Posts tagged Reading
2018 Reading List
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It's been a few years since I made a yearly reading list to tie into my yearly goals, and in an effort to curb my habit of reading multiple books at a time and not finishing them, I am starting a list of books I'm interested in reading this year that support my overall goals. I'm hoping to focus on reading about one to two books a month. No doubt I'll skip some on this list and add others, but it's a good starting point, and it makes me excited to read and learn in this next year!

(Editor's Note: Although, you MIGHT note I've already started quite a few of these...so my reading-multiple-books-at-a-time habit might prove A BIT hard to break!) :)

1. Know God more and trust Him more.

2. Grow STRONGER (mentally, physically, and spiritually).

3. Practice praise.

4. Be humble, willing, and faithful right where God has me.

5. Wait well (purposefully, not passively).

What about you? What books are you excited to read this year?

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?

Navigating the Now and Not Yet: Lessons in Dating, Waiting, & Singleness

Being the curious person that I am, I love to read all the books and blogs, watch inspiring sermons, and listen to thought-provoking podcasts. It's been such a season of learning for me that I thought I'd put together a post summarizing some of what God has been teaching me (especially when it comes to dating, waiting, and singleness). I've organized everything into four main lessons God's been teaching me.

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1. Focus on seeking first the Kingdom, and go deeper in your life of worship and faith.

I'm listing this lesson as #1, because it's foundationally important to navigating any and every season we face, whether it's singleness, dating, marriage, parenthood, etc. Seasons of waiting and transition offer us unique opportunities to deepen our roots of faith, and trust our Good Father in new ways. Ask Him what He's calling you to do or learn in this specific season of life (even if it's unwanted). How is He calling you to serve? How is He equipping you for where you are (and possibly what's ahead)? How can you be faithful right where you are? There are so many things happening behind the scenes that we can't see. But no matter what season we find ourselves in (and no matter what season we may be longing for), He's inviting us to discover who He is and all He is capable of doing in and through us. Get lost in that discovery process and allow Him to change you in the midst of it.

2. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind and the refining of your character.

This isn't an easy one, I know. But as I mentioned in lesson #1...God cares about our growth and transformation. In fact, as Nicole Reyes said in one of her videos on following God's call on your life, God cares more about inward transformation than He does about outward promotion. Be open to His work in you. Ask Him what areas He wants to grow and prune you in. Focus on filling your mind with His truth, His wisdom, and not what the world tells you. There are so many lies I've believed that have caused me to live (and date) from a place of discontent, discouragement, fear, and frustration, rather than hope, faith, and victory in Christ. As a single, if we can learn to cultivate a mind that overflows with joy and hope and faith, we will then be able to produce that fruit in dating and marriage, too.

3. Become a good steward of your emotional health.

Pain from our past can prevent us from living in freedom and stepping into all God has for us. Unresolved pain and bitterness in our lives becomes bondage. Ask God if there are any places or areas where you need healing. Then take the time to do what's necessary to truly heal where you need to heal, so you are fully ready when God does bring the right person into your life. I think it was Steven Furtick who said that if you're not ready, you can turn the right person into the wrong person. That was convicting for me! I've also been learning it's important to be a good steward of our emotions while dating. This means keeping in step with the Spirit, as well as dating in community, so we aren't tempted to rush ahead, and we aren't blinded by feelings of romance or infatuation. Being a good steward of our emotions means being aware and able to recognize what we are feeling, but also knowing how to put our emotions in their proper place and be guided by faith over feelings.

4. Be faithful and FLOURISH!

Seasons of waiting and transition have gotten a bit of a bad wrap. And I get it. I'm the first one to admit that I'm certainly ready to leave the season of singleness behind. ;) But I also know God desires for us to be so rooted in Him that we can be faithful, fruitful, and flourish in all seasons, not because of whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, but because we are trusting and relying on Him fully. He is the one variable that does not change. And He promises to give us all we need for this day. And the next. And the next. Whether we are single or married.

One of the ways I focus on flourishing in my faith is by setting goals. I use Lara Casey's Powersheets process to set a vision for my year and then set Christ-centered goals that support that vision. Doing so helps me to cultivate what matters and know I am doing all I can to live this life as fully as I can for God's glory, right where I am. It also gives me a vision for my future that I can focus on when I'm making decisions and determining where God is leading me (and this includes dating!). For example, I know I want to build a marriage that's centered on Christ, and that I want the main mission of my marriage to be to seek and serve God together. That vision is going to influence who I choose to date and what I'm looking for in a partner.

I love what Danny Silk said about having a vision and building relationships around vision in his book Keep Your Love On: "When two people establish the pillar of vision in their relationship, they share the knowledge of one another's identity and calling, as well as their joint vision, and remind one another of these things on a regular basis. When seasons of difficulty, pain, or loss come up, the pillar of vision strengthens a relational connection and protects it from being thrown into survival mode."

Even in singleness, the vision we have based on the unique way God has created us will influence the decisions we make and help us to persevere through the hard and dry seasons of life.

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I think all of these lessons could be summarized simply as this: be faithful and obedient right where you are. I've been spending a lot of time in the book of Ruth, and I think her life is such a beautiful example of that. Even facing loss and hardship, she was humble and faithful and trusted God to provide and do what only He could do. She did all she could with what was right front of her, remaining loyal and steadfast. Our faith often requires us to do and act and trust before we know what the outcome will be. But we know who DOES know the ultimate outcome, and that frees us up to keep moving forward in obedience. We can be like Ruth and do all we can with what is right in front of us, trusting our Father with where we will go from here.

I hope these lessons are an encouragement to you today.

(And I'd love to hear what God's been teaching you lately, too!)

Resources that inspired this post: videos from Nicole Reyes, Instagram encouragement from Jessica Hoffman Shakir, and books like The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas, and Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk

What I've Been Reading: Life is ___. Forty-Day Experience

Morning quiet times have been a welcome re-addition to my daily schedule. I love brewing a cup of coffee, adding my favorite soy vanilla creamer, and cozying up with a few devotionals and journals.

One of the devotions I've been reading lately is Life Is _____ Forty-Day Experience: A Devotional Journey Through God's Illogical Love by Judah Smith. Smith's focus is to share with readers that "the meaning of life is found in loving and being loved, in enjoying God to the fullest, in trusting Him in every moment, and remaining at peace with God, others, and ourselves."

The book is organized into four sections based on those topics:

  • Life is to Be Loved and to Love
  • Life is to Trust God in Every Moment
  • Life is to Be at Peace With God and Yourself
  • Life is to Enjoy God

While I love the concept of this book, it just didn't grab me the way some of my favorite devotionals have. The content fell a bit flat for me, possibly because the writing style isn't one I normally prefer. I had a hard time engaging and connecting with Smith's reflections. I did like the book's format of scripture, devotional reading, and questions to consider each day, though.

Even though the writing style didn't particularly appeal to me, I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to spend some time meditating on God's immense love for us and how it impacts every aspect of our lives.

My review: 3 stars

*Book for review provided by BookLook

What I've Been Reading Lately: Books for Seasons of Waiting

I'm going to start this post with a little bit of a confession...

I don't know about you all, but my reading life has suffered a bit in the last few years. We live in a culture addicted to distraction and go, go, go, and in recent years, I've found myself struggling to stick with a book.

It doesn't help that it's my nature to start lots of books at once (I just get so excited about each one!), but then in the midst of the chaos of everyday life, distraction seems to often win out, and a great number of those books end up half read and discarded, or worse yet, not read at all. Yikes!

 

In 2016, I'm working to slow down a bit and really be present with each book (and my life in general!). I want more open space in all areas of my life, and I want to put away my phone, keep the TV off, stay away from social media, and really connect more with the written word — a medium that has inspired, encouraged, and uplifted me since I was a little girl.

The stack above includes a mix of books I've finished, begun, and hope to start soon (I told you I haven't been able to ditch the "more than one at a time" habit just yet. ;) I also have a 2016 Reading Board on Pinterest, if you'd like to swap reading lists. :)

Today, I'd like to focus on a few books that have been encouraging me in my current season of waiting and hoping: Waiting Here for You by Louie Giglio and the In The Wait study by Heidi Anderson, Courtney Bobko, Holly Holt, Amanda Jass, and Chelsea Ritchie.

 

Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope by Louie Giglio

I received this book through the BookLook Blogging program, and it has honestly been the best Advent devotional I have ever read! (I know Advent season has obviously passed, but I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of this for next year!)

Waiting Here for You is a collection of daily devotional readings that include a passage of scripture, a reflection, a meditation, and a prayer. Author Louie Giglio invites readers to discover that waiting is not wasted when you're waiting on the Lord.

This is a devotional that really encourages you to interact with its pages. I found myself making notes, highlighting sections, and writing out personal prayers amidst the pages. Each reading focused my heart on Jesus and the story of Advent, while also speaking to my own current season of waiting and encouraging me to cultivate a deeper hope and trust in the Lord as I continued to wait.

There were so many sections that I loved, but I was especially encouraged by the reminder that God is not only working throughout our seasons of waiting, but that He is also WITH US while we wait. And that even though our circumstances may say otherwise, God WILL come through for us, on time and on schedule, to fulfill His long-appointed plans for us.

As I read through this devotional throughout the Advent season, I felt The Lord impressing on my heart over and over that He is worth waiting for. That His plan for me is still in progress. That it's good. And that I haven't missed out on anything. I heard Him loud and clear that unless He is orchestrating it, it's not worth it — and I try and strive in vain.

He continues to remind me that He will make a way...through this moment, this day, this season, and into the next.
There are so many things I look forward to, and I am choosing to be convinced and confident of this: that when I'm following Him and waiting on Him, I won't miss out on anything, but instead, will find out just what a wonderful counselor, planner, and provider He is. This Advent study was reminder for me that He both PLANS and DOES incredibly miraculous things. ❤️

 

In The Wait

I am only finished with week one of this study, but I am loving it so far! It's a fresh breath of truth for my heart at the beginning of a brand new year. And similar to my experience reading Waiting Here for You, I have already marked up many of the pages with prayers and reflections and notes. I think a book that you can't resist marking up is the very best kind of book. :)

My favorite quote so far:

"The only certain thing we can wait for and expect is this: For God to lead and guide us."

I am learning to wait expectantly for His voice and His guidance, building a deeper trust that I truly am right where I am meant to be and that His plan for me is right on time.

 

::In the wait photo via Holly Holt::