Monthly Archives: December 2017

Favorite Books of 2017

I did a lot more reading this past year, and it was heavenly. I’m not a fast reader. I tend to soak in the words, and as a result, it takes me forever to get through a book. This year, I determined to not let that hold me back anymore, so I powered past the tendency to linger on words so I could actually read more stories. It was a freeing, and I ended up reading twice as many books that way.

Here were my favorites of the year:

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp – This was the book that I kicked off the new year reading. Its message impacted me and inspired me. I have not forgotten the image she shared of her daughter’s response to one of her paper hearts getting accidentally ripped:

“Maybe the love gets in easier right where the heart’s broke open.”

The older I grow, the more I believe that true love and abundant living comes after the heartbreaks in our lives. We have a choice in how we respond to our difficulties, and I love the way that The Broken Way acknowledges that hard times are allowed to be hard, but they can also become redeemed.

The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith – I am a lover of stories. There are few things that rival the power of a person owning their lives by sharing what they’ve experienced so that others can be inspired by those stories. I found this book on a whim, and it was one of the happiest accidents of my year. This slim book gives practical advice for people interested in writing about their lives. As a writing teacher, I was delighted to be able to pull some of my favorite lesson inspirations from ideas the author shared in this book. This book is geared towards people who share my love for writing and memoir.

Entrusted: A Study of 2 Timothy by Beth Moore – This Bible study was a crucial part of my summer when I dove in with a lot of intention to get back on track with my faith walk after feeling drained at the end of the school year. Granted, the Bible speaks for itself, but I did enjoy the opportunity to intentionally break down this incredible, powerful book in the New Testament in the way that Beth Moore presented it. It was exactly what I needed, and it has empowered me to live out the gifts that God has entrusted to me for such a time as this.

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown – I’m a fan of the work that Brene Brown has done. Daring Greatly and Rising Strong have both been encouraging and challenging reads at just the right seasons of my life, and the message of Braving the Wilderness is no different. We live in divisive times, and it’s tricky to effectively stand up for what you know is right while upholding an open door with people who oppose your point of view. The strategies that are laid out in this book are on point.

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – My cousin told me about this book, and I am so happy that she did. The unique approach to memoir that Rosenthal took is refreshing and inspiring. I showed it to at least a dozen of my Creative Writing students while I was conferencing with them about their own writing projects. Amy Krouse Rosenthal was an inspiring lady who had a uniquely special gift for connecting people. Her passion for this is contagious, and I loved having a light, happy book to relax to during a busy time in teaching.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – I had the opportunity to hear Ms. Woodson speak at the NCTE conference I attended this fall, and it was delightful to listen to her read parts of this book out loud. It’s the first book of poetry that I’ve picked up on my own and read in its entirety, and I enjoyed it immensely. Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir, and as I stated earlier, I love reading people’s stories, so this one was enjoyable for multiple reasons.

Lean Beyond

If there’s one important thing I learned from this year of leaning, it’s that God is always there to offer hope. I simply have to intentionally lean in a different direction than the challenges I’m currently facing to embrace what He’s saying.

November was a month of leaning beyond personal limits. We all tend to fall into a pattern of doing only the the things that seem possible to us. What starts as a plan to set healthy limitations can eventually turn into a list of things we believe we can never do

If it weren’t for the fact that I was so far into this commitment to lean where I needed to, I would have said no to some of the best memories and experiences of my year. Instead, I persevered and leaned beyond what my gut reactions would have been. The act of leaning beyond made me a better person, and it also prepared me to grieve deep and hopefully well.

Much of my reflection on leaning has taken place as I’ve biked the trail near my house. On November 27, I had come home from a funeral and decided to hit the trail to clear my head a little. The wind was strong and against me in every direction. It seemed fitting for the day, but as I continued to pedal, I found a renewed strength.

As crazy as it may sound, the resistance of the wind was just the message of hope I needed. I could laugh at the wind and persist on my journey because I’d made it through so many experiences in the past few weeks that had challenged my limits. I knew that moving forward was possible, even if it was challenging.

While this post may be simple, my soul has been stretched the most of all from leaning beyond.

This is my post about leaning from November. I know I’m tardy in getting it published on here, but I haven’t had the time to transfer it from my writer’s notebook until now. Better late than never, I suppose. 🙂