Wednesday, December 26, 2018

2019 Reading List {Free Download!}

I had so much fun last week sharing with you all about my favorite reads of 2018. Thanks to all of you who entered to win the book Long Days of Small Things over on Instagram! As you saw from my photos, I log my reading each year in a journal with a simple method of title, author, and 5 star rating. I've found this is easy for me to keep up with year after year.

As the year comes to a close, I always like to make a reading goal for myself in the coming year. For 2019, my goal is to read 35 books across non-fiction and fiction, audio book, e-book, and actual book-in-my-hands. I'll be using my journal and the same method again this year to track my reading.

I thought perhaps some of you might also enjoy tracking your reading along with me! I've created a free PDF printable for you that is similar to my reading journal. The page fits 10 books, so you can create a goal and choose to print as few or as many pages as you need. I hope you'll comment and let me know your reading goal for the year!

Download your free printable 2019 reading list here.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Add to Your Bookshelf: My 2018 Favorites (and an Instagram Giveaway!)

As the year comes to a close, I am looking back over my 2018 reading and sharing my favorites! I keep a reading journal (this one from Modern Mrs Darcy) which I use to track my reading, including books I've read, books I want to read, and favorite quotes. Currently, I'm at 36 books for 2018, although I expect to push in a last few before the year ends! My goal this year was 35 books, up from 30 last year, so I am excited to have met my benchmark with a couple weeks left in the year.

Favorite Fiction Book:

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Friends, pause whatever you're reading and go read this book. The novel follows a Jewish family in Poland from the beginning of World War II through to the war's end, chronicling each member's journey through those harrowing years. The stories of courage, strength, and bravery are stunning. And bonus: this book is based on the author's actual family history.

Might I suggest a new concept I discovered this year? A book flight. You read three books in a row with similar themes or styles. Together, the books bring more than the sum of their parts. For this selection, I'd pair Lucky Ones with The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.

Honorable Mention:

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Until a couple weeks ago when I read the book above, I thought Firefly Lane would be my favorite book of 2018. It's a beautiful story of two best friends through the decades. I love the depth and longevity of this book and the theme of deep friendship. Kristin Hannah is a phenomenal author and this novel does not disappoint.

Book Flight: I struggled with this one! Try The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen although I also thought of Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea or Little Women.

Favorite Non-Fiction Book:

Long Days of Small Things by Catherine McNeil

I've referenced this book in a couple of posts lately. I absolutely love McNeil's take on motherhood as a spiritual discipline. She weaves her own experiences with Scripture and leaves you with practical tips in each chapter.

Book Flight: Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae and Becoming MomStrong by Heidi St. John

Honorable Mention:

The Simplified Life by Emily Ley

This book is beautiful and incredibly practical. Emily goes through areas of your life and home, teaching you specific, applicable ways to simplify. There are even spaces to take notes and journal prompts. I found her tips so helpful and now use her fantastic planner. 

Book Flight: The Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith and The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson

And now, a giveaway! Long Days of Small Things was my favorite non-fiction book this year and I know you all will find as much encouragement within its pages as I have! I want to give away a copy to one of YOU, my lovely readers. To enter, simply head over to my Instagram account. You'll need to follow me, like the giveaway post, and tag two friends. It's that simple! The giveaway will end on December 23 at 11:59pm.

Friday, December 14, 2018

More Precious Than Diamonds

I've been thinking a lot this week about what I wrote in my last post-- about how I've given up my career and my own dreams for motherhood. I'm currently reading a book about motherhood as a spiritual discipline, and it's turning everything I thought about my calling on it's head.

I always saw myself as giving up my own calling from God to become a mother. Pressing pause, if you will, while I raise my children. That Master's degree and dream of writing were just hovering in the background, waiting to jump in again once my kids went to school. I've been realizing, though, that being a mother IS my calling right now. It's not some lesser version of my true purpose, but rather the highest calling I could have. I'm not the martyr sacrificing but rather the disciple following.

For me, this call to motherhood has felt rather like the creation of a diamond. The past seven years have been the most intense pressure I have ever experienced. I'm exhausted just thinking about the late nights, post-partum depression, pregnancies, births, discipline, etc. But under pressure, coal becomes a diamond. (I'm no scientist, so bear with my metaphor here.) As I've looked at my years of motherhood, it's felt rather like holding an uncut diamond. It looks like a rock- nothing important, meaningful or beautiful. It's dirty and seems common from the outside. And yet.

The process of turning that diamond into a jewel worthy of a ring is by cutting away the dirt and the rough edges to reveal the beauty inside. That seems like what God is doing within me right now. He's cutting away my own selfishness one little person's need at a time. He's slicing away giant pieces of myself I thought I really needed. But the result is breathtaking.

So all this to say, the diamond isn't coming through my own accomplishments, but through my daily sacrificial loving of my little people. Jesus has called me (and you!) to small acts of obedience-- daily taking up our cross to follow him. He did not promise fame and good fortune for his followers, but he did promise we would become more like Christ as we follow him.

This lesson is brand new for me, but one that is firmly rooting itself in my heart and mind. As I learn more I'll continue to write about it. And please, tell me how you are learning this too!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Preach To Yourself (and the Significance of Mothering)

I've found myself wrestling these last few weeks with my life's purpose right now. I've been kept awake at night by thoughts of my significance and the dreams I've held in my heart. I know that motherhood matters. That I'm doing the most important work. That raising little souls is truly the greatest task I could have been given by God.

But can I be honest? It doesn't feel like it. Instead, it feels like I live in a quiet, unnoticed corner of the world doing such small things. I wipe noses and bottoms. I give kisses and clean hands. And then there are the chores. Keeping home is exhausting and so repetitive. I struggle to sweep the floor and do the dishes and do all the laundry. There is so. much. laundry. I often feel like I spend whole days with a harsh word on my tongue and a frustrated spirit.

I have been thinking back to my brief time working. You know, using that Master's degree I worked so hard for? I'm struggling with the selfish desire to go back to work. To have extra money for what I want, instead of spending our budget on diapers and groceries. Again.

I miss the recognition, the feeling of being capable. I miss the progress reports, the opportunity for raises or promotions.  The only promotion in motherhood is going from baby to toddler to preschool to school age. The only raise is adding another baby.

I don't mean to sound cynical. I know without a shadow of a doubt that laying down myself for my littles is the most important work I will ever do. It's just that the day to day of it is so incredibly difficult. Motherhood is an ultra-marathon, not a sprint. These long days that pull together into years make something great, but it's something I will not see for a long long time.

As I have talked with other mamas through the years, this seems to be a common struggle. We all want so desperately for our lives to matter, to do something great. I wonder if you, dear reader, resonate with these words today. Know that your mothering matters. And mine does too.

As I've read this author's thoughts on Instagram, she talks often about preaching to yourself. And so that's what I'm doing today. I'm preaching to myself, and to you, that our life work is not forgotten or pointless. Saying no to the "glamor" of recognition in favor of little ones matters in deeply eternal, significant ways.

And now, the baby is up from her nap and all three of my littles need to be fed. It's back to dishes and laundry and hugs. These long days of small things matter greatly. Don't forget, and remind me often.