• Book Review: Quiet

    Susan Cain wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Being an introvert, naturally I loved it. I could not put it down. I felt like I was reading something the perfectly explain my strengths, weaknesses, frustrations, and left me with a feeling of understanding. It also challenged me to work out some issues that I've allowed myself to neglect, because I've bought into the lie that people should just take me as I am.

    There were 3 points that were especially helpful to me in reading Susan's book.

    1. Open office plans vs. Independent work spaces. How is your office set up? Does everyone work in the same space, share ideas, collaborate in the process or are you secluded in an office to work on your own? How do you work best? Susan says that performance gets worse as group size increases and that at times, open offices have shown to reduce productivity and impair memory.

    2. Being shy is not equal to introversion. Introverts may actually not be shy, they might just be observing. In childhood, an introvert may have been challenged to invert themselves into scenarios where they would have rather hung back and watched. There may be in increased sensitivity to stimulation for a child where an introvert is taking in more than can be sustained over long periods of time. Withdrawal is necessary at those times. It's not shyness, it's just a need to hang back from over-stimulation for a bit.

    3. Just because I'm an introvert doesn't mean I get to function in my introverted ideals all the time. I don't have to become an extravert to be "important" in society, but I also have to act outside of my introverted self at times to be heard. My responsibility is to listen well to others, and respond accordingly. I don't have to be gregarious to have something to contribute, but I do have to sometimes stretch myself beyond what's comfortable to be able to be the best I can possibly be at my job and in relationships.

    I would recommend Quiet to introverts looking to understand themselves better, and to grow. I would recommend it to parents of introverts so you can help your children function to the highest ability of themselves. And to extroverts who work closely  or live in close quarters with introverts, as it will help you to understand why they may respond how they do and give you tools in your communication. [So, pretty much I recommend it to everyone.]

    Are you an introvert or extravert? How does it affect how you approach your relationships and work? What are your unique gifts and challenges?

  • Books of 2013

    This has become an annual tradition for me. This is year 7 of naming my favorite books from the year. They can be old or new books, re-reads, or first times. I have no rules. I just get to name the books that I enjoyed the most through the year. So here's 2013's list. Please add on to it if you had books that you especially loved and you think others should also read.

    More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger: I work with Jeff on his non-profit, Plywood People. I got to help him through the editing process of More or Less, and I think it's the best book I've read on generosity.

    The Briarpatch Gospel by Shane Wheeler: I might be partial. Important people in my life wrote books this year that I really enjoyed. It's the story of planting my church in Decatur.

    Toxic Charity by Bob Lupton: This book had some ups and downs for me, but overall I really enjoyed thinking about how my service to others effects them. Is it for them or for me?

    Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: I love thinking about vulnerability in a way that shows strength instead of weakness. Brene showed me what this can look like.

    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: I love a good mystery and I love books about books. This one had my attention the whole way through.

    Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller: I think this book will shape the way I look at suffering for the rest of my life.

    Preemptive Love by Jeremy Courney: Love first, ask questions later. I don't know if it's always possible to live by his tagline, but it certainly got me thinking about what it looks like to love your "enemies."

    Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis: Now, this isn't my favorite series ever, BUT it has been on my reading list since college, pathetically, so I'm glad I crossed it off the list, even if they weren't my favorite books.

    The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan: This was a book on Sabbath and keeping it Holy. I loved his perspective of rest, play, and work. It was definitely a thought provoking look at how I spend time with God.

    What were your favorite books that you read this year? What would you recommend?

    10 Best Books of 2012 [best 15, really]

    Books from 2011

    Book from 2010

    Best Books from 2009

    Best [and worst] Books from 2008

    Best Books from 2007

  • 10 Best Books of 2012 [best 15, really]

    I love naming the best books of the year. I get to relive all the stories and lessons I've let sink in, and remember their significicance. So I'm at it again! Here are the best 10 [15] books I read in 2012. There's a lot more non-fiction in this list than usual. I hope you don't mind. I don't know what got into me. I'm not usually so imbalanced in my reading. It's usually two fiction for every non-fiction, but this year I read way more non-fiction. 

    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: Truth be told, the introduction was my favorite part of the book. I was moved, and quoted lines from it for a month after I read it. The book is really beautiful and the story roped me in in a quiet kind of way.

    The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard: I thought this book would be about individual disciplines, and teaching it's way through them. But it's not! It's the "why" behind them. It's teaching the importance of being disciplined and it was challenging and inspiring.

    The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: It took me a LONG time to actually getting to reading this 3 years, BUT it was worth every second I spent reading it. READ THIS BOOK! It's incredible. It will change how you create and how you think about creating.

    Love Does by Bob Goff: I laughed, I cried, and I was challenged to make the most of my life in everything I do. This became a traveling book for my family. We all read it and loved it.

    The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt: This was hilarious and serious and a shoot-em-up western and I impulse bought it at the grocery store check-out line. I couldn't put it down. I loved the story. If you're also tempted to buy it at the check-out aisle in the grocery story, this one is worth the impulse.

    Quiet by Susan Cain: This book made me feel incredibly understood. It's about being an introvert; when that's an asset and when it's important to stretch ourselves and grow. If you're raising an introvert, you work with one, or are one, this book's for you. 

    Enduring Love by Ian McEwan: I found this one at Value Village. I love picking up books at thrift stores. I was drawn to it because it involves a hot air balloon, but then I was kept drawn in by the main character's internal crazy that turned out to be mostly true. I loved the roller coaster ride, and the processing of grief, guilt, and forgiveness.

    One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp: My sister and I always read a book together, and this was one we read together this year. We both loved taking our time to slowly soak in the beauty of this book. We also both practiced gratitude experiments in the midst of it and shared the beautiful things we were seeing with each other. This book is a beautiful perspective giver. 

    Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend: It's probably been recommended to you 100 times like it had been to me, and for some reason I never picked it up. Well, it changed my life. I don't know what else to say about it. You should probably read it and let it change yours.

    The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller: I read this book in a book study with a bunch of other women and I loved it. It was part of an experiment initially, but the book was fabulous and I gained such an education on what marriage actually looks like and what it looks like to have a proper perspective of marriage as a single person. 

    Some honorable mentions [mostly because I don't want to have to stop at 10]

    Angry Conversations with God by Susan Isaacs: You'll laugh out loud.

    Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers: It's slow going in the beginning but riveting by the end.

    The Glimpses Of The Moon by Edith Wharton: I have a weird love of Edith, so of course I loved this book too.

    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson: I love stories about older adults. 

    Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller: I love thinking about the importance of good in work. 

  • Books from 2011

    I love doing this every year. It helps me remember my year via the books I read. These were my favorites (In no particular order.)

    -Community and Growth by Jean Vanier. If you've never read Vanier you're missing out on a rare treat. He writes like a friend would talk with you when they're most eloquent. His wisdom, grace, and understanding read like a well crafted memoir with more ideas than you can possibly put into practice after one reading. I'm sure it's one I'll come back to again and again.

    -The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. This was a recommendation from a friend, and I'm so thankful for it. I've tried to read Dillard before and have gotten lost in her natury details, but this novel was beautiful and kept me turning pages, but slowly so I could soak in her story.

    -The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. This story is heart breakingly beautiful. My favorite books are the melancholy kind, and this fit perfectly in. 

    -Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scizzaro. I read this with a friend, and I'm so glad I did. As we picked each chapter apart we were able to understand what we needed to apply from each chapter. Scizzaro recounts his own story of near burn-out, and how his poor boundaries and the lack of rhythm in his life nearly ruined his career as a pastor and his family. It was a great book to read to usher me into 2012 being my year of intentionality.

    -Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriot Beecher Stowe. I HAVE to include this even though I'm slightly embarrassed I haven't read it before now. I had NO idea what I was missing until I soaked in the story and couldn't put it down. Everyone around me had to hear me rave about the book the whole time I read it and the weeks that followed. Follow my lead. If you haven't read it, you'll be engrossed in the characters and the way the story weaves itself together. 

    -Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. I might do a full fledged book review of this one at some point or another. A sentence wouldn't begin to sum up 544 pages of this biography. It read like a really good novel, keeping my attention the whole time. When I ordered the brick of a book, I wondered how I'd stay engaged enough to finish, but I couldn't put it down. I learned so much not just about Bonhoeffer, but about Germany, Hitler and World War II. It made me take an honest look at my theology and faith in a radical way that only one who has died for their faith and belief could cause me to do. My brother and sister both read it as well, and it has been fun reading it together, talking about it, asking questions, and being enthralled in the story all at the same time.

    -Little Bee by Chris Cleave. This is a novel about an illegal refugee, and the family she came chasing after a terrible encounter on the beach in Nigeria. It's heartwrenching. I cried as I turned the last pages. The wonder of the story is in how the details are slowly told and the order the author chooses to tell them. It complicates the issue of immigration as it ties it to a person and shows that all humanity is made up of both horrid and beautiful parts. 

    There. That's it for 2011. 

    Here are others I read and enjoyed:

    -The Maze Runner Trilogy

    -Little Women

    -God on the Dock

    -I Curse the River of Time (I LOVE Per Petterson)

    -The Confessions of St. Augustine.

    -A Shelter in the Time of Storm.


    -The Help (It's as good as everyone says.)

    -Crow Lake

    -The Yearling (It wasn't as engaging, but along with Uncle Tom's Cabin, I should not have waited so long to read it. I laughed out loud.)

    -Finding Our Way Again.

    -Book of a Thousand Days

  • Book from 2010

    I love making this little list every year.  It's very fun to remember what I read, what my favorite's were, and what I loved about them. There were many others in between, but these I liked best.

    1. Roxy and the Hooligans.  I read this one before I gave it to my 9 year old niece, then sent it to her.  She's read it 3 times.  So darling.  

    2.  The Book Thief.  I FLEW through it, devouring the story.  It's so beautifully redemptive.

    3.  The Hunger Games Trilogy.  I also flew through these.  I decided what I love best about reading series' is that I already know the characters when I start the next book.  I don't have to go through the work of getting to know them again.  It wasn't my MOST favorite series ever, but I definitely enjoyed reading them and have recommended them since.

    4.  Romeo and Juliet.  This is my sad and sorry confession.  I've never read Shakespeare before.  I KNOW.  It's bad, but I enjoyed reading it.

    5.  The Inheritance of Loss.  Beautiful, tragic, and real.

    6. Jacob Have I Loved.  I love books that are setting heavy.  I felt transported.

    7.  A Severe Mercy.  It was a re-read.  I love rereading books.  It hit me in different ways than it has before. So wonderfully honest.

    8.  The Broken Body.  Jean Vanier makes the reality of community less romantic and more honest.  It was challenging and it will be definitely one I come back to.

    9.  The Alphabet of Grace.  Can one EVER go wrong with Buechner?  It's a whole new way to view a day.

    10.  Making Ideas Happen.  This book transformed my work.  

  • Best Books from 2009

    I'm sad looking at my list, that this year held so few books. I spent a bit less time reading this year, BUT I definitely still have some Favorites. Maybe the upside is that as I look through the list I just read stuff I like mostly, so I don't have worsts, which is good news:)

    Best of 2009:
    --Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. This was an amazing book!! I LOVED every moment of it, and wanted to read it again as soon as it was over. BEAUTIFUL! You should read it immediately!

    --Harry Potter...I finally broke down and read them all. They're of course brilliant, as everyone else has known for years. I just finally got around for joining the band wagon.

    --The Cider House Rules by John Irving. If you haven't read John Irving before, you NEED to start. His writing is fantastic. 

    --Clementine. This was a little book my 8 year old niece recommended. SO cute! It's about a little girl who's a little eccentric, as is her family. Her imagination runs away with her and gets her into all kinds of mischief. Very cute!

    --The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I love stories that take place in serene settings. I love how the chaos of circumstances contrasts the serenity of the setting. This is a wonderful and tragic story.

    --A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I have to admit, this one is hard for me to add to the list. I have this stubbornness about reading things everyone and their dog loves, so I've never read Donald Miller before. I had so many people recommend this book to me, and then GIVE it to me to read, so I couldn't put it off anymore. And then I couldn't put the book down once I started. It is wonderfully and thoughtfully written.

    --Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers. This woman is BRILLIANT. It is a book of essays on how she views church and culture. It was insightful and I loved the way she talks about similar struggles I have with things, but decades earlier and much more succinct than I could ever say them:)

  • Best [and worst] Books from 2008

    1. i re-read godric, so that's just a given, that it was the best because well, i think it's one of the best books ever written.
    2. the wrinkle in time series. i love the whimsey.
    3. peace like a river and so brave, young, and handsome (i know it's 2 books, and the wrinkle in time series is 5 but since it's the same author i can count it as just one, right?! what am i talking about. i am making the list, so i get to make the rules.)
    4. franny and zooey
    5. the ordering of love
    6. the road

    and the worsts:
    1. love in the time of cholera (i know i'm supposed to love it, but i HATED it.)
    2. absalam, absalam (granted at the end, i had to admit it it wasn't that bad, it was getting through it that was the worst part.
    3. winter birds (because it was so hopelessly tragic, but i have to admit, i had a hard time putting it down nonetheless.)
    4. persuasion power (because i don't care for the fact that i have a sales job and it requires reading books about being a better salesman, even if it does help. ew)

    and then there were a whole bunch in between that i liked or disliked without such passion so they don't get to be mentioned even though they were memorable as well.

  • Best Books from 2007

    I's a toss up...i read a lot of good ones, but these stick out in my mind, in no particular order...and you can't judge me that i put books about God next to books about vampires. 

    1. Twilight
    New Moon
    Eclipse (Stephanie Meyer)
    [Don't mock me.] Since it's a series it only counts as one;) i loved these. they consumed my life while i was reading them.

    2. Returen to Modesty (Wendy Shallit)
    This is a great book about how our culture sees sexuality and how the perception has been damaging. 

    3. My Antonia (Willa Cather)
    I had no idea how good this book would be. So beautiful.

    4. Knowing God (J.I. Packer)
    Very convicting and challenging. i think i maybe started unpacking 3% of this book, but it's really really good.

    5. Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Patterson)
    Every sentence of this book felt magical and reminescent of my best friend. i couldn't read it fast enough, and then i couldn't stop crying. 

    6. Sex God (Rob Bell)
    Don't get hung up on the title. It is SO good...the last chapter made me so anxious for eternity i could hardly stand it.

    7. Not for Sale (David Batstone)
    Very eye-opening. There are so many things going on around us, close to where we's good to feel a responsibility to help change them.

    8. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers)
    All i can say is, the heart IS a lonely hunter.

    9. The Hungry Inherit (Zane Hodges)
    After the first chapter i said outloud to myself "i'm SOOOOOOO glad i know Jesus. it was like being introduced to Jesus all over again.

    10. A Live Coal in the Sea (Madeleine L'Engle)
    She doesn't just write science fiction if you thought she did. This was such a beautiful story of a huge mess beginning to be redeemed.

  • Storyline

    Storyline by Donald Miller is more of a workbook. One chapter sets up an exercise and the next chapter puts you to work. It's not inexpensive [$30], so you're committing yourself to it from the very beginning.

    I was challenged to go through the Storyline workbook by Jeff Shinabarger. He thought it might help me have a better grasp of where I want to be in 5 years, so I took the challenged and worked my way through it. It was a fabulous idea and incredible challenging process for me. I don’t dream big, and I certainly am a little risk averse [although it’s something I am working on continually.] The book definitely challenged me in these areas.

    Miller says that in order to tell a great story with your life you have to incite incidents that force you to take action. What movie have you seen has a dramatic email changed someone’s life? Or has sitting alone on the couch resulted in an amazing life changing event?  I’m sure they're out there, but none come to my mind. You incite incidents by taking the risk to pursue what it is you want. You commit to running a marathon. You show up on the doorstep of the woman you love. You decide to pursue an idea you’ve been avoiding. You start taking lessons, have a difficult conversation, talk to a publisher, etc. You incite an incident so that your life's storyline takes a turn. Now that you’ve forced discomfort in your life, you start working towards resolution by finishing the story.

    That’s what Storyline challenges you to do. Incite an incident in your life to change where you’re currently headed, or propel you more quickly in that direction.

    It sounds so amazing doesn’t it?

    I recommend it. I also recommend maybe going through it with someone. It’s jam-packed and talking it through with someone will encourage you to take the risks you might be afraid of and avoiding because it’s going to require some work. But what I continued to be reminded of as I read through the workbook and did the exercises, is that even though I'm not afraid of living a quiet life, I also want my life to be comprised of memorable steps I took which required faith and dependance on the Lord. If all I'm ever doing are things that I'm perfectly capable of doing on my own, my trust in the Lord will wane because I will begin believing that I have no need of Him. I want to recognize my need of God regardless of my circumstances. This lesson made the book book worth it.

  • Boundaries

    Boundaries:  When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life

    By: Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

    I have had a bit of a crisis here as of late. I realized about myself that I'm not great about communicating my boundaries. I don't know if you've experienced this, but sometimes it SEEMS that more is asked of me in church, work, and elsewhere, because the assumption is my singleness provides me countless hours of time that I'm sitting around waiting to fill by wandering aimlessly about my house eating pints of ice cream, petting my cat, and growing increasingly more bitter. [Not to say I don't love ice cream, but you'll never catch me petting a cat or wandering aimlessly.]

    I learned a few really important things in the process of reading this book [and talking to an amazing life coach.]

    1. I have to do something about my boundaries. No one else is going to do it for me. Unless I communicate out loud what I keep telling myself internally, no one else is going to know what I'm willing to take on and what I'm not. I have to take responsibility for my own self because no one else is going to. That's not a bitter assessment, it's actually quite freeing. "No" gets to be a beautiful word that helps to set values in their proper places. It relieves us of the pressure to take things on because we might feel guilty. There are often responsibilities we've taken on in our pursuit of passions, God, and enjoyment that make our lives feel full and meaningful. Learning what to say "YES" to will enable us more easilty to say "no" when we need to.

    2. In a chapter on boundaries and spouses, I thought I'd just fly through the chapter because it doesn't apply to me, but I found myself knee deep in the concepts. I actually found them quite applicable. I have LOTS of intimate relationships, they just don't happen to be with a spouse. They are with my family and closest friends. I could relate in a big way to a story of a wife bringing her husband to counseling because he was spending increasing amounts of time away from home and she was becoming increasingly lonely within their marriage. She wanted the doctors to "fix" him and get him to want to be home more. Instead, they asked her to take responsibility for herself and her needs. She would sit at home anxiously waiting for him to get home, calling several times a day, and then with mountain high expectations of him when he finally arrived. It was too much for him. He was shutting down and spending more and more time away from her, because she needed him too much. They encouraged her to diversify her interests and friendships. I could relate because the concept applies in every relationship. When our expectations for a person exceeds their ability to fulfill it, we risk them pulling away. No one can fulfill the depths of our needs. We need to know what we're asking of others, and not expect others to be more than they can possibly be for us.

    3. Anger is a sign of boundaries being overstepped. Not ALL anger is going to be caused by someone overstepping my boundaries, but it DID cause me to take a hard look at why I feel anger or resentment at times toward others who ask things of me. A lot of times it is because I have a boundary that they are asking me to extend to them, because I haven't told them it was there in the first place. I can't be angry with someone else because I don't honor my own boundaries or because I don't communicate to them the truth of what I'm feeling.

    What about you? What trouble have you had by not having good boundaries? What keeps you from setting them up in the first place?