Reading in 2015

For the last two years, at the beginning of January, I clear an entire shelf on my bookcase. Throughout the year, each time I finish a book, I add it to the shelf. It’s one of my favorite post-grad traditions. Plus, it gives me a visual representation of the progress I’m making towards my goal. I challenged myself to read more fiction this year. I did. But only one of them made my top 10. The following, in no particular order were my favorite books of 2015.

Let Your Life Speak: This book sat in my Amazon shopping cart for years. I was delighted to find it during one of my Saturday trips to Half Priced Books. I can get so caught up in what’s next and rushing through things, that Parker Palmer challenged me so much. The way that he talks about calling in this short book was refreshing and has allowed me to look at calling and vocation with a long-term view, not with immediacy and panic.

Just Mercy: This was one of the most talked about books of the year. And for good reason. It is one of those books that sticks with you. Bryan Stevenson’s storytelling greatly challenged my view of the justice system in America. The feelings I had reading Just Mercy reminded me of what I felt the first time I read one of Jonathan Kozol’s books about the inequalities in the American public school system. We, as a nation, are failing the black and poor in our country. Stevenson tells the stories of those who are death row, maintaining their dignity and challenging the reader.

Soul Keeping: At the end of last year I realized yet again that the way I was trying to live my life was not sustainable. I lived in a constant state of hurry. John Ortberg teaches in this book that in order to commune with God, it’s necessary to remove all hurry from you life. Wow. All hurry? Yes. There are so many books written on our hearts and how to live the Christian life, and Soul Keeping addresses those topics, but from the lens of caring for the soul. Ortberg encouraged me on my path towards living a healthier and fuller life. It changed me in a way I couldn’t really recognize until months later.

Me Before You: I’m not a fiction reader, but Jojo Moyes makes me want to read more novels. Me Before You is fantastic. Don’t just take my word for it, ask all the friends who I made read it. It’s that good. Moyes tackles a difficult issue with poise and compassion, challenging the reader not to simplify things that are indeed complex.

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For the Love: I’m a big fan of Jen Hatmaker. So much so that when she invited her followers to join the launch team of her soon to be published book, For the Love, I jumped on the opportunity. I didn’t regret it one bit. As soon as I finished the book, I immediately wanted to read it all over again. It’s not a memoir or autobiography, but instead separate stories and commentaries living in the same book. She covers deep topics and not so deep topics with wit and grace. I found a friend in Jen because of the way her words rubbed me on the back and said, “It’s okay that you haven’t arrived yet, you never will, none of us do, and that’s okay.” She challenges and comforts like a friend across the table from you.

Life Together: I’ve tried to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship multiple times, but I can never seem to get past the first chapter on “Costly Grace” because it’s just so good. I love his writing — it’s beautiful and convicting all at the same time — and sought out to finish one of his books. Life Together is a Christian commentary on community. Not the fluffy, let’s all talk about our feelings-type of community, but the self-sacrificing, me before you-type of community. For Bonhoeffer, being a Christian ended up costing him his life, so when he talks about faith and the privilege of living in Christian community, you better listen.

The Finishers: This book was given to me when I graduated from college. I wish I would have read it my senior year. It’s written by a man named Roger Hershey, a lifelong staff member with Cru. Honestly, I did not have high expectations for the book, but once I finished it, I recommended it to every Christian I know. Why? Because Hershey told the reader a story that I’ve been hearing since I was a sophomore in college, but instead of just telling me the story, he invited me to join in. The title comes from the concept that the millenial generation could “finish” Jesus’ commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew to “go into the world making disciples of all nations.” It is a must read for college students and young professionals. He does assert that every Christian should consider vocational ministry globally, but he also leads the reader through the different ways to reach the world — by going, by praying and by giving.

Adopted for Life: Dr. Russell Moore does a fantastic job weaving his family’s adoption story with a biblical view of adoption. As an adoption professional and advocate, I was encouraged by the depth of his story and theology. It wasn’t a fluffy view of adoption and he doesn’t use the language of rescuing children, he goes deeper into God’s heart for the orphan and the biblical command of the church. It’s a must read for every Christian, regardless of if your family is considering or has ever considered adoption. Caring for the orphan is a mandate for the church and Moore does a great job breaking down that this looks like.

Wild in the Hollow: Amber Haines’ writing style isn’t for everyone, but I loved it. Her Southern drawl is thick and you can hear it in her story-telling. Haines shares her testimony, even the less than pretty parts with eloquence and grace. While our stories are so very different, I was comforted and encouraged by the way she shared her own experiences.

In 2016, my roommates and I are participating in a reading challenge. We would love for you to join us! If you’re interested, I’d love to add you to our closed Facebook Group – The Bungalow Book Club for some accountability and community as we read our ways through 2016.
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A Reading Round-Up from 2014

I challenged myself to read my way through 2014 last January. Over the course of the year, I read 34 books. Throughout all the reading, I learned that I tend to navigate towards female writers, I’m not a huge lover of fiction, and that not all bloggers make great authors. Not every book was a new favorite, but there were quite a few that I recommend.

Books everyone should read:

Daring Greatly, Brene Brown

Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning

Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

Half the Sky, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

The Locust Effect, Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros

Boundaries, Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Speak, Nish Weiseth

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

 

Honorable Mentions:

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion

Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker

Where Did You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple

A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman

That’s Why We Broke Up, Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, Anna Quindlen

The Best Yes, Lysa TerKeurst

Deepening Community, Paul Born

Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist

 

I’m always looking for new reads, so I would love to hear recommendations.

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Summer Reflections

As July winds down, summer is almost over. Which breaks my heart. Summer is a special season to me, full of wonderful memories spent at my grandparents’ house when my family came back from Japan for 8 weeks each summer. Summer is when it’s socially acceptable to eat ice cream for many meals. Summer sunsets are very special to me. It’s summer when I feel God closest to me, when I know that no matter what my heart is going through, it’s all going to be okay. And even though the summer isn’t quite over, no matter what this 75 degree Indiana day wants us to believe, I’d love to share about what I’ve learned this summer.

  1. Busy is not a way to describe how I am. It doesn’t count. It may be true of my schedule, but it’s a cop out. It says that what I fill my calendar with is more important that who I am, which is a lie I’m trying to fight hardcore in my life. Busy has a negative connotation, almost to say that I’m a victim to the things I’ve said yes to. These things I’ve said yes to are good things – I need to quit making myself a victim to them. Working a second job is not something that has happened to me; I’ve made the conscious decision and I truly do love working there, I need to stop complaining and start celebrating. I am not and will not be a victim to this culture of busy. Yes, there are times when I may need to say no, or slow down, but that is not a reflection of who I am, simply of what I choose to do.
  1. Adoption changes lives. It’s been a busy summer at work, and some evenings I’ve taken work home, or I’ve gotten up early to get to the office to get stuff done. I’m beyond thankful that I have the privilege of working a job that changes the lives of children in need. For older children and children with special needs, when a family chooses to adopt them, their lives are changed. In some cases, adoption means that a child gets to live. I love that I get to work in an industry that actually changes lives.
  1. Goals are a good thing. I want to get out of debt and pay off my student loans. If you’ve met me in the past year, I’ve probably shared that I have a second job to pay off my loans, or how I can’t wait to be debt free. I’ve tried to put my money where my mouth is and get serious about paying off my student loans. I’m making progress and it’s so empowering! It’s silly, but I love being able to make progress and meet goals on something that I’ve decided is very important to me.
  1. God wants me to be healthy. This means that I put good food in my body, make sure I’m working out enough and also setting healthy boundaries. It’s easy to want to say yes to everything, or be all things to all people, but God wants me to give the things I’ve committed to the best I can and this requires me to set boundaries. I also cannot fix people, I must draw a healthy boundary to love people well. Boundaries bring freedom. Emotional, financial and physical health bring freedom.
  1. Those who were part of the early church were brave. I’ve been hanging out in the book of Acts this month and my mind continues to be blown at the ways the followers of Christ responded to God’s commands immediately. Incredible results follow radical obedience. I want to obey quicker, and with bigger faith. As I’ve been reading, I keep asking God to help me develop my “faith muscle”. Like with any muscle, I have got to work at it slowly and surely, even when it’s uncomfortable.

I’ve been reading my way through 2014 and this summer, I have enjoyed numerous books with a glass of wine sitting on my patio, or with my tumbler on the beach (the best place to read). Some of my favorite books of the summer are:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo), Deepening Community (Paul Born), Boundaries (Cloud & Townsend) and my new favorite book – The Ragamuffin Gospel (Brennan Manning). I highly recommend all of these books!

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What have you learned this summer?

 

Monday Lovin’

After a wonderful weekend celebrating Easter, family and spring, it’s back to the grind on this Monday morning. I’m thankful for a 9-5 job that I love, supportive friends and family and a very special church here in Indianapolis. They make the grind less mundane. This Monday I’m loving:

1.) A dad who I share lots in common with. We were all talking at Easter brunch about our personality types. My dad and I (as far as Myers-Briggs) could not be more different. However, I hold our shared interests very close to my heart. He and I both love running, in fact we’re training for a mini-marathon in 2 weeks, we love reading, Barnes and Noble is a dangerous place for us, and beer, him probably more than me, but I do like it. I am thankful for a special relationship with him.

2.) Ice Cream. When I decided to give up sweets for lent, there was still snow on the ground. I did not for one second think through how I was going to celebrate the advent of spring without ice cream. As soon as Easter hit, I didn’t waste any time – I got ice cream last night with friends! I gave up sweets to break some back habits I had with food and to start seeing it in a healthy way. I’m so thankful for these 40 days; I look at food with new eyes. Needless to say though, I’m excited that I can go get ice cream with my friends now.

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3.) This book. Someone suggested it to me my sophomore year of college and each time my dad takes my sister book shopping I look for it, and yesterday it was there! I’ve devoured it; it’s that good. Shauna Niequist makes me want to be a writer, a writer who speaks of hope, reminding us about the good in the world because a good God loves us.

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4.) Redemption. Easter is a beautiful holiday to remember that yes, new things are great, but even better are the things we thought were lost, but instead they’ve been given new life. I like brand new, but even more, I like worn, old, broken-in, but seen with new eyes. Some of the best friendships in my life have been those that I was ready to walk away from, but I’ve stayed in them, and watched God change me and make the friendship even more special. I’m thankful that a life in Christ means that all that has been lost will be redeemed.

Happy Monday – may you be able to delight in things that you love today 🙂

Second Chances

I love stories. I’ve recently rediscovered my love for politics. I love to read. Right now, I’m reading a book that combines all my loves. The Presidents Club, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, details the elusive relationship between the presidents. In the first 50 pages of the book, I’ve found a beautiful story I can’t seem to forget.

Herbert Hoover’s reputation was terrible as he left the office of the presidency. He was blamed for the Great Depression; in fact the homeless villages got dubbed “Hoovervilles” for his inability to help the poor in America during the greatest economic downturn our country has seen. No one wanted to be associated with Hoover; his own political party asked that he not help with campaigning because they were afraid that it would hurt a candidate’s chances of being elected. According the authors of the book, Congress even talked about impeaching Hoover. He was hated.

Anyways, Howard Truman took over the presidency in 1945 during the end of World War II, and Hoover sent Truman a note indicating that if there was anything he could do for Truman, he would. We can’t be for sure what exactly happened, but Truman invited Hoover to the White House for his advice on how to handle the situation in Europe – hundreds of thousands of people were starving, farm lands were war-ravaged and a majority of the continent’s livelihoods had been destroyed, and Truman wanted Hoover’s help. What Truman did was more than ask for help; he was giving Hoover a second chance. Under Hoover’s watch, Americans lost jobs, filed for foreclosure on homes and struggled to feed their families. Upon Truman’s invitation, Hoover started to cry. To simplify the rest, Hoover accepted the chance to help out America, and humanity everywhere. He spent the next 18 months at the age of 71 (in the 1940’s this would have been very old), traveling the world trying to ensure that people were fed. He worked closely with Congress, the State Department and President Truman to generate new food sources, have other countries donate food and adjust agricultural policies in the U.S. to send to Europe. Hoover, along with Truman and other state leaders, believed that keeping people fed was crucial to defending Europe from communism.

The man whose reputation was that of being heartless and allowing Americans to struggle spent 18 months traveling around the world advocating against hunger. Why? Because he was given a second chance. Truman gave Hoover a second chance. I can’t get this out of my head. This story defines grace. The radical grace that changes life. Herbert Hoover’s life was no longer defined by the Great Depression, but also by saving lives of those in Europe from dying of starvation. His reputation was restored, and a life-changing friendship emerged above partisan politics. I want to be like Howard Truman. Not because I’m super concerned with reputations, Jesus’ own reputation was not so great with his enemies, but because I want to extend grace. I want to give second chances that change lives. My life has been changed by grace; in Christ, I have been given an, infinite numbers of second chances. May I be a radical grace extender.