what i read in march.

This month, I continue my average from February of four books in four weeks and add my 2017 stack to a total number of eleven books! I hope that as I reach one of the busiest seasons of my life (I see you coming, May!), I will only continue making reading good, long, sharpening books a priority. (And what better way to procrastinate homework?) March held: Two memoirs, one novel, and one biography. There were two books out of this roundup that were winners for me – they are compelling, convicting, and stories that I personally connected to immediately. The other two held little substance for me. Let’s dig in!

  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines 

Go and find what it is that inspires you, go and find what it is that you love, and go do that until it hurts.

For those of you who may not know (who are you? where do you live??), Chip and Joanna Gaines are the TV hosts of Fixer Upper on HGTV. They are strong believers and hard workers. This book read as an easy-going dialogue between Chip and Joanna as they gave us glimpses into their childhood, dating years, newlywed adventures, and into the details of how they have built their career and family. I traveled to Waco over Spring Break and this book brought the details of everything I experienced (like driving by where Chip and Jo met, swinging at Magnolia Market…) to a new level of appreciation. On the other hand, it also spurred me on personally to tackle my God-given desires with boldness. If you love Chip and Jo, you’ll have more reasons why when you get your hands on this book. I am cheering you on Gaines’ and praying that you continue restoring dusty, beautiful things to bring God glory!

 

  • Chasing Slow: Courage To Journey Off The Beaten Path by Erin Loechner 

Perhaps we were never meant to change the pace. We were meant to surrender it.

Chasing Slow is about living an abundant life, saying no to the rat race and certain components of the American dream, simplifying, and also giving yourself grace in the mess. This book is SO aesthetically pleasing with beautiful typography and photography. I am tucking many ideas from this book in my pocket! I started cleaning out my closet (again). I took stock of my priorities. I prayed hard prayers about loving the poor and then did something about it. For this, I am so grateful! But, overall, I found Loechner’s voice to be condescending and life-draining. I found the extras in the book (recipes, added blurbs, a few misplaced stories in my opinion) to be good, but just not fitting. I’ll be recommending and furthering the ideas and a few quotes this book carries to friends for many days to come, but probably not the book itself.

 

  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’ Connor 

The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.

My girl Flannery disappointed me with this one. This novel was haunting. Unlike Flannery’s short stories, I missed the redemption song she usually, however subtly, ties into the narrative. There were many paragraphs that blew me away with her imagery and understanding of humanity. O’Connor is amazing at capturing heartbreaking human emotion and transforming that into tangible empathy for the reader to take away. That’s the best I can say about Wise Blood.  (Also, book cover goals. But that’s not the point. 😉 )

 

  • Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior 

More’s life shows that the facts and our wishes can produce great stories when serving things much grander than ourselves, and that the stories we tell ourselves and others matter.

I first heard about Hannah More when I was reading Seven Women by Eric Metaxas last May, and I was shocked about how quietly her story is being told in the 21st century. Hannah was, as the the book title describes, a poet, reformer, and abolitionist living from 1745 – 1833. She was known for her wit and her never-pausing pen. A pen that aided the abolition of slavery in England weeks before she died. More’s life proved the importance of friendships and hospitality, the balance between strong convictions and tolerance, and loving God with your whole heart. She pushed the boundaries, but stood tall in the lines she believed in. I hope to be like Hannah More as a writer, as a citizen, as a friend, and as a woman of God.  Hannah’s story needs to be told and rewritten in our lives today — start by learning about how Hannah glorified God in her life with Fierce Convictions!

Next Up…

You are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (I am making progress!)

What books have you put down this month and what books can you not put down?

what I read in July.

HOW IN THE WORLD IS JULY ALMOST OVER?

Half of my heart is grieving that these are the last few weeks of summer, while the other half is quietly anticipating the comeback of skinny jeans and Grey’s Anatomy. There is still much beauty to savor, and the beauty of autumn to anticipate.

As far as reading goes this month, I kicked off by finishing one of the best books I have ever read, and then put many books down or procrastinated opening them out of pure boredom.

scary close by donald miller blog review emilee

17. Scary Close: Dropping The Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller 

You can’t control somebody and have intimacy with them at the same time. They may stay because they fear you, but true love casts out fear.

No love is conditional. If love is conditional, it’s just some sort of manipulation masquearading as love.

Scary Close was a book that I had on my shelf for several months. I didn’t dive into it because I was afraid of how much it would convict me, because just look at that tagline. Although I know that was a silly reason, I believe that God led me to the pages at just the right time in my life and once I got going I finished it within just a few days. I’ll be the first to admit that I hate dating books. But, I especially loved this one because it didn’t have boundaries that only applied to friendships, dating, or marriage — it played into all of those components, although most of the stories come from Donald’s dating life and from his engagement period. The book takes you through personal mud as you contemplate insecurities, performance anxiety, manipulation, being too careful, and true love that equals immense amounts of grace. It was truly one of the best books I have ever read, and I don’t say this lightly. Donald has such a unique writing voice that I have always loved; it instructs you like a teacher, makes you laugh, and invites you in like a friend. He shared in particularly vulnerable ways in Scary Close that was essential, convicting, and breathtaking for the sake of the message of true intimacy.

Recommendation status: GET YOUR HANDS ON THIS BOOK, REGARDLESS OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP STATUS. I believe that the truths within it are vital to healthy, grace-filled relationships.

226 pages.

Books I Have Put Down and/or Rejected This Month…

  • For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. I got over 200 pages in. I plan on finishing it eventually. I swoon at Hemingway’s style, but the plot was boring me.
  • Hemingway in Love. I’ll finish this one alongside For Whom The Bell Tolls in the distant future, hopefully.
  • It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke. This book is easy-to-read and tackles an incredible topic, but I’m taking it back to the library because it was always on the backburner between all the other books I am reading.
  • Walking The Bible. I just never got far enough in it to be hooked!

I am all about giving books a solid chance, but sometimes there are other ones on the shelf that deserve more of my attention at the present moment.

Up Next On The Reading List…

Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh

Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper

A Testament to Freedom by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

All The Light We Cannot See

Wise Blood by Flannery O’ Connor

 

 

 

what i read in april.

What an eclectic mix this month!

I am so glad I read all three, but I don’t know if I’ll be reading them again in their entirety:

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10. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’ Connor

He felt he knew now what time would be like without seasons and what heat would be like without light and what man would be like without salvation.

These stories were heartbreaking. What I love most about these quirky, weird, redemptive stories is that in almost every single one there was a hopeful character as well as a cruel cynic. As I looked back nearing one hundred years since some of them were written, I could see the racial “improvements” that have been made since that time. It was hard to read at points for that reason, but I’m glad I hunkered myself down and made myself read them all.

My favoite stories for both feels and exquisite writing were: The Geranium. A Stroke of Good Fortune. The River. Parker’s Back.

Would I recommend it to you: See Flannery by Brad Gooch.

550 pages.

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11. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

Maybe I’m building my own damn Chocolate Factory.

If you’ve ever read Yes Please by Amy Poehler, it’s like that. But better, in my opinion.

I loved this book, and I blitzed through it in a matter of days.

Shonda has such an amazing mind, and the most incredible sense of humor. I disagreed with most of her moral statements, but I knew I would. I loved getting to know her beyond Thursday nights (where all her shows air weekly these days). It was both inspiring and hilarious.

I laughed out loud countless times. Which, by the way, almost made up for all the tears she has provoked cruelly in me during these past 12 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy.

Would I recommend it to you: If you have ever watched Grey’s Anatomy, or any other of the wacky, stunning creations from Shonda, you must read this book. If not, I just don’t think any of it would be appreciated or make enough sense when it comes to the parallels between Shonda’s breakthroughs and her character’s.

300 pages.

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12. Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor by Brad Gooch

As for biographies, there won’t be any biographies of me because, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy.

As I read this biography and read about how her contemporaries described her, I keep repeating just one word in my mind when it comes to Flannery: fascinating. Her works were so unusual, especially for a devout Catholic at the time. She was deeply invested in her faith, and extremely hard at work on her craft of writing until her last days of life. I loved being able to place her work in the context of her life (reading about her college years in Iowa were especially fun!), and to see the parallels of her experiences to what she wrote in her stories. It was also fascinating to read about all of her friendships throughout her life. Many friendships took places through letter writing, while others were invited over to the family farm to sit on the front porch and discuss theology. What I love most about Flannery is that she knew she was different, she was too quiet and stubborn for most people’s liking, she was well aware of the expectations set up for her by her friends and family, yet she wasn’t afraid to stand out and just do her thing as she felt called to do it. She died young from lupus at the age of 38. Biographies are so rich, and Brad Gooch did an impeccable job with this one.

Would I recommend it to you: Flannery is not for everyone. She’s weird, and everyone told her so when she was living. But she also was super talented, fearless, and had deep faith. This is what makes her words worth reading. If you ever do read her complete stories or any of her other fiction, though, please use Flannery by Brad Gooch as your companion along the way!

374 pages.

Did you read anything inspiring, hilarious, or quirky this month? Have you started any summer reading lists yet? I hope you’re carving out time in this crazy life to slow down and read. It’s worth it. 

currently :: vol. 2

I grabbed this currently list from Amber Thomas last month, and I’ve decided to bring it into the blog on a normal basis! Here is what’s been going on since the beginning of March.

loving.

Sharpie pens. Possible new writing opportunities. My job. Warmer weather. My iPhone — mainly for Spotify, texting, Instagram, and Snapchat. Rifle Paper Company journals to write my sloppy, sometimes lovely thoughts in.

Right now, my bed. Maybe it’s because I’m finalizing this post after 11:30PM on a Thursday night.

contemplating.

What photographer I should choose / can afford for my senior photos. The season is quickly approaching!!

deciding.

Honestly? What dress I should wear to a sweet friend’s wedding Friday night.

smelling.

Lilacs! They are never in bloom for long and they are so refreshing and beautiful.

writing.

 

Not enough, but everyday at some capacity.

All the usual places.

“How’s Book #2 coming?” I am in sole-research mode. Translation: I am feeling extremely discouraged and over my head, but having my nose in the books is a heck of a lot of fun and I haven’t given up yet.

reading.

Flannery by Brad Gooch.

It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke.

There are a few others I’ve touched recently, a few I have finished, but I’m committed to these two at the moment.

watching.

The Intern. You must, must, must look up this movie. Rent it, buy it, whatever — but you must watch it. It has instantly become one of my favorite movies. You’ll see why, my friends.

GREY’S ANATOMY. Always. Forever. It has my heart, even though it drives me crazy.

The Princess Bride. Twice in one week. I was forced to watch it the first time, and liked it so much more than I expected to.

listening.

 

Anthem Lights. JT. Christina Perri. Hannah Montana Movie Soundtrack. TSwift always. Dean Martin.

craving.

Mac & Cheese. Taco Bell. Chick-fil-A. Pizza.

But I’m being healthy and eating tuna and brussel sprouts instead. It’s been extremely hard and boring this past week as I have been at it awhile and have lost around 9 pounds, but it’s worth it. So, I am sucking it up, drinking more water, and keeping at it. Send help!

remembering.

I’ve been having a lot of flashbacks to ten year old me lately. Blame it on the Hannah Montana Movie Soundtrack. I don’t know whether to be happily nostalgic or terrified.

wishing.

For more writing time during daylight. I’m usually too beat when it’s super early or super late to get anything worth reading down on paper, so all my writing is done in twenty minutes increments which is by no means ideal. Any tips out there? Other than sacrifice and dragging myself out of my bed an hour earlier in the morning?

needing.

To reread HB’s most recent post. That girl is on fire, and I loved her thoughts on the church and toast. Go check it out for yourself at her website.

wanting.

To watch You’ve Got Mail. It’s been months and this is not okay.

eating.

Like I said, tuna and brussel sprouts. Praise The Lord for avocados.

drinking.

Water and coffee. I’m sorry if these food columns are boring you.

feeling.

ABOUT USHER AND JB’S REUNION. OH MY WORD. I had tears welling in my eyes. For those of you who don’t know — Usher is my favorite guilty pleasure. I love dancing in the car or writing or running to his music. He discovered Justin Bieber when Justin was under 15, and because I most recently fell in love with Justin also, this video from JB’s concert in Atlanta was so sweet for me.

Here’s the link: CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE FEELS

I totally understand if you think I’m crazy and don’t get it. Shake your head. Let me have my sappy moment. Continue on.

working on.

Getting back into the habit of writing for More Love Letters in addition to corresponding with my pen pals. It’s something I am so passionate about, and something that I never want to become too busy for.

It’s your turn.

How are you surviving April?

summer reads.

Confession time, friends. Summer is known for reading on the beach or tucked in the air conditioning in the middle of the afternoon. I’ll admit that my expectation of summer looked something like that. However, I only finished five books. all. summer. long. I have my reasons (it was mainly Netflix and napping to be honest), but I also started several books and decided after I’d spent a big chunk of time on them already, that they weren’t worth any more of my time.

Here are the five awesome reads I did manage to finish, (on my end unintentionally planned) all written by powerful and beautiful women:

16. A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor

“I do not mean to deny the traditional prayers I have said all my life; but I have been saying them and not feeling them. My attention is always very fugitive. This way I have it every instant. I can feel a warmth of love heating me when I think and write this to You.”

Y’all. This book is golden. I found it in my favorite little bookstore in downtown Estes Park, Colorado and inhaled it in all my spare moments before I even made it back to Kansas. I can’t imagine having my journals published, but I’m so glad we have this gem of Flannery’s. Her honesty and humor along the way was a huge breath of fresh air. It deeply encouraged me not only in the points that she brought up on accepting grace and living wholeheartedly for God, but simply in how she talked to Him. I started writing letters to God as I was reading along. I bet you’ll be seeing quotes from this book here on the blog from now on. It’s a fast read, but an important and real one, that I would definitely recommend!  (Recommended to me via Hannah Brencher’s social media accounts.)

17. Freefall To Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward A Life Of Meaning by Rebekah Lyons

“Stay.

To stay in the freefall meant to stop running.

To stop avoiding the pain. To embrace the struggle. To settle in with the lament. To get cozy with my nemesis. Because it was working something out in me that was buried deep. Locked down for a number of years. Wounds that had been planted long ago were starting to show their ugly heads. I was scared. But I needed to give them room to surface. To let them out.”

Freefall To Fly took a really long time for me to get into. For many reasons I’m sure that had not much to do with the book itself, but once I got into it, I enjoyed following and learning alongside Rebekah’s story. It was redundant in a lot of ways, but I think that in writing – especially when it’s a memoir like this – it’s vital. She writes about her struggles with anxiety and following God’s leading from a personal comfort zone in Georgia to moving with her whole family to New York City. Once again, the honesty she shared was key. It was easy to read as far as language and flow goes, but harder to read as you looked into the struggles that Rebekah was describing. The issues, of course, can cross through all age groups, but the message seemed to be aimed for Moms. (Available at church library, found browsing online.)

18. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

“And so I learned that love is larger than the walls which shut it in.”

As far as this summer goes, The Hiding Place was definitely my favorite book. But it definitely went beyond that to one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a classic that I’ve been hearing about for years, but I finally picked it up after several recent recommendations. Although the book is advertised primarily as the story of Corrie’s imprisonment because of her cares for the Jews during the war, she also shared lots of other avenues of her own life – including her younger years, her parent’s lives, mundane tasks, and being in love and then rejected – that truly touched me. Her journey of faith (and also the stories of her family member’s faith) is a testimony that every Christian should learn about. READ THIS BOOK ASAP. (Recommended via Hannah Brencher’s social media accounts, found at both the public and church library.)

19. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

“Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.”

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while now and on my own personal shelf for even longer. Annie Dillard’s writing insight was so valuable. She wasn’t easy on you in her advice, which was good.  Also, it was perfect mindless reading for an emotionally heavy week.  I underlined and made notes all over the place that I know I’ll use for encouragement and correction over and over! (Found at the Dusty Bookshelf.)


20. The Path Of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot

“He is still Emmanuel, ‘God with us,’ even when to all appearances we stand alone against frightening forces.”

This was my first book to finish by Elisabeth Elliot! When I heard of her death in June, I was very sad, but ultimately didn’t know more than the bare minimum about her. This book held some much needed and timely truths for me personally on the topic of loneliness, contentment, and longing. I would recommend it to anyone who is struggling with the same things. I was disappointed in how much it was focused on the conditional side of things – primarily whether you had a spouse, etc., because I believe it can go so much farther than that. However, the book was a great resource and she wasn’t afraid to speak hard truths in love. I took pages and pages of notes. (Available at church library, found browsing online.)

What did you read this summer?

Any book you’re specifically looking forward to this fall? I want to hear about them!