Saturday, December 30, 2017

Book List For 2017

Well here we are entering 2018. I am so excited to share my 52 book list with you all! It feels like yesterday that Scott and I were sitting in a charming bookshop in St. Andrews, Scotland discussing our 52 books in 52 weeks challenge and all the genres and categories of books we would fulfill. I am happy to say I have read almost all of the book categories we set out to read (with the exception of finances and marriage…HAHA). Don’t get me started on a rant on how much I despise (most) marriage books. I’m thinking I’ll just count the book I read on Internal Family Systems because it does benefits couples after all! As for finances, well there is always next year!

The hardest thing about this challenge was…finishing a book I didn’t like. I didn’t realize how often I start a book and then never finish it because I lose interest or am intimidated by it’s complexity. It was especially hard to finish books that I felt like were written poorly, followed no clear plot line or had sketchy theology.

What surprised me most about this challenge was…how much I enjoyed poetry! I have always gravitated towards the mental health, self-improvement, and memoirs of spirituality so exploring poetry was new and exciting for me. I plan to start Rupi Kaur’s poetry next!

One more surprise…drumroll please… I LOVED THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS. Now I know this isn’t a surprise to you but to me it really was. The genre of fantasy is not my favorite AT ALL. Not in books, movies or TV shows. Every Christmas my sisters would watch Lord of the Rings and I would be bored out of my mind. I never made my way through the Chronicles of Narnia.  I cannot handle Star Trek and Stars Wars (I know it’s sci-fi). It’s not that I think they are bad it’s just snoozeville for me. So for me to read Harry Potter and LOVE it was a huge surprise (and an accomplishment at my ripe ol' age of 32).

The best part of this challenge was…finishing! I love finishing a goal and I adore lists. Having a book list going was so much fun. Every week I was reading a couple books and was always looking forward to the next read. I tried to be conscious about reading more female authors as well as more books by people of color. Our world can become very small when all we read is white male authors. (And I know how easy a trap this is in small evangelical communities here in America).

Please feel free to message me or comment with any questions! I noted the ones I recommended and my favorites but it was so hard to pick.

Now I need to figure out a new 52 something in 52 weeks goal. (how about 52 Netflix shows in 52 weeks?!?! Lol)

1.             Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Brink*
2.             Out Of Sorts By Sarah Bessey*+
3.             Flourish by Margaret Feinberg
4.             Sandy Toes by Robin Jones Gunn
5.             A Little Princess by Frances Hudgon Burnett*
6.             Spiritual Sobriety by Elizabeth Esther+
7.             Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by J.K. Rowling
8.             The Secret Garden by Frances Hudgon Burnett
9.             Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling*
10.          Small Victories By Anne Lammott
11.          People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jen Mann
12.          The Divorce Express by Paula Danziger
13.          The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns+
14.          The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui *+
15.          Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist*+
16.          The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
17.          Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
18.          Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling*
19.          A Brave and Startling Truth by Maya Angelou
20.          Salty Kisses by Robin Jones Gunn
21.          In the Clearing by Robert Frost
22.          How to Be a Wildflower by Katie Daisy
23.          Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
24.          Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling*
25.          The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Seiznick
26.          The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
27.          Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott
28.          Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
29.          No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay*+
30.          The Essential Enneagram by Virginia Price+
31.          The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
32.          Brazen by Leeana Tankersley+
33.          Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
34.          Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
35.          The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
36.          Of Mess and Moxie by Jenn Hatmaker*+
37.          No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer
38.          Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes+
39.          Felicty: Poems by Mary Oliver
40.          I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi+
41.          Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn
42.          Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton
43.          You are Safe here by AVA*+
44.          Paris for One by Jojo Moyes
45.          Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver
46.          You Are the One You’ve Been Waiting for: IFS Theory by Richard Schwartz
47.          Sunset Lullaby by Robin Jones Gunn*
48.          Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown+
49.          Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann+
50.          Falling Upward by Richard Rhor*+
51.          We Should All Be Feminists by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie*+
52.          The 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes*+

Additional (Children’s) Books:
Eloise’s Guide to Life by Kay Thompson
What Do You Do with an Idea by Kobi Yamada*+
What Do You Do with a Problem by Kobi Yamada*+
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
The Maybe Days by Jennifer Wilgocki *+ (amazing for kids in foster care)
The Family Book by Todd Parr
Felice the Christmas Ferry by Irene Mathias
Finding Christmas by Lezlie Evans *+
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
The Christmas Town by Donna Van Liere

*Favorites (It is so hard to pick favorites)
+ Would recommend

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


The other night I was sipping red wine on my friend’s patio overlooking the skyline. We were talking about how hard it is to be ourselves. While at first glance this may sound trite, like a nice slogan from childhood of “just be yourself!” Now, there is nothing wrong with the statement, in fact, the statement is fine. What is difficult is actually living it out.

My friend said “I’ve literally never talked about this to another woman.”

The content of the topic had her feeling so much shame, so abnormal, so different that she had literally never talked to another woman about it before. I just have one thing to say:


There are certain taboo topics among women and all of humanity for that matter that seem to cause a tightening in our chests. And there are other topics that are so much milder when you really get down to it, but still make us super anxious!

These things about ourselves can be as serious from I’ve never wanted to get married to I don’t like donuts or I read [write] fan-fiction.

Do you know what I mean?

Why is it SO hard to be unapologetically ourselves?

Well thanks for asking! There are clearly a number of reasons.

We crave with the deepest parts of our souls to belong and sometimes belonging means we have to stay the same. Belonging is survival and so being different or abnormal or not part of the group feels incredibly threatening to our very being.

No wonder we give in to camouflaging so easily. Call it whatever you want. Crowd psychology, group think, mob mentality. There is safety in numbers and more often we find ourselves flocking like pigeons.

It’s this invisible pressure that is always pulling us and yanking us to be just like everyone else.

I read a lot, a lot of books but a lot of articles and blogs too. Bios have scary similarities almost as if we can’t venture outside of anything that doesn’t fall into basic white girl category (and yes I’m one of them).

Examples are as follows:

Brunch lover. Succulents. Fitness

Girl running on coffee and Jesus

Puppies. Big dreamer. Pizza.

Outdoors.  Donuts.  Love well.

Juice Cleanse. Find the positive. Healthy living.

Boss babe. Positive vibes. Nutrition Coach.

Family. Faith. Fitness.

Be brave. Adventure. Crunch dead leaves in Uggs and flannel.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with the above (clearly I am a HUGE advocate for my coffee and I can be real basic about it all).

But also I’ve thought about some things that are true of me that are harder to admit, and they aren’t even that bad, but they just aren’t currently trending, they aren’t mainstream and honestly imagining them on my bio or byline makes me feel tense. They aren’t just about fitness and succulents and the gym and eating pizza. I kill succulents. I don’t really like pizza and the gym is a huge bore to me.

Let me tell you something though. The authors who have really REALLY spoken to me have said the things no one else is saying. They said the thing everyone is afraid to breathe out loud and that is why I love them, because I had a YES ME TOO moment.

And with my friend on the patio, eye to eye, face to face, we had a moment of ME TOO and it’s okay. We belong together. 

Belonging to an actual person is so much better than belonging to whatever is trending on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and the wide variety of blogs we read. It’s so much more fulfilling than just pretending you’re into all the things you’re not.

So here it is, unapologetically me:

  • I love wild fowl (eating it).
  •  I hate the beach in the summer.
  • I have never had a problem drinking water and my whole life I always nod and act very interested in “hydrating well” and say “I just gotta drink water!” so I can fit in and not seem braggy. But for the love of God, if I come across like a bragger butt because I like water and drink lots of it, then we all need to take a seat.
  • I really don’t like pizza. I never crave it.
  • I would eat pasta every day and be very happy and this includes box mac’n’cheese.
  • I truly love salads. I love the texture and the crunch and the munch. I always feel nervous people assume I’m trying to be healthy or trying to lose weight when I order a salad but I have loved salads since I was a child.
  •  I think football is dumb.
  •  I can’t handle slow, sad, dramatic TV shows.
  •  I love school and academia and while I tried to complain so I could be empathetic and be part of the group, I secretly loved writing papers.
  • I hate going on vacation and feeling pressure to visit the “top 10” places YOU MUST SEE. It makes me want to see none of them. Sometimes I don’t want to be a tourist. Sometimes I want to lie around the hotel and read a book. It’s vacation after all.
  •   I don’t wash my face in the mornings.
  •  I enjoy making up words. 
  •  I really enjoy the smell of gasoline.
  • I hate movies based in space. It makes me feel claustrophobic.
  • C.S. Lewis has not changed my life.
  • I can’t stand diet culture.
  • Pre-injury, I loved running specifically long distance running.
  • I have multiple library cards because I read like I’m running out of air.
  • You will never catch me utilizing the Find My Friends app. It is the most invasive thing ever. 
  • I hate the hashtag #fitfamily the most.
  •  If I run out of dish soap I just fill it up with water much to my husband's dismay. #sorrynotsorry
  • I think heels are the worst invention ever and refuse to wear them.
  • Turtle necks are a nightmare (does anyone really want something crawling up their neck?!)
  • I love hand written letters and write letters regularly. I am still a 90’s girl who is always seeking a good pen pal.
  • I stick tampons EVERYWHERE so that wherever I am I will find one (think random kitchen drawer, glove box, suitcases, pockets, zippers, etc.).
  •  I love laser tag.
  • Peeling off my nail polish is extremely satisfying. 
  •  I love all obstacle courses.
  •  I actually don’t like Coldplay.
  •  I love a good gravel road.
  • I studied the macaroni penguins in school.

P.S. Here is my list of basic white girl things that I truly and deeply love: cold brew, Jesus, puppies, fall, leggings, and pumpkin spice everythinnnnggg. (Sorry Jesus, I didn’t mean to say you were basic).

Here’s what I’m learning.

I’ve spent a large part of my life trying to be the type of woman people needed or expected me to be to fit in with the larger culture.

I’ve spent time trying to be the type of Christian people needed or expected of me.

I’ve spent time trying to be the type of human people needed or expected of me.

But I’ve been anchoring into myself. I’ve been listening to my gut, my body, my soul. I’ve been trusting it more. Instead of shaming myself for what I like or don’t like, I try to be curious about it. Instead of just “sucking it up” and doing what everyone is expecting of me, I’ve been trying to turn towards me rather than away from me.

It’s really revolutionary. I get quiet and listen to the space where there is no crowd or mob telling me what I must be.

There’s quite a few even bigger things I’m coming to terms with about myself that doesn’t fit in with what I thought it meant to be a white, straight, Christian woman living in America. I’m realizing I differ on some things.

I’m finding there are many out there who are looking for a voice to unapologetically claim who they are and what they're about. 

I’m wondering if maybe there is something you enjoy out there that just feels like it doesn’t fit in?

If we could talk about our basic likes and dislikes, what colors we like, our favorite foods, maybe we could move on to bigger and scarier subjects? Subjects about politics, social injustice, trauma or even more scary, how we really feel inside.

What are we actually drawn to? I think this is important to think about. There is so much need in our big aching world but sometimes I think we rush down the current of what is trending. If we aren’t deeply passionate about a certain subject we feel guilty and then end up neglecting the subject we truly resonate with. 

We simply can’t be into everything. We have to embrace our niche and then own it. We can’t be a chef/neuroscientist/yoga instructor/elementary teacher/coder/ veterinarian all at the same time.

God doesn’t need you to be an activist for everything.

In the world of social justice I see it often. People feel a pressure to be actively advocating for everything. Homelessness. Sex trafficking. The refugee crisis. Poverty. Access to healthcare and education. Those struggling with substance abuse and addictions. Racial reconciliation. Civil rights. Recycling.   Education on feminism. Fighting against patriarchy. Disabilities rights. Reproductive justice. Mass incarceration.  Gender workplace diversity. Special needs. Spiritual abuse. Labor Laws. Immigration.  Child abuse. Human rights. Animal rights. The environment. Transgender rights. Gun violence.

How can we tend to the good in our world without letting the evil swallow us up?

Can we tolerate being different? Even if we don’t have the same hobbies, or dreams or desires or hopes? Can we manage our reactivity a bit more about these things? Why would we ever want to take away the creativity and originality inside each of us?.

I know for a fact that even the most basic coffee loving, Jesus loving, organic eating girl has more going on than that. There is more beating inside her soul than just her thoughts on organic foods and whole roasted beans.

For me I like having duck for my birthday dinner and I plan trips to the beach when it’s cloudy or even rainy. I am passionate about foster care, and helping young adults and adolescents manage anxiety and helping end stigma surrounding mental health. I care a lot about how we talk about sexuality especially within the Christian church. I like saying hi to dogs and asking how their day is going (in front of their owners) and I will forever abhor the smell of an airplane but can handle just about anything with a good book.

Now it’s your turn? What do you love? What is your niche? This is not a group decision as Shauna Niequist says, “This is actually my life, and it doesn’t matter a bit if it would feel lovely for someone else to live. What does matter: does it feel congruent with God made me and called me?”

Do you like kidney beans? Do you wear mis-matchd socks? Do you own a pet that you can only see under a microscope?  Do you hate uggs? Answer below in the comments!