As the year comes to an end, this magical week between Christmas and New Year’s always feels like a deep breath. It’s a chance to rest, to think and reflect, and prepare for the change of the calendar.
One way I love to mark the end of the year is by noticing and naming the good things. It helps me look back on the last 365 days and find the things that brought joy, growth, entertainment, convenience, surprising delight.
Here is my list:
When I look back at my kindle library for 2020, I notice a theme: feel-good fiction. This was the year of easy reads, nothing that made me feel too much emotion, and, oddly enough, few books that were all that remarkable 🙂 There were a couple of standouts worth mentioning, though far fewer novels than in year’s past.
Here are the shows and movies that brought entertainment, thoughtfulness, mindlessness and creative inspiration.
The Chosen. This series is available to watch on the app and is absolutely beautiful. Season One covers the beginning of the ministry of Jesus (if I were not sitting with my family I could have let myself hyperventilate cry during episode one. It is beautiful).
What an odd year it has been for the kids and school. The spring was spent doing online school through our school district and the fall brought a new experience for all of us: Homeschool. It’s been good, challenging, tiring, freeing. We are grateful for adaptable kids and a mother-in-law who stepped in to help when overwhelm kicked in hard for me.
Abeka Online Academy (this is what we’re using. We mostly like it, but it is more intense than any of us expected).
Duct Tape (the perfect source of endless creation)
ART + WORK
2020 was the year of finishing up Freely and Lightly and starting on Twirl, two books that I am so proud of and so grateful to be part of. It was also a year of jumping back in the product creation world with Truth for Today cards and Watercolor Workbooks. What an incredible year it’s been for my business and finally feeling like I’m moving in the right direction. These are the art and work things that I reached for most this year:
I listened to a podcast conversation where the host and guest mentioned listening to audio books. One woman said she doesn’t often listen to books because she can’t stay focused. The other suggested listening to novels as they are more entertaining and capture attention with story. Both agreed that they much preferred listening to fiction and reading an actual copy of non-fiction. I get their point, but I’m the complete opposite! Rarely can I make it all the way through a non-fiction book. BUT if I’m listening to it – and especially if the author is reading it to me – I am hooked. Plus, I like that I can multi-task. Listen to a book + vacuum the kids’ rooms. Pop in my headphones + sauté the vegetables. Pick up where I left off + weed the yard. Or, just listen and do nothing else. I think because I enjoy listening to podcasts so much, my brain does well taking in the information of non-fiction. In fact, listening seems to hold my attention better than if I were to read the same book. The only downfall is that it is nice to have a physical copy of a book to highlight or take notes in if something, in particular, jumps out at me. To combat this, I will often pause the book, open the notes app on my phone and write down whatever it is that I want to remember. It’s not a perfect method, but it works.
Lately, I’ve listened to/read a handful of really excellent non-fiction writing. Here they are, in no particular order:
With her soothing Australian accent and vulnerability, Alex Seely instantly feels like a wise mentor. She guides us gently through recognizing lies that have burrowed themselves deeply into our hearts and helps us find the truth in the midst of it. I paused this one many times to write down wisdom, like this: “The world is waiting to see the glory of God revealed through his children. But if we stay bound to our insecurities then we will never step into the fullness of who he created us to be.”
Annie has long been a favorite voice in my earbuds with her podcast and I equally (or maybe even more so!) enjoyed listening to her tell us her story of learning to remember God, even when life isn’t going as you hoped. So good.
Another favorite podcast voice – his smart teachings through Bridgetown Church are always profound and practical (a perfect combination in my book). I listened to this book and the following one in the matter of a few days and must relisten to both. This one reminds us of what God says about Himself – apart from our own perceptions (perhaps misperceptions?) of who He is.
Here’s the process I’ve been going through: first, figure out who God actually is (that’s answered in God Has A Name). Second, figure out how that redefines my identity. Third, understand what that means for how I live in the world. This book helps with the third part. It’s convicting (he teaching on Sabbath is one of the very best) and he helps us realign our expectations about work and rest and life. I loved this book.
I have only just started this one – it just released one week ago! – and just know I will come back to it again and again. I have a hardcopy because it felt like a book that I would want to underline, but I also adore Emily’s voice so much that I wanted to hear her read it to me and so I have the audio version as well. Do you listen to her podcast? If not, definitely do. This book was born from the insights she shares with us weekly and I’m just so very excited about her guidance to help us be mindful about decision-making.
She grew up thinking she wanted to either be a cheerleader or a missionary and you know what? She’s both. THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. I read it all the way through in a day and a half because I couldn’t stop. It spoke to all of the little weird catches in my heart I feel when I read the modern-day motivational quotes (You’re enough! You weren’t made to be small! Go after your dreams! You deserve it!). Rachel is unashamed, unapologetic and truly makes her readers think. Her Instagram is pretty great, too.
The Enneagram continues to rise in popularity. When asked what my favorite resources are for understanding the personality typing system, discovering what type you are and viewing it in light of who God says you are, this book is at the top of my recommendations. I was under the spiritual direction of Marilyn Vancil and her mentorship to me has been one of the single most transformational things in my life. I am so grateful to her and this book. It is now available in audio form if that is more your thing. Although I would still suggest getting a hard copy so you can refer back to it again and again.
So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore
I picked this one back up after having read it years ago and, what do you know, insecurity is still right there biting at my heels. This book is easy to relate to and practical in its healing prayers and guided practices.
This resource feels like a next-level choice for further enneagram understanding. It approaches the personality typing system from a Christian perspective (which I always prefer) and dives deeper into the triads: heart, head and gut.
This book comes highly recommended and is a perspective shift from the general marriage messages. Tim Keller “uses the scriptures as his guide to show readers what God’s call to marriage is, and why this is such a powerful call”. A few books that are on my list to listen to/read next:
I find Knox McCoy to be super hilarious and love the way he mixes pop culture and faith. I need to read/listen to this one next. Also, don’t miss his podcast, The Popcast. It is my go-to when I just need to laugh.
Honestly, I don’t love a marriage or parenting book. I don’t know why. It especially makes no sense since my degree is in child and family psychology. You would think I would eat these up! But, no. However, as I have been undergoing great spiritual transformation, so has our marriage and this book feels like it would be a helpful tool to enhance the growth.
This marriage book looks really good, too. As the description says, “Setting aside typical topics on marriage, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.”
I have always loved Elisabeth Hasselbeck – from her days on Survivor: Australia (best season ever!), to her time on The View. She has been making her podcast rounds promoting her new book and I ADORED her conversation with Annie F. Downs (listen here). It made me feel like we would be friends and so, of course, I want to read her book.
The Bible is full of stories using food as an illustration for deeper truth – and much of it is lost on us since we are neither farmers nor live in a primarily agrarian culture. If you’re a foodie, this will be especially fun for you.
My love of the enneagram continues and I’ve been meaning to get this book for a while. It helps us look at relationships through the lens of enneagram to help understand, offer grace and improve communication. Whew! That’s quite a list. Have you read or listened to any non-fiction that you’re loving right now? I’d love to hear!
It dawned on me when I was sharing my five things Friday on Instagram and all I wanted to talk about were the podcast episodes I listened to. I listed a few and held back from the others because I didn’t want you to think that I do nothing else with my time other than listen to podcasts 🙂
The truth is, I do listen to several episodes each week. But I’m usually doing it while doing other things, so that makes me feel better about this habit.
I pop in my headphones and turn on a new episode when I’m making dinner, washing dishes, folding laundry, vacuuming, picking up around the house and deep cleaning. It feels like a reward to me – I have to do all of these daily chores but at least I get to fill my ears with laughter, conversation, deep thoughts, insights, information and entertainment. I just can’t get enough.
(p.s. that picture was taken before I had a pair of wireless headphones and my goodness, what a difference it makes! No more getting caught up in a cord!)
I’ll also put on a podcast in the car, but only when I’m by myself. The kids DO NOT share my love of podcast listening. I drove down to Oregon last month by myself and there was something completely delightful about having 4 hours to myself to listen to whatever I wanted the whole way there and back.
A few more tips about my professional podcast listening skills:
For all but two podcasts, I listen on 1.5 speed. This is a big reason my kids do not like listening to my podcasts. It admittedly feels a little off, but as long as I can keep up, I like being able to move through them quickly so I can get to the next one 🙂 The two podcasts that I listen to on regular speed feel like they shouldn’t be rushed so I honor them and their impact on my soul by listening slowly.
Headphones make concentrating much easier. If I’m at home by myself, I could listen through our house speakers, but putting the noise directly into my ears with headphones makes it way easier to stay focused.
Choose the right tasks to do while listening. There are some things that just don’t work for me to multi-task on – I can’t type and listen to words, drive unknown roads, make a complex recipe. Sometimes I need to just turn off the noise to get things done.
Curate a podcast list that makes you happy, challenges your thinking and keeps your brain engaged. If you listen to something a friend recommends and you’re not into it, no worries! There are so many different options and just because one show is super popular or someone loves a particular genre, it doesn’t mean you have to. My friend listens to all the crime/unsolved mystery podcasts and raves about them, but I’m just not interested (and that’s okay).
Be a podcast supporter. We can support our favorite podcasters by leaving reviews, encouraging them through comments, not getting annoyed at the commercial breaks, purchasing their books and products and using their affiliate codes. I am so appreciative of the hours and hours of work it takes to put these podcasts together and especially grateful that everything is FREE!
Okay, now for the list of my favorite shows (listed alphabetically):
This is a church in Portland, OR with such good teaching on following the way of Jesus. John Mark Comer is the head pastor and I adore his style of teaching. The sermon series called “Fighting the World, The Flesh and The Devil” (starting 9/13/18) was transformational.
Tim Mackie is the theologian behind The Bible Project (see below) and this podcast is a collection of 10 years of his best teachings. I started at the beginning and am working my way through. If you like lots of historical contexts, language understanding, and biblical teaching, this is SO GREAT. The series on “Heaven + Hell” (9/18/17) changes my non-biblical view (why was it that way to begin with?!) and I cried listening to the first Psalm episode (10/23/17).
The premise of this is so good – here’s the description: Join host Jess Connolly as she interviews women who are using what they’ve got to run on mission today. It is the mission of Go + Tell Gals to equip women to take their place in the Kingdom, using what they’ve been given, for His glory and the good of others. I have only listened to a few, but I enjoyed them very much.
Knox + Jamie (the popcast, see below) are the best hosts. They are funny, witty, so incredibly pop-culture-knowledgeable and also Bible-believers. This podcast takes stories from the Bible and talks about them in relatable, entertaining ways to help us understand them better. I happen to love a theological podcast, but this one is also super fun.
I LOVE THIS PODCAST. I love the Bible Project, in general, for their videos that breakdown books and themes of the Bible (go watch those here). The podcast is a collection of conversations had before the making of the videos.
Jamie just knows how to do an interview. She is personable and engages in interesting conversations with a variety of (mostly) women. If you want to listen to a blast from the past, I was on her show a few years ago (episodes 42 + 43).
This is one of the shows that I listen to on regular speed. There is just something about Emily’s voice and her words that make you exhale, think and reflect and leave the 15ish minutes more grounded than when you started. I especially adored her episode “If You’re Afraid of Making the Wrong Decision” (1/29/19).
The Pivot is a podcast about transition. The guests are mainly from the music industry but the stories are universal. It is so encouraging to hear how others are navigating change and pivots in their lives.
Two things about this: one, much of what these two pastors talk about is just slightly over my head and two: I feel privileged to listen in on their fascinating discussion of what it means to follow Jesus in a post-Christian culture. Also, Mark Sayers has an Australian accent and I don’t know why, but an Australian or British accent just makes me want to listen all the more.
This enneagram podcast is another one of my go-to’s. The guests are so varied and conversations never predictable. My favorite episode of all is the one on 1/23/19 with Ryan Stevenson. It was so powerful to hear the freedom starting to shine through as they talked about changing the narrative. So good.
My sophomore year of college my best friend and I shared an apartment. She brought a couch, coffee table, tv; I brought a small stack of favorite picture books. Now looking back, this seems like a strange thing for a 19 year old to travel with from Washington to Southern California, but I guess I felt they were important at the time. I don’t know if I ever opened the books that year, but they sat next to the couch and I saw them everyday. Fun fact: those same books from way back then are up on Audrey’s shelves today.
We have so many favorite books. I thought it might be fun and helpful to have a big list of favorites, all of which are included in our little library.
So, in no particular order, here are 48 must-haves for your picture book collection: