no excuses

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I have finally done it.

I’ve somehow managed to read book after book for the last year or so. Normally, while I’m in school, reading for enjoyment is pushed to the very far back burner that barely even exists. I can never bring myself to focus on a book when all I do each day is read a bunch of information from a textbook that I can’t seem to care less about.

However, I’ve somehow been able to keep myself going with the momentum that comes from finishing one book and picking up another. It doesn’t help that Amazon just keeps sending me all these new books… They really need to get that looked at…

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what’s on my book list these days, so I thought I’d make a big ol’ master list so I can also keep track of what books I’ve read. If I’ve read the book, I’ll add it to my “already read” list with a little description and what I thought about it in general. Then on the “next up” list I’m going to keep adding what books Amazon will most likely send me next. (Amazon is an enabler – and I don’t hate it.) I’d also love any and all suggestions that you may have for my “next up” list. I’m always looking for books that other people have read and love. Let’s see if I can keep this momentum going – I may need a few more book shelves.

COMPLETED

  • The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen // This book got me hooked on Henri Nouwen’s writing. My dear friend Riley suggested it when I originally wanted to get back into reading regularly, and it did not disappoint. It speaks to one’s ability to minister to and be in community with those around them through mutual hurt and struggle. One must recognize the heart in their own heart before they can speak into the lives of others, but at the same time, it’s a common foundation which to build a relationship upon. Again, highly recommend this one – it’s full of beautiful truths and hard challenges.
  • Garden City by John Mark Comer // I heard so many good things about this book before I ever picked it up. It was definitely an interesting read that made me actively think and process throughout the whole thing. It poses interesting and uncommon perspectives surrounding work and rest. It’s definitely something I would recommend to anyone.
  • Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl // Guys, I literally read this book in 10 hours. I COULD NOT put it down. I sat on the porch ALL day and just flipped from page to page. Now, as I say that, let me also preface this with saying it’s a very heavy read. It’s not necessarily a hard read, but it’s full of some of the most difficult trials anyone could ever experience. I’d honestly like to read it again to pick out more nuggets that I missed the first time around. Let’s just say that half of the book is covered with yellow highlighter. It speaks so eloquently to the strength, perseverance, and meaning that can be achieved only through struggles and trials.
  • Unreasonable Hope by Chad Veech // I had high expectations when I started to read this book about Chad and his wife’s struggles with their girl, Georgia, who developed a disorder that has affected every aspect of her life and theirs. I love books that are based on life stories and the lessons that are learned through the trials. While it was a good book that displayed the strength and challenges endured by this family, it fell a little short for me. And to be completely honest, it’s probably because I read it right after Man’s Search For Meaning, which is why it seemed to fall a little flat.
  • If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher // I’ve been following Hannah’s organization, More Love Letters for years now; from before I ever really knew what it was or why it was stared. Hannah is someone who you can always count on to be honest, yet encouraging and motivating. Someone who lives and breathes for others, but preaches the need to take care of one’s self – even when that seems impossible. Her book walks through her experience in New York City, working for a large non-profit, and the hobby she built encouraging strangers through the writing of letters. She’s one of those people I dream of sitting down for coffee with, just talking and dreaming and speaking life to each other. Let me know if you’re ever in San Diego, Hannah ;) You’ll probably also want to check out her blog here.
  • The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen // I love everything Nouwen writes. That’s something I discovered early on this year. However, this may be my favorite that I’ve read so far. I don’t even think that I could explain it, so all I’m going to say is GO READ IT NOW.
  • If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski // Where do I even start with this book. It is another one I read through in less than 24 hours. I could not put it down. I actually wrote a whole blog post about this book, so you can just head there for a full recap. I also suggest getting the new extended version, which I have yet to read.
  • The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cr0n // If you know me at all, I’ve probably mentioned the Enneagram to you. I might be even more obsessed with this personality indicator than the Myers-Briggs one – and that’s saying something. I was originally introduced to the Enneagram while I was living in Uganda a few years ago and it helped me understand so much about my life, personality, and natural tendencies. It’s as if the simple description not only smacked me across the face, but also allowed me to understand the inner workings of my thoughts and the reasons behind them. All that to say, this book is a great resource for those who are interested in the Enneagram. It describes the whole thing in detail, yet in a way that is understandable and applicable. It goes thorough each number (to all the sixes out there, you’re in good company) and describes some background on not only the thought processes and typical actions of each number group, but it also provides more info about where some of your concerns are and how you can spiritually strengthen certain areas of struggle in your life. Full disclosure: I’ve only read the intro and my number group. So I’m excited to dig in and learn more about each personality type.
  • This Momentary Marriage by John Piper // I assure you, this book is killer whether you’re married, engaged, or single. His main theme throughout the book is comparing earthly marriage to the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church. While the verse can get repetitive throughout the book, I think it’s needed. We so often lose what the biblical intention of marriage is – which is evident in our society today. This book described certain aspects of marriage and the relationship between a husband and wife in a way that I had never thought of before. I definitely recommend this to anyone and everyone.
  • Wreck My Life by Mo Isom // Guys, Mo killed it. Like, wow. That girl has a crazy testimony and I love hearing it again and again. While I knew aspects of her story before I read the book, it’s so beautifully written that it draws you in and captivates you from the start. She has journeyed from broken to bold and her book paints a beautiful picture of God’s redemption. There are few people who have made me laugh harder than Mo, and I loved seeing glimpses of that in her writing. Do yourself a favor and pick this up for every athlete you know. Oh, and everyone else, too. Also, you can check out her blog here.
  • When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper // John Piper, man, his books have a way of punching me in the gut while teaching me so much. This book speaks to the ways we can cultivate joy in our everyday life, even if it’s not what we automatically feel. It’s real good. You should also check out the podcasts of his sermons, while you’re at it.
  • The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer // This book is packed with the characteristics of God, what he roots himself in, and how he acts towards us. It takes some effort to read, but I tend to think that’s a good thing. I would read one chapter at a time, soaking up as much as I could. It’s one that I’ll definitely revisit multiple times.
  • The Faith of Christopher Hitchens by Larry Alex Taunton // This one was one of the most fascinating books I read all year. It was a recommendation from Keary’s dad (and his book recommendations are always 200% reliable) and it hooked me in and held my attention throughout. It’s about the relationship between a Christian and a self-proclaimed atheist (and maybe one of the most popular atheist of our time) – describing many of the differences of opinion, but also a common longing to know and understand more about a Greater Being. It’s a fascinating read.
  • The Circle Maker/Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson // These books, they’ve been such a cool part of my story over the last few years and I’ve seen it be the same in other’s lives. The Circle Maker describes an old story about Honi, a man who boldly stepped out, declaring that he would not leave the circle he drew in the sand until God brought down rain in the middle of a drought. He fell to his knees and boldly approached the throne on behalf of his people, praying for the rain they desperately needed. As you can imagine, the rain came and the story became a legend. The book then goes on to describe other’s bold prayers and God’s amazing answers – even when they happen in His timing and not theirs. Draw the Circle is a 30-Day devotional that is based upon The Circle Maker book and is a guide for praying boldly and praying often. I’ve gone through it twice and wouldn’t be surprised if I end up going through it again. I would highly recommend both books.
  • The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne // Goodness, this book still has me thinking. It’s a lot to absorb, but it’s also very well written. It’s a longer book, but you’re able to understand the heart and mind behind the things that Claiborne has done over the years. I’m still processing everything I read and how I can apply it and react in my own life, actions, and behaviours. I definitely recommend reading this book at some point in your life. It will give you a perspective that is most likely completely different than your own.
  • The Grandeur and Misery of Man by David Roberts // This is another thinking book. While it’s beautifully written and easy to read, it’s stuffed full of thoughts and insights that are not often spoken about today. We tend to glaze over certain (read: many) things and this book addresses so many biblical things that speak to the nature and character of God and how that plays out in our lives. I think I highlighted half of the book. It’s definitely one I want to go back and read through again. It’s not an easy book to find, but if you can get one, snatch it up real quick.

NOTE: I included a link to each of the books on Amazon. I always look for a used version there first, but sometimes the new copy is the best option. I tend to buy all my books because I mark them up and highlight like crazy – so that just works best for me.

IN PROCESS

  • Knowing God by J. I. Packer // This book comes highly recommended, so I’m looking forward to diving in. I’ve read the first two pages and I’m already intrigued. Stay tuned.

NEXT UP

  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  • All Things C. S. Lewis
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer
  • Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko
  • If You Feel Too Much: The Extended Edition

So, here’s my somewhat complete list from the last year. I’m sure there are some I’m missing and will add them as I remember. If you have any book recommendations, PLEASE send them my way. Pretty much every book on this list was suggested by someone – it’s my version of quality control. Text me, email me, leave a comment on this post, beep me, snail mail me, or, if you must, send it via telegram or carrier pigeon. I will accept all forms of communication.

I’ve also turned into a Rory Gilmore in terms of how many books I carry with me and how heavy my purse is at all times. But really, at the end of the day, I just call it an arm workout. Win-win.

My goal is to keep up this habit of picking up book after book. It really helps if you pair the book with a hot cup of coffee and a roaring fire or an iced coffee and a front porch, depending on the thermostat reading. I hear there’s a 96% success rate that way. Trust me.

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” – Lemony Snicket

come close

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Loneliness.

It’s a daily struggle.

A struggle I’ve dealt with before – a struggle that feels more real now than ever.

I often find myself longing for the familiar faces at home. For the comfort of people who really know me. For the ease of long-time friendships.

Evenings bring the end of a work day and the chirping of crickets – they bring rest, recovery, and moments alone. So often, they are more than needed. So often, they bring with them the cravings of true friendship here.

I know without a doubt that I am where I need to be. Where the Lord has placed me. Where I love.

These seasons have come and gone in the past. The Lord has taught me more in these moments than ever before. These moments create a hole in my heart that only the Creator can fill.

They bring me closer to him. They challenge me. They strengthen my faith. They pull me closer to the One who created me – who breathed life into me.

But still, the emptiness of these moments consume me. They force me to doubt my place. To question. To long for a place that I’m not.

In the moments where I feel like I have no one, I’m left with my thoughts.

I have a choice. I can sit in my loneliness and dream of the places I’d rather be – or I can use these moments to press further into Him.

I have a choice. I can waste away in my own pity – or I can choose contentment, choose JOY, choose HIM.

I so often make the wrong choice. It’s a constant struggle. It’s a constant battle. It’s a journey.

———-

This past week gave me a glimpse of all that I miss. While these people were not old friends, they very quickly became new friends. They encouraged me. They made me laugh. They cried with me. They gave my lonely spirit HOPE. I cannot even describe how thankful I am for all that they left me with – emotionally…and the Oreos, too. They spoke truth into my life that I had hardly admitted to myself. They allowed me to be myself from the moment we met. They allowed me to open up with the comfort of a safe place. I cannot speak enough good about the #blogHOPE team. You left a mark here that I can so visibly see – on me, on the other staff, and so many of the beautiful Ugandan souls you came in contact with.

You were a light. You are a light. You are still shining here.

———-

The loneliness can be consuming. It can pull me off course. It can direct me back to Him.

I fight it with everything in me – I embrace it as best as I know how.

It’s a battle – I pray that He wins.

climb

It all started with a song.

Late October in Jacksonville, Florida – a perfect coffee shop afternoon.

A sun-dried Ethiopian pour-over sitting on the table in front of me.

Twelve hours earlier, an emotional waterfall cascaded down my cheeks and onto the pillow – my best friend taking in every word and spilling encouragement back onto me.

I had a heart for a place I’d never been – the stress of next steps was overwhelming.

I felt lost in my everyday life – I was enjoying the comfort of the familiar.

A soundtrack kept me company as the coffee started to disappear.

Will Reagan – one of the best encouragers I’ve never met.

The sweet sounds echoed in my ear, “I lean not on my own understanding”.

Something I desperately needed to hear, but was not about to accept.

Uganda – a whisper from my sister, without knowledge of present situations.

Unexplained comfort came with this word – the beginning of an answer I’d been searching for.

“Listen to the love song that I am continually singing to you. I love to reveal Myself to you, and your seeking heart opens you up to receive more of My disclosure.” – Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

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It all started with a song.

Two chords in – something stirring inside of me.

Unexplained tears rolled down my face – searching for the triggering emotions.

Jacksonville. October. Pour-over coffee. Uganda. Comfort.

A flood of memories I had stored somewhere for a rainy day.

It had poured all day – the tears came with the rain.

Uncountable steps taken between that first day and now.

The unexpected turned into everyday life – everyday life turned into the unexpected.

Will Reagan – binding together then and now.

A whisper of encouragement – a confirmation of trust.

Comfort again came with the whisper of a song – “I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open”.

A reminder of days past, present struggles, and future hope.

“The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17