"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."
-Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Well, I have sought out to read seventeen books in 2017 and I tell you, I'm ahead of schedule! Thanks to Jamie Ivey's Happy Hour podcast and her famous question of What You Are Reading? she poses to all of her weekly guests, I was re-inspired last year to prioritize reading in my life. I've always been a reader (I became an English teacher for crying out loud), but being a student for so many years in a row sadly squeezed out any room for wanting to read for pleasure. And now that I've got a stack of books on my nightstand, and a list of must-reads that just keeps growing, I realized just how much I've missed having my nose in a book.
When am I finding time to read? First, I started carrying my book with me almost everywhere I go. It's amazing how often I'm able to read a few pages throughout my day when I'd otherwise be scrolling through my phone. A few minutes here when I'm waiting in the school pick-up line, the ten minutes I'm waiting in the doctor's office, and the glorious 30 minutes of Mila's weekly dance practice. I read before bed sometimes, but it often makes me sleepy, and I've found the most joy building in 25-minutes of quiet time with the kids most days after school. Books were very well loved in my house growing up and still are cherished today - my mom and her mom work at the public library in our hometown, my brother teaches fifth grade and has a blog called Mr. H Reads where he shares his children's lit. and junior fiction reads with the world, and I have vivid memories of all of us sprawled out around the house, our minds consumed with images of Hogwarts Academy and the Baby-Sitter's Club. I want Cruz and Mila to have a similar picture when they grow up - a home filled with books and no shortage of worlds to explore by simply turning a single page.
Right now, I'm mostly into the world of non-fiction, reading from other women who are seeking purpose and faith in a busy and complex world. My first book of the year was called Make It Happen, by Lara Casey. While her themes and overall message were in tune with the other titles I've been reading lately, I loved her mix of strategy and memoir as she struggled to fight against perfection and embrace contentment in an imperfect, yet intentional life. She was genuine and really honest about overcoming a failing marriage and a mixed up direction in life, and I appreciated her practical steps toward a life that truly transformed every piece of her. Here are a few of my favorite takeaway quotes:
"When we surrender our fears, take leaps of faith, and begin living on purpose, God fills us, and we begin to cultivate what matters. He changes us for good. He makes us respect and relish the process of growth. Enjoying a tomato I grew in my own garden is like sharing a feast with God. I think of the months of watering, the hot summer days I spent pruning, and the bounty of sun God provided as I savor every bite. My gratitude now overflows. He made me want to get my hands dirty, commit to cultivating, and step into the hard stuff of life. He made me love the process of planting, tending, and harvesting in my marriage, friendships, parenting, finances, business - everything."
"Countless people out there need you to make it happen. They need your talents, your heart, and your fullest potential to influence them for the Lord. You can't bring everyone to Jesus, but you can bring Jesus to everyone. First, though, bring your self to the foot of the cross and lay it at His feet. Ask Him what He wants you to do. Above all else, He is all we need."
With lots of journal prompts, stories from her journey, and practical advice regarding ways to clear the clutter, break the habit of busy, and encourage others, I would recommend this to women just starting on this journey towards more purposeful living. Her website is also full of useful tools and resources to get you started. And her babies are adorable!
As soon as I was finished with Lara's book, I jumped in to Rachel Cruze's newest book, Smart Money, Smart Kids, as a companion to many of the things Beau and I had talked about on our first date. He's reading it, too, and I'm excited to share some of the nuggets we pulled out of that one.
As for the rest of my reads for the year ahead, here are a few I'm excited about. There are more than twenty on the list and I'm sure it's bound to grow even more. I've organized them around my three themes for 2017, and sprinkled in some fiction for a little fun in there, too. :)
Theme 1: Start at Home
The Finishing School by Val Woerner
The Live Giving Home by Sally Clarkson
The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington
Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall
The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner or 168 hours by Laura Vanderkam
Theme 2: Belong in Community
Lean on Me by Anna Marie Miller
Craving Connection by Crystal Stine
Listen Love Repeat by Karen Ehman
Theme 3: Live on Purpose
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Falling Free by Shannan Martin
You are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebecka Lyons
The Best Yes or Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst
She Reads Truth by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams
Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen
The Screw Tape Letters C.S. Lewis
Soul Keeping by John Ortberg
Because I need more fiction in my life...
The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
And last, but not least...
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines. One, because I received three copies of this for Christmas, and two, because WE ARE GOING TO MAGNOLIA!!! I cannot wait!
What's on your reading list for 2017? Any recommendations I need to add to mine? Happy reading, and happy Monday, friends!