Friday, December 16, 2016

Book List 2016

As the end of the year approaches, it always brings about reflection. Like most years, a lot has seemed to happen this year. Some good. Some bad. Some great. Some really tough. 

Books have always been a tool that God has used in my life to help teach me, guide me, bring me some enjoyment and even a little comfort at times. So as I was reflecting back over the year, I couldn't help but thinking of some of the great books that I read throughout the year, as well.

For the first time ever, I'm a part of a book club, and I think I found another "home away from home" for myself. I love our little group so much. I'm blessed that all the members of the book club just so happen to also be my closest friends.  

It's been a few years since I've even attempted a "book list" but I think it's time. Reading is in one of my top "favorite things to do.... ever" and I love sharing what I'm reading. I hope that you can browse through some of these titles and find a few good ones to tuck away for yourself. 

I'm really hoping that next year I could possibly start posting my "monthly reading list" instead of a yearly one. 


The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges 
I actually went through this book with a small group of women, and am glad that I did. I think that the discussion and insight of others has made this book even better (if that's possible). 
Based on the Beatitudes, Bridges teaches the importance and blessings of humility (see what I did there) for christians. He makes the argument (and well I think) that the beatitudes are to teaching humility what 1 Corinthians 13 is to teaching about love. This book was well written, convicting and yet full of grace and hope. I've read several of Bridges books and have loved them all, this book is no exception.

Shes's Got Issues by Nicole Eunice
I heard about this book while listening to a radio program (possibly family life today). Anyhow, this book goes through the top five issues of women: control, insecurity, comparisons, fear, and anger. This book was so helpful to me. There wasn't a single chapter that I didn't at least somewhat relate to, and truthfully A LOT relate to. I would love to go through this book again, maybe with a small group of ladies.

Giddy-Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson 
A much needed book for the church, and particularly women, today. Sophie is hilarious, which I love, but I can see how it may be tough for some readers to keep up with her message as well as her funny and even sarcastic banter. Again, I LOVED it, if anything it made me read the book faster and more voraciously, but I realize it may not be for everyone. This book is on the biblical importance of mentoring relationships between women in the church. She uses the relationships of Elizabeth & Mary, Naomi & Ruth, and Eunice & Lois as examples to what these relationships might look like. This book has reignited an already held passion for the importance of mentoring/deep friendships between women of all ages.  Not the most "theological" book of all time, but certainly well founded on biblical principles. A good read! 

Adopted for Life by Russel Moore 
Fantastic book!! I am learning so much about the theology of adoption, the Biblical definition of adoption, heart issues surrounding adoption, information about orphans and most importantly I am seeing a glimpse of the heart of God towards us, his adopted children. This book is not just for those interested in adoption or supporting those who are - it's for EVERYONE. If you want to better understand your salvation and God's heart towards you, I would recommend this book. 

Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler 
Quickly moving to one of my favorite reads. Of all time. I have always loved Pastor Matt Chandler and have been listening to him since.... forever, and now I love his wife Lauren just as much! This book is all about placing our security and hope in the Lord rather than the many idols we find all around us. It has been one of the most effective books I have read on helping me work through some of my anxieties and fears. It's been a little bit of a slow read for me only because it's one that I've had to process through bit by bit. 

No Longer a Slumdog by K.P. Yohnannon 
I got this book (for free) at least a year ago and had forgotten about it until recently when I happened to catch a glimpse of it as I was walking by our bookshelf and decided to picked it up. An hour later, I was still reading. Technically speaking it's an easy read. Content wise.... I have cried through most of it. Focused primarily on the terrible living conditions of millions of people leaving in India, it forces you to come face to face with the fact that there is so much work to be done and that God has called us to be a part of it. Someway. Somehow. This book has driven me to my knees to pray for the people in India, and to find out if God has a part for me to play in bringing glory to His name in that place. 

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung 
Such. A. Good. Book. A must read for any Christian. Any where. The disconnect in our hearts and minds regarding the holiness of God, our sin and our purpose is (in most cases) HuGe. We need to pray and ask God to soften our hearts to seeing the severity of our sin and start taking the necessary self-disciplines seriously. DeYoung does a great job at biblically walking us through this, while reminding us of God's amazing grace. I actually started this group with our small group but we haven't actually met in a while so I had to finish it myself, I enjoyed it so much. 

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin 
This is a very practical and applicable book for women on how to read and study and use the Word of God. We are sadly living during in a time in the church when books like this one are not read and applied often enough. I will be reading this book again. 

The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler 
A book on marriage, written for both marrieds and singles, using the Song of Solomon as a guide. 
Powerful. Good. 
Haven't actually picked it up in a while because I've started more books than I should have, and I may have actually forgotten about this one (~disappointing~). But now that I'm looking at it again, I remember how great it is, and I plan on finishing it. 

Orphanology by Tony Merida and Rick Morton
Another book I cried through parts of. Not just for those considering adoption. Definitely for those who call themselves Christian and take following the word of God seriously. We are commanded to defend and take care of widows and orphans and that can look very different in every family. There is an orphan epidemic in the world, we don't have the luxury of closing our eyes to this problem. This book provides chapter-after-chapter of practical ways individuals and churches can work towards living out James 1:27 --- please, take the time to read this book. 

Screens and Teens by Kathy Koch 
This book is not one that I needed so much for my kids (yet) but for myself. Sometimes I don't realize how attached to my phone I am and one day, I'll have certain expectations of my children, and I want to set a good example now. It's title suggest it's heard for parents of teens, but it's not necessarily. It's really applicable to anyone with a cell-phone or computer. 
This book does a good job of not simply bashing technology but showing the need for moderation and control - she talks a lot about tech-free times and areas to protect that which is sacred in our lives. 
The book goes through common lies that technology causes/encourages us to believe. I tend to be an overly-logical person so there were times that I was a bit put-out only because I was like "Teenagers (and all people) have always believed that lie." However, that's me being nit-picky because regardless of the cause the lie still exists and technology absolutely does play into the common lies we've all always believed. 
There wasn't anything particularly eye-opening or mind-blowing about the book, but it did remind me of some of the things I tend to ignore or overlook. 

Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman 
Honestly, it took me a while to get through this book. It was good enough... it just.... I don't know, never caught my attention. Maybe it was because it was stuff I'd already heard a bunch of times before. Then again, there are lots of books I could say that about and yet I still loved them and needed to hear the truth being preached again and again. But this book, I found a little more boring and maybe less engaging. I really wanted to enjoy it because I had read several good reviews. So it may have just been me, or maybe I was trying to read it at a bad time.... I don't know. 

I usually use several devotionals throughout the year but this year I stuck to two, as I was also working on reading through the OT one time through and the New Testament and Psalms two times, in the year, and that took up the majority of my quiet time in the morning. Doesn't get much better than the straight up WORD OF GOD.

I usually try to read through the Bible every other year, and on the off year will work on reading a little more in-depthly smaller portions of scripture. 
I love the idea of reading through the Bible in the year, but I have to be careful because sometimes if can become a checklist item and I'll forget to actually meditate and savor the Word the way I should. 

The two devotionals I turned to throughout the year were 

Good. I didn't like the translation of the Bible he used, but the devotions were short and included a prayer which I really liked. 

Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon 
My go-to devotional every year for the past 3 years. I LOVE this devotional. I like that there are two entries, though I usually read them both in the morning. Love Spurgeon. 

Based on a True Story
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park about two different 11 year olds living in Sudan at two different times, one in the 90s and the other in 2008. It's a small but powerful book. I ended up reading it in less than an hour and a half. LOVE. A must read. 


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
I enjoyed this book. My favorite part was that the author actually wove in the victorian language of flowers, and I felt like I learned a lot - truthfully, I had no idea about the language of flowers, and on the off chance that you don't either.... In victorian times, the language of flowers was used to communicate (certain flowers held certain meanings and people would send them as messages to one another). Using the story of a girl who lived her entire life in the foster-care system and is now an adult who struggles making relational connections, the language of flowers is a deep and touching story.
I had a hard time relating to the main character, which I think is why I didn't "love" the book, but in saying that, I would recommend it, for sure.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers 
Love. Love. Love.
I've read this book before (more than once) and it was as good the second and third and fourth time around as it was the first. I am fairly sure this book will remain my favorite fiction title for many many years to come. A beautiful portrait of the gospel, true love and forgiveness (of others and self). Highly recommend. 

My opinion on this book was.... ehhh. It wasn't bad it wasn't stellar. Overall, fiction books of this type of content tend to worry me as far as the theology that they may encourage. Pros: it was a "clean" book, not something I would be worried about my kids picking up. It was an easy read, finished it pretty quickly. Wouldn't necessarily recommend it. 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio 
Another book that I had picked up for Treyton but started skimming it before I actually gave it to him to read. Thought it looked great. Let him read it and then he told me I HAD. TO. READ. IT. He said it was one of his favorite books "Of. All. Time." (and I quote). It took me only a few days to read it. So so good. I cried. I'm still quoting parts of it to my kids (namely the mantra "It's better to be kind that right."). If you're looking for a good book for you or for your young man or woman. Look no further.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
I read this one as a read-aloud with the kids. We read several this year, and many of them we thoroughly enjoyed but this one definitely stuck with us. The kids and I are still talking about it.
When I first started it, I thought, oh great, another story about another utopian society, but the reality is, there's a reason why there is so many of these type of stories out there.... they're intriguing and really make you think. Is peace worth the loss of love and choice?
I love that the kids loved it as much as I did and I'm very grateful for the in-depth discussion we were able to have which included discussion on: the importance of memories, euthanasia/assisted suicide, the importance of choice (even when it's wrong), what a perfectly peaceful society might actually be like, would we want it, and at what cost, and best of all we discussed the reality that we have the hope of heaven and perfect peace which has been bought by the blood of Jesus and will not cost us true love, choice or hope.

The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck
I was surprised how small this book was when I got it. I read it in 2 or 3 hours one afternoon, while my laundry sat nearby waiting to be folded. I hadn't mean to start reading it, I had just picked it up and started reading the first couple of pages and the next thing I knew..... and hour had passed and the book "had" me. This book, set in the south eastern United States (Georgia or Florida, I think) is written in the first person as a recollection, or confession rather of a now old woman who knows the true story of a murder that happened in 1976. A murder that an innocent homeless black man paid the price for. I started reading just "knowing" how I was going to feel about the book, and as I turned each page I found myself more and more unsure. Proof that life is not black-and-white, I would absolutely recommend this book (and already have to several people :))!

Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes
Not going to lie, I cried through most of this book. And not just tears. I mean. UG-lee. Cry. I felt an immediate connection to the main character, and through the ups and downs that she faced, I felt like I too was facing them. Such. A. Good. Book. Dealing with life, loss, death, dysfunctional family drama, true love, love lost, motherhood and so much more. I loved every minute of this book and will definitely be reading it again!

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate
Loved. Read this book in like a week. I was a little slow to make connections that I think others made a little sooner, but that's fine by me. Well written. Fun to read. Made me think. Also made me want to get better at journalling :)