Currently on My To-Read List

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I’m reading more these days than I have in years, and feeling relieved that I’ve finally found the discipline within myself to put down my smartphone and pick up a bound book at times. I’ve always been an avid reader, but in recent years I fell into a careless habit of relaxing by reading blog posts and news articles and social media during my free time instead of delving into a book. Fortunately I’ve been able to make a shift in the other direction again, and I’m once again enjoying the brain stimulation involved in committing to finishing a longer work.

The stack waiting for me at my bedside currently includes:

  1. Blog Inc. | Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho
  2. Surprised By Scripture | Engaging Contemporary Issues by N. T. Wright
  3. Sacred Marriage | What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary Thomas
  4. Every Bitter Thing is Sweet | Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things by Sara Haggerty
  5. Strong Women, Soft Hearts | A Woman’s Guide to Cultivating a Wise Heart and a Passionate Life by Paula Rinehart
  6. Go to Church,  Change the World | Christian Community as Calling by Gerald J. Mast
  7. Create Your Own Money-Saving Adventure | by Malea Politis Johnson
  8. Trim Healthy Mama Plan | The Easy-Does-It Approach to Vibrant Health and a Slim Waistline by Pearl Barrett & Serene Allison
  9. The Myth of a Christian Nation | How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church by Gregory A. Boyd
  10. Jesus Wants to Save Christians | A Manifesto for the Church in Exile by Rob Bell & Don Golden
  11. Humans of New York | Stories by Brandon Stanton

Some of these have been on my bookshelf waiting to be read for several years, and my recent KonMari attack brought them to my attention. The ones on this list are the ones I still wanted to read badly enough that I decided to keep them, at least for now.

You can keep tabs on what I’m reading and loving on Goodreads. My goal is to get through the stack by the end of 2015. Then, I can make a new list for the new year! What would you recommend that I add?

Recent Goodie Realizations | Version 09.15

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  1. Our grey Southwest blanket from Sackcloth & Ashes is probably one of my favorite purchases of all time. Such a beautiful + practical + worthy investment. I love this company’s vision. And their Insta is well worth a follow — such gorgeous images!
  2. Now that I’m down to only one day a week of working away from home, I get to indulge in the [occasional] luxury of sleeping IN — and this lovely organic linen sleep mask from All Natural Sleep Shop on Etsy is highly conducive to just that.
  3. I’m a sucker for fall candles, and Bath & Body Works’ Leaves scent is my all-time favorite.  What’s more delightful than lighting candles and curling up in a cozy throw blanket to watch an autumn sunset through the window after a productive day of work?
  4. Husband and I both came down with colds last week, so Young Living’s Thieves blend has been a constant in the diffuser around here. I love how the scent alone seems to help provide relief from the congestion and dripping.
  5. Someone told me about Living Clay’s Cleansing Clay Mask in response to my beauty routine post, and I finally got around to trying it. This stuff does not disappoint! Love the feeling of clarity a good healthy mask brings after a day of hard work.
  6. In case you don’t know about Zenni Optical yet, I’m here to tell you how awesome it is to be able to get prescription glasses for so much less than buying from your eye doctor. I paid less than $20 including shipping for mine over a year ago and though I only wear them to give my eyes an occasional break from contacts, they have served me well.
  7. I only learned to know Jen Hatmaker this summer and this is the first book of hers I’ve read, but Caleb and I are both loving 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. If you’re a reader in the least, this needs to be on your to-read list.
  8. Apples + caramel are our go-to snack this season! But I want to try my hand at making a healthier, homemade caramel dip. Anyone have a good recipe to share?
  9. The owner of my favorite local nail salon talked me into trying this hand salve from Sparitual last winter and there truly is none like it. My hands dry out to the point where my knuckles crack and bleed in cold weather, and as the temperatures began to drop this week, I pulled this out to keep close at hand again.
  10. My Pandora charm bracelet is hands down one of my favorite gifts ever. My best friend gave me the bracelet and lovebirds charm as a wedding gift, and she and my husband have both contributed to it since. The memories each charm represents are deeply precious to me and it’s one of my most prized possessions.
  11. I’ve replaced my cheap canvas shoes from my summer capsule wardrobe with these Keds and they might be my favorite fall capsule purchase so far. Versatile + comfy = an easy win, in my book.

What have you been loving this month? I’d love to hear about some of your recent discoveries and/or current favorites!

The KonMari Method | Books

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I mentioned in an Instagram post over the weekend that I’ve finally begun reading Marie Kondo’s sensational book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up! I really did not expect this book to be life-changing for me, since I’m already an obsessively tidy person. I figured there wouldn’t be much in the book that I wasn’t already putting into practice. Honestly, I planned on being bored with it, but since it’s a subject I’m passionate about and everyone else seems to be raving about this book (it’s a New York Times bestseller), it warranted a read anyway.

I was wrong. Marie’s method is changing even my already-super-tidy life. (Which, apparently, isn’t as super-tidy as I thought.)


My bookshelf was designated as the guinea pig project for the KonMari method. (She advises starting with clothes, but, as you know, my clothing collection has pretty much already been picked through to the max. I’m now inspired to change my storage methods a bit, but that’s a topic for another day.)

A couple months ago, I completely reorganized the bookshelf in order to accommodate every book in the house. This was no easy task. My goals were to have every volume fit, and for the overall aesthetic to be appealing. I spent probably a couple hours arranging and stacking and rearranging until I had it looking “just so.” It is with deep regret that I write, I failed to photograph my work of art yesterday before I destroyed it. So annoyed at myself–ha.

Anyway, because it was so perfectly organized, I just could not bring myself to take everything off and put it on the floor, like the book instructs. However, I did hold each volume in my hands as I asked myself the thematic question, “Does this spark joy?” I took quite literally Marie’s advice to discard the books I’ll never re-read, the ones I never read in the first place, the ones I was only keeping for their sentimental value, and the ones who I felt only brought me a moderate amount of joy.

I had so much fun realizing which books make up my “Hall of Fame,” another of Marie’s brilliant tips. (A few of my all-time favorites are featured here and here.)

Confession: I kept a few of the ones I have yet to read. Caleb and I enjoy reading aloud to each other in bed at night until one of us falls asleep. So a small pile is being relegated to the nightstand queue for that activity. I figure if we start them and don’t love them, I can get rid of them then.

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The “nightstand queue” — books we’re either in the middle of or want to read next.

I am getting rid of most of my collection of children’s books, as well. Which is sad, because they really haven’t even gotten used yet for their intended purpose. But I realized that the only ones worth keeping for my children are the ones that are my absolute favorite children’s stories. The rest can be borrowed from the library. Books take up so much space, and they are such a pain to move! (Caleb and I moved five times before we celebrated our first anniversary, and will likely be moving at least 1-2 more times in the next couple years–so, key factor there.)

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I didn’t take an exact count, but I would estimate that I started the project with over 200 volumes, and I am now down to 58, plus 30 picture books. (That 58 includes a couple Bibles, a handful of hymn books, and chapter books for older children.) I imagine there’s a good chance I’ll pare those numbers down a bit further still in the coming weeks.

So now, not only do I have a couple hundred books to move out of here, but there’s not much point in keeping the bookshelf for one shelf’s worth of books, either. I’m already rearranging my entire office in my head. It’s such a great feeling!

If you’re intrigued by or interested in this concept of whittling down your belongings to the bare necessities + most beloved treasures, stay tuned. There’s more where this came from. I’m so excited!

Minimalism vs. Essentialism

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These two words, and the concepts they represent, have been squatting on some pretty prime real estate in my heart and brain, lately. I’m still plugging through back episodes of The Lively Show and being inspired towards things like simplicity, intention, efficiency, and authenticity, and I’m reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and I’m having conversations with friends and family about de-cluttering and eliminating excess. I’ve been working on perfecting my summer capsule wardrobe, and helping my husband with his, and going through other drawers and cabinets and storage containers around the house, getting rid of things that we don’t love. I have a capsule wardrobe collaboration coming up, and hopefully some more similar projects. Life in general continues to invoke deeper meaning, the longer I live.

I’ll definitely have to post a full-fledged book review of 7 once I’m finished with it, so I’ll save my ramblings on that for now. But that, along with the Essentials issue of Kinfolk Magazine I was reading while we were camping the other weekend, the conversation I had with my friend Jenny on the way home from the beach yesterday, and an article I read online last evening, have distracted my thinking for much of the day.

The aforementioned article was called The Problem With Minimalism. The title caught my eye as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed, and since it was posted by a friend whose opinions I value and admire, I decided to check it out. (If you haven’t opened that link in a new tab by now, do it before you scroll down any further!) It’s a somewhat lengthy but easy-read discussion of the elitist persona that minimalism tends to incur, which put into words some of the struggle I’ve been wrestling with as I’ve been getting rid of things. Also, as one commenter on my Facebook post noted, it evaluates both sides of the spectrum without demoralizing either one.

The Kinfolk issue referenced “essentialism” as an alternative to minimalism. It’s maybe mostly a splitting of hairs terminologically, but the difference between the two is realizing, investing in, and hanging onto the things that are “essential” to each of our individual versions of “the good life” as opposed to trying to “make do” with as few things as possible (in some cases, even assigning a number to that goal, i.e. The 100 Things Project).

If the process of letting go of material possessions in order to create more time and energy for people, for the things we really love, and for the Creator and His Creation is something you’re intrigued by, that particular article and that particular magazine (Issue 16) are some of my most highly recommended reading. You can also click here for a few other resources I referenced a couple weeks ago.

What’s been inspiring you towards a higher quality of life lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A Few Books That Changed My Life

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  1. Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud by Philip Yancey puts pain and hardship into perspective by addressing with biblical certainty some of life’s hardest questions.
  2. The Irresistible Revolution: Living As an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne paints a description of the modern-day version of walking the earth like Jesus did.
  3. Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone was the first book I read about human trafficking, and its message has never been far from my mind since.
  4. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina Mae Gaskin completely revolutionized my view of the labor of love that is an intrinsic part of bringing a child into the world. (A must-read for any pregnant woman!)
  5. The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church by Gregory A. Boyd helped me be able to put into words my political views (which are, in many senses, non-existent) by highlighting Jesus’ “power-under” kingdom and its contrast to earthly greatness. (This would be a relevant read in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that many Christians are up in arms about.)

A Favorite Book | Story: Recapture the Mystery

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I loved high school for a lot of reasons, but one of the things I miss the most about that period of my life is the amount of time I had to spend (or maybe just chose to spend) reading books. This was before smart phones and blogs and social media were really mainstream, so pulling out a book was my downtime go-to, and I read hundreds of pages every day.

Back then, I occasionally shopped at the Good’s Store in Quarryville, and they had this great table of bargain books for a few dollars each where I’d often stock up on new nonfiction titles that caught my eye. Steven James’ Story: Recapture the Mystery was a random gem I picked up there one day, and it’s been on my Favorite Books of All Time list ever since.

I think I actually did a book report on it during my Junior year, one of those assignments we were to give an oral presentation for — and I think I might have taken up, like, the whole class period, which totally docked my grade since it was probably supposed to be a ten-minute deal or something like that. (So much for the model student idea.) (My apologies to the students who had to sit through that class.)

Anyway, Story is, as its name suggests, a story-form version of, in general, Christ’s gospel. Mr. James is a first-class storyteller and his written version is visually light and mindfully engaging. Much of them in the form of free verse, its pages are raw, honest, human. It’s the kind of book you read on a blanket in front of the fireplace on a snowy night or in a hammock in the backyard on a summer afternoon — in quiet, in solitude, in nature.

If you read it, let me know what you think! Also, I’d love to hear what book YOU read long ago that has had a profound impact on your life and that you reread and reread without growing bored.