Favorite books of 2020

I set out to read more in 2020.

Then 2020 happened. I didn’t read as much as I wanted to, but I read more than the year before, so that’s progress! I wanted to compile my favorite books of the year (fiction + nonfiction) and share what I liked about each of them. Mostly for my own archive… but you might find it helpful too!

Nonfiction (Theology + Ministry)

Favorite: Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves. I read this one in January 2020 and it set the standard high. It is a short book, but jam-packed with theology. One of the most relatable resources I have found on the doctrine of the trinity and the Holy Spirit in particular.

Runner-up: A Gentle Answer by Scott Sauls. Cannot recommend this book enough. Matt and I both loved it. Scott Sauls offers a different perspective on the ministry of Jesus: one that is much more gentle and meek than most of us have been taught. (I read this one right before election season and man, was it a balm for my soul).

Nonfiction (Motherhood + Life)

Favorite: The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi. First of all, Kenda is an enneagram one (like me!) so naturally I loved everything she had to say. This was an easy read and not self-helpy (new word, who dis) like many in this category can be.

Runner-up: Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren. Finding liturgical connection and rhythm in everyday life. This one makes you think deeply about *not so deep* topics like brushing your teeth and making a PB&J.

Nonfiction (Black authors)

Favorite: Mother to Son by Jasmine Holmes. Took me all of one day to read this one. I would encourage all mothers to read this and consider what our friends face as they are raising children of color.

Runner-up: The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. If you are a white, evangelical Christian living in America – read this book. That’s all I’m saying.

Runner-up: I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown. Austin writes mostly about her life and upbringing. She shares simple stories that carry a lot of weight. A really thought-provoking read for me.

Nonfiction (Autobiography)

Favorite: Becoming by Michelle Obama. Not at all a political read which I appreciated. I enjoyed reading about her life growing up and I always love reading about life in the White House. (One of my favorite books from 2019 was Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hagar + Barbara Bush).

Runner-up: Dirt by Mary Marantz. She grew up in West Virginia and writes about how her upbringing influenced so much of her life. If you liked Hillbilly Elegy, you’ll like this.

Fiction

Let me start by saying: I don’t read a lot of fiction. I’m trying to read more but I have to really love a fiction book to stick with it. Send me recommendations!

Favorite: Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. Basically a romantic comedy with some professional baseball peppered in. Yep, sign me up.

Runner-up: Lady Clementine by Heather Terrell. Loosely based on the life of Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine, this read was very interesting and enjoyable to the end.

Runner-up: The Only Woman in the Room by Heather Terrell. Historical fiction seems to be my favorite. This one about WWII was definitely a page-turner.

Notable mentions

Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman. This is well written and researched. Gloria walks through stories from the Old Testament and relates them to mothering. I’ve followed her writing for a while but had never read one of her books. I will probably read again this year.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. If you know me, you know I read a lot of R.C. Sproul 😂. I flew through this one. If you’re looking for a resource on holiness, I highly recommend this read.

What have you recently read and loved? What is on your list for 2021? I want to know – leave a comment below!

Glory in the mundane

This post was originally print in the Lincoln Journal as part of a weekly devotional series.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

– 1 Corinthians 10:31

I have that verse written on a notecard and hanging above my kitchen sink. It is a reminder I come back to often when feeling stressed or anxious. I love writing scripture cards and placing them in different rooms throughout the house. Seeing them offers some much-needed perspective when least expected; like when doing the laundry or cooking dinner.

I’m often so caught up in the mundane moments of each day that I forget in all that I do I am called to glorify God. This is why I have that verse hanging above my kitchen sink. I feel like 85 percent of my life is spent washing dishes. Breakfast dishes, lunch dishes, snack dishes, dinner dishes… You name it, I’m probably washing it. Now when I am standing in my kitchen, I see that verse and am reminded there is great purpose in the small things.

I once heard a woman tell the story of how she worshiped while doing laundry. She said that instead of seeing all the clothes that needed folded and getting frustrated, she instead prayed over each piece of clothing that belonged to one of her family members. She folded her husband’s shirt and thanked God for a companion. She put away her children’s clothes and thanked God for a healthy family. This woman was doing exactly what the apostle Paul was getting at in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – she glorified the Lord in all that she did.

God deserves our worship. Worship is not confined to just Sunday mornings when it feels appropriate. He is glorified when we are faithful to serve our families, colleagues, and neighbors. He is glorified when we pray over our dishes or laundry, or whatever mundane task may fill your days. Our faithfulness in the small things matters just as much as our faithfulness in the big things. God not only calls us to those moments; He meets us there.

May we be faithful to glorify and worship Him in all that we do this side of heaven.

Helicopters, pride, and prayer.

I live near a hospital.

Like, I can see-it-from-my-front-porch kind of near. We’re far enough to still be a quaint little neighborhood, but anytime that helicopter takes off… our house shakes. We don’t have earthquakes in West Virginia but we do have low flying helicopters. I’m writing this while on my porch and there have been four come through within the hour. It’s kind of like when people live near train tracks. They’re accustomed to the nuisance. That’s how we feel about the landing pad situation in our front yard. 

Some friends of ours were thinking about buying a house down the street from us and their one question was, “Do the helicopters bother you? Can you sleep at night?” First of all, I have a baby so no, I don’t sleep at night. Then I really considered the question. For the first time since moving to this neighborhood I wondered about the people on those helicopters. 

You see, if you’re brought to a hospital by air the situation is critical. I had no idea how often it happened until I moved this close. Some days, there are 20+ landings and outgoing flights. Many of the people on those helicopters are in desperate need of peace and healing, and here I am talking with my soon to be neighbors about the mild inconvenience of a 30 second takeoff. That’s where my pride came roaring to the surface. 

All this time, God has offered me the honor of praying for strangers who I know are in distress. For their families who are following slowly behind on land, trying to make it safely and quickly to be with their loved one wherever they are headed. For the medical staff, so incredibly good at their craft to work in a critical environment. For the pilot, tasked at transporting such precious cargo. I could have been interceding on behalf of these people, yet I found myself wondering how many more times will my house shake today? 

God’s been teaching me about prayer lately. Not just the importance of prayer, but why and how we should pray. Does God need our prayers? No – he already knows what we need. But He wants us to ask, seek, and knock so He can bless us in answering (Matthew 6).

I am keenly aware of my pride since becoming a mother. I want my daughter to know the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself. That’s our second greatest commandment, for the love. I know it seems silly – to be talking about helicopters here – but I’m telling you, God used this to change the way I approach the world. I’m more open to see situations for what they are, not what they do to me. Is there something in your life that you see everyday? Maybe so often you don’t even notice it anymore. The same family who walks their dog in your neighborhood every night. That song on the radio every single time you get in the car. A phrase you hear over and over. Pay attention to those things. God is trying to teach you something.

Now when I see a helicopter, I stop to pray. A simple prayer of peace and healing. That God would have his way in their lives and ours, His Kingdom come. A prayer of thanksgiving and supplication to His refining grace.

I have a tendency of making everyday things spiritual. But I’ve prayed for this. I’ve asked God to reveal himself in the mundane, and even in my failure and pride. It is not fun to stand face to face with your sin and privilege. But THAT is where growth endures. It’s sanctifying. Slowly you start to look less like yourself and more like Jesus.

We will never be perfect but we are offered the solace of a perfect Savior. Will you let that be enough for you today? Pray for revelation and refining, a Kingdom perspective, and eyes to see the story you’ve been invited to live.

Let it be so.

Better together.

We’ve attended countless weddings over the last few years. Some were dear friends, others family, a few just acquaintances. There’s always an opportunity to share your advice whether it be in conversation or a card. Every single time I write this: You’re better together. Fight for it, never forget it.

That’s the best I have. Matt and I have been together nearly seven years, married for four, and the one thing I’ve found to remain the same is that two people wake up every day and decide to keep going. We didn’t understand it at first. How could you? Life is full of bliss and romance. But that wears off after you’ve picked up his underwear from the bathroom floor 138 times. (To be fair, he has cleaned countless globs of hair out of the shower drain).

Year one was fun. Year two was hard. Year three was full of growth and understanding. Year four was a whole new ballgame (hello, Daphne). I’m sure I’ll look back at this in 10 years and laugh. But God continues to see us through with patience and unfathomable grace.

I love everything Tim Keller has to say about marriage. Please read “The Meaning of Marriage” if you haven’t yet. Here’s one of my favorite takeaways:

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.

It transforms us. Just as our relationship with Christ, our relationship with our spouse should set us in pursuit of good works. Not because we are good but because someone loves us in spite of our not being good. When your spouse hurts you, don’t be surprised. Don’t try to get even. He’s flawed just as you are. The most transformative response you can offer is grace. Grace upon grace, to be exact (John 1:16)

I don’t always do this well. It’s difficult to offer grace when you’re mad or hurt. That’s not my go-to response. But we’ve set a standard for one another and expect better. We hold each other accountable. And when times are great, we make sure to still press in on the work to be done.

Our relationship with Christ is not even close to fair. It’s the opposite. He not only bore our shame but did so before we even cared. He loves us so fiercely. Can we not just muster up a fraction of that sacrificial love for our spouse?

When we want to get on Instagram instead of having a conversation, or would rather skip a morning prayer together for 15 more minutes of sleep… I’m reminded that this isn’t supposed to be easy. It requires sacrifice.

We’re imperfect and flawed and in desperate need of grace. We’re better together because we see God more clearly when we offer mercy. And marriage takes mercy.

The work of being together is nothing compared to the redeeming work it took to save us. As Keller reminds us, it’s painful and wonderful all at once. That tension has transformed the way I approach every relationship, especially that with my husband. This week marks four years since our vows and although life is hilariously different than I imagined, it’s sweeter all the same.

 

 

 

Crying in the Drive Thru

Today the lady at Chick-Fil-A handed me my food and then said, “Are you ok?”

I faked a smile, said “Yes, thank you” and drove away. The second I pulled away from that window, I was sobbing.

She had heard my baby crying in the backseat and must have noticed my tired expression through the oversized sunglasses. My ordering a coffee at 12:30 in the afternoon probably gave it away too. When she asked if I was ok, I should have said No.

I should have let it out. Been a little vulnerable, even with a stranger. That would have served me better. But I tried to mask my crazy with waffles fries. I should have said:

No, I’m not ok. My baby has been crying for an hour and I can’t soothe her. I’m starving. None of my clothes fit the way they used to. I snapped at my husband today for no reason. I’m just trying to get home, but as soon as I walk through the door I’ll be met by the mountain of dirty dishes in the kitchen and a broken toilet. I’d love to be OK, but right now I’m just not.

Maybe that is a little too much for the cheerful lady at the drive thru. But after my cryfest in the car and some comfort food, I felt better. I talked out loud to myself (I think we’ve already established I’m a tad unstable) and finally took a deep breath. I needed someone to see me and in that moment, she saw me.

I’m learning it’s OK to not be OK. When you try to do everything, you end up succeeding at exactly zero things. This is merely a season. Today I’m just trying to brush my teeth and shower. Tomorrow I might do the dishes or I might not. I might check emails or I might take a nap. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, whether it’s school or work or a crying baby – you’re not alone. I felt alone but my Jesus chicken guardian angel reminded me I am not.

Right this moment my baby girl is finally sleeping and I’m watching Netflix while finishing my coffee. I didn’t think we would make it to this peaceful moment today but here we are. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe not, but at least there’s coffee and waffle fries.