Monthly Archives: December 2013

Favorite Reads of 2013

This was my year for reclaiming my love for reading! I asked for a Kindle last Christmas, and I’m so glad that I got one. That Kindle and I got to know each other very well in the early months of the year when I was up nursing my newborn at all hours of the night. I remember seeing literally every hour of the day and night for a couple of weeks there, so I got a head start on my goal of reading at least a book a month.

In fact, I was able to double that goal, and finished out the year by completing 24 books. Before you get too impressed, you should know that some of these books were very short. One of the things I love about my Kindle is the ability to try out tons of freebie books on there. Even though I have multiple libraries in my city, I stink at getting there and then getting the books back on time. It’s a flaw of mine aggravated somewhat by only having one car that I don’t have daily access to.So yeah. The Kindle is a good fit for me. 😉

Books Quote

Photo Credit

One of the biggest hang ups I’ve had in recent years when it comes to reading is starting 10 different books and never finishing any of them. This year, I adopted the idea I’ve seen on Pinterest of creating a board for all of the books that I’ve read over the course of the year. I know I’m just like a little kid, but for some reason that worked just as well as getting a sticker on my paper at school for me. I couldn’t pin the book until I’d finished it, and I loved being able to look back at my board and see what all I’d accomplished as the months passed.

If you’re curious about what I read and are looking for some reading inspiration, here’s the link to my Pinterest board.

And now here are my top six favorite books from the year (in no particular order). Oh, and I never have gotten around to setting up an affiliate program with Amazon since I changed my web address, so I’m not getting a commission on any of these books should you choose to purchase them.

1. Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle – Oh. My. Goodness. The perfect balance of funny and important lessons. It’s honest, relatable, encouraging, challenging, and just plain fun. Are you a mom? Do you plan to be a mom? Read it! No seriously, READ IT!

2. Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman – If you’ve read my blog at all this year, you’ve no doubt heard me reference this book on more than one occasion. It was a great tool to change me for the better this year. So good.

3. Embracing Beauty by Trina Holden – I needed this book! It’s such a practical, encouraging, and helpful book to any mama in the season of having babies. Feeling beautiful and putting effort into myself is not always easy when my body is between sizes and my schedule is non-existent. Trina gave me some great food for thought and motivation into how I could actually make it happen and make it an act of worship as well.

4. Invisible by Lorena McCourtney – This was probably my favorite fiction read of the year. (As a side note, I need to incorporate more novels in my reading diet!) I got this book on my Kindle and read it in the middle of the night during feedings last winter. It’s a fun murder-mystery. Nothing too heavy or thought-provoking, but if you’re into who-dun-it stories, this is a good one to check out. I even sacrificed going back to bed after I was done feeding the baby so I could finish the book. 😉

5. Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic – I was late in the game to pick up this book, but it was a great book for moms of littles. I know, I know, most of my favorite books are about motherhood. But you know what? I think there’s a reason for that.Moms need a lot of encouragement. This one is a must-read for anyone with little munchkins.

6. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis – What an inspiring read! God has called each of us into ministry, and reading Katie’s story challenges anyone who reads it to step outside their comfort zones and minister to everyone.

What books did you read this year that you recommend I add to my list of books to read for next year?

A Reflection on What I Learned about Identity

Last December, I chose one word as my theme for the coming year.

Identify

Of course, the vision I had for that word going into the year turned out different than how it looks in reflection. Going into the year, I had a neat little outline of how I was going to make it meaningful. Instead, God did His work in my life, and along the way, I have learned some priceless lessons about identity and identifying.

1. I could write a great deal more on the following notion, and probably will in the future, but for now I’m sticking to the highlights of what I learned. We as humanity obsess over our identity and what defines us. I’m no exception to this rule, and through the experiences of the past twelve months, I’ve been learning to let go of titles and descriptions that are irrelevant in the eyes of God. Case in point:

2. This has been my year to claim grace as what my identity is wrapped up in. It started by reading the book, “Grace for the Good Girl” by Emily Freeman. I was privileged to grow up in a home where grace was taught and lived out, but for too long I quietly held onto the title of being a “good girl.” Of course, growing up, messing up, and learning more about God’s Word have taught me volumes about who I truly am without God, but the timing of reading that book was exactly when I was starting to put it all together in a way that renewed me. Being “good” is not enough. God’s grace is.

Identity

3. While being judgmental is no good, having good judgment is crucial. We are all going to go through difficult circumstances beyond our control throughout life. It’s in those times that our faith and character will be put to the test. Odds are, you, like me, faced at least one, if not many times of testing over the last year. It’s just part of life. God has used those times to test and grow my own faith and to require me to die more to myself. I’ve also learned to be on guard. We live in perilous times, no matter how much we try not to think about it. Part of my duty as a follower of Jesus is to be on the lookout for anyone who is not a sheep but is disguised as one. Wolves and goats can put on some pretty convincing sheep costumes sometimes, but they will only bring harm. Scripture clearly states that we must remove ourselves from the fakers who are trying to bring us down.(Romans 16:17-20, Matt. 7:15-23)  It’s been one of the most difficult realizations I’ve faced in my life, but I’m finding a new level of freedom because of it.

4. I don’t have to be defined by _____________. This has been my mantra this year. See this post I wrote a couple of weeks ago for a better explanation. The main takeaway is that my identity will only be satisfactory to me when I find my identity in Christ. Far too easily, I give into the temptation to obsess over how I wish a scenario would play out or what I hope to be able to prevent by my actions, but I’m not the one in control of my life. I don’t end up any better off by fretting over my circumstances. It’s only God’s Word pouring continual messages of His grace, love, and wisdom that bring the peace I crave, and that gift is the greatest one I could ever receive.

Did you claim a word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear which one you chose for 2013 and how it benefited you. I’ll be sharing my new word in the next couple of days. Just thinking about it excites me!

I Need Your Help!

I planned to make 2013 a quiet year on my blog because we added a member to our family in January. It’s been a blessed year all in all, and I have enjoyed the chaos and sweetness that comes with being mama to Dash and Daisy. They are the ones that most inspire me in this life with their innocence and need of discipline, teaching me volumes about my own life and faith.

With Daisy’s first birthday just a few short weeks away, I’m starting to feel the pull back to writing more. I’m ready to put myself out there and grow in new ways instead of letting the ideas that come to mind get caught in my brain fog. In the last few weeks, ideas for writing have been piling up, and I’d love to get into a more consistent routine in this space, but I would really appreciate your help. While lots of what I write about is for me to help me process what I’m learning in life, it’s also for the amazing people who take time out of their busy, noisy days to read what I have to say. Over the years I’ve blogged, it would makes sense that the members of my audience have fluctuated somewhat, so as I get ready to create new posts in the new year, it would be extremely helpful for me to know who’s reading and what’s important to you.

Would you take about 5 minutes and fill out this quick survey so I can know what kinds of things YOU like to read? Thanks so much!

 

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Defining Moments & What Defines Me

Love them or hate them, we will all have defining moments in our lives. You know. Those moments where, even as you’re living them out, you know something inside you is changing at that very second.

As I embark on another new year of life, I can recall a great deal of defining moments over the course of my life.

The day I got my driver’s license. My first day of college. The conversation in which I decided to transfer colleges and change my major. The night I met my future husband. My first day of standing in front of a classroom of rowdy juniors as a student teacher and a snake crawled next to my foot. The first moment I chose to show love to a student who lashed out at me and I saw the spark of hope and respect take the place of hurt and bitterness in his eyes. Countless nights where my husband lovingly spoke a truth I needed to hear to change my immature mindset for the better. The day the doctor said, “I’m sorry your baby is not alive and if we don’t act quickly, you won’t be either.” The redemptive moment when God gave me the gift of a son to hold and learn with on this earth.

My list of defining moments is too lengthy to list in one simple blog post. This year alone has contained a mixed bag of defining moments that have left me wiping at tears of the most sincere joy as well as intense sorrow. Friends and acquaintances have come and gone. Sleep has been scarce and coffee has become a daily companion. And I cherish even more sincerely than ever before my precious family and the faithful friends who have proven themselves steadfast sources of encouragement and companionship in my life.

It’s been a year where I’ve started to grasp what grace really is. I’ve experienced it on a whole new level and have been humbled by how richly God has piled it on my life in the midst of all manner of circumstances. It’s been abundantly bestowed upon me, and I pray the excess has poured onto those around me as well.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the course of year 31 of my life is how vital it is to find my identity in Christ. This idea has always sounded nice to me, but I’m finally beginning to understand what it means and how incredible it is to take it on.

Because other people will try to define you. Some of the definitions they use to describe you will be overly flattering while others will be downright mean.

Circumstances will also attempt to redefine who you are. That medical issue, the person you love so much who is hurting in an unimaginable way, the foreboding news headlines, the dwindling funds in the bank – my head spins when I think about the insanely difficult year it has been for so many people that I know. Heartache has not taken a break, but even so, those trials I’ve faced and that you’ve faced, they do not have to define us!

Who I want to be when this life is over is someone who has done what the LORD has required of me, to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.” (Micah 6:8) Rather than fret over situations beyond my control or people who don’t know the truth, I’m making my focus more about who God would have me become as a result of the defining moments He’s gifted me with. Some of the moments are more pleasant than others, but they “all work together for the good of those who love God.” (Romans 8:28) I love Jesus far more passionately than I did 365 days ago, and it’s because He’s used each of this year’s defining moments to draw me to His Word and away from any word that is inferior to His.

Will you let go of the things that are incorrectly defining who God intends you to be? You aren’t guaranteed an easy road, but you will without a doubt experience miracles, peace, and strength greater than you will ever know otherwise.

 

For Better or Worse

Yesterday was my parents’ 34th anniversary. They both took the day off of work to spend together. And that’s exactly what they did.

Starting at 1:30 in the morning when my dad woke up mom telling her something wasn’t right. The only time they were separated was when she followed behind an ambulance taxiing him to the hospital as his body went through a massive heart attack the doctor has made sure to reiterate people are not supposed to live through.

But he did. Because God is the one in charge of the days of our life, and He still has a purpose for one of the greatest men alive to continue living on this earth. And I’m thankful, all of the reasons for which are for another post.

Yesterday I was reminded how privileged I’ve been my entire life to witness true love and marriage vows being lived out by two people who have always striven to live out life authentically for me and everyone else to see.

I was able to see the way she genuinely and quietly stated her heart when others said, “Sorry it’s not a very happy anniversary.” She said it over and over and she meant it more every time. “It is a happy anniversary because I still have him here with me.” Not once did she feel cheated, but only immensely blessed. Healthy perspective once again illustrated to me by the woman who has taught me so much about living by faith.

I got to watch her feed him his cardiac-patient meals covered in mystery gravy instead of sitting across from him at a restaurant recollecting their years together. They still smiled and reminisced and proved their love and devotion to each other as he lay flat on his back with innumerable wires coming off him, and she held his hand.

True love endures through better or worse. They meant it when they said it, and they’ve proved it countless times over the decades. On this anniversary their day started out the worst way imaginable, but they chose to see it for better as the day wore on because they still had each other’s hand to hold as they celebrated another year gone by.

For Better or Worse