Summer – Our Plans and a Blogging Break


It’s heeeeeeeere.

Not necessarily weather-wise (this month has been so dreary and cold in IL), but my kids are now home from school. It’s summer break.


Ok. Now that I have that out of my system, I thought I’d share what we’re doing this summer.


Summer is our busy season with Lifegate in Africa. We use church camps and Vacation Bible School programs to share the mission with children and their families. We want kids to learn about the people in Sierra Leone, but we also want to expose them to the vocation of full-time missionaries as well.

Because of this desire to educate the children, our family spends much of our summer where the children are! We’re spending five or six weeks on the road this year! We have three weeks of church camp and at least two weeks (one more is still a maybe) of Vacation Bible Schools planned. At each of these, we show photos and videos of life in Sierra Leone. We help the children understand the differences and the similarities between us and the people who live on the other side of the world. We teach them games and useful language phrases (ex. “my brother is a monkey”). We attempt to bridge the gap and build empathy so that the next generation will care about those who are living, suffering, surviving, and experiencing oppression.

During a few of the weeks we are gone, we are actually able to give another missionary a retreat by allowing her to use our home and drive our vehicle. We’re honored to be serving God with ALL we have this summer.


Because I believe learning happens every day, summer break does not mean the learning stops at our house.

I still have all of my homeschool curriculums in addition to a new workbook for each of the boys. Yesterday we started practicing writing, tracing, cutting, and coloring. We’re also going to focus on fun learning – like playing games. There’s so many great turn-taking and sportsmanship skills to be learned (especially for competitive boys!) by just playing a board game. Board games are great for taking along on all our travels too.

Interestingly enough (and because God knows what he is doing) my boys are developmentally about the same level. Recently we have fielded even more questions about whether or not they are twins. Most days, it totally feels like they are. This makes teaching them a little easier over the summer.


I still have a goal of at least reading 75 books by the end of the year. I’m more on track with reading 100 at this point, and I don’t see that slowing down too much. Reading is one of the best ways for me to relax, and with having the boys home every day, well, I see the need for relaxing even more…

The boys are already diving into their summer reading as well. When we are home, we plan to visit the library at least weekly. As we travel, we hope to tour and visit a few new libraries as well!

The boys’ attention spans are lengthening, so we’ve been reading up to four longer books in one sitting. I’d love to start reading chapter books to them this summer. (I’m looking for suggestions on what to read to them!)

Don’t forget to check out my summer reading suggestions here.


This is our last summer before both my boys are in school every day (what? when did this happen?!). I had a million great goals for my own writing and blogging this year, but then I looked at my boys and realized those goals could wait until they aren’t home. This summer, my focus is my boys.

And for this reason, I plan to take a small break from blogging. It’s not that I won’t be publishing posts occasionally, but we’re busy and you’re busy… It’s ok for me to step back for a few months.

I plan to focus the summer on writing for myself. I have dreams of a book (and an idea for one) that I hope will flow from me this fall. Before then though, I want to journal. I want to refine my voice and give space to my internal feelings. I want to fill up my creativity bucket before pouring from it.

I decided to have my boys journal this summer as well. They’re each getting a blank notebook and have to write and draw reflections about each day. I’m sure these journals will be comical as yesterday’s entry from Edward was all about eating hash browns for breakfast. Livin’ it up in the summer of 2017 with the Newinghams!

So, in short, we have big summer plans.

I’d also like to lose ten pounds, maintain a spotless house, and take up running (ha). But, you know, one thing at a time.

And just because you know I cannot remain silent, be sure to follow me on social media. My favorite place to hang out these days in on Instagram stories. You can find me on Facebook as well.

From the Newinghams, “Have a happy summer!”

Five Friday Faves – Summer Reading List

Summer is comin’!

Or so they tell me. I’m still in denial. I love my kids, but I also love when they have the structure of their individual preschool classes.

We neeeeeeeed the structure of school.

So, I’m attempting to get my brain used to the idea that the kids will be home for three months.

Deep breaths.


One great thing about summer though is all the summer reading. My kids love to play outside in the yard, on our little playground, or in the water. This mama loves to sit in a chair and read a book while soaking up some rays.

In the summer, I seem to crave good stories (fiction or memoirs) and short reads. The kids are forever (you know, being kids) interrupting, so I cannot get into something too deep.

Maybe you’re feeling the same about needing some good reads for these warmer months, so today I’m sharing my five summer reading suggestions for you:

Remember, when you use my links it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I make pennies which eventually add up to a dollar and I can contribute to my family’s water bill as I mercilessly hose down my sweaty children from my comfy lawn chair. Not that I would do that…



I just finished this book a couple weeks ago. It is INTENSE, but the story is fascinating. Five-year-old Jack narrates the story; his innocence and naivete are endearing.

His mother was abducted seven years prior and has been held prisoner in an eleven-by-eleven-foot room. Jack was born in the room, and it is all he has ever known. His mother realizes it is time to find a way out…

This storyline will suck you in and hold your interest. Jack and his mother’s relationship really touched me as her love had to be displayed for him in such a unique way.


When Breath Becomes Air

Author, Paul Kalanithi, was 36 when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This book is his grappling with the meaning of his life as a neurosurgeon facing imminent death.

Paul died while writing his memoir, but he would be ok with his readers knowing that ending. He wanted us to follow him along his journey of death and not be surprised by it.

This book was incredibly inspiring and heart-warming.


A Long Way From Chicago

I just love this author. His way of telling stories – sometimes the most ornery stories – is unparalleled. His wit and humor make the time pass and the pages turn!

Author Richard Peck is actually from the central IL area. This collection of stories revolves around a boy, Joey, and his sister, Mary Alice. They live in Chicago but spend their summers “a long way from Chicago” in downstate Illinois with their VERY peculiar grandmother. The stories are so entertaining!

The stories are so entertaining and easy to envision!


A Different Beautiful

So, I know this author. Like, we’re friends. I know their story and I see them living out their mission of celebrating differences as beautiful every day.

Courtney is a great writer with quite the story to tell. Her daughter Brenna was born with a skin disorder that has affected every fiber of their family. Through this diagnosis, their family could have fallen apart and grown bitter. Instead, Courtney shares her heart on how different truly can be beautiful.

Also, a certain family (mine, ahem) makes an appearance in one of the short chapters in this quick read.

The ebook is on sale right now for less than $2.00! Hurry and grab it because the sale ends really soon.

Love and Gelato

Someone tells Lina (the main character) that most people come to Italy for love and gelato. This teen (whose mother recently passed away) came for different reasons, however. She traveled to Italy to get to know her absent father. And of course, as all good novels go, she discovers much about herself along the way.

This perfect summertime read has an adorable and captivating plot. The whole book is squeaky clean. It will make you smile as you sit in the sun, for sure.


So, tell me – what’s on your summer reading list? Anything I need to add? (Although let’s be honest, my list is already more than can be conquered in just three months!)


Five Friday Faves

Women are Scary

I know I recommend a book every Friday now, but, well… I love books. Sorry. Not sorry.

This week I read my second Melanie Dale book. She’s well-known as a blogger and an adoptive mama. She’s recently started podcasting AND she’s hilarious.

Women Are Scary talks about making friends. There’s practical advice, life stories, and humor. It was fun. I really enjoyed it, especially as a bedtime read.

Sherman Public Library

I (obviously) love books, so it sort of makes sense that I would love the source of these favorite things. I love my local library, but this year while Louis is attending preschool in Sherman, I’ve made the Sherman Public Library my mobile office.

In just going two days a week, I’ve become friends with the librarians and met new mom friends!

Sherman recently added an entire kids’ wing complete with books, toys, a barn, and even riding toys. This library has been my sanctuary during school breaks when it’s bitterly cold, but we’re tired of being at home.

I’ve recently joined the Friends of the Library board in Athens, and I’d love to know if your library is one of your favorite things — and why? We need ideas!

Edward’s School Photo

Um, I never buy school pictures. I feel like they are outdated, and I’d rather spend the money on a family photo sessions once a year.

But this.

This is Edward’s school picture from the spring. I’ve kept the order form on my counter all week because I can’t stop smiling back at him.

Edward is one of my favorite things, and this adorable picture represents him well!


Again with the books… I’ve been listening to some really great audiobooks in the car lately. I love my Audible account. I pay $15/month and receive one credit every month. It is fun to research and find good books that I know will captivate me during the long drive to visit Nasko!

Sign up for a free month trial by clicking on the photo above.

My Dad

My dad had open-heart surgery this week. He had a valve that wasn’t working properly, so it received a repair. He’s doing very well with his recovery thus far. During his hospital stay, the nurses are commenting about his sense of humor frequently. While I regularly roll my eyes at him, I do love my dad’s sense of humor!

From my mom: “A couple of nurses have told Roger they like his sense of humor.  I’m just glad he feels good enough to entertain all of us.  He has dubbed a folded blanket (that he holds over his incision if he needs to cough) his teddy bear.  He really confused one of the nurses when he requested his teddy bear!”

I’m thankful his surgery went well this week because he’s one of my favorites!

Five Friday Faves

Forget the Frock

While many people rush out to buy their children button-down shirts and frilly dresses for Easter Sunday, that idea never settled well with me.

Forget the Frock is a movement I became aware of a few years ago. Forget the Frock (#forgetthefrock) is all about putting our money to a better use. Instead of purchasing those frilly clothes our kids hate, you donate the money to a charity or organization. You can have your children wear hand-me-downs or clothes from the resale shop, or you can purchase t-shirts for your whole family to support a cause.

My family usually wears our clothing from Sierra Leone, Africa and donates money towards a specific project taking place there. Other options might be donating to an adoptive family (I have friends needing support here) and wearing jeans and old t-shirts.

Yes, the “frock”, the fancy clothes, look great in photos (well, other people’s photos as is evidenced below), but the donations have the possibility of changing lives.

Our family loves the movement and would love for you to join us. Learn more about Forget the Frock.

Create Hope Cuffs

An online friend of mine has started a business of designing and creating unique bracelet cuffs. She offered me one and asked what I would want on it, as personalization is part of her business.

I knew instantly.

When Nasko was at home, I would grow frustrated with his seeming lack of progress. His behaviors would revert and I would feel hopeless. One night, I decided to add up the number of days our sweet boy lived before he came into our safe and nurturing home.

One thousand nine hundred and ninety-five.

That’s what we were undoing with every act of discipline or unconditional love. When he rejected our hugs or ignored our rules, I trained my mind to return to that number.

1,995 days.

That’s how long he was treated poorly and did not know the love of a mother. Those are the days we are redeeming.

Danielle wants to honor all of those who have children who spent time in orphanages or foster care. Check out Create Hope Cuffs and use MOMENTS20 code for 20% percent off and order a cuff to remind you of the days you are redeeming. (You can also use the coupon for ANY phrase or cuff!)

P.S. This would make a great adoption gift for a mama!

P.P.S. Your purchase helps bring literacy to the people of rural Swaziland, Africa. LOVE.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

I first learned of Jamie Ivey seven or eight years ago as we were deep in the adoption process. I was searching for blogs to follow and mamas to learn from.

I’ve continued to follow Jamie through a variety of life stages, but she seems to have found her calling these days — podcasting!

Her podcast is called, “The Happy Hour,” and the premise is simple; Jamie brings on guests and shares their stories to encourage other women.

I look forward to her program every week as I love to learn what other women are doing with their God-given talents. I also get so many book recommendations from this podcast!

Fish in a Tree

Oh, my goodness. This book. It’s a Young Adult book, but it shares a message of differences and inclusion that every adult needs to learn and relearn.

The main character, Ally, is a sixth grader who doesn’t fit in at all. She has moved frequently, and on top of that, she can’t read. The book follows her school-year journey to a diagnosis of dyslexia, but bigger yet, a discovery that we all have things that make us different.

The author, Lynda Hunt, without labeling or giving diagnoses, creates characters with signs of autism and ADHD. She also includes victims of abuse and racism.

I fell in love with Ally’s substitute teacher and his unique ways of bringing a class of difference together. Every educator could learn from his example.

Fitness Blender

Chance and I decided we probably need to start working out… We’ve both gained a little weight through our stressful changes with Nasko, so, you know, it was time.

A couple years ago (probably when I should have started working out) my friend Sarah turned me onto a couple on YouTube. They have a channel where they share high-quality fitness videos. The couple is honestly adorable (especially as they bicker) and they seem so real.

They make working out not so awful.

I still feel like I’m dying though.

But check them out. Misery loves company.


So, how about you? What are your favorite things in your life right now?

Five Friday Faves

I started something new last week and decided to share some of my favorite things with you all on Fridays.

This week’s edition is a little heavy on relaxation though as my family is currently vacationing in Florida.

(Some of these links are affiliate links because, while I do love you all, it would also be nice to get paid once in a while. I only recommend things I TRULY love though. No worries.)


My family is having a blast visiting my parents in Naples, Florida. We’ve already eaten too much, swam too hard, and slept… well… can one ever sleep enough?

One of my favorite things right now is most certainly Florida with my family!

GAP shorts

I snagged these adorable shorts from my favorite shopping app: ThredUp. It’s a second-hand store, entirely online!

I had purchased a similar pair of shorts at GAP last year and decided I needed another pair for our vacation. I got these babies for $9.99!

Because ThredUp loves me, AND because they love you, they have a code for anything GAP on their site! It’s an amazing deal of 50% off anything GAP, up to $50. (The code only works for first-time ThredUp shoppers.)

Use code GAP50 and search all the GAP merchandise by clicking here.

I’m going to hurry up and go shop again…


This may be the weirdest product I ever recommend… The Tinkle.

This little gadget is marketed as an eyebrow shaper, but a friend turned me onto it as a facial hair trimmer a while back.

Thaaaaaat’s right.

Facial hair.

It’s amazing though. You just run this baby over your problem areas, put a little facial lotion on, and BOOM – baby-smooth face.

I gave one to my mom, and she ordered twelve more. If you know my mom, that’s a big deal. No one messes with her beauty routine…

Hillbilly Elegy

People have been telling me to read this book for a while, but when I requested the e-book from the library, I was number 36.

So, two years later (kidding) it was finally my turn. It has been a great read!

Over on my Goodreads page, I wrote the following:

“J.D.’s book is written as a memoir – a peek inside the hillbillies’ lives. I see it as covering much of the low-income problems throughout our whole country though. Excellent writing with an optimistic voice.”

The book taught me a lot about the lower socio-economic class and the struggles being faced daily. My husband has a similar story of overcoming and achieving, so the author’s words had extra meaning for me.

I loved it.


Since life has been a bit slower on vacation, I’ve had time to appreciate art and creativity. I stopped and took this photo of a cool mosaic today. Just because.

Also, while at the beach yesterday, I decided to create something in the sand. I knew my creation would wash away in a matter of hours, but I really enjoyed the process and the art of it.

I imagine my creation made at least one person smile; the work was worth it.


How about you? What are you loving this week?

Do you have anything you think I would love (especially items you sell or create yourself? Contact me!)

Five Friday Favorites – Coffee, shirts, boots, books, and Instagram!

I’ve decided I need a space to share the things I love with the people I love (you all!). Sometimes I receive products from different companies or I read a book I absolutely love, and I want to shout those from the rooftops.

I promise you, I will not share anything I don’t use myself or don’t absolutely love.

On Fridays, I’m going to share five of my favorite things, starting right now:

1. Red Bud Coffee

This is a brand new coffee brewing start-up here in my area, but they ship nationwide. If you live locally, they deliver the coffee TO YOUR DOORSTEP the very next day. Talk about fresh roasted deliciousness…

Check out this video for more info on what they are all about. 

The founders of the company are members of our church. They are donating part of their profits and in general just being awesome. I’d love if you’d support them as well!

2. Instagram Stories

This is going to sound totally stupid, but I am loving Instagram stories. If you’re on that form of social media, you totally know what I am talking about. If you’re not an Instagram user, run away, far away!

I just love sharing 15-second clips of our lives. This week (while Chance was in Africa) I went a little bit crazy and organized a big room of our basement. It contained a bajillion (no exaggeration) boxes of little boys’ clothes. People had donated these items to our family and many were hand-me-downs. Our kids have worn some of them, but I just couldn’t seem to get organized.

So why not while Chance was out of the country?!

I captured the whole experience on my Instagram stories. I’m sure that makes you want to go watch rightthissecond, but seriously. It’s fun. Even if I don’t describe it well.

3. MWF seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search For A New Best Friend

This book isn’t super new, but I had it on my reading list for a while. It is a social experiment of a gal in Chicago who is trying to make friends after moving to the area. She commits to making friends by scheduling 52 friend dates in one year. Her thoughts and reflections really got me thinking (especially after one best friend moved to Africa and the other just moved to Indiana). It was a good read!

4. Elly and Grace Tees

I just discovered Ellie and Grace about a month ago, but I am IN LOVE. The company is based out of St. Louis and designs Christian t-shirts. My absolute favorite right now is this one:

It reads, “It is well with my soul.” Life can be really hard, and I LOVE to wear such a bold reminder as I go about my days.

There are so many other cute designs and even some brand new ones I want to get my hands on.

5. Rain boots

I bought a pair of rain boots when I saw them on sale at Walmart recently. I rarely go to Walmart, and I NEVER browse there. I just happened to see these pink-red beauties and they were super cheap, so I decided to make the impulse purchase.

I love them.

While Chance was gone, I took care of the animals, and these babies were perfect for slipping on and traipsing through the yard to collect chicken eggs.

I don’t remember ever owning rain boots before, but I honestly think they are now a staple of my small wardrobe. I even bought some for Louis the this week. He’s loving them too.

What about you guys? What are you loving? Anything I should be checking out? Leave me links on Facebook or Instagram in the comments.

Do you own a business and want me to love your product? Let’s talk. I’m rather selective, but I’m open to chatting too!

Happy Friday, friends!

Books and Coffee to Love – FOR YOU!

Two things I love most in life –

Jesus and my family.

Ok, the next two things I love most in life –

Very possibly books and coffee.

Y’all know how I love to read. I’ve made that abundantly clear. And coffee? I somehow made it through college and past first-time mom and the newborn stages without it.


When Nasko was more challenging and dangerous last year, I realized I needed something to keep me alert and awake.

Enter dirt water.

It took me a looooong while to get coffee right, but now, it’s love.

Books and coffee. Love.

And because I love them so much and I love you, my readers, I want to share my loves with my loves.

You trackin’? That was a lot of “loves.”

(I’m giving you books and coffee. For free. Click here.)

See? It’s important to keep up.

My buddy Courtney and I looked around our houses and realized we had libraries of amazing books. We’ve read them, and we want to share the love with others. We want others to love reading (and coffee) too, so we are doing a giveaway!

Here’s what you could win –


Choosing Real: An Invitation to Celebrate When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned by Bekah Jane Pogue

Doing Good is Simple: Making a Difference Right Where You Are by Chris Marlow

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

From Depths We Rise: A Journey of Beauty from Ashes by Sarah Rodriguez

A Different Beautiful: Discovering and Celebrating Beauty in Places You Never Expected by Courtney Westlake (woot, woot! I know her!)

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu

Move Toward The Mess: The Ultimate Fix for a Boring Christian Life by John Hambrick

It’s Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose by Melanie Dale

Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love for You Makes You Worthy by Mary DeMuth

The Key to Everything: Unlocking the Secrets to Why Some People Succeed and Others Don’t by Matt Keller

Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears by Kelly Balarie

(not pictured, but included:)

Four Letter Words: Finding Hope in a Tiny Wild Life by Krista Wilbur


Custom Cup Coffee grounds

Katie’s Koffee grounds

Live A Different Beautiful coffee mug

Books and Coffee.

And you could win it all. (Click here.)

This week, I’ll be sharing parts of these books on my Facebook and my Instagram, so you’ll want to join in on that fun.

Courtney and I just want to get some amazing reads into the hands of our people. So please enter to win!


All you have to do is click here and enter your email address. You can get extra entries just by sharing on your social media too!

Click here to get all the details! You have until Friday at 5:00 (CST) P.M. to enter and share! Good luck, my loves!

Enter the Giveaway!

Book Recommendations For You!

Like I mentioned in my last post, I read fifty-two books in 2016.

I track these books on Goodreads, and it’s a good thing; I wasn’t sure I read many worth recommending, but then when I went back to see what all I had read, I struggled to choose just a few favorites.

So, well, I didn’t choose.

Today I’m sharing almost twenty of the books I really enjoyed in 2016.

Don’t mind me being all nerdy up in here.

[All links are affiliate links. If you take my recommendations – you should – and purchase one of these books, I get a few pennies as a referral fee from Amazon. Then, I will buy more books. It’s just what I do.]




I love reading real-life stories of people who have unique histories and unique voices. This is probably one of my consistently favorite genres to read.

  1. The Sound of Gravel

    This memoir is written by a woman who grew up in a polygamist family and escaped the religion. It was captivating. I read all 350+ pages in one day.
  2. A Thousand Naked Strangers

    An EMT shares stories of his life on the ambulance and in the face of emergencies. Some of the stories are heart-wrenching while some are hilarious!
  3. Four Letter Words

    I actually know the author of this book personally. It is self-published, but Krista is a creative writer. She absolutely has a story – and every chapter of it can be summed up in a four-letter word: fear, pain, hope, love, etc.


Young Adult:

I have recently discovered a love of books written for teenagers! They are the perfect thing to smash between books that are heavy or full of self-help suggestions. My favorite YA books are usually a little sappy and a whole lot sweet. They also remind me why I am SO thankful to no longer be in high school…

  1. Tell Me Three Things

    A young girl moves to a new school where someone begins to anonymously email her with life advice and finally a budding friendship. Most of the book leaves you wondering who the anonymous person is!
  2. Emmy & Oliver

    Emmy and Oliver were neighbors and best friends until the day Oliver was kidnapped. He went missing for ten years. When he was found and returned home, so much had changed. It was intriguing to watch him acclimate back into his daily life and an unfamiliar friendship with his neighbor.



I got a little burnt out on parenting this year, as it was such a hard year for my family. Most of these books are not actually manuals for how-to, but rather books to inspire or, more likely, make you laugh!

  1. Dad Is Fat

    There is no one better to give parenting advice or share funny stories than the comedian, Jim Gaffigan. I listened to this as an audiobook. Chance listened to it and loved it too!
  2. My Practices of Mothering

    I wrote a full review of this short ebook back in April of last year. Sweet Sarah Bessey even took the time to comment on it! Read that post here, and then read her book! You cannot beat the price.
  3. Sparkly Green Earrings

    This was the first Melanie Shankle book I had ever read. Her reflections on mothering were sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I remember having to apologize to a neighbor on an airplane while I was reading this one!



Historical Fiction:

I didn’t read as much from this genre this year, but I plan to change that next year. I love, love, love a good story mixed with accurate historical details.

  1. The Kitchen House

    I got this one on audio and looked forward to riding in the car just to be able to listen to it. It tells the stories of the kitchen house from the perspectives of the slaves and indentured servants. It was so easy to fall in love with every one of the characters.




My mother jokes that she can’t join Goodreads because then everyone will know how much fiction she actually reads. (Now that I’ve outed her, I’d say she can join.) I don’t get my love of a story from any stranger.

I never write fiction, but I believe fiction is one of the biggest influences on my writing. I love the art of telling a good story. Because of this though, I’m also VERY hard on fiction authors. I did manage to find a few worth recommending this year!

  1. Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, Career of Evil

    This is a three-book series written under J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym. My brother and sister-in-law gifted me these books, knowing I had never read Harry Potter. They are big Potter fans and I think they were trying to trick me into reading his books next.
    This series follows Cormoran Strike and his secretary as private investigators. It was well-written and easy to read.
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

    Welp, my brother and sister-in-law got their wish, and I read the first of the Harry Potter books. I see what all the hype is about. It’s so well thought-out. I hear the series only gets better. I’ll be reading more this year!
    This ebook is free for Prime Members! Click my link to get to it.
  3. One-in-a-Million Boy

    If I had to pick (don’t make me) just one book to recommend from 2016, it would be this one. A young, socially-delayed boy passes away shortly after beginning a boy scout project. His deadbeat dad steps in to finish the project – helping an elderly woman. The lessons this man learns from his deceased son and the woman he is serving are heart-warming.



Christian Non-Fiction:

I read a LOT of blogs and books in this genre. Again, like with fiction, I am pretty picky. These books though, should be on every woman’s shelf. They would be great gifts for a girlfriend as well!

  1. Bread and Wine

    I had started a book by Shauna Niequest once, and I’m not even sure I finished it. I wasn’t a fan. Courtney is a HUGE fan though and kept pressuring me to read Bread and Wine.
    When I finished Shauna’s book of stories and recipes from gathering friends and family around the table, all I wanted to do was host dinner parties and cook risotto. So, well, I did. Such an inspiring read about community and sustenance.
  2. Wild in the Hollow

    Amber Haines’ voice was so refreshing for this genre. She writes in a way that is almost poetic and tells her story with her experience and life lessons woven throughout.
  3. Women of the Word

    I take back what I said. If you’re going to buy just ONE book from this list, let this be the one. I have mailed this book directly to a friend (love you, Amazon Prime) after we’ve discussed ways to study scripture. My church has used it for bible study. I have highlighted and quoted it. I have used it to outline the specific steps I use to study God’s Word.
    Jen Wilkin is a phenomenal teacher of how to study the bible and how to understand God’s word. EVERY woman needs to read this book.

You can see the entire list of books I read in 2016 by clicking here.

What did you read? Do you have any recommendations for my 2017 list? I need to fill it up with at least 75 titles!


Were my twenty suggestions not enough? Check out similar lists from my friends: Courtney, Kelly, Johanna, Beth, and Heather.

Why Read? My 2017 Reading Goals

[In this post, I am including pictures of all the places in my house where you will find books. MY books. This doesn’t even include Chance’s.]

Readers are leaders… One of my favorite podcasters regularly says this to her children.

Even as an adult, I believe it too.

I have visited cultures where the citizens are unable to read. The literacy rates are low, and the crime is high.

I’ve also been in places where reading material has been censored. Only certain ideas and ways of thinking have been approved. Narrow-mindedness and frustration are prevalent in such places.

Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to be around intellectuals who have been given unlimited resources of the written word. Words swirl around them and ideas constantly form.

I believe in the power of reading.

I believe it forces us to look outside ourselves and ask the deeper questions. It exposes us to worlds we may have never known existed. Reading gives us escapes, but also forces us to face realities.

Reading brings about creativity. It forces us to ask questions and sometimes it brings us answers.

Those who read develop critical thinking skills and greater empathy. They are given glimpses inside others’ thoughts.

For all these reasons, I want to be a reader.

Just four years ago, I only read three books in an entire year. And I’m sure they weren’t even long books…

The next year, I realized I wanted to read more. This happened around the time ebooks were becoming more popular and less expensive.

[Sidenote: Ninety percent of what I read is on my Kindle. WHY DO I HAVE ALL THESE BOOKS?]

In 2015, I began setting a reading goal. That year it was twenty-six. Last year it was fifty-two.

And last year, I did what I would have previously thought unthinkable. I met that goal of reading fifty-two books. 

We had a busy year with Nasko and broken femurs and moving, but I still managed to give reading a priority in my daily life.

In December, I talked to my friend Courtney about her reading goals for 2017. She also read (more than) fifty-two books in 2016. I asked if she usually increased her goals, or if she kept them the same. She said she had always increased them in the past but wasn’t sure if she should this year.

In our friendship, I am the crazy one, so of course I said, “Let’s do it! Let’s increase our goals this year. I’m going to read seventy-five books. Want to join me?”

Bless her, she agreed.

This year, I’m making reading a priority again. A BIG priority.

Not only do I want to read to shape my own thinking, but I want my kids to love reading as well. The written word is so important in our society. Many children who struggle later in school lack a solid foundation of being able to read. 

Two-thirds of the children who cannot read proficiently by fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

For this reason, I set a goal of reading at least 260 books to my boys in 2017 – that’s just five books every week. We typically read at least two books per sitting (each kid gets to choose a story), so I expect we’ll honestly double that goal by December.

How about you? Are you setting a reading goal for the year? I want to hear it! What about for your kids? Are you setting goals with them as well?

Remember, readers are leaders!

I’d love to see your progress if you want to join me on Goodreads this year. Set a goal and track your reading with me!


Fear Replaced With Anticipation – Star From Afar Advent Activity

She saw a need.

Like so many other families every holiday season, Natalie purchased the elf and its book. She placed it on the shelf and hid it the next day. The elf was to report back to the North Pole based on her daughter’s works and behavior.

But her daughter was afraid of the elf. It scared her. It pushed her towards impossible perfection. It filled her with fear.

It did not draw her to Christ and his manger.

So Natalie took matters into her own hands. She put the elf away. She drew from her crafting skills and designed a star of cardboard.

Instead of hiding a naughty elf every night, Natalie hid a star. Her daughter woke each morning of advent with the desire to follow the star to her Lord.

This simple game grew; Natalie designed an entire nativity set. The cardboard star was eventually replaced by a wooden one. Natalie read a scripture each day as her daughter searched for the star. Wisemen joined the game by moving to the found star each morning. But the biggest change — Jesus became the focus of the advent season. Fear was replaced with the anticipation of his birth.

Family advent activities for a special needs, adoption family.

A few months ago, I saw Natalie’s product. I fell in love with her story. I loved the simplicity of the game and the way it pointed to Jesus. I reached out to Natalie and told her I wanted all my friends to purchase this nativity set.

Family advent activities for a special needs, adoption family.

I want my children and my friends’ children to be focused on Jesus during the advent season.

We struck up a conversation and I told Natalie about Lifegate in Africa. She wanted to help with our mission. She was deeply moved by the children in our orphanage.

Family advent activities for a special needs, adoption family.


So, for this week, Natalie and I are partnering together.

Family advent activities for a special needs, adoption family.

We want to lead you and your children to Jesus. We want advent to remind your families of the star, the manger, and the gift that God sent to us. We want to bring you and your family this very affordable way to keep Christ’s birth as your focus this December.


Family advent activities for a special needs, adoption family.

And this week only, Natalie wants to join Lifegate in providing the children at the orphanage with a Christmas party! Twenty percent (!!!) of Natalie’s sales this week will go towards providing extra special food, decorations, and a few small gifts for our orphans.


Family advent activities for a special needs, adoption family.

Please consider purchasing a nativity set for your family. Use the code LIFEGATE before Sunday, November 13 to receive your Star From Afar in time for advent and Natalie will donate 20% of the sales to our orphanage Christmas party.

I received the Star From Afar (Darker Skin) and the Stable Animals. To make your purchase, go to Start From Afar’s website:


Family advent activities for a special needs, adoption family.

Add the desired items to your cart, then type LIFEGATE in the place for your promo code. Twenty percent of your purchase will automatically go to pay for our orphanage Christmas party.

Family advent activities for a special needs, adoption family.

Order before Sunday in order to receive your game before the beginning of the Advent season!

Also, I’d be honored if you’d share this post. It’s a simple way to help our children re-orient towards Christ while helping the children on the other side of our world.