Top 10 Books of 2014

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With the adoption taking up most of the writing here these past months, I haven’t had a chance to link to the books I’ve been reading. Many of the books I read this year weren’t published in 2014, but they came at just the right time to me.

In no particular order, these are the top 10

Daring Greatly

 

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I wrote a bit about this book here to me, Daring Greatly is one of the books that should be required for life.

Battlefield of the Mind

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I’m going to call this one the most life-changing book of the year for me. It showed me so many ways I was in bondage mentally and was a catalyst for God doing a mighty freedom work in my life. I look back now over 6 months later and feel like I’m living a different life internally than I was before. I believe God used this message to prepare me for our adoption and all the mental exhaustion we’ve endured.

Victim of Grace

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Victim of Grace was another well-timed and applicable book. It’s a memoir about an author’s journey that bears a few similarities to mine. I was so encouraged by her story and was challenged to believe that God was working everything together.

Forever Mom. What to Expect When You’re Adopting

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I wish I would have read this book before we adopted instead of several months into it. In any case, it did help me approach my parenting to Jac0b in a new way.

Boundaries

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Man, this was a good one. Revolutionary for my life. If you are a people-pleaser in any way, feel drained from relationships or are reading these words, you need to read this book!

You’re Going to be Okay

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I love Holley Gerth-her writing and her as a person. She’s so down to earth and warm and encouraging. I’ve had this book in my kindle for some time, but I picked it up just a few weeks ago and it felt like it was written just for me. If you’re going through any sort of stressful time, this is the one for you.

Soul Keeping

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Soul Keeping is one those read-it-once-a-year books. I learned a lot about the mind, soul and spirit and was encouraged to do soul-giving activities. In fact, I might just read this for the new year.

Kisses from Katie

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Here’s another one I was late on reading, but it’s the story of how a girl in her early twenties adopted 14 girls in Uganda. Inspiring, challenging and encouraging.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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This historical fiction was a fun one to read. The book is written in letters that sounds like it could be annoying, but actually works.  It’s World War II era near Europe. It sounds like it could be depressing, but it’s not.

 Outlander (<–Click! Kindle version is only $1.99)

 

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Technically, I’m not 100% complete with Outlander. 600 pages is a lot! But I can already tell you, this was by far my favorite fiction read of the year. Yes, I’m on the bandwagon, finally. It comes with lots of adult-only warning labels, but it’s good writing with good characters.

 

I had a goal to read 50 books this year and only made it to about 33 plus a few half-read books. But still, given all our changes this year, I’m proud to have finished that many and very satisified with the return on the ones I read. Life-change, entertainment, encouragement, inspiration–books are the best!

Oh, speaking of reading, I’m leading a group to read through the Bible in 90 days starting on January 1st.  I’ve done it several times and it is always such a blessing.  I remember the first time I did it, it totally changed my perspective of God’s story. Request to join our closed Facebook group over here. We always have great discusssion, encouragement and reminders!

Fly a Little Higher

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It’s last February and my daughter and her friend come in the house with great drama, “Mom, you have to download this song.  We heard it on CNN Student News today.  This guy Zach Sobiech has cancer and wrote this song called Clouds.  It is sooo sad!”

I hear Zach singing the catchy chorus, “Up, up, up” and my heart bends to the joyful sorrow of the song.

A few months go by and we stop for a moment to grieve when we learn of his death.  So young, so talented, so joyful.

It’s a month ago and I get an email with an announcement that Zach’s mother Laura Sobiech has released a book called Fly a Little Higher and they want to know if I want to read and review it.  I jump at the chance.

It’s Tuesday and I’m on page 283 of a 325 page book and Laura talks in passing about the song being featured on CNN Student News, creating even more media attention that it already had.  By this time, Zach is very sick and they are near the end of their journey, this journey I’ve been traveling with them through the book.  At this time, they are ignoring much of the Internet buzz just because there are so many hateful people with unhelpful suggestions and they are intent on spending their last days in peace together.  Laura says,

Whatever was going on in cyberspace didn’t have much to do with what was going on in real life.

I wrote my post Tuesday and read this line late Wednesday.  It hits me hard.

I cry when he dies at the end.

I’ve known the end since the beginning, but experiencing it with them, it breaks your heart.

And yet.

They had so much hope, so much strength in Christ, so much love for one another.  It was beautiful to watch it unfold.

One of the only reasons the Sobiech family agreed to share the song and so much media was to raise awareness and money to help save others with cancer.  In fact, Laura’s prayer when she found out Zach was terminal was that if he did indeed take Zach, that God would do something BIG with it.  Given the success of the song and story, I’d say God is answering in abundance.

If you want to be a part of this answer to prayer, download the song, buy the book or donate to the cause.  And more importantly, heed Zach’s wisdom:

 

You don’t have to find out you’re dying…to start living. –Zach Sobiech

 

 

 

This post is part of the Fly a Little Higher Blog Tour with hundreds of bloggers raising awareness and giving hope to those with cancer. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!

My Yes in My Mess

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After visiting Kenya with Compassion several years back, Kristen Welch was led to make a difference for young, pregnant women in Kenya.  She founded Mercy House Kenya which continues to thrive and grow.  In fact, TODAY they move into a new house for the women.

Rhinestone Jesus is her newest book chronicling her journey from a Christian teen wearing her sparkly Jesus pin to the founder of a non-profit in Kenya.

As I read Kristen’s new book Rhinestone Jesus, I began questioning what my yes might be.

If you’ve been reading for the past 6 weeks, you might remember a post in which I wrote about coming to terms with my working mom status.  It’s been such a freeing last month to not carry the weight of the false guilt.  But still, even though I was coming to terms with working, I still didn’t see it as my YES IN MY MESS. 

God began pressing on me, though, that indeed my yes right now was to my job in that cubicle. 

But how could God ask me to say yes to that? Isn’t that the extreme opposite of any God-work?  Doesn’t that reek of the American Dream that Kristen wrote against in her book?  Aren’t I supposed to leave the cushy job and 401K to say yes?

As I continue to seek God, though, I realize he has been asking me to say yes all these years. 

Even without my joyful yes, he’s been using my job to teach me, not to embrace, but to let go of the American Dream. 

He’s taught me to live simply and give generously.

To let go of faith in income and benefits and understand it could all be *poof* gone in an instant.

He’s taught me not to rely on the security of a job and rely on Him. 

He’s taught me not to chase after fulfillment in a title, but my title as daughter of the one true King. 

He’s taught me to be a light for him, no matter where I go.

He’s taught me to have integrity and character in a place that at times is so very lacking. 

He’s taught me to work as unto Him and not to man. 

He’s taught me to put family first among so many other duties.

He’s been doing God-work all this time and I refused to see it.

God is not working in me and others in spite of my job, but directly through my job. 

My yes has been a very stubborn yes, but in the past month I have been whispering a joyful yes. Yes, Lord, if you really do want me in this space I’ll do it.  I’ll do it unto you until you move me. 

 

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And yes, there’s a mess in my yes.  There’s laundry that sits in baskets for days and dishes that sit in sinks.  There’s tired mornings and missed school functions. *I* am the mess most of the time.

I resonated so much with Kristen’s husband who wanted to leave his corporate job to devote more time to Mercy House Kenya but stays right now to make their yes possible.  And I realized, my yes to my job has in part made their yes possible as we’ve been able to support Mercy House Kenya over the years.  And there’s many more yeses we’ve said to help others say yes to their calling.

So, I suppose it is as they say–we can’t put God in a box. His plans sometimes don’t look like what we thought they should.  One person’s yes will look wildly different than the next.  Someone else’s wrong might be our exact right.  We are all different parts of the body working together.  Watching Kristen’s yes unfold has taught me how to let go of the American Dream while working and in doing so, my working has helped support her yes. How cool is God?

So what does your yes look like?  Is it something big or maybe a little yes with a big impact?  All of our yeses to God matter and make a difference.

 

Rhinestone Jesus is so much more than about calling.  It’s about faith and parenting and marriage. I was so encouraged and I know you will be too.

RhinestoneJesus_mockup-433x600 Pick up Rhinestone Jesus on Amazon or any major retailer.  For more posts about Rhinestone Jesus, check out the link-up over here.

 

I was provided a copy of the book for the review but all opinions are my own.

An Easter Experience for Families

A Sense of the Resurrection

 

Did you know Easter is just about 5 weeks away?  Crazy-town! 

Before we jump into Easter baskets and candy, let’s think about taking time to share about the true reason for the holiday with our kids. I’m really excited my friend Amanda, author of The Truth in the Tinsel, has now released a family study for Easter to make it all super simple for us.

A Sense of the Resurrection includes 12 activities focused on one of the five senses–for example, smelling the perfume Mary used to anoint Jesus’ feet, hearing the rooster crow after Peter’s denial.  It’s only 12 activities and the activities are not so crafty–they are big memory-makers (like making bread for the Last Supper).

I’m really looking forward to walking through this with my girls.  Truthfully, I don’t know if Emma will be into doing something like this next year.  I definitely want to take time to make special memories talking about our Savior’s resurrection and Amanda makes it oh so easy for us.

Go buy A Sense of the Resurrection now!

 

 

A Sense of the Resurrection

Thoughts on Living Intentionally and Notes from a Blue Bike

Sometimes I read books and walk away with one thing to take with me.   If I’m lucky, a handful.  But then, there are some books whose message makes me rethink everything.

 

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As a blogger, author, entrepreneur, wife, and working and homeschooling mom, Tsh Oxenreider knows what it means to live the fast-paced culture of America.  And yet, while living extensively overseas, she also learned how to wear those labels in a slow, relationship-based culture.

After moving back to America, she’s relearned how to wear all those labels, get it done and yet, incorporate the slower lifestyle of other cultures so that she’s living the life her family craves.

 

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If you read her blog for any amount of time, you know that Tsh speaks not from theory, but from an authentic voice of experience.  She knows how to leave the American chaos behind to live simply and yet richly.

She’s taken all that experience and written Notes from a Blue Bike, encouraging readers to take a break from the chaos and live intentionally.

In her book, Tsh suggests these are the five categories where we can be most intentional with our life. 

 

Work

Travel

Education

Entertainment

Food

 

Through engaging stories, she challenges her readers to not just mark some things off your to-do list to slow down, but to rethink the life your living.  You come away asking yourself questions like:

 

What will we do when we retire?

Am I doing the work I’m meant to do?

How much work is enough work?

How can I help educate my children—whether they’re in public school or homeschooled?

How can we entertain our family without the TV?

Where should we go on summer vacation and why?

What kinds of food should we eat?

 

I hope in some way we’ve all asked ourselves these questions, but in this book, we get Tsh’s wisdom on the answers for her family.  But what I love about Tsh is that she doesn’t suppose she knows the answers for your family—although she will insist you travel overseas at least once.  The doors are open wide for you to wrestle with the questions and figure out what is best for your family. 

After I finished the book for myself, I read—out loud and with a head cold, mind you—the entire section on Travel to Scott.  I read him my favorite chapter from the Work section, “Enough”. 

We are inspired.

 

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I can’t recommend Notes from a Blue Bike enough. Required reading for everyone, ok?

Now, if you’re local, we have some exciting news.  Tsh is traveling on a book tour and is making a stop in Charlotte!  Follow along at The Art of Simple to get details when they come out.

In the meantime, I highly recommend you checking out these videos on each of the topics and then picking up a copy.

Food:  http://youtu.be/r5ROsqUvngQ

Work: http://youtu.be/78XtPP8n6go

Education: http://youtu.be/gjSPkNxdpLI

Travel: http://youtu.be/4y0cd2Yd7Bg

Entertainment: http://youtu.be/PZBYZQdMGxQ

 

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This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

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Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions. Grab your copy here.