Books, Books, and more Books!

One of the benefits of not working for four months earlier this year shows up in the abundance of time I had to read. Although I still have not made it through my entire bookshelf as I had hoped when I moved back to DC last fall, I have plenty of time to continue working through all of the books now that I am staying here for a while longer.

It’s been a while since my last book list, so there are a bunch of them on here. I’ve split them up into categories, and I hope you find something worth reading! These books have encouraged, exhorted, challenged, and delighted me, and I hope they do the same for you as well.

Christian Life and Godliness:

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, by Timothy Keller.

Only 44 pages long, this is a short read that has a big impact! It is based on 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7, and in it Keller shares how true Christian joy is found in living out of who we are in Christ, practicing gospel-humility. He says “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less” (p.32). Worth your time, and one that I will read again.

In the Name of Jesus, by Henri J. M. Nouwen.

The tagline for this book is “Reflections on Christian Leadership”, and it is a must read for anyone in vocational ministry or Christian Leadership of any kind, in my opinion. Based on a collection of talks that Nouwen gave at the fifteenth anniversary of the Center for Human Development here in DC, and written with authenticity and wisdom. He shares about his transition from prominence in the academic world at Harvard University as a theologian and teacher, to serving among the mentally handicapped in the L’Arche Community near Toronto, Canada. Rich in reflections on servant leadership, humility, community, and sacrificial love. Well worth your time and attention.

Morning and Evening, by Charles H. Spurgeon

This daily devotional was given to me as a gift by a dear friend last year for my birthday, and each entry is gospel-centered and rich in theological truths. Spurgeon is one of the most prolific Christian writers of the last few centuries, and his sermons, books, and devotionals stand as a testament to Christ and His church. It has been encouraging to begin and end my days with a short reading, and each one draws me continually closer to Christ.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson.

I add this one to the list with some hesitation. The book centers on one sentence from one verse in 2 Samuel 23, that says “He [Benaiah] also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day.” It is non-fiction, and the premise is that we are called to be lion-chasers like Benaiah; that God desires for us to dream big, and to take huge steps of faith. While the book makes some good points and challenges complacency, I am a bit wary of entire books that center on one short verse like this (think Prayer of Jabez). Batterson uses very little other scripture to support his points, and makes absolute statements about Benaiah that are nowhere in the text. So, I offer it on this list with caution. If you read it, make sure you have a bible nearby, and dig into the text for yourself. Find out who Benaiah was (his story extends into 1 Kings, something not mentioned in the book), and find other examples of heoric faith and boldness to compare and contrast with this story.

 

Non-fiction:

The Introvert Advantage, by Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D.

As an introvert, I am fascinated by books that discuss the differences between the two personality types, and this is by far one of the best I have read. Laney delves into the science behind introversion and extroversion, explaining the differences in brain function and how we process information in a way that is easy to understand. She then spends several chapters on strategies for introverts to thrive in a culture driven by extroverts, and shares wisdom from her own journey to help introverts use their strengths to their best advantage.

Money, Purpose, Joy, by Matt Bell

Written from a Christian perspective, this book takes a look at how believers can discover a life of purpose and joy as they manage their finances well. Bell spends the first few chapters discussing how we are stewards of the money we have been given, and the freedom found in viewing our money as belonging to God and not to us. Both inspiring and practical, Bell focuses the last several chapters on budgets, retirement planning, home ownership, and more, and in each case gives helpful tips and ideas from his years as a financial planner.

Half the Sky, by Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl Wudunn

“Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide”, the tagline heralds. The title of the book comes from an old Chinese proverb, that says “Women hold up half the sky”. Kristoff and Wudunn have spent years traveling around the world championing women’s rights and helping women transition out of poverty and oppression. Although not always an easy read, this book is full of encouraging stories of women who have succeeded in creating a new life for themselves or others around the world. The authors cover a wide range of topics from education, to health, to trafficking, to drugs, to marriages and babies. The book also sheds light on how much work still needs to be done in this area, and the realities women face on a daily basis around the world.

How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World, by Jordan Christy

Written with wit, honesty, and clarity, this book discusses the “Art of living with style, class, and grace”. Christy tackles the changes that happened in culture over the past few decades, exhorting women to buck the cultural norms and live differently in the areas of clothing, words, choosing friends, dating and more. She uses personal stories, as well as classic examples of “Hepburn-esque” modesty and class that we should strive for as ladies. Share this with the young women in your life, and read it for yourself too!

Mao’s Last Dancer, by Li Cunxin

They made this book into a movie, but I wanted to read the book first before seeing the film. Li shares his story of how he grew up in rural China to become one of the premiere dancer’s in Mao’s final troupe. As I dancer I was intrigued by the descriptions of the studios and training practices in China during that time, and the intense national pride these men and women felt at being hand selected by the Chairman to dance for their country. Li eventually came to the US, and he shares the struggles and triumphs of adjusting to a new culture.

 

Fiction:

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

True confession: this was my first time making it all the way through this book. I have started it many times before, only to be distracted from finishing it by something else. This time, though, I made it, and I am so glad I did! Although written several hundred years ago, Austen’s words are timeless and relevant to this generation. She hearkens us back to a time when relationships meant something, when lives were led with decorum and propriety, and marriage was taken seriously. The best part is that she does it with humor and grace, creating imperfect characters who fail miserably at times, but who are lovable and relatable.

Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

An American classic novel, centered on events in WWII. Vonnegut details the journey of Billy Pilgrim through the war, culminating in the firebombing of Dresden. Written in a memoir style, there are also elements of time-travel, aliens, and spaceships. Difficult to follow, but it paints a picture of the realities of death and war, and shares the perspective of those who die without Christ as futile, meaningless, and mundane.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Written in 1999, and touted as a “bittersweet coming of age story”, Chbosky chronicles the life of Charlie, a young man struggling to find his way as he begins his first year of high school. The book recently gained recognition when the movie of the same title was released, and so I decided to see what all the hype was about. The story is told through a series of letters written by Charlie to an unknown recipient, and through them we are painted a picture of depression, drugs, alcohol, sexual identity questions, family discord, and the personal identity & acceptance struggles that Charlie and his friends are dealing with.

 

Have you read any of these? I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions! What should I put on my list to read next?

 

Thankful Thursday: November 1st

Thankful today for…

1. Restored power after Hurricane Sandy this week – we lost power Monday evening and got it back Wednesday morning. Losing it made me very thankful for light and warmth when it is working properly.

2. Babies arriving safely! I have three or four friends who have had new babies arrive in the past week. Thankful for each one, and what a great reminder of how much God values every life.

3. Photography classes. Excited to learn this month from the guys over at improve photography  all about how to use my brand new awesome camera to take great pictures…especially as my nephew Logan is arriving any day now!!! Love that the course is videos sent by email, so I can learn at my own pace and get to them when able!

4. Cool weather. I LOVE fall. LOVE it. And I am happy that November seems to be doing a better job so far of acting like my favorite season. October was a bit of a disappointment in that area.

5. New ideas. I’ve gotten several leads on potential organizations to send me to South Asia…excited to see where the Lord takes it from here!

Thankful Thursday: Oct. 25th

5 thankfuls in five pictures for this week (and the past two that I missed!!)!

1. Beaufort. 5 days in one of the prettiest places on earth, reconnecting with some of my favorite people on earth. Pretty fantastic. Thankful for a delightful conference, time with friends, laughter, and truth.

Beautiful Beaufort by the sea….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Missions Conference. Alistair Begg was our keynote speaker at the conference, and I love hearing from him. He brings the truth with grace and clarity, and draws me closer to the Lord whenever he speaks. I also got to see friends from South Africa, Ukraine and East Asia, as well as ministry partners and friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Wildlife, close to home. We have a park right in our neighborhood, and the other day while on a walk, I ran into this deer, almost literally. She stayed still long enough to let me take some pictures, and they regularly meander through our front and back yards looking for yummy plants to eat.

Baby deer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Speaking of nature, I also love fall. Everything about fall, but especially the changing leaves. It has been unseasonably warm (thank you very much, global warming), but we are finally starting to see some color!

Beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Zebra slippers. Thankful that they keep my toes warm, and that they are so fun and make me and the babies smile. Little E and Mr A are forever trying to eat my zebra slippers, but so far I have managed to keep their little mouths away from my feet. Haha.

Fun with Zebras! Don’t worry, no zebras were harmed in the making of these slippers.

 

Thankful Thursday: October 4th

This weekly post has been such a stretching experience. Thankfulness sometimes takes work. Have you noticed that? It can be so easy to just breeze through life without stopping to think about being thankful. 5 things should be easy, but some days it is not. Thankfully though, this week it wasn’t too hard at all.

1. My grandpa! Today is his birthday, and it was so delightful to talk to him this evening on my drive home from work. I love him so much, and consider him one of my greatest heroes and role models. He is the most wonderful patriarch of our family!

2. My mom. Continuing in the family vein…one of the benefits of being back at home is that when I don’t feel good mom is right there to help, even in the middle of the night. Thankful for her caring spirit and also for her amazing Greek Salad, which I enjoyed for lunch today. 🙂

3. Gas Mart. Corner gas station right by my house. Everywhere else in this area gas is $3.85+ a gallon, but today at Gas Mart, it was only $3.65! Woot.

4. The new double stroller. Last week we went to Babies R Us and got a brand new double stroller for me to cart Little E and Mr A around in, and I love it. Easy to push, not too heavy, the babies love it and we can go on adventures all over town!

5. Heating pad. Ooohhh how I love my heating pad. Such a lifesaver. Really.

Thankful Thursday: September 27th

To be honest, this week went by so fast, I don’t even know if there are 5 new things to list today! But I will do my best….

1. Websites. And more specifically, well done websites. I love being able to just hop online and find answers to my questions in a matter of moments, depending on how good the site is laid out.

2. Five minute chats. I’ve started doing these with my friends who live faraway from me on my 30-40 minute drive home from work each day (I refrain from making any calls at 7am when I am on my way to work…for which I am sure others are thankful). They are genius in their design, and I will be writing a fuller blog post about them soon. But the gist is low-key chats with friends more often for shorter amounts of time, rather than waiting and then having 1-2 hour marathons to catch up on life once a month or less frequently.

3. Flexibility. It really, truly is our friend, and life is so much more enjoyable when practicing the art of allowing life to change as it comes. Especially since it seems to change an awful lot lately.

4. Hope. I volunteered with the Convoy of Hope Alexandria this past weekend, and it was a blessing to serve those in my community who are in need alongside fellow believers. The Convoy is a 5 hour event where people can come and get free food, haircuts, family portraits, hear the gospel, enjoy a carnival and live music, and leave with a bag brimming with groceries. Beautiful day, lovely weather, and hope bestowed on the hopeless.

5. Provision. I know this one is a repeat quite often, but I am quite often thankful for the Lord’s great provision for my needs and so, so many of my desires. He loves to provide exactly what I need in His timing, often in ways I least expect. Thankful that He knows my needs and knows how He is going to meet them.