Five books you don’t want to miss

I’m what some people might call a book junkie. I like books. A lot. I read. A lot. I think many people have their “thing.” That thing they’re willing to spend money on (over and over and over). For some people it’s shoes, or hoodies, or kitchen gadgets, or tech-stuff. For me, it’s books. Yes, I know I can get them for “free” at the library (we won’t go into late fees for over-due library books–my library books are never free), but I just like to buy them. Have them for my own.  I have no explanation why but I imagine there are a few of you out there who know exactly what I mean.

I’m not being dramatic when I say reading books changes my life. Words have power. Books have power. And I’m a better person from the books I read.

I used to think I’d never adapt to reading on my phone (or Kindle, or iPad). I like the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of pages from a new book. But truth be told, I’m a HUGE fan of the Kindle app on my phone. And have found myself purchasing books through Amazon delivered straight to my Kindle as my go-to book solution for a few reasons. One, I get the book immediately. Amazon prime is great and all, but it doesn’t beat immediate. Two, the Kindle version of a book is generally a few dollars cheaper (and every now and then you can score great deals and find $1.99 versions of Kindle books). And three, you can highlight in the Kindle app and then go to the amazon website and just pull up the parts of the book you highlighted (probably my favorite reason for going Kindle–I highlight. A lot).

Enough about Kindle. Let’s get on to some books. One of my favorite quotes from Glennon Doyle Melton: “Reading is my inhale. Writing is my exhale.” I couldn’t agree more. And “Reading makes you smarter.” I don’t know who said that, but I know without a doubt it’s true.

And let’s not forget good old Dr. Seuss.


That Dr. Seuss knows his stuff.  And I’m all about going places.  Travel all day every day please.

Today I just wanted to share some of the books I’ve read (and loved) recently and a few quotes I picked out while reading some of them. It’s a random assortment of reading material, but that’s kinda how I roll. Randomly. {You can see my list of 13 books that will inspire better, more meaningful lives HERE.}

1. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle.

It’s safe to say this is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE books. It’s one of those “everyone should have to read this” kind of books. Gregory is a man who devotes his time to helping young boys get out of gangs. Incredible story. Incredible compassion. Incredible example. Oh my word I love this book. Definitely one not-to-miss.

“We must “trust in the slow work of God.” Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.”

“We have grown accustomed to think that loving as God does is hard. We think it’s about moral strain and obligation. We presume it requires a spiritual muscularity of which we are not capable, a layering of burden on top of sacrifice, with a side order of guilt. (But it was love, after all, that made the cross salvific, not the sheer torture of it.)”

“How do you work with the poor?” She answered, “You don’t. You share your life with the poor.” It’s as basic as crying together. It is about “casting your lot” before it ever becomes about “changing their lot.”

2. Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Grietens

I feel like I high-lighted nearly this entire book. A former navy-seal giving his friend (struggling with addiction) advice about life and resilience. This books is full of so much wisdom and straight up good life counsel. So so good.

“Everyone has a place where they encounter fear, where they struggle, suffer, and face hardship. We all have battles to fight. And it’s often in those battles that we are most alive: it’s on the frontlines of our lives that we earn wisdom, create joy, forge friendships, discover happiness, find love, and do purposeful work. If you want to win any meaningful kind of victory, you’ll have to fight for it.”

“We build resilience in our lives, we come to see that pain is not something to be eliminated so that we can have joy, any more than fear is something to be eliminated so that we can have courage. Courage overcomes, but does not replace, fear. Joy overcomes, but does not replace, pain.”

3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is a historical fiction book so I didn’t highlight much, but this book was one of those can’t put it down, stay up WAY too late reading it kind of books. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book I enjoyed this much. I got really attached to the characters and cried at the end (I never cry in books. Ever). This is my “recommend to everyone” book right now.

4. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

If you haven’t read something by Jen Hatmaker, you’re missing out. She’s a brilliant writer, but she’s also hilarious! I’m on a slow-the-heck-down and GET RID of excess kick lately (like, I want to get rid of eeeerything) so I really enjoyed this one. I’m working my way through all of Jen Hatmaker’s books. She’s worth paying attention to.

“It gets fuzzy once you spend time with people below your rung. I started seeing my stuff with fresh eyes, realizing we had everything. I mean everything. We’ve never missed a meal or even skimped on one.
I was so blinded I didn’t even know we were rich.”

“I’m going to bed tonight grateful for warmth, an advantage so expected it barely registers. May my privileges continue to drive me downward to my brothers and sisters without. Greater yet, I’m tired of calling the suffering “brothers and sisters” when I’d never allow my biological siblings to suffer likewise. That’s just hypocrisy veiled in altruism. I won’t defile my blessings by imagining that I deserve them. Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice.”

With my love and compassion for the homeless (and less fortunate) these next two are my FAVORITE:

“It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said. When you’re desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter. These provisions communicate God’s presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in the local park. They convey, “God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.”

“I guess that’s why “love people” is the second command next to “love God.” And since God’s reputation is hopelessly linked to His followers’ behavior, I suspect He wouldn’t be stuck with His current rap if we spent our time loving others and stocking their cabinets.”

5.  Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Not to be mistaken with that other Gray book, this is another historical fiction novel that I loved.  It’s a story about Lithuanians who were forcibly relocated when Russia took over during WWII.  Again I got really attached to the characters and found it super interesting to learn about a part of history I’d never heard about (and I was a history major in college).


Books. They’ll change your life. I can promise you that! And these are five you definitely don’t want to miss.

Any books you’ve read recently you’d like to share? I’m always looking for good book recommendations!

*this post contains affiliate links*

Memoirs you don’t want to miss

Growing up I was an avid reader of historical fiction.  But as I’ve gotten older (definitely can’t say as I’ve matured), I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs.  I’m drawn to real people and real stories.  These are some of my favorite I have read recently.  (A few of these I mentioned in books that inspire better more meaningful lives.)



1.  Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton.

Easily one of my favorite books of all time.  I love Glennon.  Love her.

“…I am a child of God.  And thankfully, there is nothing I can add to that title to make it more impressive.  There is also nothing I can do to lose that title.  I am confident not because I am pretty or smart or athletic or talented or kind.  Those things change and can be given and taken.  I am confident simply because I am a child of God….

Being a child of God is a free pass to be brave and bold and take great risks and spin around in circles with joy.  if and when I fall, who cares?  He will always be there to pick me up.  That’s his job.  He’s my Father.”


2.   Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza.

This woman went through horrors I can’t even imagine.  She spent months, MONTHS, in a tiny bathroom hiding from people who were trying to kill her.  And she still believes in a good and loving God.

“In God’s eyes, the killers were part of His family, deserving of love and forgiveness.  I knew that I couldn’t ask God to love me if I were unwilling to love His children.”


3.  Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

This is one of those everyone-in-the-world-should-have-to-read-this kind of books.  Incredible story. Incredible love.  Boundless Compassion.  If we all followed the wisdom in this book, the world we live in would be an entirely different place.

“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.”

“You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship.  you stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is:  the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.”


4.  Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live On Purpose. by Lara Casey

Incredibly motivating to create a life on purpose.

“Be still, friend. Know that God’s desire for you is a life of peace. He wants to free you from the chase. Wherever you are is exactly where you are supposed to be to ignite intentional change.”


5.  Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage by Allison Vesterfelt

A girl who gives up everything to go on a trip to all 50 states.  And what she learned from having less baggage (figuratively and literally).  Really interesting.  And makes me want to go on a really long road trip.

“I used to think that being unprepared was the worst possible offense to God, but I’ve since changed my mind. Because when I don’t have resources, I’m learning God often gives them to me. The lighter I pack, the more I realize He knows what I need even more than I do, and He is more generous than I ever imagined. Sometimes He even meets needs I didn’t know I had.” 


6. Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back by Josh Hamilton

I’m naturally drawn to any stories about addicts because of my brother.  And I have the utmost respect for any addict who can get and STAY sober.  They’re definitely in the minority and it has to be one of the hardest struggles to overcome.  Every.  Single.  Day.


7. Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray

This one is hard to read.  The suffering she goes through is unimaginable.  But it’s proof anyone can become who they want to be.

“What I was beginning to understand was that however things unfolded from here on, whatever the next chapter was, my life could never be the sum of one circumstance. It would be determined, as it had always been, by my willingness to put one foot in front of the other, moving forward, come what may.”


8. Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy by Stephanie Nielsen

She was in a plane crash that left her burned over 80% of her body and in a coma for months.  Incredible story of recovery, hope, and appreciation for life.  I follow Stephanie on Instagram and am amazed at her positive outlook on life despite living through hell.  She is a strong, strong woman.



Do you have any memoirs you’ve loved?  I’m always looking for great books, so if you have one, let me know in the comments!

My truth about running.

I spent some time watching the Live camera on the Boston finish line on Monday.  It was a much different experience than the year before, when I was glued to the TV and on the phone hoping my friends who had run the race were okay.

This year, I was tracking 2 of my cousins and a friend and was hoping to see them cross the finish line.  Running the Boston marathon is a BIG deal.  And I hope I can do it one day.  Just gotta shave large amounts of time off my race pace.  🙂  But watching all those people cross that finish line got me thinking about running.  And why I’m compelled to do it.

Here’s the truth about running for me.

It’s not always easy.  Or fun.  In fact, more often than not, it’s HARD.  And it hurts.

But there’s something about running that cleanses the soul.  Clears the mind.  Squashes the stress.  And makes life feel just a little bit (or sometimes a lot) better.

Running is a lot like parenthood.  90% of the time it’s hard.  And painful.  And sometimes you’d rather not do all that hard stuff.  But then there’s the other 10%.  The days where you feel like you could run forever.  And you feel great.  And strong.  And “light”.  And that 10% of running euphoria makes the other 90% worth fighting through.  

I love to run.  But I didn’t always feel that way.  I remember one of my college roomates was an accomplished marathon runner and I used to think she was crazy.  Why on earth would anyone want to run that far and hurt that much?  And then I ran one.  And I understood.

There’s something pretty profound about pushing your body to its limits.  And forcing your mind to be stronger than the pain.  The feeling that comes after a race (and even during) is why all those “crazy” people run long distance races.

And I don’t run every day.  My main source of exercise when i’m not training for a race is either Insanity, T-25, or Body Pump.  But when I really need some good think time and soul cleansing, I run.

The hardest part about running for me, is the first 5 or 10 minutes.  Even though I enjoy running (usually when I’m done), it’s often hard for me to get myself going.  And sometimes, I can tell within the first 5 to 10 minutes what kind of run I’m going to have.  “This one is going to feel good”, or “I’m going to hurt the entire time.”  But once I’ve determined how far I’m going, I always just do it.  Good or bad.  I do the miles.

If you think you weren’t cut out to be a runner, read the book “Born to Run”.  You might change your mind.

Oh, running.  It’s not just for criminals.

 (All images were found on Pinterest)

How do I know if it’s what God wants?

I struggled for a long time with my relationship with God.  It seemed like we just weren’t communicating very well.  I kept asking Him what direction I should go.  What He wanted me to do with my life.  Was this the right direction or this

And I felt like I wasn’t getting any real guidance.

I always knew God was there.  And that He was listening.  I never doubted He was there.  But I felt a little lost.  And unsure.  Like God was holding back on his answers.  Or I wasn’t listening good enough.  I couldn’t hear Him.

Because if I knew, for sure, that it was God telling me to do something, I’d do it.  Not just me, or someone else telling me.  But if it was God, I would do it.

And I worried about making decisions for my life story because I was afraid it would be the wrong decision.  And it wouldn’t be God’s will.  And I wouldn’t even know.  I didn’t want to waste my time on things God didn’t want me to do.  And I didn’t want to miss out on all these great plans God had in store for me.  Because when you say “yes” to something, you also say “no” to something else.  And I didn’t want to be saying “no” to the thing God actually wanted me to say “yes” to.  Did you catch that?  

So I was essentially doing nothing.  Stalling.  Waiting for the heavens to open and God to tell me what my next move was.  In a fairly loud booming voice so I could hear over all the other life noise.

And then I was reminded of the following scripture.

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; 

For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.  And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their inheritance”

Men and Women should be anxiously engaged in a good cause.  The power is in THEM.  When all is said and done, God just wants us to DO good.  To BE good.  And to be anxiously engaged in good things.  And he’s okay with ME choosing what good things those are.

I’m working my way through the book “Storyline Finding Your Subplot in God’s Story” by Donald Miller.  (worth every penny by the way)

Miller supports this idea that God has left a lot of the decision making up to us.  If it makes our heart sing and we’re anxiously engaged in something good, that will save other souls, then go for it.  He says:

I don’t believe God has a specific plan for most people.  I could be wrong, though, because there are several people in the Bible for whom God had a specific plan.

In fact, here’s a little checklist so you can know if God has a specific plan for your life.

According to the Bible, you know God has a specific plan for you if:

A.  Your donkey (or any other animal, for that matter) talks to you
B.  An angel appears before you and wakes you up because he’s so bright
C.  You are a virgin but pregnant

Where did we get this idea God doesn’t speak clearly when He wants something?  When I talk to people who believe God has a specific plan for their lives, they act like God is some kind of mystic weirdo talking to them through riddles and we are supposed to use the Bible like a secret decoder ring.

If God has a specific plan for your life, you’ll know it because He’ll tell you.  According to the Bible, it will be very, very clear.

For the rest of us, the scary truth is we get to decide what we want to do with our lives.  And we get to decide with God.”

He then goes on to say, 

“I think we are spending a lot of time asking God to tell us what to do when the whole time He’s asking us what we’d like to do instead.  I think He’s asking us what’s in our hearts, what makes us come alive, what ignites our passion and saves many lives.”

What makes me come alive?  What’s in my heart?  And how can I use that to save many souls?

Now this isn’t to say God doesn’t provide direction.  Because I absolutely know He does.  And He’ll give me little nudges to pursue certain things.  And sometimes He’ll speak loudly about a path He wants me to pursue.

But He also allows me to figure out what makes me come alive, and then wants me to GO DO IT.  And trust that God will put on the brakes if he needs me to go in a different direction.

What makes a person memorable

I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of “story”.  And living a good life story.  Creating a life story.  I was first introduced to the idea of life as a story by Donald Miller in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Since then I have been following Miller’s blog and get e-mails from him every once in a while.  That kinda makes it sound like we’re friends.  🙂  I subscribe to his blog.  But still.

The last e-mail I received really stood out to me and I didn’t want to forget it.  And it’s something I’d like my children to read one day, so I’m including parts of it in this post.  If there’s ONE thing I want to teach my children, it’s to be kind.  Always.  And to everyone.

“Bill Murray is making a name for himself…Other than the obvious that he’s a great actor, here’s his secret:  He’s MEMORABLY KIND.
By memorably kind, I mean he does more than open doors or lend you his umbrella.  He’s quite creative about his kindness, actually.”

He goes on to describe a story about Bill Murray on an elevator in a hotel when a guy got on and recognized him.  The man told Murray he was a fan.  Bill nodded and smiled.  The fan walked “sheepishly out of the elevator”.  When they got to the entrance, the fan went one way, Murray went the other way.  

“Then, suddenly, Bill Murray turned, ran toward the man and tackled him into a shrub.  He sat up, pointed his finger at the man and said Your friends will never believe this happened!

There are more stories…Once when asked for an autograph, Murray refused.  But he did spend the better part of the rest of the day with the young fan shooting a scene on the guys I-phone that he could his friends and post on Facebook.

And there’s more.  He tweeted he was in a certain city and if anybody was throwing a party he wanted to come.  He then made appearances at several parties that night.

Why is Murray so cherished as an actor and a man?  In my opinion, it’s because he’s creatively kind.”

This is the part of the e-mail that really stood out to me:

“What being memorably kind is about is showing the world there’s goodness in it, there’s kindness and grace.  I’ve a friend who says we are supposed to go around putting little feathers of kindness on the internal scale people use to measure good vs evil.

That good vs evil scale could use as much kindness as we can give it.  Collectively, we tip the scale towards the good side instead of the evil.

Don’t just be kind, be memorably kind.  I love that.

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