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Tuesday, December 27

7 Books to Re-Prioritize Your Life this Year!

As we gear up for a new Word of the Year, let's revisit last January....

How'd we do?  
  • Well, I'd love to say that I'm completely rejuvenated, but being a natural-born Type-A, it's probably never going to happen.  What DID happen was that I learned to say 'no.'  A lot.  There were some unhappy people, but I feel considerably more rested than this time last year.

What would I change?
  • Surprisingly, I would say 'no' even more.  Also, I would get a better internet service provider, because honestly...I could spend 1/4 the time working, if my internet would just work correctly!!   (Maybe that should be on the short list for this any good (rural) recommendations?)

Which book from this list helped the most?
  • As it turns out, the 365 Devotions for Rest book was the most helpful.  This was because the readings were short and I kept it on the toilet tank.  I know...I know...but that's when I usually get thirty seconds of peace!

a :  to make young or youthful again :  give new vigor tob :  to restore to an original or new state 
My 2017 'word of the year' is rejuvenate.  I plan to spend the year pampering my mind, spirit, and body...  To paraphrase the Beatles, "it's been a long, cold, lonely year," and after going a million miles an hour for years on end, something's gotta give.  So under that theme, my goals for the year will be to : restore, relax, rest, refresh, embrace, sleep, enjoy, and release.  Or, to quote a good friend, "let go and just BE!"
Here's what's on my reading list to get in the right mindset....  Feel free to pick up on and join me on this winding journey!   Do you have a good one to add to this list?  Comment below!

365 Devotions for Finding Rest (Christina Vinson)
Rest. You crave it. Your body needs it. Your tired soul longs for it. But in the madness of your day-to-day rush, how can you possibly find it? Truth be told, when life’s demands overwhelm us, the first thing we sacrifice is our own rest. But God has a different plan for us: He made us to enjoy deep, reviving refreshment in Him. 365 Devotions for Finding Rest will guide you in a yearlong journey toward embracing His rest in your life. You’ll be amazed as God’s peace and restoration transform you.

This is such a busy time of year, and a busy season of life, for many of us, and that makes this book wholly relevant and necessary. We _must_ slow down and just stop every now and again, and this is a wonderful book to help you do just that. Each day offers up a new, short (and thereby completely doable) opportunity for rest and reflection. The devotionals are calming and help the reader to reconnect with the inner spirit. If you, or someone you love, is caught up in the rat race madness that we call life today, this is a great, and economical, gift of love.

What Falls from the Sky (Esther Emery)
Esther Emery was a successful playwright and theater director, wife and mother, and loving it all - until, suddenly, she wasn’t. When a personal and professional crisis of spectacular extent leaves her reeling, Esther is left empty, alone in her marriage, and grasping for identity that does not define itself by busyness and a breakneck pace of life. Something had to be done.  What Falls from the Sky is Esther’s fiercely honest, piercingly poetic account of a year without Internet - 365 days away from the good, the bad, and the ugly of our digital lives - in one woman’s desperate attempt at a reset. Esther faces her addiction to electronica, her illusion of self-importance, and her longing to return to simpler days, but then the unexpected happens. Her experiment in analog is hijacked by a spiritual awakening, and Esther finds herself suddenly, inexplicably drawn to the faith she had rejected for so long.  Ultimately, Esther’s unplugged pilgrimage brings her to a place where she finally finds the peace - and the God who created it - she has been searching for all along.  What Falls from the Sky offers a path for you to do the same. For all the ways the Internet makes you feel enriched and depleted, genuinely connected and wildly insufficient, What Falls from the Sky reveals a new way to look up from your screens and live with palms wide open in a world brimming with the good gifts of God.

While I don't think I'll ever go as far as to live completely off-grid, I was inspired by Esther's story of disengaging.  I can completely get behind her dissatisfaction with the current pace of life; it seems like we're expected to do six things at once, just to keep up, and then we're considered a slacker unless we're doing ten things at once!  It's just....too much.  This is a book I will probably re-read, as I struggle to find the balance between what has to be done and what I want done.  Also, the topic of consumption is addressed, which is something that our nation needs to look at more in-depth.  While I try to do my part to reduce consumption, she offers up suggestions for even more ways to become a producer, or to just be satisfied with our current lifestyle.  The premise of the story is that we should live deliberately, rather than just going through the motions and trying to get through the days.  The days add up, and every day that we spend locked into an unhappy state of digital anethesia (love that term!!) is a day that we'll never get back...  Are you ready to wake up yet?

Wake Up to the Joy of You (Agapi Stassinopoulos)
This is your year of self-discovery, a journey to create a life filled with grace, meaning, zest, peace, and joy. With warmth and wisdom from a lifetime of spiritual seeking, inspirational force Agapi Stassinopoulos guides you through fifty-two weeks of letting go of what doesn’t work for you and finding what does. You’ll cultivate the building blocks of self-care (meditation, health, making time for yourself) and confront the common roadblocks we all face, like pouring your energy into other people or living in denial. You’ll explore your “conflict” areas, such as relationships, money, self-esteem, anxiety, and your childhood. And you’ll learn to trust your creativity, keep your heart open, and connect to the bigger spirit that lives inside you.

Again, the theme of slowing down, finding yourself underneath all the hustle and bustle, emerges in this book.  My word for the year is "rejuvenation," and this book resonates with that.  This hardcover book discusses self-care, and the conflicts and roadblocks you'll hurdle on your journey to it.  There are sections on unlearning behaviors (which is really tricky), quitting worry cold turkey, tucking away anxiety and negative thoughts, and learning to just slow down and be.  Broken into fifty-two meditations, you can focus on one each week as you journey to a calmer, more peaceful you!

Choose Joy (Sara Frankl)
Sara Frankl knew she had a terminal disease, but she didn't let it stop her from living. In the face of immeasurable pain, Sara chose joy--again and again. Her unforgettable message of hope and purpose lives on, even after her death, in her words.  CHOOSE JOY is a compilation of the lessons Sara learned while she was dying, written in her own words and sewn together by her close friend Mary Carver. It is a reminder to see the beauty in life, even when it looks nothing like you hoped or planned.  In a world full of tragedy, choosing joy is no small task--but, as Sara knew, the importance lies in the choosing. Once you learn to make that choice, every day, no matter what happens, joy will come.

This was a book that really spoke to me, on a personal level, and was the impetus for my choosing to let go - on a trial basis - for the year.  2016 brought so many changes to our family's spirit that it is time to settle back and let go of things - to quit trying to control our lives and just go with the flow for a bit.  It would be very easy to dwell on the events of last year, but not helpful.  This is one of those books to keep on the shelf and re-read as needed, as a reminder that there are others out there worse off, and they have successfully chosen joy.  It's a matter of resetting your mind and spirit.

Sisters of Sugarcreek (Cathy Liggett)
Many lives were changed the day a fire burned down Faith Community Church, devastating the small town of Sugarcreek, Ohio.  Now a young Amish widow, Lydia Gruber faces an uncertain future. Her husband, a craftsman and volunteer firefighter, always took care of everything, keeping her isolated from others in their community. Without anyone or any skills, how will she survive?  With the death of her beloved aunt Rose in the fire, single mom Jessica Holtz inherits Rose’s Knit One Quilt Too cottage. Though determined to keep the shop open in her aunt’s memory, she doesn’t know the first thing about knitting and quilting and begins to see her aunt’s dream slip through her fingers.  When Liz Cannon lost her dear friend Rose, she also lost her partner in the Secret Stitches Society―the name they gave themselves while delivering gifts of hope to troubled folks in the dark of night. Liz convinces Jessica to keep the anonymous society going, despite the younger women’s inadequacy with knitting and sewing needles. But soon Liz has problems of her own as the life she has rebuilt for herself begins to crumble again.  When Liz and Jessica choose Lydia for their first mission, the three women cross paths and form an unlikely friendship in the aftermath of tragedy. As they walk together through triumph and heartbreak―through grief and new chances at love―they begin to discover that with friends by your side, a stitch of hope can be found anywhere.

This fiction book embodies the spirit of rejuvenation.  The fire brings such destruction and devastation to the area, that it seems as though some lives will never recover.  And while they aren't the same, they wade through the hard times and discover that life can be just as sweet - albeit in a different way that envisioned - as it ever was.  The theme of nurturing relationships is central to both this story and the topic of spiritual rejuvenation.  Also, if you're a hands-on person, or a crafter, you'll enjoy the surface topics woven into the characters' stories.

Enjoy (Trillia Newbell)
Watching a gorgeous sunset. Sharing a laugh with a friend. Tasting a sun-ripened strawberry. Each day is full of opportunities for you to savor the countless gifts the Creator has given.  But do you feel free to delight in God’s abundant gifts, or is your joy sometimes distorted by guilt, fear of idolatry, or simply an overwhelming awareness of sin’s effects on this world?  Trillia Newbell explains how we often miss opportunities to participate in God’s divine delight because we’re discouraged, fixated on selfish fulfillment, or paralyzed by guilt.  Enjoy serves as an encouraging reminder of God’s gracious gifts and also challenges women to view all of these gifts—from relationships and careers to food and sex—as reasons to rejoice in the Lord and grow in our understanding and appreciation of who He is.  This thought-provoking book invites you to explore the truth of God’s Word and discover how to nurture daily a spirit of gratitude and deep satisfaction. Enjoy will open your eyes and your heart to the freedom of fully enjoying all God has given us!

As a (now former) runner, I was able to relate to the author's story of needing to justify her biking hobby, and that really hooked me into the rest of the book.  Since childhood, I've been taught that hard work is the path to take, and that we should always be working toward better things, but it came at the cost of learning and understanding how to truly experience joy.  Each chapter of this book is dedicated to one area of life that we need to learn how to fully experience and be grateful for the small joys in it.  Also, there are mini-projects, and information about the communal Enjoy Project, spread throughout the chapters as an opportunity to apply what you've learned.  It's a good reminder that all work and no play makes life....less joyful.  We need balance.

Devotions for Easter (Zondervan)
Prepare your heart and mind to celebrate the risen Savior.  It’s time for fresh spring blossoms, colored eggs, special recipes, and family gatherings. This year, with each tradition, small celebration, and new story, take the time to stop and discover the ways Jesus is showing His love for you. In remembering His Easter story—the greatest story ever told—your own will become that much sweeter.  The perfect companion for Lent, Devotions for Easter invites you to find the messages of hope and mercy God places in even the smallest moments of the season. Forty days of warm, inviting readings, prayers, scriptures, and beautiful images will take you through Christ’s journey toward the cross and the miracle of His resurrection. As new life emerges all around you, let your heart be filled with joyful worship of Christ and the renewal He brings.

In the same vein as Devotions for Christmas (which I loved...see that review here), Devotions for Easter is a beautiful hardcover book with incredible pictures that will draw you in.  It is meant to be used for the forty days prior to Easter, known as Lent.  Each day begins with a short Bible verse and ends with a prayer.  The photographs are so beautiful and engaging, you'll want to leave this one out where company can pick it up and flip through it.  The devotions are short - one to two minutes long - and would be appropriate for family gathering time or your morning 'alone' time.  As the title indicates, they are all Easter-themed, and will help to re-center your spirit on the true purpose of the season...which is not bunny rabbits and colored eggs!  This may seem like a strange book to include on this list, but I appreciate how these beautiful pages help to recenter the spirit.

Chasing Slow (Erin Loechner)

You’re here, but you want to be there. So you spend your life narrowing this divide, and you call this your race, your journey, your path. You live your days tightening your boot straps, wiping the sweat from your brow, chasing undiscovered happiness just around the bend. Higher! Faster! Better! Stronger! And on and on you run. Viral sensation and star Erin Loechner knows about the chase. Before turning 30, she'd built a fan base of one million women worldwide and earned the title “The Nicest Girl Online” as she was praised for her authentic voice and effortless style. The New York Times applauded her, her friends and church admired her, and her husband and baby adored her. She had arrived at the ultimate destination. So why did she feel so lost? In Chasing Slow, Erin turns away from fast and fame and frenzy. Follow along as she blazes the trail toward a new-fashioned lifestyle—one that will refresh your perspective, renew your priorities and shift your focus to the journey that matters most. Through a series of steep climbs—her husband's brain tumor, bankruptcy, family loss, and public criticism—Erin learns just how much strength it takes to surrender it all, and to veer right into grace. Life's answers are not always hidden where they seem. It's time to venture off the beaten path to see that we’ve already been given everything we need. We've already arrived. 
This is a strange combination of's like reading someone's (edited) diary, with all of their scrapbook clippings in between the pages.  There are recipes, lists, quotes, and mathematical equations, all tucked into the script of her life.  Motherhood, marriage, success....women are told that we can have it all, if we only try a little harder.  The truth, though, is that something gets lost along the way.  You can either be good at one thing, or mediocre at many things; and coming from a generation of women whose mothers tried to have it all, I think we are re-examining this idea.  Many of us are trying to "chase slow," which can be just at hard as having it all, as we fight this feminist notion that we are somehow going back in time.  The truth, though, is that feminism is about allowing women to be and do whatever they want, without restriction - even if that means that they want to slow down, climb off the crazy train, and embrace motherhood whole-heartedly.  You'll find yourself fighting with the author at times, and relating at others; and you'll find yourself left thinking.