It seemed like every other newsletter that landed in my inbox this past week had a list of the best books of 2017. Perhaps it’s because I work in publishing or that I love books. Either way, I inevitably click on the link to see if I have read any of them and what I might be missing. After reading half a dozen posts, I decided I should write my own list.
My best-books-of-2017 list is different from others. Most simply review the books published in the past year. Not so for me. My list includes books I personally read in 2017.
When I began 2017, I was busy looking for a new job and in need of inspiration. I found it in Born for This by Chris Guillebeau. This book guided me to identify the work that for me wouldn’t feel like work. I can’t say this book got me the job. The job was a gift from God. What it gave me were practical tips and exercises for turning my passion into a paycheck.
One of Guillebeau’s other books also had a big impact on me this past year. When Shauna and I decided to go to Greece, I knew I would have time to relax and reflect, and chose to take along The Happiness of Pursuit. While experiencing a trip of a lifetime, I was exploring and considering the quest that would bring purpose to my life. More on that in another post.
The first two books are not faith-based but my next pick promises to teach you to master the decisions that will make your life everything God wants it to be. Craig Groeschel’s latest book, Divine Direction, challenges you to consider the impact of the big and small decisions you make every day. He gives you simple principles to make godly decisions today with your future story in mind.
A highlight for me every year is the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit (GLS). I never fail to come away with several books. This year the most impactful speaker was Bryan Stevenson. In his book, Just Mercy, he shares his experience defending individuals on death row. He is known for fighting to free many who were wrongly convicted or unjustly sentenced. He highlights the need for proximity--to get closer to those in need.
I am blessed with a wonderful group of friends that meet monthly for a book club. Reading a good book is topped by sharing the book with friends. The top book picks this past year were Circling the Sun and Hillbilly Elegy. If you’re looking for a good book, you can’t go wrong with these two.
In 2017, I read more books than I can remember. This was due, in part, to my new job with Tyndale House Publishers and NavPress. All year, I have been trying to catch up on the books my colleagues published over the past year or two. My favorites included Almost There, I’ll Push You, and Other Side of Infamy.
I can’t end this post without mentioning the book of all books, the Bible. Reading a complete book of the Bible brings much needed context and understanding in a way that memorizing individual, random verses does not. I especially enjoyed reading the books of Luke and Acts alongside the ladies in my Women of Faith Bible study.
There you have it. They might not be New York Times best-sellers (although a couple are) but they come highly recommended by yours truly.
2017 has come to a close. I do about the same thing every year. I am not much of a go out on the town kind of girl, rather I stay in and watch a countdown on TV. This year it is CNN with Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen. As I watch the countdown, I am sitting on our living room couch, PJs on, journals on my lap, and the Google Photos app opened up on my phone. I reflect on the past year that I’ve had and adventures that I’ve been taken on. My year has seen:
As you can see my 2017 was full of new adventures. I know that 2018 is going to have it’s own adventures! I must remember that each day is a new day. I have a list of 2018 to-dos that I hope will let me be a better and more whole me. I have trust in God and I know that He’ll give me grace!
My hope for you all of you is that you too become a better you and trust in yourself to have patience and grow.
Share with me what you experienced in 2017 and what you hope to encounter in 2018.
Greece was amazing and beyond words. I wish I could explain to everyone what it was like so that they could understand the greatness there, but I can't!
What I do want to tell everyone about are the sunsets! Every night, no matter how tired and long our days had been, we made sure that we saw the sunset. I am not sure why we did this, but it was just something that we did once and kept doing!
The first sunset I remember really taking in, was our first night in Santorini. We had just felt like we landed in heaven on earth and we were ready to see what adventures we could find! I remember sitting outside our Villa thinking, "how did I become so blessed to be on this beautiful island God created, with an aunt that loves me, and a family that is watching from afar!?"
Several sunsets were watched from restaurant rooftops, one was watched surrounded by everyone else who flocked to the end of Oia to make sure they too checked it off they're bucket lists, one was watched from Little Venice in Mykonos, and one was watched from a windmill and one from our hotel pool!
No matter where we watched the sunset from I knew it was because of God that we were here. We may never know why it was both of us, this year, in these places but it was us, last month, on the islands of Greece!
I will never look at a sunset the same again because God gave me the opportunity to see it different and feel differently!
Throughout our time in Greece, one thing continuously stood out to us . . . the people. Everywhere we went we met warm and friendly people.
I know, I know. They were nice because they were looking for tips, right? I don't think so. It was genuine hospitality. Not only that, I prefer to think these were God's angels around us. You see, we felt God was constantly with us, delighting us in the sites and sounds, tastes and breezes.
It started with a Delta employee. Frankly their check in system is messed up but when we got to the counter to drop off our bags, we were met a kind woman anxious to explain everything and make us feel at ease.
When making arrangements to get to an early morning ferry, the woman behind the desk at the Athen's Gate Hotel immediately offered a boxed breakfast to be waiting for us at the desk.
There was Takis our driver in Santorini who took to calling Shauna, "Princess."
The waiter at the hilltop restaurant Zofra who gave us blankets when it was an unusually cold night for eating outside.
The owner of the cafe who told us about the big "Love" ring on her finger. How she had worn it ever since her mother had died.
The servers at fato a mano in Mykonos Town who genuinely wanted to celebrate with us.
A curious shop keeper also in Mykonos. Somehow talking about traveling led to a whole discussion about child sponsorship programs. We shared our mutual desire to help less fortunate children around the world.
Perhaps the other thing that helped was our attitudes. I found in Shauna a genuine interest in and love for others. When the cab driver, Kostas, in Athens mentioned his son's birthday, she couldn't help but ask him questions about his son's age, what he wanted to eat, what he got him for a present. She made him feel like a person, not just a nameless guy driving us to our hotel. In fact, he came back the next morning at 3:30 am to take us to the airport. He couldn't wait to ask when were planning to come back and visit again.
Due to technical difficulties while away, we weren't able to post this on Father's Day like we hoped but we still wanted to share the love that we have for our fathers:
On this Father's Day, here in Greece, I found it fitting to share what my dad has taught me.
It is because of my father that I am the way I am. And it's because of his father that he was the way he was. And all of their kids will forever be grateful to them for that.
My favorite part of church is the very beginning. As you enter in to the worship center and the lights become dim, the drummer starts to tap the beat, the Praise Team lights up in lights and then the whole church is alive wth the sound of God flowing from their fingers and their mouths.
This has always been my favorite since the day that I truly found God. It was during my weekend at Central Iowa Teens Encounter Christ that I fell in love with worship music. The song was Tenth Avenue North's By Your Side. There was just something about the message of the song that hit me with where I was at, at that point in my life that I connected with. I had lost a sense of who I was and I was also unsure about where I was fitting in. After hearing that God is right by my side, no matter what point in life, I knew that I was led to TEC for a reason...to hear that song. Since that weekend, I've felt God throughout my life.
I've also experienced new songs and messages through Christian music. I am just as excited for a new Christian song as I am for a Country song.
At church, I tend to sit toward the front and it's there that the lead singer alwasy looks at me in the eye (or so I want to believe that she does) and she seems to sing right to me. Now she doesn't know me or what my life is like but it's at those moments that the words of the song hit me!
Listen to some Christian music and let me (Shauna) know what you think!