What lies do we believe?

My temptation when reading familiar scripture is to skim. Familiarity can block us from seeing what we’ve missed before.

Our church follows a Bible reading plan which is the Bible in six years followed by year seven reading the Bible in one year. This is the year to read the Bible in a year. I’ve attempted this multiple times and failed. This year my husband and I are leading a small group, so the accountability will hold us to the challenge.

As I began reading in Genesis 3, I slowed down to intentionally read as though I’d not read this passage hundreds of times. That’s when I saw what I’ve missed in prior readings.

A little backstory. In Genesis 2:16-17 God instructs Adam with the words “….you are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” (emphasis added)

God is a God of freedom. Before He instructed Adam of what he should avoid, He started with pointing out what he was free to enjoy. Everything except the one thing.

God is good, and if something is off limits it’s only because God sees what we don’t see. It is for our good.

Jump to Genesis 3 and we notice the serpent doesn’t approach Adam, who had firsthand knowledge of what God said. He approached Eve with his lie.

The serpent plants the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind by posing the question, “Did God really say…..”

We don’t see Eve’s thoughts as she pondered the question. But we know how we toss and turn the doubts in our own minds.

While Eve is stating what God said, the serpent quickly added in his interpretation, which consisted of twisting God’s words into a lie.

The enemy is a liar. Plain and simple. He is a master at one thing. Lying. His goal is to speak lies in such a way that we accept and believe them.

The enemy desires we eat his lies.

In this all too familiar passage of scripture, this well-known story we’ve heard since Sunday school, I noticed something I’ve missed.

Genesis 3:6 “Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

The enemy fed the lie, planted doubt about the goodness of God, and waited. Eve considered his lie, which led to her accepting the lie and acting on it in sin.

All it took was consideration of the lie. Considering a lie about who God is, His nature and His goodness, is taking one step into the trap the enemy sets before us.

Consideration of the lie caused Eve to see her reality and surroundings in a new light, one cloaked in darkness.

The word “then” in Genesis 3:6 called me to pay greater attention.

Doubt changes what we see.

Lies morph truth into a false reality.

What we read in the Bible is that once the enemy offered the tantalizing lie to Eve, she looked at the tree and saw it the way the enemy described it to her. She noticed it was pleasing to the eye and offered good looking fruit, which all the other trees offered as well, but she saw it was “desirable for obtaining wisdom.”

God never said the tree offered wisdom. Wisdom comes from God alone.

“For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

Considering the lie gave birth to desire. Desire led to acting on the sin.

Then the woman saw…..So she took some of its fruit…….

Following the seeds of doubt planted by the enemy, we see the “then the woman saw…..so she took some of its fruit…..”

What lies are you currently believing about the goodness of God? Do you believe God is good? Always or sometimes? To others or to you too?

If these questions seem to poke you toward discomfort, I have some resources to suggest.

 

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty.

I read this in 2016 and it opened my eyes to the goodness of God in all situations. She posed a question in her book: Is God good to me? 

Yes, we “know” God is good. But do we believe it to our core? And do we believe He is good to us? Even when we aren’t receiving what we’ve begged to receive? Do we trust His goodness?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The God-Shaped Brain by Dr. Timothy R. Jennings.

I read this book in 2020 and was deeply impacted by the stories he shared about how what people believed about God impacted their health, choices, and life. It was both powerful and deeply insightful.

This book caused me to really look at the lies I hold about who God is and how that can lead me towards choices that aren’t for my good and God’s glory. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ebook devotional

 

Illuminate – Seeing God by the Light of His Word by Renee Robinson

To overcome the lies and combat our fears and worries, we must know who God is. His character, His nature. The only way to fight against the darkness the enemy sends is to illuminate our world by the light of God’s Word. That holds full truth so we can cast out the lies we hold in our minds and hearts.

Illuminate is a 14 day devotion focusing on various aspects of who God is so when we are faced with the enemy’s planted seeds of doubts, we will choose not to consider his lies and walk into his trap.

When you purchase illuminate you will receive an audio devotion each day for 14 days. In addition you will receive the pdf transcript. Both are yours forever to revisit as often as you need.

 

If today’s devotion spoke to you, please share on your social media platforms or send to a friend who may be encouraged as well.

 

 

A Book List of 100 Books Across Several Genres

Your complete book list of 100+ books.

I’ve been waiting all year for this post and I’m so excited to share some of the most incredibly influential and shaping books I read in 2020. A few things to note, many of these books I listened as audiobooks. When you hover over the titles, the link will light up for you to click to.

Wondering how I read 100 books in a year? Refer to this post.

Follow me on Goodreads.

My favorite ways to listen:

  • Scribd – For $9.99 a month, you have unlimited access to books, audiobooks, magazines, and podcasts. You can read/listen to as many books as you like for one price. You are able to save books to your library and read/listen as you are able. My only complaint is that sometimes books in your saved library will be taken out for a 30 day period due to license issues. But they do pop back in and Scibd leaves you a little note on the date they will show back up in your saved library. Use my link to join and your first 60 days are free. If you don’t like it, cancel! It’s super easy.
  • Audible – $14.95 a month memberships
    Membership gives you access to:
    • One monthly credit to buy any title from our entire premium selection to keep
    • Exchange titles if you don’t love them
    • Exclusive deals and discounts
    • The Plus Catalog—a selection of thousands of Audible Originals, audiobooks, and podcasts including exclusive series.
  • Overdrive – A library app I use on occasion. You only have fourteen days to complete a book, so I use this less frequently. But it is free!

*This post contains affiliate links. I truly appreciate when you all use my links to purchase based on my recommendations. It covers the costs associated with hosting and running my website, so I’m grateful to you!

** Side note: Some books I may have categorized in the wrong genre. I placed based on where I saw them fitting rather than actual genre listings.

Scroll past the images for favorites (and least favorites) across many genres!

 

Favorite Genre: Historical Fiction

My favorite in the historical fiction genre goes to Saving Amalie by Cathy Gohlke. What a gripping read. I could barely put this book down and it gave a look into the history of eugenics (which in my opinion is still happening today). I have no least favorite.

Historical Fiction

The Winter Garden – by Kristin Hannah. I don’t love all her books, but among my favorites are The Winter Garden and The Nightingale. I also don’t often listen to audiobooks for fiction, but The Winter Garden on Audible was incredible. The accents, the narration, was captivating!!

Though Waters Roar –  by Lynn Austin. She is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I’ve yet to read a book of hers I didn’t love. Each is so different and her writing draws you into the story instantly. She writes with a pace perfect for me who likes a book to keep me coming back.

Redeeming Love – by Francine Rivers. This was my second time reading and I enjoyed it more this time. If you haven’t read this one, please put it on the top of your list. I even managed to influence Steve to read it. He loved it as well.

Veiled in Smoke – by Jocelyn Green. I discovered her books a few years ago and read each one she releases. I rank her with my favorites such as Lynn Austin and Cathy Golhke.

Any book by Cathy Gohlke. Once I read Saving Amalie, I began reading anything I could get my hands on written by this author.

Classics

Favorite: To Kill a Mockingbird. What a book!! Both of my teens are reading it this year for American Lit. It’s one I will go back to again.

Least favorite: The Great Gatsby. I struggled painfully through this book. I’m sure I missed something because it’s a favorite of many people!

Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I read in high school and loved this book. But reading as an adult, especially as a christian, was another experience completely. No way can a teenager grasp the depth of this story. Such layers and symbolism. I actually highlighted much in this book.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Well it made my favorite of this genre. I could write much about this book. But instead just go read it if you haven’t yet.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London.

Not my favorite. But definitely a boy book.

The Great Gatsby  F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Again not my favorite. I really forced myself to finish only because one of my high schoolers is reading it this year. I would’ve quit otherwise.

Animal Farm George Orwell

Dystopian is not my favorite, but I read because it was free on Audible and I was curious. Another read that paired with 2020 left me disturbed. At the same time, I feel reading books that show the nature of communism and socialism is more important now than ever. Too many young people don’t understand why our Republic is unique and to be protected and cherished.

1984 George Orwell

I read this in high school but only remembered Big Brother. Reading in 2020 was quite disturbing honestly. This is not a feel good read. I tend to dislike dystopian novels because they leave you with a sense of hopeless despair. However, I do believe it’s a book to be read by everyone.

A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens.

I adored! I’ve seen many movie adaptations of this classic but never read the actual book. As always the book is better. I listened to this on Audible and highly recommend the version I listened to which I’ve linked here. Andrew and I listened to this together and both loved it so much.

 

Parenting

In the entire year I only read one parenting book. It was my second time reading and still holds the place in my heart as the greatest parenting book I’ve ever read. I’m a fan of anything written by Paul David Tripp. This should be read by every christian parent no matter the stage of parenting. It’ll change your perspective for sure.

Parenting : 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family

Childrens’ Literature/Classics

Remember I said earlier some books may be listed in technically improper genres. This is where I place them.

Favorite Childrens Classic: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A childhood favorite of mine that still holds the favorite spot in my heart. Also the 2019 movie is perfection. If you followed my reading journey on social media you already know that while this book has always been my favorite, I had no idea that as a child I only read part one! Literally went over 40 some odd years wondering what happened next. Turns out some books printed only one part while others included the entire book. Be sure to read the entire book. LOL.

Favorite children’s fiction: Resistance by Jennifer Nielsen.

Wow this book. I became a huge fan of this author when I read A Night Divided which remains one of my all time favorites I read aloud to all my boys. Resistance is a WWII story full of courage and heroism and strength.

Least Favorite: Amos Fortune Free Man.

I’ve read it a couple of times. It’s a great overall story I’d rather someone tell me about. The actual reading was not fantastic for me. But it won a Newberry so there’s that???

Little Women

see above

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

All the books in this series are fantastic. Read them all, especially to your kids!

The Horse and His Boy.

same as above.

Anne of Green Gables 

What a sweet, quirky read.

Hardy Boys.

Andrew and I fell in love with these not scary but suspenseful mysteries. It’s fun to try to solve the cases as we read.

Helen keller

Read aloud to Andrew. Interesting story of her life. I think reading true stories to our kids is important to show the human spirit that overcomes obstacles hard to fathom.

Resistance

see above

Because of Winn Dixie 

Any book by Kate DiCamillo is fabulous. Andrew and I listened to this quick read via Audible. Loved it.

Snow Treasure.

Another WWII story I read aloud to Andrew. Highly recommend! He never wanted me to put it down.

Hardy Boys – The Tower Treasure

Stuart Little

Andrew and I read this and watched the movie. So good!

The Golden Goblet

Excellent read! Historical fiction set in ancient Egypt. Jacob loved this in 6th grade so Andrew and I listened via Audible. Another book my middle grade reader didn’t want to end.

The Secret Garden

Wow! I’ve missed out on this surprisingly fantastic book. I’m a judge a book by the cover gal and this never appealed to me. I only read it because one of my teens told me I would like it and that he actually really enjoyed it when he read it for his required reading in school. Andrew and I listened via Audible to the copy I linked (This book, like many I read this year, is free with an Audible subscription). Oh how delightful. We ADORED it!!! The accents were superb. Like watching a movie.

The One and Only Ivan

I read this years ago to my boys. Andrew and I listened to this together again A sweet, short read.

Amos Fortune Free Man

See above. I hate giving poor reviews of anything. Just a personal preference issue.

The Best Christmas Pageant

second time reading as enjoyable as the first. Super short and sweet read.

The Holly Tree Inn

I’m now a Charles Dickens fan. Super enjoyable book to listen to as I consumed all I could during the Christmas season.

 

Young Adult

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry.

I actually read this as a young adult and read again as a 44 year old. It is a sad read. I love Lois Lowry and wanted to see if I still liked this book as an adult. I did.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

Did you read this in high school? It was another book I remembered really loving as a teen. I did enjoy it as an adult as well, but it’s sad. So be prepared.

The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Again, I’m a Lowry fan. Each book is so unique from the other. I find it appealing to read authors who can write this way. My favorite Lowry book is Number the Stars. I absolutely loved The Giver though. It was definitely thought-provoking. Another book that read in 2020 seemed right on time.

General Fiction

Favorite: Well, shoot. This is hard. If I must choose, it is Gilead. Ya’ll this book surprised the daylights out of me. I don’t know that it would be loved and appreciated by everyone. It’s NOT a page turner. It’s a slow, methodical, eloquent story that I found myself absolutely immersed in. It is the first book I read by Marilynne Robinson and led me to begin reading others.

Least Favorite: Again, I don’t really have a “least” in this category as I enjoyed each of them. I quit fiction I don’t like so I rarely end up with fiction that fits the least category. If I must, it would be The Christmas Train by David Baldacci.

The Summons by John Grisham.

Man! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a Grisham novel. Loved this one! My favorites are his early books, but this one held up well. I attempted reading another of his books but quit on it. Highly recommend this one.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

See above. 

When Crickets Cry Charles Martin.

I will read every single book he writes. He writes beautiful  clean, heartwarming stories that move at a fabulous pace. Each one is different from the one before, which I love. 

Home by Marilynne Robinson.

Yes, so good. Second to Gilead of her books for me so far. Again, not for everyone. These are slower reads. Some would say no real strong plot, but beautiful writing, which I appreciate. 

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans.

He is another author I read every single of his books. Read this twice.

The Noel Letters by Richard Paul Evans.

I flew through this book. I bought it in hardback because I’m confident I will love his books and return to them. This may be one of my favorites he has written.

The Snow Angel by Glenn Beck.

Did you know he’s an author across genres? From political thrillers, to sweet heartwarming tales, to children’s books, he has talent. I’ve read this book twice. 

Strands of Truth by Colleen Coble.

I enjoyed a good, clean suspense murder mystery. My only complaint is I felt the character development lacked something. But again, she’s a bestselling author, so who am I to criticize? Just felt characters jumped from hating each other to loving each other with little in between. 

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci.

I watched this on Hallmark or Lifetime then picked the book up for a quarter at a thrift store. 

 

Non-Fiction

Favorite: Hitler, God, & the Bible by Ray Comfort. This book was incredibly engaging and full of information I’ve never learned. I highly recommend putting at the top of your non-fiction list.

Least favorite: Defeating Darwinism. Written for teens, but absolutely too complex in sentence structure and word choice to read with ease. The author is brilliant but can’t write down to his audience.

The Pumpkin Plan 

did not enjoy. Tired of reading it quickly, but I did finish.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown.

I’m a cautious fan of hers. My beliefs don’t always line up with hers on many political and social issues and I only know this because in 2020 everyone began speaking out about everything. But this book was great! Lots of nuggets in here to take away.

168 Hours – You have more time than you think by Laura Vanderkam.

The subtitle says it all and the book delivered well. If you enjoy time management, it’s a good read. 

Defeating Darwinism 

I painfully read this book twice. I’ve read several evolution books that are FAR better than this one. On the cover it says it’s an easy to understand guide. That is not true. This is one of the hardest to understand books I read this year. Two of my teens had to read it for Classical Conversations. They should really change to something easier to finish. My boys disliked as much as I did.

The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse.

I became a Sasse fan after I read this book. Add it to your list. 

Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke.

Holy timing! I began listening to this book the day I began a social media fast. I knew nothing about this book, but it was divinely timed. Right in the middle of the 2020 media created and fueled chaos. It was exactly what I needed to read to refocus on Jesus and quit giving my outrage to what the media suggested.

If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas.

Wow! Another timely book. America is beyond unique and in our current culture the fight to keep our liberty is becoming more evident. Metaxas lays out clearly what is at stake.

Miracles by CS Lewis.

The title and the author. Need I say more?

Hitler, God, & the Bible by Ray Comfort.

One of my favorite books of the year. I learned so much!! Listened to the audible version (free with membership). 

My Dyslexia by Philip Schultz.

If you have a child or loved one with dyslexia, it’s a must read. If you are a teacher, it’s a must read. (free with audible membership)

The Art of War 

Interesting. I read out of curiosity.

Eat That Frog 

I read to help my procrastinating teenager. Picked up some useful tips. 

True Story/Memoirs

Favorite: The Only Plane in the Sky

Least Favorite: Miracle on 10th Street

Night by Elie Wiesel

This book rocked me. Unbelievably moving. A teenager who survived Nazi death camps. Wow.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

This is the second time I’ve read this book. It is on the list of my top ten all time favorite books.

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
I Still Believe by Jeremy Camp.

I actually watched the movie first because I didn’t know a book existed. I loved the movie and as always the book was even better!! I sobbed, but please read this one!!!

Escape from Camp 14 

I discovered this book while reading Ben Sasse’s book mentioned earlier. Absolutely unbelievable look into life in a communist prison camp. Born in the camp. One of the very few to ever escape to freedom from a North Korean camp. It was an amazing story.

The Diary of Anne Frank

I remember reading this in the fifth grade and locking myself in the bathroom when I read the last page doubled over by sobs. Reading these real accounts is crucial for humanity to appreciate and understand history and the sacrifice so many made.

Born Again by Charles Colson

This was a detailed book that followed Watergate and the eventual imprisonment and conversion to Christianity by Charles Colson. Great story, but lots of political details.

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

A child of slavery who rose up and overcame. Remarkable story of the drive and will of the human spirit.

Filthy Rich by James Patterson

The true story of Jeffrey Epstein. More evil exists in this world than we can understand or handle. This book takes a peek behind the curtain of the dark evil of sex slaves and human trafficking.

The Only Plane in the Sky – An oral history of 9/11.

This was likely the most impactful book I read this year. I listened via audible and couldn’t stop. I cried through these real accounts. This world, while filled with evil, is also filled with heroes and those willing to give their lives for the sake of another.

7 Women by Eric Metaxas.

Such a great insight into 7 women who significantly impacted the world. Loved it.

Where the Light Gets In by Kimberly Williams-Paisley

Remember Father of the Bride? This is the true story of losing her mom. 

Made for the Journey by Elisabeth Elliot.

This one was a bit harder for me to finish sadly. Incredible life journey though.

Miracle on 10th Street by Madeleine L’Engle.

Very average in my opinion. Or simply not even good. I’ve come to realize I’m really not a fan of her writing. 

 

Christian Living/Non-Fiction

Favorite: The God-Shaped Brain

Least Favorite: Own Your Life

Seasons of God by Richard Blackaby

Recommend for being reminded of the ebbs and flows of life and seeing the good in each season.

The Next Right Thing  by Emily Freeman

as good as all her books.

Moving Mountains by John Eldredge

I walked away from this book wanting to start it over immediately! A book about praying effective prayers. 

The Art of Neighboring 

This was such a great book about connecting in real life with the people right next door. It was inspiring to get offline and into real lives.

Recapture the Wonder by Ravi Zacharias.

Any book by Ravi is worth the read. I particularly loved this book because I feel in our screened to death world, we have lost our wonder. This book inspired me to seek more awe and wonder in the real world.

The Beauty of Broken by Elisa Morgan

Though I feel we’ve tired the word “broken” I thoroughly enjoyed and needed this book. I came from a broken family which created in me a desire to create the perfect family, which of course doesn’t exist. This book explores that while pointing beautifully to our awesome God.

I Isaac Take Thee Rebekah by Ravi Zacharias

Beautiful book of God’s design for marriage. Highly suggest for teenagers in particular.

Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
The Story of Jesus 

A dramatized version of the Bible. I’ve listened to this in the car with my kids many times. It’s a way to get the Bible in them.

You Can Understand the Book of Revelation by Skip Heitzig

Truly the title lives up to the name. First time Revelation made perfect sense to me.

All Things New by John Eldredge

This book paints a picture of eternity that makes you truly excited to live with an eternal mindset.

Devoted by Tim Challies
Alien Encounters – The Secret Behind the UFO Phenomenon by Chuck Missler

Ok, this book sounds out there and I’ve never read anything on this topic nor had any interest at all. I found it when I believe God dropped in my mind the phrase “as in the days of Noah.” I googled it and found this book from Chuck Missler’s conference. I only listened to this book because I trust the teaching of Chuck Missler. All I can say, is Whoa! The deception is real.

You Are Not Enough (and that’s ok) by Allie Beth Stuckey

I actually pre-ordered this book for two reasons: I love Allie B. Stuckey and I dislike the phrase “you are enough” because without Jesus we are not enough. Great book!!

God is Able by Priscilla Shirer.

A good reminder type of book.

Prayers to Break Negative Soul Ties 

I had no idea about this topic. Very interesting!!

The Last Christian Generation by Josh McDowell

A lot to consider and a call to invest in the next generation.

The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz.

Awesome book! I also led the Bible study based on the book. 

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado

Love every one of his books. This one was no different. If you deal with worry, this one is for you. 

In His Image by Jen Wilkin

A look at the character of God. We need more books like these. Less about us, more about Him. Jen Wilkin always delivers this.

Taveling Light by Max Lucado

I read this as a devotional. Each morning one chapter. Loved every second of it.

Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson

Honestly, it felt like a familiar book. Just not the book for me at the time I read it.

The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges.

I read this as a devotion, focusing on a chapter each morning. Fabulous. A much needed book.

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.

Another must read. Wish I’d read it years ago.

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

Another good one. Why God is God and we are not.

Sit Stand Walk by Watchman Nee

What a small but mighty book. More like a pamphlet, but more powerful than many 300 page books. It packs a much needed punch.

Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado

Andrew and I listened to this together. Listening to a dramatization of spiritual warfare is right up a boy’s alley!

The Christmas Child by Max Lucado
The God Shaped Brain Timothy Jennings

This book was one of the most interesting reads this year. Story after story about what we think about God and how we think impacts our lives and futures. Some of the stories I’ll remember forever. It was so good!

Get Your Life Back John Eldredge

I read this book at the perfect time. Right when God directed me off social media this book confirmed why. It’s time to get my life back. It was the perfect book to conclude a year of reading. I highly recommend to everyone!!

 

 

Goals + Reading Goals + 100 Books That Changed Me

Have you ever worked towards a goal only to reach it and find yourself shocked you actually did it?

That is me right now.

Audacious Goals

I set a goal at the end of 2019 to read one hundred books in 2020. The most I’ve ever read in a year is thirty books. Why did I more than triple my highest accomplishment? I have no idea. In fact, I can’t even tell you why I set this goal. No prize was awarded. No recognition given. It just felt like a random thought turned into a slight prompting.

I’m filled with mixed emotions. I’m proud of myself. I don’t always follow through well. I tend to go hard in the beginning, new phase and lose steam quickly only to find I forgot about it completely. I’m also sad when I see something that was truly a work of love come to an end. I’ve changed this year because of much I read. God directed my reading, and I’m filled with awe that He led me to do something like reading, which brought so much joy, yet so much growth simultaneously.

Will I set this goal next year? No way. I need to slow my reading pace. I read so many incredible books I wish I’d had the luxury of marinating in longer. I’d complete one and jump immediately to the next where normally I’d contemplate for a time before moving on.

Am I glad I went for it? For sure, yes! I think working towards something brings such a sense of personal reward and accomplishment. Life is hard and working on hard things by choice helps us when the moments we find ourselves in aren’t by choice. We can do hard things. I also feel personal growth is important. It doesn’t happen by accident. We must decide to intentionally grow if we want to grow.

The former accountant in me created a spreadsheet of my books. I really wanted to see how many books made up each genre. Did I branch out at all or stick to what I love most?

One of the most common questions I received regarding my year of reading is how in the world I have time to read so much.

How to create more time to read:

  1. Cut out television. I’m not a big tv watcher anyway, so this was not hard for me.
  2. Cut out podcasts. I do love podcasts, but took a break for this year and replaced with audiobooks.
  3. Listen to audiobooks. You’d be surprised how many books you can listen to as you drive, cook, or do household chores.
  4. Limit social media scrolling.
  5. Don’t have phone anywhere near you while reading.
  6. Become a book quitter. For me nothing is worse than dreading the thought of picking up a book that I find boring or uninteresting. My limit is 100 pages to grab my attention.

Benefits of Reading More

  • Increased attention span. I noticed myself learning to give my attention for longer stretches of time this year. We live in such a fast, give it to me right now world and our attention spans suffer for it.
  • Greater focus. I learned this year just how distracted I am. Focusing on simply a book rather than all the notifications calling my attention was a gift.
  • Personal growth. The books I read this year grew me. I was changed by reading new ideas and old ideas alike this year. I read books that gave me perspective and insight.
  • Empathy/compassion. Reading takes you on a journey. You walk alongside characters you begin to feel are a part of your life. All the emotions are moments of this journey and when it ends you look back and see you are a more compassionate person simply from taking part in the story of another.
  • Escape. If ever there was a year to escape, 2020 holds the title. Reading provides a healthy escape. It was a gift for me to focus on stories rather than the craziness of this year.
  • Bonding. When you read aloud with your children, bonding is a byproduct. Bonding with my kids over stories is one of my favorites.
  • No screen needed. It feels everything is on a screen these days. To me it is a relief to sit with a physical book or slip my headphones on for a listen and leave the screen world behind.

Here’s the Breakdown

  • 57 out of 100 books were audio. This was not a surprise. I have more time to listen than to sit with a book. However, listening does not come easy and is a skill I’ve been working on for quite some time now.
  • Genres:
    • Fiction -8
    • Historical Fiction – 8
    • Classics – 7
    • Children’s Lit/YA – 20
    • Christian Living – 30
    • Non-Fiction – 12
    • Parenting – 1
    • True Story/ Memoir – 14
  • Books quit: 3

How about you? Did you work on something in 2020 you are proud of? Honestly, surviving 2020 is an accomplishment. What a year it’s been.

I’ve been less active here than I prefer. Now I’m asking the Lord what exactly does He want of me in 2021. Do I keep writing? Do I change directions? This is a typical December pondering for me.

While I ponder what the future holds for me, I’m compiling my list of books I read in 2020. So stay tuned for the list of what I read and what I loved.

Blessings to each of you!!

 

Books I’ve Read in 2019 – Part 2

In August I posted a list of the books I’d read in 2019 to that point. Some I’d actually started in 2018 and merely completed in 2019. You can see that post here.

Also, I share a great deal on Instagram about the books I read. Sometimes in my feed, sometimes in my Stories. If you are interested in books, I invite you to follow along on IG!

Between that post and the end of 2019, I read 15 more books.

I’ve never set reading goals before because I love to read and don’t need a goal to keep me reading. However, this year I am working towards a goal, one I offered my kids as well. I shared on my personal FB page as well as Instagram.

Basically, I offered $100 for 100 books read by the end of 2020. Or $10 gift card for 12 books by the end of the year. It can be a variety of audio and physical books, below grade level or on grade level. I believe there is value in all of it. To help us keep moving toward our goal, we broke down our yearly goal to weekly goals of 2 books a week. Each person who meets their weekly goal earns additional screen time or an ice cream or something small like that. We are notorious for starting strong with new systems and giving up within a few weeks, so I hope not this time around.

I’m using Everyday Reading’s reading log to give us a visual tracker. It’s a fun one! And speaking of this reading log and Everyday Reading, which I just discovered on Instagram, I’m stunned by how much some people read. I was proud of my 30 books this year, but others read 100s of books!!! Some over 200 in one year!

Nonfiction

Simply Tuesday

First, I’m an @emilypfreeman fan through and through. Somehow she always writes exactly what I’m pondering and processing, and the Lord aligns the timing of when I read/listen to divinely meet me.

I listened to this one through Christianaudio as they offer one free audiobook a month. Such a great deal!!

The only thing I wish is that it was Emily herself reading the audio. If you listen to #thenextrightthing podcast you understand this.

I listened while on a social media fast, which was lovely. I journaled so much through this book.

As I sat in my car at #chickfila waiting for Jacob to get off work, the audio stopped and I wondered what happened. The book was over, yet I wasn’t ready for it to end. I was convinced my audio was missing a few chapters. So I went online to find the table of contents. It was true, the end had arrived.

But that’s what Emily Freeman does, writes beautiful words in a way to lead you exploring on your own. She doesn’t instruct you, she is a co-journeyer (is that a word?).

Her books have this invisible thread from one to another. Each leads to the next so gracefully.

Skip College

 

This was a surprisingly insightful read. Even if you are a big college degree supporter, I recommend this book. It was a fast read, full of ideas to ponder and consider. As I have one launching in 2 years, I’m glad I read this one.

“Tens of millions of Americans owe a combined $1.5 trillion in debt for student loans. Much of this staggering expense has been unnecessary; attending college is more of a tradition — a cultural rite of passage than a necessary step towards a successful career, justifying its steep cost.

As countless entrepreneurs and creative hustlers have shown, there is a path to success outside of the institutions of so-called higher learning. Allow us to show you the way.”

Little Book of Hygee

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this sweet read! I listened through Overdrive. I first read an article about Norwegians’ love of winter. This spurred me on to read this book. I’m now creating my own little hygee in my home.

“Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? The answer, says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is Hygge. Loosely translated, Hygge?pronounced Hoo-ga?is a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience,” Wiking explains. “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe.”‘

 

Fiction

Water from my Heart

Absolutely loved it. The 3rd of his books I’ve read and I think he’s my favorite fiction writer as of right now. When you read this, do NOT skip the epilogue. Best part of the entire book.

Where the Crawdads Sing

The writing was out of this world, but it took me half the book to decide to keep reading. I felt it was a slow read, but for some reason I couldn’t put it down, which was quite odd. The further into the book I journeyed, the more I liked it. When I finished, I was glad I did and counted it one of my favorite reads of the year. It was a different kind of book for me to be sure.

“Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.”

The Mountain Between Us

Another Charles Martin book I fell in love with. Hard to put down. His books keep you turning the page. I loved everything about this story. I did hear the movie is not true to the book and lacked the purity the book portrayed. No surprise with Hollywood!

 

A Ring of Endless Light

I didn’t love this one. I intended to read to my boys and found myself grateful I didn’t. Much about death and teenage love that I didn’t care to focus on.

 

Send Down the Rain

Again, Charles Martin. Simply fantastic. I have never disliked one of his books to this point.

 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (childrens)

I can’t believe I’d never read this book. I read it aloud to one of my boys and we thoroughly enjoyed it. So funny and fun to read!!

 

Last Christmas in Paris

I absolutely adored this book. It’s set during WWI, which I’ve read little of. It was written as letters written back and forth. But what I really enjoyed was the Audible version. There are simply some books that are best enjoyed as a listen, and this was one of those for me. The narration was superb!!!

Noel Street

I’m a big fan of Richard Paul Evans. I read nearly all of his Christmas books. It’s easy reading, which is what I enjoy during the Christmas season. I don’t mind the predictability one bit.

 

A Redbird Christmas

This was a really sweet, light read. Perfect for a Christmas book.

Little House in the Big Woods (childrens)

I’ve read this one a couple of times and like it more with each read.

A Night Divided (young adult/childrens)

This would be on my must read list for sure. It was an amazing read aloud. But I would’ve enjoyed it even without my boys listening.

It’s 1961, the Berlin Wall went up overnight. Britain, America, and France controlled the western half of Germany and 1/2 of Berlin. Russia controlled the east. A family ends up physically separated.

This passage right before the wall went up trapping the Germans in the east got my attention.
“At first it didn’t matter much to us. Most people shopped, worked, or visited just as they always had, and crossing the border wasn’t much more difficult than crossing the street. But Russia’s promises of a better life under Communism weren’t happening. As the west repaired its war damages, ours remained like unhealed scars. Their shops were full, and ours constantly faced shortages. They were growing stronger, while we leaned on Russia like a crutch, pretending to be every bit as strong.”

Between Two Shores

I didn’t love this like I did Mark of the King. I struggled with the characters and it didn’t keep me turning the pages like the first book I read by Jocelyn Green. But you may love it and I will continue reading her books as I love her style and historical fiction is my favorite.

Here’s to more reading!!!

One thing I’m happy about with my year of reading is more fiction! I lean towards nonfiction as I love to learn and grow. But fiction is simply good for my soul.

I’ll be posting my upcoming 2020 reading list on Instagram so check there for what I plan to read in the coming weeks.

 

PS. This post includes affiliate links. When you purchase through links on my site, you help cover the costs to run this blog. I greatly appreciate your support!!

PSS. If you don’t currently have and Audible account, I highly recommend it. Through Audible I’ve found some of my favorite books. Some narrators are simply out of this world and the books come to life in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.

The value of both work and play – and why God told me to get back to work

We all love a good vacation, right? A staycation is perfect as well. Basically, anytime we can break from work and enjoy rest is good for the soul.

The boys and I have been on an extended break through the holidays, and I’ve found myself struggling through it a bit. So much so, I felt I was living in a bit of a funk I couldn’t seem to pull out of. It began as a dull feeling, like the winter blues, yet the weather has been lovely so I couldn’t blame it on the weather. I lacked desire and motivation to do anything productive or fun.

On Christmas Day we took the boys to the movies as part of their Christmas gift. They watched Star Wars while I enjoyed Little Women. I shared about this on Instagram so I won’t digress here. The movie inspired me to begin reading this childhood favorite again.

 

I’ve basically existed with my nose in some book or another over my Christmas break. Normally, this is something my soul needs. But in this current state of funk I found myself in, even reading didn’t do the trick. I fell asleep praying for God to give me insight into this foggy feeling and to give me healthy motivation and drive to do the things He’s called me to do.

The following morning I woke and began my quiet time with God. Again I prayed about this lack of desire and motivation. I even wrote out my prayer in my journal. After my quiet time, I still lacked motivation to get after the day, so I opened Little Women and got back to reading while the rest of my family slept. And I met God in the pages of Little Women. He brought me the answer I asked Him to bring.

Mrs. March played a little experiment with the March girls in order to teach them a valuable lesson about the importance of everyone working their fair share. In this little experiment, she leaves for the day, and the girls carry the full load themselves. When they all gathered together again, Mrs. March lovingly shares her words of wisdom with them.

“Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for every one; it keeps us from ennui and mischief; is good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and independence better than money and fashion.”

The girls respond that they’ll “work like bees” and never fuss again over their proper duties. Again Mrs. March offers wise counsel.

“Very good! Then I am quite satisfied with the experiment, and fancy that we shall not have to repeat it; only don’t go to the other extreme, and delve like slaves. Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life become a beautiful success, in spite of poverty.”

I underlined and marked the pages, closed the book, and smiled at God. He truly does meet us wherever we are. He didn’t answer me as I sat quietly reading my Bible and praying. He listened to my plea, then He met me where I went next, in the pages of Little Women.

I looked up the word ennui. It’s French and pronounced ahn-wee. “A feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom.”

Yes, I suffered from ennui! Too much resting, too little purpose to my days, left me feeling restless, discontent, lacking motivation or drive, and downright bored. I needed to get back to work.

Then I paused again. Suddenly I had a wave of compassion wash over me as I thought how many people find themselves in this situation yet never connect the dots of the feeling of discontent and boredom with the state of living with too little work. I’m not saying this is always the case. But if I continued in my too much rest, too little work, my funk would only get deeper. How many people find themselves here without realizing it’s the lack of proper balance that is missing?

Today is supposed to be vacation still, but I knew what my soul needed. It needed purpose-driven work. It needed structure and a plan. And so I did get back to work. The funk lifted, my soul felt lighter, the world looked brighter, and I texted my husband with this message, “I’m back 🙂 ”

 

Today I say goodbye to a dream

6 years ago this very month, Seeking Christmas arrived on bookshelves. It was a dream I’d worked on for years. Roadblock after roadblock seemed to meet me along the journey. Eventually, I received the letter from the publisher that my proposal was accepted and they’d like to offer me a publishing contract.

Here’s what I asked my blog readers in August 2013:

Do you……

  • Find your anxiety level rising as Christmas approaches
  • Feel the commercialization overshadows what really matters
  • Wish you could simplify Christmas
  • Feel the hectic pace and busyness makes advent devotions impossible
  • Desire to capture the true magic
  • Long to create memories & traditions with depth & meaning
  • Wish there was a devotion for today’s busy family
  • Want more than just a devotion
  • Want an experience
  • Want to address all of the above AND complete half of your gift list

For 6 years I’ve prayed for Seeking Christmas to catch fire. Sadly, it never lived the life I dreamed it would.

Does that mean it was a failure?

I suppose that depends on how you choose to view the entire experience.

I hired a consultant while I developed Seeking Christmas. From the very beginning, he told me my path was never about the book. Honestly, I didn’t get it at all. In my mind, it was all about the book. I was deeply passionate about the family, traditions, and memory making. Of course, it was about the book.

He tried to help me see beyond this one project, that I had more to offer than a Christmas experience book.

I thought a publishing deal was the end. I thought it would release and the rest was history. I thought it would be the christian Elf on the Shelf.


I quickly realized ALL the marketing rested on my shoulders.

To that point I refused to buy into the “build a platform” idea. I said I’d NEVER speak publicly. God began to show me if I wanted to share this with the world, I needed to do the actual work of sharing.

I began speaking at women’s gatherings. It was one of my greatest fears. Turns out I fell in love with speaking and something I was terrified of turned into something that brought me incredible joy. Connecting face to face with women ignited something else in me.

This step led to the preparation for me to lead women’s ministry at my church. Again, I needed time face to face with these women to hear their struggles and understand their hearts.

Because of Seeking Christmas, I began to consistently write on my blog in very intentional ways. My writing skills developed right before the eyes of my readers. You’ve watched me grow through all kinds of seasons.

All along, the sales of Seeking Christmas were pitifully low.

I’ll be totally honest, part of me wishes I’d never published it. All the writing conferences I’ve attended, they stress the importance of a first success. If you release a flop of a book, you are toast for future books.

But then I look at all God did in me and this ministry, and I see that without stepping out to publish Seeking Christmas, nothing else would have followed. Seeking Christmas drove me to develop in areas I wouldn’t have on my own.

Mainly, Seeking Christmas taught me to say no to fear. It taught me to trust God when I can’t see “success” in the way I’ve always viewed it. It taught me that success occurs in the process rather than the end result. It taught me to release my fear of failure and accept that failure might actually be the success I needed most.

Over the summer my copyright attorney called to ask about updating some filings. I let him know I planned to simply let Seeking Christmas go. I would not continue to pay the publisher to keep it in the distribution system. I was done.

I’ve not fully processed my feelings over it yet.

The prideful part of me feels embarrassed. I look back and see how naive I was. Driven by passion and desire, full of hope that it would bring a gift to families I deeply desired they experience.

The cynical part of me wonders why I spend so much time trying to help people solve their problems or share my discoveries. Do people even care?

Then I look around at this loud online world and wonder why I’m even still here on this blog space.

Then I hear God’s whisper. He gently reminds me to show up for the ones who are looking for help, encouragement, or a dose of inspiration.

So today I officially say goodbye to a once held dream for Seeking Christmas. It’s no longer available on Amazon or online book retailers. I have in my inventory 15 copies you can buy from my store here.

Just for fun, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane.

My family has cheered me on through every passion, idea, & project. They’ve encouraged me to follow my dreams and never quit. Today, is hard because it feels like a quit. But I think at times, we have to quit something to prepare for another.

Here’s a little trailer my family made with me 🙂

 

Seeking Christmas from Ernie D.–Clear Impact Prod. on Vimeo.

I say goodbye to the dream I held in my heart for Seeking Christmas today, but I look forward to what God has next, which I never would have stepped into without walking the road with this book for the last 6 years.

But you know what I will still have that I hope families will use? The ornament download. I’ll be updating my shop to offer the ornaments with a family activity. I hope the heart of Seeking Christmas will live on even if the book isn’t around. And now that I think of it, maybe this is the very best way. Maybe all along what I want most is families to get into the actual Bible together. Maybe this will simplify that for them in a hectic, materialistic season.

Hey, I appreciate you. You are the absolute best readership I could ever ask for. Sometimes I can’t believe you are still here with all that is available online to read. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Books I’ve Read in 2019

 

I should really become more systematic with sharing posts about what I’ve read and am reading. It’s far too sporadic. Nonetheless, here’s a few books I’ve read since my last post Books I’ve Read This Year and Why We Read Aloud.

 

Personal Growth/Non-Fiction/Christian Living

  • Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf

It’s a game changer kind of book. I borrowed my friend’s copy which she had underlined and highlighted unlike anything I’d ever seen. The main thing I learned here is that I’m not an active enough reader, clearly.

But seriously. I think everyone should read this book. It’s really that good.

  • Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt

I loved this book. I actually listened on Audible and finished in about 2 days. It was a fast, practical read about goal setting and habits. Apparently, a theme for my year so far. I approach these books as a cynic, sadly. But a trusted friend recommended, so I went with it. I’m glad I did.

  • Cozy Minimalist Home

This is another book I would typically not find myself drawn to for a couple of reasons. I don’t decorate continually. I literally decorate my home when I move and never again until the next house. Not kidding. It’s just not my thing. Also, we are in a 2 year spending freeze, so why would I want to read a book that could cause me to want what I don’t need.

Ok, but that whole minimalism thing drew me in. And the library had it.

It took me by surprise. I finished in a day and would definitely recommend. I particularly liked the writing style.

 

  • Remember God

I didn’t LOVE this one, but it wasn’t bad at all. I just don’t think I was the target reader for this book. I read it because the title appealed to me. If you recall from last year, remember was the word on repeat. I believe if we spent more time remembering who God is, much of our troubles would fade.

However, this book didn’t really address that as much as I’d hoped. Instead it was a part of the author’s personal journey. Her writing life/career, singleness, etc. I think someone in that same season of life would really love and connect with this book.

  • The Soul of Shame – Retelling the stories we tell about ourselves

“We’re all infected with a spiritual disease. Its name is shame. Whether we realize it or not, shame affects every aspect of our personal lives and vocational endeavors. It seeks to destroy our identity in Christ, replacing it with a damaged version of ourselves that results in unhealed pain and brokenness. But God is telling a different story for your life. Psychiatrist Curt Thompson unpacks the soul of shame, revealing its ubiquitous nature and neurobiological roots. He also provides the theological and practical tools necessary to dismantle shame, based on years of researching its damaging effects and counseling people to overcome those wounds. Thompson’s expertise and compassion will help you identify your own pains and struggles and find freedom from the lifelong negative messages that bind you. Rewrite the story of your life and embrace healing and wholeness as you discover and defeat shame’s insidious agenda.”

This book was a powerful read. I only picked it up because a friend mentioned it in passing. I recommend it to all christians.

  • Take Control of Your Life – How to silence fear and win the mental game

“With humor and wisdom, Mel Robbins expertly tackles the fear of change, rejection, and being alone, as well as imposter syndrome and feeling trapped in the wrong career. Each session is a goldmine of discovery as Mel guides you to find your purpose, improve your relationships, and ultimately take control of your life. In these times of high anxiety, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed – that changes right now. If you want the tools to break free from fear and live to your fullest potential, this is a must-listen.”

I read this as part of an accountability group. The title gave me pause, but it wasn’t what I expected. Each chapter I found helpful in learning to cast out fear and embrace the person God created me to be and the callings He has placed on my life. While this book isn’t written from a christian perspective, I still found much wisdom and nuggets to take away.

  • The Power of Habit

“In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.”

I loved this book. I love learning new things and the way he told the stories was so captivating and enthralling. I finished that book more aware than ever how powerful habits are and how we hold the power to change and shape our habits. Habits don’t have to control us. Great read!!

Parenting

  • What a Difference a Mom Makes

I basically like anything by Dr. Kevin Lehman. He’s one of my favorites. The beginning I devoured, but then it quickly became much of what I’ve read in his previous books. I love it because I love his advice, but I’d read much of it already.

 

Fiction

  • Roses

Well, this one I struggled to put down. I didn’t want it to end at all. I fell in love with the characters, the plot moved not too fast and not too slow. If you like historical fiction, add this to your list.

“Spanning the 20th century, the story of Roses takes place in a small East Texas town against the backdrop of the powerful timber and cotton industries, industries controlled by the scions of the town’s founding families. Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick should have married but unwisely did not, and now must deal with the deceit, secrets, and tragedies of their choice and the loss of what might have been–not just for themselves but for their children, and children’s children. With expert, unabashed, big-canvas storytelling, Roses covers a hundred years, three generations of Texans and the explosive combination of passion for work and longing for love.”

 

  • Spark of Light

I’ve never read a Jodi Piccoult book I didn’t like until this one. I really had a hard time with the abortion subject matter as I shared in my Instagram post below. Sadly, I would not recommend this book.

 

  • Number the Stars

This is the 2nd time I’ve read this book. I read it aloud to Zachary and Andrew. Such a good read aloud.

 

  • The Story Keeper

I read this because I really enjoyed Before We Were Yours. It was a fairly quick read but wasn’t as gripping as I’d hoped. But fiction for me is tough because it really has to be a page turner to keep me sitting still.

  • Somerset

This is the prequel to Roses. Equally as good as Roses!

“Born into the wealthiest and most influential family in 1830s South Carolina, Jessica Wyndham was expected to look appealing, act with decorum, and marry a suitably prominent and respectable man. However, her outspoken opinions and unflagging sense of justice make her a difficult-and dangerous-firebrand, especially for slavery-dependent Carson Wyndham. Jessica’s testing of her powerful father’s love is only the beginning of the pain, passion, and triumph she will experience on a journey with the indomitable, land-obsessed Silas Toliver and headstrong Jeremy Warwick to a wild new land called Texas.”

  • Until We Reach Home Lynn Austin

I’ve loved all Lynn Austin books, and this one kept me coming back. A sweet, while at times heartbreaking, and moving read.

“Life in Sweden feels like an endless winter to Elin Carlson after the deaths of her parents. When circumstances become unbearable, she determines to find a safe haven for her sisters.

So begins their journey to America . . . the land of dreams and second chances.

But as hardship becomes their constant companion, Elin, Kirsten, and Sofia question their decision to immigrate to Chicago. Will their hopes for the future ever be realized?

ONLY IN CROSSING A SEEMINGLY ENDLESS OCEAN WILL THEY FIND THE TRUE MEANING OF LOVE, FAITH, AND HOME”

  • Titans, Leslie Meacham

Great book. I liked Roses and Somerset better. However, Titans was worth reading. It was filled with a bit less heartache     than her previous books. A more predictable ending. A sweet read to wind down my summer fiction spree.

Do you enjoy these posts? I don’t know how many of y’all are readers???