is, knowing that it is part of what is taking you to what will be. Things are happening in you — and to you — and if you attempt to escape your circumstances, rather than live them, you may actually abort a process that could be bringing something wonderful into your life. Considering the fullness of your story strengthens your resolve to live your current chapter well, and in so doing you may discover you are on a road to getting more than you ever could have dreamed."

The Perfect You by Dr. Caroline Leaf

I am still working through the second part of this book (the self-reflective questions), but I still wanted to include it, because it was such a different type of read for me. I am not a very scientific or mathematical gal, but I have been so fascinated to learn about the intricate ways God created our minds and just how powerful our thought life can be.

One of my favorite quotes:

"The moment people recognize the power of their minds — the individuality of their thinking and how they have control over their lives — they are truly able to transform their world. When people see themselves the way God sees them, as His wonderful works and particular reflections of His image, then they see what is inside of them and perceive the universe in a different way (Ps 139:14). Each of us is meant to bear His glory in our own unique way — we all have a beautiful way of stewarding eternity (Eccles. 3:11; Gen 1-2)."

I am definitely not the same person I was when I began 2017. Just as the quote I shared from Jay Strack says, the books we read truly do change and transform us. God has used so many things (including books!) to refine my heart this year, and while it hasn't been an easy process, I'm grateful for the pruning and all the ways He will use it going forward.

Sometimes our hardest seasons change and prepare us the most.

What books have you loved this year?

Cultivating What Matters: 2017 Goal Recap
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Hi, friends! Happy Thanksgiving weekend! :) I'm currently about to make my third cup of coffee and grab myself a slice of pumpkin pie... I also may have been in my Christmas jammies past noon, but you'll have that on a holiday weekend, right? ;)

Cultivate What Matters is kicking off their 2018 Powersheets Prep week the first week of December, so I thought I'd get my 2017 goals recap written and posted in preparation for that. It gets me in reflection mode for all God did this year, and it helps me prepare my heart for all He might have in store for 2018.

2017 was my year of FULLY surrendering, trusting, and following Him. And while I'm still learning that in so many ways, this year stretched me more than any year has in quite some time.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote the following vision statement:

My 2017 vision…

I want to live fully for Jesus in 2017 — seeking Him fully, knowing Him more fully, and being used by Him fully. I will prioritize time spent with Him, choosing Him above all things and keeping Him at the center of everything. I will make space in my life for what truly matters, saying no to meaningless distractions and investing in my faith, family, friends, and using my creative gifts fully for God. I will fill my life with meaningful moments and memories shared with loved ones, inspiration, truth, encouragement, art, praise, and worship. I will seek to be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and resources God so graciously gives, using the margin in my life to the fullest for Him. 2017 will be a year of daily encountering Jesus, intentionally building relationships, and sharing His love and light with others. It will be a year where I invite Him to have His way in all things, trusting that the story He’s writing will always be so much greater than the one I could write on my own.

That statement helped lead me to prayerfully select the following overarching goals for my year:

  1. Encounter Jesus daily and read the entire Bible this year.

  2. Be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and margin in my life.

  3. Complete the Whole30 Program and focus on cultivating healthy habits. Find an exercise and strength-building routine that works for me.

Looking back on the year, I can definitely see the ways God was teaching me to more fully trust, surrender, and follow Him. And before I jump into goal-setting prep for 2018 these next few weeks, I thought I would take the time to reflect on my progress toward the three main goals I set above.

Goal #1:  Encounter Jesus daily and read the entire Bible this year.

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Ready for some honesty? :) This goal did not happen AT ALL the way I thought or planned it might. I did not read the entire Bible this year. In fact, after finishing up the New Testament in the spring, I spent the rest of the year jumping around without much of a plan. The summer months found me reading a lot in Genesis, focusing on Joseph's story, and this fall, I've spent quite a bit of time studying the book of Ruth. BUT in His grace, even though this goal technically was not achieved, I am ending the year so encouraged and excited to keep prioritizing time encountering Him and being in His word.

Because while I did not read the entire Bible this year, I did learn a lot about HOW to study the Bible. And I realized that timed plans may not be the best fit for me. I want to take as long as necessary to really dive deep, absorb, and hear what He wants me to hear. I've been learning to study more inductively, too, and to do what Jen Wilkin talks about in her book Women of the Word: to read and study His word with my heart AND my mind.

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I've also been utilizing new translations (like the Amplified translation), new journaling formats (like the Dwell Deeply journal above from Machelle Kolbo Design Studio, and Bible study resources, including videos and commentaries from The Bible Project and the studies on RightNow Media. All of this makes me very excited, because it's PROGRESS. And I know I'm ending the year with a deeper and fuller understanding of His powerful and life-changing truth. As Lara always says, the little by little steps really do add up! And instead of being disappointed I didn't read the entire Bible this year, I'm encouraged by how deeply I studied what I did read and how I went deeper in the Word this year than I have in previous years.

(And here's a little sneak peek at my 2018 goals: you'll definitely see another Bible-study-focused goal. I'm giving a lot of thought to focusing most of my in-depth study time next year in the Old Testament. More on that and my 2018 goals soon...)

P.S. I have a little treat for you guys! Machelle's given me a code just for you guys to use! :) Use code APLACETODWELL for 15% off of her shop. I love her Dwell Deeply journal, because it's so easy to tuck into a bag and carry with me wherever I go!)

Goal #2: Be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and margin in my life."

This goal covered a lot! And I continue to learn what it looks like to keep Christ at the center of my life, influencing and directing all of my prayers, thoughts, decisions, and actions. But overall, this year found me being more mindful of my time, margin, and decisions. I watched less Netflix and Hulu and spent more time reading books, journaling, and being in the Word. I listened to more worship music to fill my mind with truth. I wrote scripture on post-it notes and taped them to my mirror, so I'd fill my mind with His truth first thing each day. I've also been praying through Unveiled Wife's 31 Prayers for Your Future Husband every day since May, because I want to be a good steward of the future marriage I hope and pray for, even before it's tangibly in front of me. I know that the decisions I make now are seeds planted for the future. And each one of those little decisions are helping me to be more mindful and cultivate habits that help me seek first His Kingdom in all I do.

I was also excited to take the Five-Fold Ministry Assessment this year and learn that I'm a Teacher, or Light Giver in the Kingdom! That was a huge learning for me that has impacted (and will continue to impact) how I'm stewarding, building, and using the gifts and passions He's given me. He's been growing the love I have of studying His Word and helping others discover and apply His truths to their lives. I'm very excited to see how He continues to develop and use that in my life and to build His Kingdom.

I also became more involved with the Women's Ministry team at my church and started writing a women's devotional journal that I hope to publish sometime in the next year (more on that in my 2018 goals, too). Oh, and I almost forgot! I also redesigned and relaunched my website! That was an adventure for sure. :) My heart is to continue to pour out all I have to know, love, and serve Him in every season and circumstance.

Goal #3: Complete the Whole 30 Program and focus on cultivating healthy habits. Find an exercise and strength-building routine that works for me.

“AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL (life), AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND (thought, understanding), AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’”
‭‭MARK‬ ‭12:30‬ ‭AMP‬‬

My progress on this goal has perhaps surprised me most! After completing the Whole 30 in February, my focus on making healthy choices and cultivating healthy habits waned a bit. But in August, my heart for this goal was refreshed and reignited (all thanks to God), and one of the main goals I set for the last few months of the year was to focus on STRENGTH: growing stronger both spiritually and physically, because I wanted to truly focus on loving and serving God with all I've got — my entire being.

To focus on physical strength, I signed up with a personal trainer at the end of August, and I've been strength training twice a week ever since. In that time, I've only missed one training session, just due to a scheduling conflict. And while that may not seem like much to most, it's a HUGE deal for me — someone whose fitness plan and routine has always been incredibly inconsistent and hit-or-miss. To be working out and building strength for the last three months (and to be able to actually SEE and FEEL the progress) is amazing. I've committed to a year of training, and I'm excited to keep increasing my weights and growing stronger little by little.

Strength training has been another lesson I've learned this year on the power of small, consistent steps forward — and also the power of doing things that may not always feel comfortable. In the breaking down of my muscles, there's always some discomfort, but with each breaking down, my muscles grow back stronger and more capable of handling more weight than they could before. I'm finding the same to be true for my faith. The more God challenges me and breaks me down, the stronger I grow in HIM, and the more capable I am of handling more and doing more for Him than I was before.

Whew thanks for sticking with me through that VERY long post! ;)

This year definitely held many challenges and heartbreaking circumstances, but I'm so encouraged to look back and see His work in my life and heart despite all of that. He met me right in the mess and brought beauty from ashes little by little, changing me in the process.

And I don't believe He's done yet, either.

I think the best is still yet to come.

I'm praising Him today for all He's done and all that's yet to come.

See you back here soon for 2018 goal-setting! :)

 

 

Reflecting on My 2017 Word of the Year: FULLY
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I started this year at a much different place than where I'm ending it.

Last year ended with a flourish, and as 2017 began, I found myself in a full and hopeful season of building, investing, and planting. 2017 looked to be the year that would bring a long-awaited-for and long-prayed-for harvest.

But sometimes, things don't go according to plan...

At the beginning of the year when I selected FULLY as my word for 2017, I wrote: I love that the dictionary describes fully as completely, entirely, to the furthest extent. It’s giving something your ALL, holding nothing back. That’s the kind of faith-filled life I want to live. One that trusts and seeks and follows Him without reservation, without exception.

FULLY: completely or entirely; to the furthest extent

synonyms: completely, entirely, wholly, totally, altogether, thoroughly, in all respects, in every respect, without reservation, without exception

I also wrote that I wanted to live a life of fullness and joy, not based on circumstances, blessings, or possessions, but on HIM.

And that's exactly the kind of life I was challenged to live this year...

When my deeply hoped for and prayed for plans unraveled, I felt Him very clearly whisper: "Will you still follow me FULLY, trust me FULLY, and live your life FULLY for me, even though your current circumstances and season don't look the way you expected, hoped, or even prayed they would?"

He knows how to cut right to the chase, doesn't He? :)

Sometimes my response was an enthusiastic YES! to that question. Other times, it was barely a whisper of agreement, but in all of those moments, whether I found myself feeling weak or strong, I continued to seek out His heart and follow where He was leading.

I failed often. I grumbled. I complained. I doubted. And I definitely can't say I always followed without reservation.

But in His grace, He kept picking me back up, drawing me near, strengthening my faith, and encouraging me to recommit myself to the on-going process of FULL trust and surrender.

So while 2017 may have broken my heart, it also built my faith.

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I'm ending the year knowing Him much more FULLY, and I have an even greater understanding of what it means and looks like to FULLY trust, follow, and serve Him — in any and every circumstance.

As 2017 draws to a close, I will continue to put my trust in Him — completely, entirely, in every respect, without reservation, and without exception.

Because He is good. Always, always good. He's good when we are on the mountain top, and He's good when we are in the valley. This year taught me that I want to live so FULLY surrendered to Him that I trust and praise Him even when the story looks like it has gone terribly wrong.

This year taught me that I want the story that gives Him the most glory.

And as He continues to work that story out in my life, I will continue to FULLY trust, praise, and follow Him wherever He leads.