Favorite Books of 2019

I fell behind in my reading this year; only 24 books compared to 2018’s 42! I suppose starting grad school accounted for the slow down!

Nevertheless, I finished some good ones this year. Here a a few of my favorites and quotes!

Fiction (plus based on true stories):

Beartown by Frederick Bachman – Like A Man Called Ove, very real characters draw you into this story. A failing industrial town is held together by hockey, and nearly ripped apart by an assault and tragedy.

We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter – a fictionalized account of the true story of one Polish Jewish family that survived the Nazis. Through perseverance, faith, and a devotion to family, they survived atrocities and horrors that I could never dream of.

The Tatooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – another fictionalized account of a true story from World War II. The horrors of Auschwitz are all too real in this story, and yet the ability of many of the prisoners to retain their humanity despite the circumstances, is truly inspiring. In this story, love wins.

(I’m currently in the midst of two of my favorites for the year but won’t finish them before midnight – you’ll have to wait a year to find out!)


Anatomy of the Soul by Dr. Curt Thompson – I’m so grateful for the writings of Dr. Thompson. His insight into the human soul and how God has wired us as humans has been eye-opening and soul-enlarging for me.

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser – this is a book I had to take my time through, the entire year in fact. It is heavy and a lot to take in and it is one of the best I’ve read. The human condition is filled with loss, and Sittser knows it well – losing his mother, wife, and one young daughter instantly in a tragic car crash. Reading his reflections on loss, and how God works in us and through these times, was like sitting down with an old friend, and being known and understood. His guidance on facing our pain and darkness is loving and inspiring.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter ScarzerroI loved this book and the lessons within on integrating our emotions with our spirituality. It’s truly beautiful to understand how God has created us as humans; when we understand how important every aspect of ourselves is, we can grow.

Politics and Prudence by Clark Forsythe – This was a realistic and yet hopeful reminder of the value of perseverance and prudence in policy and politics.

A new year lies ahead, with stacks of books surrounding me. I can’t wait to dive in!

We may be entering the futuristic year of 2020, but may we all rediscover the old-fashioned blessing and joy of a printed book.

Hints of Change

It’s officially fall here on the East Coast.

In August, I started to notice the hints of change. There’s a magical little park I visit with my dogs, an estuary off of the Chesapeake Bay, where we hike and swim. Last month, I began to see a few leaves start to yellow. Then in September, flicks of red began to appear.

Lately, I’ve noticed the angle of the sun has shifted. It’s such an interesting aspect of the seasons changing – it’s amazing how much of a difference it can make in lighting and the way nature around us appears.

And yesterday, as I hiked through the woods, there was a distinct smell of autumn, of dried leaves started to decay. A warm breeze was blowing, as if an attempt to usher in more of fall.

Hints of change.

Glimpses of a new season.

I find so much peace and assurance in the changing of seasons. I love each one in its own way and find great joy in the passing of each season. There is peace and comfort in knowing what to expect – what to look forward to.

I often wish there was such certainty with the seasons of life. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what is coming or when?

Particularly in those very hard times, we want our circumstances, our season, to change. I know this full well.

And yet, what if we embraced the current season and all it had to teach us?

What if we trusted there was a purpose in every process?

We wouldn’t want to go from the lush green leaves of summer immediately to the fallen leaves of winter – we’d miss the array of colors in the autumn foliage.

And yet we can be on the lookout for the hints of change. We can trust that it is coming.

It may be a month, a year, or ten years, but it is coming. Our Lord watches over the sparrows, he most certainly watches over your life.

“But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭31:14-15‬ ‭

Our times are in his hands.

Embrace the current season, in all its beauty and messiness.

Be on the lookout for glimpses of the next season.

And trust that one day, there will be a season when all is made right.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭31:24‬ ‭

The Holy Whispers of Creation

July is an interesting month. At the beginning, the summer is still fresh and new, full of promises of sun and fun. At the end, August is upon us, with vacations dwindling and a new school year approaching.

This July, for me, was particularly hard. I knew it would be.

I wanted to come to God with open hands, asking him to guide me and teach me, and carry me. I came to him expectantly.

He knew what I needed. He delivered.

God spoke to me – through holy whispers of His creation.

You gave me restoration in a haven of still waters; you gave me strength, as I marveled at the flight of an eagle above.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:29-31‬ ‭NIV‬‬

You showed me your tenderness in a refuge of green pastures; you gave me rest as I reflected on my Shepherd.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

You gave me hope amidst hurt; reminding me of your promises through rain and storms.

“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭16:10-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What if we took our direction less from the man-made devices tethered to our hands and more from the one who created man and woman and the world around us?

No matter what we are walking through, we can look to the seas and the skies for beauty.

What is his creation trying to whisper to our souls?

Nature is real

Have you ever questioned reality? Do you ever find yourself saying “this isn’t real.”

I do.

We live in a world that is filled with things that are not real.

Social media.

Plastic surgery.


Even the news?

We are now all familiar with the term fake news. It gets thrown around a lot, but there is truth to it. The other day, I read a story from Axios on how 2020 campaigns are not prepared for “deepfakes” – fake videos that are manipulated to make a candidate appear to be giving a damaging statement.

These fake things can have an extremely negative impact on us. Individually and culturally.

Take social media – it is not real life. It is a curated portrayal of one’s life. And yet we consume it constantly, allowing our brains to be manipulated by it. Our mental health, attention span, human connectedness, memory, sleep quality all suffer from it – something that isn’t real.

So what is real?

With the summer weather upon us, I have been reminded of the reality of nature.

Nature is real.

It is beautiful and refreshing.

You can physically touch water, grass, leaves.

It is truly, real and healing in a world of fakeness.

This summer, let’s put our phones away and sit by a lake. Delete Instagram for a week (or join me for all of summer!) and go for a hike – put your hand on some moss, toss a rock in a stream, touch the bark of a tree.

Get connected with what is real, and forget what is fake.

(And even better, take a friend with you and have an honest conversation about life!)

Spending time in nature is one of the most grounding things we can do. Why not give this a try as some personal therapy – it’s free!

Your mind and body will thank you. Trust me, mine has.

Some of the places that have been inspiring me this spring and summer!


Nature is powerful.

A year ago, I traveled to the Netherlands and Italy for my sister’s 30th birthday trip. In Italy, we spent most of our time in Cinque Terre and a few hours in Pisa.

It was an incredible trip that filled my heart with joy, peace, and wonder.

I’ve had a year to reflect on what was so magical about this place. I think the stimulation of the senses and the colors of creation were a significant part of it.

In Cinque Terre, I was surrounded by the color turquoise.

The color turquoise is associated with meanings of energy, serenity, wholeness, patience, calm, spiritual grounding, and tranquility.

I’ve always found water to have a healing meaning, but turquoise water takes it to a whole new level! We all could probably use some more of the Mediterranean in our lives!

Hiking Reflections + An Irish Blessing

It was a cold St. Patrick’s Day weekend, but the warmth of the sun brought reminders that spring is coming.

Today, on St. Patrick’s Day, I sat outside while Hunter and Scout ran in the park. It was peaceful and quiet and the sun was shining warmly on me. I was reminded of the lovely Irish blessing:

“May the road rise to meet you, and the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm on your face, and the rains fall softly on your fields.

I’ve always thought that was beautiful and something I would wish for all my friends and family (and strangers too!).

But the sun is not always shining…

I also found a great trail this weekend that was pup-friendly. Well, I was expecting a trail but some of it was quite rocky and steep! It was definitely a hike and as I was climbing some of the rocks – no small feat with two dogs – I reflected on all of the hiking I’ve been blessed with over the past year.

A cold and steep hike I took in February particularly struck me.

Harper’s Ferry National Park

Sometimes the path is steep, and barren. It’s lonely. It’s hard.

And yet you just have to keep going.

There are glimpses of beauty and streams of restoring water along the way where you can stop to rest.

And there is one who is beside you all along, who will never abandon you.

You are headed to new places, and to new heights.

Beauty can often only be seen from the top.

Maryland Heights, Harper’s Ferry National Park

As a new year unfolds from St. Patrick’s Day 2019, my prayer for you IS the Irish blessing.

But even more deeply, during those times when the sun is not shining, when you’re trying to find your path – or just any path – when it’s a steep road ahead…my desire for you is Habakkuk’s prayer.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19 NLT

A few more pictures for inspiration. And may you always be surefooted in your steps!

Made it to the top of Maryland Heights! Feb. 2019

Views like this along the way remind me of living waters.

Lots of steep hiking in Italy, but the views (and gelato), definitely made it worth it!

Favorite Books of 2018

2018 was a record reading year for me – I finished 42 books! There are many reasons for that, but I also have to give credit to my Kindle. I’m two years in to life with a Kindle, and as a former skeptic I have to admit it has helped me increase my reading.

I had a number of favorites this year, and a few I got through just to finish! I hope you find something below to inspire you! And I will always take recommendations (or arguments for why I am wrong!).


A Tangled Mercy

A random Amazon Unlimited find that was a delightful surprise! The history buff in me loved the historical mystery aspect, and going back in time to the characters ancestors, though painful at times seeing the devastation of society with an economy centered around slavery, was very interesting. Great characters as well with a redemptive conclusion.

Truly, Madly, Guilty

I got on a Lynne Moriarty kick this year; this was my first and favorite of hers. The suspense of the “great event the story centers around but you don’t learn the details till the end” was fascinating. The characters were so real and endearing in their own quirky ways.

How to Walk Away

Loved this debut book by newcomer author Katherine Center. I literally couldn’t put it down and finished it in one day. I don’t want to give it away but sometimes it’s nice to have a good, and “real” read that still makes you feel satisfied and inspired at the end. Great characters with interesting conversations and reflections on life; don’t let the plane crash at the beginning scare you away! Definitely a good beach or ski lodge read, but with substance.

The Great Alone

I discovered why this book is so popular and I had to wait for weeks for the library e-book to become available for Kindle – I couldn’t put it down. An epic coming of age tale set in the pioneering world of a remote Alaskan village in the 1970s, I really enjoyed the robust characters and being taken to a world I know little about.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Absolutely fascinating true story from the Italian front in World War II, which I, and most people, know little about. Listening to on Audible, the story of Nino Pinello came alive, with his daring missions to help Jewish families escape danger, as well as his undercover spy. It is a beautiful story of a young man coming of age during a traumatic time in world history, filled with courage, love, and heartbreak.

A Man Called Ove

I’d also particularly recommend listening to this one, as the curmudgeonly yet faithful Ove comes alive through Audible. It is a thoughtful and creative look at aging, community, and the value of life. EVERYONE matters.

Just a little reading in a chapel on a hillside in Cinque Terre, Italy:

Least Favorites:

How Should a Person Be

If this is what a popular millennial author/book is supposed to be, no thanks. I almost stopped reading at times…very meandering, and a frustrating and foul main character.


This was popular on the charts, but I just didn’t quite get it, and seemed to miss the explanation. I enjoy dystopian lit, but this just didn’t make sense to me and was a bit boring.


This was the first Andy Weir novel I had read, and friends and family in science careers recommended to me. I enjoyed the movie take on The Martian, but I struggled getting through this…perhaps you have to be really into science? The technical details were a bit much/boring for me, and I found the main character to just be annoying and hard to root for.

Gone Girl

I’m a few years behind on this one, but I felt angry at the end of Gillian Flynn’s blockbuster. Yes it was a page turner…I don’t want to give too much away, but the character development was too hard to follow and deceptive for me to understand the story’s arc and the characters’ motives.

Hunt for a Red October

I of course love this classic movie (who doesn’t?) and I wanted to read the book prior to the new Jack Ryan Amazon Prime series. It was certainly interesting at some points, but overall, the technical details slowed me down so I could never quite get into the flow of this. I didn’t feel like I could quite get to know the characters; although the Cold War history and the psychology beyond the Soviet dissidents was interesting.


With 2018 being the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, I wanted to read a few books about the Great War. These were heartbreaking and moving. 100 years ago and yet people, war, tragedy, and trauma – it’s still the same.

  • Farewell to Arms
  • All Quiet on the Western Front


Perhaps I will write more about these later! The latter two on the Enneagram – wish I had discovered a long time ago! Highly recommend. You might hate it, but you might love it.

  • Power of Habit
  • Road Back to You
  • The Sacred Enneagram