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12 Books of 2023

A Bookshelf Bigger than Our TVs

Oh hey, short on time? No worries! I'd love to join you on your commute or daily walk/run, or shoot, even while you take care of that to-do list. We can't let these things get in the way of this friendship. It's just starting to get good! Click below to listen to the blogcast.

It's that time again... time to share the stories we've read and wisdom we've gained in the last year. I continued my commitment to read at least one book a month, and now I want to share my favorites with you.

12. Know Yourself Know Your Money by Rachel Cruze

Last January, Will and I started budgeting together for the first time. January was our “let’s see where we are and adjust from here” month aka give each other lots of grace month.

I had been given this book and though it sat on the shelf unopened for quite some time, this was the opportune season to change this and pick it up. I'm so glad I did. It is one of the most practical books I’ve read to understand your background and mindset towards money and that of your spouse. Even if you're not engaged or married, this is a great book to begin to understand your own money habits and how those have been shaped by your experiences.

If you are engaged or married, this is going to be so helpful. If either you or your significant other is not into reading, I recommend letting the one who is more apt to read or listen to an audiobook dive in and then use the last section where Rachel provides us with great review questions to guide your next money conversation. And because it's written by Rachel Cruze, it’s a fun read, too.

11. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

This Christmas, I pulled one of my childhood favorites from the shelf to introduce to 'Dubs. Hearing him laugh in the second sentence, I knew we were going to have fun with this one, and sure enough we did, but not just fun. A good book, in my opinion, is not just enjoyable but helps change how you think. And because of the Herdman's - Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys - the whole crew of 'em, our hearts were reminded of the true gift of Christmas and our response to Him.

I have a feeling the Herdman's will be invited to our Christmas celebrations every year. Consider picking up this one for your Advent fun next year, too.

10. Traveling Light by Max Lucado

Imagine a day with no worry and no want. It feels kind of euphoric, doesn't it? Almost like a fantasy. What if I told you this was available for you today and tomorrow and the next day?

Jesus says, "Come to Me all who are weary and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

His burden is light. Max teaches us how to do this - how to lay down the various burdens we carry of worry, want, weariness, grief, self-reliance, hopelessness, guilt, loneliness, fear, shame, disappointment, envy, doubt, and homesickness - and how to travel through this life light by helping us find strength in the words of King David's twenty-third Psalm.

In true Max fashion, the chapters are short, practical, humorous, deeply relatable, and spiritually insightful. If you're like me, the twenty-third Psalm is one we know and hear most often at funerals, but what if God's purpose for David's words are meant for more? What if it's a passage our hearts need not some days but every day?

This book is an all-time favorite for me and I know it will encourage you too.

9. Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller

I once shared dialogue with a colleague about the popular colloquialism we've all heard and may have even said. After a quick "How's your day?," it's not uncommon to hear someone say, "Livin' the dream!" In our brief conversation, my colleague admitted how he'd like to ask, "Are you man?" next time he hears that response, explaining, "...because I am not. My dream as a kid was to become a professional baseball player and now I spend my days in a corporate cubicle."

Work can sometimes feel like a "daily grind," but as Tim Keller points out work is not a consequence of the Fall in Genesis but was part of God's original design. If you're feeling stuck, frustrated or fatigued in your work or you've ever wondered what God's Word says about work, I urge you to read this book. Keller points out how Paul and the disciples did not stop their "secular work" when they met Christ, but how meeting Christ instead changed their relationship to work.

They had a new freedom both from their work and in their work. ... The gospel also gives us new power for work by supplying us with a new passion and a deeper kind of rest. - Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor

8. Hank the Cowdog: Case 57 - The Disappearance of Drover by John R. Erickson

When I learned Will had never been properly introduced to my friend, Hank the Cowdog, the 8-year-old me leapt with joy. We now had an excuse to read a childhood favorite together. I dare say, it's even more enjoyable as an adult. We laughed until we cried - the silent, belly laugh kind, and even sang an impromptu duet together.

As a writer, I so admire the way John brings characters to life with such full personalities. Hank and Drover may be pups but they reveal a bit of our own human shortcomings in such a fun and humorous way.

Side note: If you have a kiddo who doesn't particularly enjoy reading, try one of these cases from Ranch Security. Read it with some Texan flair and see if the "have-to" turns into a "Can we read about Hank again?"

7. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Lots of thoughts swirled in my head this year about writing. I didn't just want to write a book but a book with impact. I want to write a book which causes us to think differently and, in doing so, leads us to change - for the better and for others. Thinking about this more, I thought of this children's favorite. The Velveteen Rabbit has been in print for over 100 years. How does an author write a book that impacts not just their generation but the generations to come? I was eager to read this book with new eyes, and as I did, the answer became clear to me.

Margery Williams writes,

"You were Real to the Boy...because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to every one."

To impact another - whether by writing a book or sharing a conversation or a kind gesture - doesn't take fancy words or expensive things. Let it be all about love.

For the Velveteen Rabbit, the moment he was loved, he became real - he became eternal. Same for us, the moment we were loved - which we know God loved us before He formed us in our mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Because of His great love for us, He set eternity in our hearts. We became real - we are made to be eternal - because we are loved.

Isn't this beautiful?

Love is the most powerful force in the world. If we truly believe this, it changes everything about us. It helps us live in the realness of eternity and extend this love to others so they can experience the goodness and unworldliness of this gift, too.

6. Hearing God by Dallas Willard

Does God still speak to His people today? We see it throughout scripture, but is it true for us today? The answer is - with emphatic certainty - yes!

So then, as His people, we must learn to hear and discern His voice. In his book, Hearing God, Dallas helps us understand how God speaks and he teaches us how to practice hearing the Almighty. Whether hearing God is natural for you or something you've been skeptical about or shy to admit you haven't experienced - this book is so helpful for all of us. Dallas even takes time to debunk some of the popular myths along the way.

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He spoke to His people in ancient times and He's speaking to us today. He has wisdom to share with us tomorrow. Are we listening? Do we have ears to hear?

May this text help us tune in to His still, small and powerful voice.

5. Serenity Prayer

It's not a book, but it is a prayer written long ago I've been reading and praying weekly, sometimes more. These words are changing me for the better. The more I pray them, the more I believe them, the more courage I have to live it out, the more I am changed and the more others are changed through me.

It starts with praying them, not just saying them.

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

4. The Magnolia Story

A quick stop at Magnolia on our way to Houston this Fall and the rest of our roadtrip was spent listening and laughing along to Chip and Jo's story, The Magnolia Story.

Listening this time with Will beside me, we couldn't help but laugh at how much of ourselves we saw in Chip and Jo respectively. So much so, it ended with a tender place in my heart, remembering a prayer I prayed after reading it several years before. Hearing Jo share of how Chip's personality not only challenged her but brought her truest self out of her so she could live out her purpose most fully and how her strengths strengthened him, I asked the Lord to provide a man like Chip for me - someone who would challenge me and bring out my truest self so together we could live out God's purpose for us.

Listening to it this time - this weekend happened to be the anniversary of our engagement from the year before. Holding hands with God's most abundant answered prayer for me as we drove down US-190, all I could say was "Thank you, Lord."

P.S. Every story has a beginning, and every story has a "store closing" moment. When we find ourselves there, let's remember it's not the end. Something beautiful is still ahead.

3. 5,993 Days: Waiting Upon the Lord in Prayer by Candace Cofer

That's right, a book I wrote. It's a collection of prayers I journaled and prayed for my future husband, and since I got married this year, I brought these together in a hardback book to share with Will. Included are many of the scriptures I journaled which gave me strength to persevere with patience and prayer as I waited on God's timing for us. For more details on this journey, check out this post.

It's hard to summarize what this journey of prayer has meant to me, but I think I'll share one page from the book with you on what it has taught me:

This I've come to understand: the fruit of patience grows from the tree of trust. With it comes peace, joy, love, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. We must trust the Lord with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our souls, and His fruit of the Spirit will dwell inside and flow from within us. - January 2023
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. - James 5:16

I share all this, though this book is not available at bookstores or libraries, in hopes you may be inspired to write down a prayer for the thing on your heart. Then another. Then another. Reading over these prayers on my hard days was one of the ways the Lord helped me keep going, to keep fighting the good fight and trusting Him. May it be so for you, too.

2. Who is this Man? by John Ortberg

If you've been a friend of The Good Day's for awhile, you already know what I have to say about this one.

Can one person really change the world... because one Man did - every single part of our world - not one aspect of this world was left unaffected by the impact of Jesus - because one Man did change the world, we all can participate with Him and bring pockets of Heaven to earth everywhere we go.

For me, this book just raised the standard for what makes a good book. After each chapter, I found myself praying, "Lord, help me soak in all I'm learning." Then as I closed it after the final chapter, my involuntary response: "Wow, that was incredible."

Will and I had the privilege of listening to John speak at our church multiple times this year. He's down-to-earth, funny and so incredibly wise - a very gifted writer and teacher. You'll see this on every page in this book, too. One time, he spoke on this very topic - Who is this man? A question we all must answer for ourselves.

In short, if you only read one book this year, let it be this one. (Insert mind blown emoji.)

1. Unoffendable by Brant Hansen

Unoffendable. What a concept.

If you don't want to be challenged, if you don't want to be changed, if you want to keep feeling the sting of offenses - don't read this book.

If you want to be challenged, if you're ready to change and if you're ready to rely fully on the power of Christ living within you to overcome offenses - this book will change your life ...if you put what Brant shares into practice.

I'm speaking from experience - the wisdom in this book has challenged me and eternally changed me. I believe it will do the same for you if you dare to believe Jesus' way is the way to life. As Brant writes,

If I'm to love people the way God loves me, I have to love them faults and all. It's that simple ...and that excruciatingly difficult.

Excruciatingly difficult - I think this is why Jesus described the way to life as narrow. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. In our own human nature, we can't do it. On top of this, it's not in our nature to trust God wholeheartedly - this comes as we rely on the strength of Christ in us. Living unoffendable truly is a matter of the heart, a matter of trusting God. We won't always get it right but this is the prayer on my heart for me and for you. May we live what we believe. If we believe in Jesus, may we live as Jesus did - with unfathomable unoffendability.

(Okay, I'm making words up now, so I think we'll wrap this post up.)

Reading cultivates curiosity. Let's be curious and intentionally choose to learn from people who have fruit present in their lives. In doing this, our strength builds and our joy is renewed. Making time to read uplifting stories offers peace that God is moving all around us, and we are able to rest in His truth and connection with others.

P.S. Learn how you can soothe the wintry sinus pressure with this simple tea/lemonade drink.

The amount of lemonade is up to you. I like to fill half my mug with lemonade and top it off with water. Heat, steep tea, then enjoy!

Buh-bye sinus pressure!

If I can do it, you can do it, too! Whatcha say? Let’s try that...sinus pressure soother!

The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.

I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!

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