Favorite Books of 2017

Many of my friends have been posting about their favorite books they read in 2017. Following suite, here were some of my top reads. My goal for 2018 is to read at least 3 books from genres/topics I normally wouldn’t pick up. Seeing some of my friends’ lists is helping me find some, but if you have some suggestions, send them my way! 
Here are some short reviews and/or favorite quotes from some of my top reads from 2017 in no particular order:
Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors – a timely reminder at the time I read it to hope in the midst of hard things. “No, He didn’t make the pain easy. But He made it beautiful. He held me close and whispered secrets to me and revealed things about Himself that I had not yet known. He scooped me into His big loving arms and held me in tenderness unlike any I had ever experienced. … I did not find all the answers to my questions. In fact, I might have more questions now than I did before. But I have found deep intimacy with the One who formed me and knows my heart. He has taught me His secrets in the darkness. He has taught me true and unwavering hope in Him.”

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Glad I finally got around to this one after many had suggested it for a while.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff – some great reminders for this perfectionist’s heart (highly recommend the audiobook version for this one!). “This is the first lie that perfectionism tells you about goals: Quit if it isn’t perfect. … You will not be perfect, but do you know what’s even more important than perfection? Do you know what will serve you for longer than perfectionism ever could? Moving forward imperfectly. Reject the idea that the day after perfect means you’ve failed. That’s just not true. You get to try again.”

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller – such good stuff here, glad I finally finished after starting it a couple years ago and forgetting about it. – “Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.’ No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11: 28, NASB). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.” “When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching. You watch God weave his patterns in the story of your life. Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, you realize you are inside God’s drama. As you wait, you begin to see him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. You are learning to trust again.”

A New Kind of Leader by Reggie Joiner – short, practical, and to the point; best work-related book I read this year – “Think about the orange traffic cones used to direct cars at a big concert or event. Imagine what would happen if someone just scattered the cones randomly across the parking lot. More than likely, it would create a traffic jam and cars would not be able to move anywhere. But when the cones are arranged strategically, they have the potential to move hundreds of vehicles exactly where they need to go. Now imagine that your church’s weekly programs, annual events, kid’s groups, and age-specific curriculums are like traffic cones. How you arrange them to work together is important. They are either strategic or random.”

How’s Your Soul? by Judah Smith – the title says a lot about why I liked this book 🙂 “But the more I read the Bible and the more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize that life–even with all its quirks and turns and tragedies–is meant to be amazing. Not because circumstances are always perfect, but because our souls have found their home in God. Fulfillment comes from having a healthy soul, and… our souls stay healthy when they regularly return home. … Maybe the reason we feel restless on the inside is because we haven’t been home in a long time. … Our souls are home when they return to God.”

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp – Two favorite quotes: “When the church isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ. Because Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken” and “Don’t ever be afraid of the broken things, because Christ is redeeming everything.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Fascinating insights into Islam culture and religion; learned so much

The Cure & Parents by Bill Thrall – While I picked it up to review and see if it would be helpful for the parents in our ministry, I found it a great book about real family life (in all its messiness) and trust in relationships. – “The motivation of grace will always bear greater fruit than the coercion of demand. … Many of us were taught by well-intended teachers and parents that it almost doesn’t matter what means you use to get someone to do good, as long as you can get them to do good. But good done for the wrong reason–convincing me that I, at my core, am not much good–that’s one of the worst forms of wrong.”  “The degree to which your children trust you is the degree to which they will let you love them. … We may have great intentions to pass on values, beliefs, wisdom, and truths. We may faithfully love, protect, and direct our children. But if they don’t trust us, nothing is really happening.”

Bekah's Heart, Books

Dinner with Jesus

Reading a book by Barbara Broncroft today, these words captured my heart:

“Being graciously received when we bring our sin to Christ strengthens our faith in the efficacy of the cross. We experience its powerful effects each time God welcomes us; we trust more deeply each time he responds with mercy and grace. As we experience his gracious welcome, we can hear Christ’s words to us without fear: 

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:19–20). 

Welcome… Grace… Trust… Mercy…  These are  often the things that come first to mind when we realize we’ve messed up or are holding onto hurt and pain.  If you’re anything like me, at the first hint of darkness or sin, my default is to either ignore the feeling or try to justify it. We do this either by distracting ourselves or by looking at all the “truly evil” things around us in the news and world and “comfort” ourselves with the lie that “I’m not really that bad.”   But the reality for all of us is that we are MESSED UP!  A speaker I heard the other day said it this way:

“The problem of evil isn’t that it is so pervasive ‘out there’ but that it’s so deep in our hearts as well.” – Ravi Zacharias

Going back to the Scripture in the first quote, I’m pretty sure I had heard both of those verses before, but never thought about them in connection with each other.  The zealous repentance of verse 19 isn’t just there to make us feel awful about ourselves.  No, it’s an invitation into the deep, beautiful relationship with Jesus of verse 20. The author of the Bol I was reading continued:

The Spirit’s work to show us our sin and need for Christ is born out of love. He urges us to be zealous when our sin is revealed. In the vernacular, the Spirit urges us to hard-core repenting. He wants us to get busy so that when Christ knocks, we will be quick to open our doors to him instead of hiding in the closet. Jesus knocks on our doors because he desires to come in and sit with us for a meal—a most friendly, intimate, and satisfying encounter. Jesus offers us himself—he wants a relationship with us.” – Barbara Bancroft

As hard as it is to let pain, hurt, and sin be revealed in the Light of Christ, I don’t want to be found hiding in the closet.  

Jesus, come in, let’s have dinner. 


Advent, Books, Wonder-Full Wanderings

A Week of Hope {wonder-full wanderings}

Week one of the beautiful advent season… One candle lit on the advent wreath… The hope candle.

The flame dances small but mighty both on the wreath and in our souls.  I don’t believe it’s coincidence that everywhere I turn it seems the ‘word of the week’ appears.

All through the pages of God’s Word:

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

“I wait for the Lord, my souls does wait, and in His word do I hope.” – Psalm 130:5

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace and believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 

On the kitchen wall:

In a book I recently picked up:

“And hope happens here at this nexus of bitter and sweet. I will not talk myself out of hope, hiding behind Scripture to support all my reasons for being ‘wise’ and ‘measured’ in my responses to the not-yets in my life. Because when I choose to engage in that awkward intimacy of believing that He might say no while asking expectantly that He say yes, He gets the most beautiful part of me. 

Hope is my precious oil, mingling with tears to wash His feet.

Hope, and the vulnerability it brings, is what moves His heart.

Hope, and how it draws me to Him, means not one of those minutes curled up in pain was lost, not one of those minutes of closeness with Him is forgotten… I can discover that our greatest testimony isn’t found in those moments of victory over weakness or even in the moments of hope fulfilled. It’s found in waiting, wanting, adoring.” – Sara Hagerty

And isn’t that what this season is all about anyway… The waiting, the wanting, the adoring? 

This hope is a daring thing, because “who hopes for what we already have“?  And yet as Christians, that’s exactly what we do.  We live in the “already” and the “not yet” all at the same time.  

We have the promise: He WILL come again!  

We have the inheritance: life forever in heavenly bliss.

We know the end of the story: He wins! We win! 

Yet we still live in this painful, war-torn, desperate world, hanging on desperately to hope.  But as the advent season continues on to an advent week 2 adventure of peace, the hope flame stays lit too.  May it be true in our hearts as well. 

“Hold onto hope. Hold onto hope. Even those closest to you will challenge it, as the world around you collapses, but hope is your greatest weapon because it is an invitation into the Unseen.  … One day, the Unseen will be more real to you than what your eyes can perceive.” – Sarah Hagerty



Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford

In addition to blogging more, I’ve also been challenging myself to do more reading.  It is so easy to waste away hours on Facebook or Pinterest or other mindless things, that I decided reading, even just a few minutes a day, night be a more productive use of my time. So when I had the chance to get a free copy of Staffords, Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More in exchange for a review on my blog, it seemed a good fit.

SUMMARY: This book outlines nine helpful ways to, as I was seeking to do, put down the phone and pay attention more to what is going on around you.  I appreciated this timely reminder in a world centered around going more, multitasking, and going, going, going.  I could identify with the author’s, at times  perfectionistic attitude as well as her desire to live life on purpose and the joy that comes in choosing that intentionality over perfection.  Here were the nine key concepts presented in the book:

  • Fill the Spaces
  • Surrender Control
  • Build a Foundation
  • Take the Pressure Off 
  • See What Is Good
  • Give What Matters
  • Establish Boundaries
  • Leave a Legacy
  • Change Someone’s Story

In each of the chapters about these habits, Stafford uses personal experiences from her life to outline simple ways to be less distracted and experience more of the things that matter most.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK: I have to admit that if I hadn’t committed to finish and review it (and had some spare time on vacation), I might have given up on this book in the second or third chapter.  This is not because it is not a good book with great insights, it is. However, despite advertising about how this book can be life-changing for men, women, parents, and singles, I would say that 90% of the content all related to her being a mom. It made me wonder inference actually is between this book and her first, Hands Free Mama.  All that being said, I am thankful at I did have a reason to finish the book.  As I stepped back and looked at the broader concepts of the book, I found each of the concepts really are applicable to all ages (even kids), stages, genders and more.  

WOULD I RECOMMEND IT TO OTHERS: I would say that if you’re a parent who often feels overwhelmed with trying to balance all the demands of life with intentionally loving your children (pretty sure I just gave the definition of ‘parent’) I think it’s safe to say that you would identify well with this author and find freedom in the midst of that balancing act. For any non-parents, I would say that if you’re willing to put in a little extra effort to figure out non-parenting applications, then this read is definitely worth your time.  I will also add that the book is filled with various poems and “declarations” related to the concepts which support the content well but do break it up a bit.  So if that’s not your thing, then maybe just check out some of her blog posts to get the general ideas.


(Scale: 1-“I Couldn’t finish”;    3-“Eh, I’ve read better”;    5-“Contending for a Top 10 This Year”)


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

31 Days to Just Write, Books

Suffering {just write – day 2}

I love reading.  My kindle app is full of books; my shelf has plenty more.  Sometimes I find myself paralyized by the quantity of options to the point I just have to force myself to pick one and start reading. The most recent choice was “Running on Empty:The Gospel for Women in Ministry” by Barbara Bancroft.  While I don’t really feel like I’m “running on empty” right now a quick skim of the book seems like it might make for an interesting and insightful read.

The author wastes no time in jumping in to the tough stuff as the main topic of the first chapter centers around suffering.  Here were a few of my favorite quotes from the that chapter:

“Are you confused by God’s thoughts and ways as he loves the world through you? The disciples were. His word of comfort to them was simple. He vowed never to leave them alone.”

“Suffering became a door for me into the presence of Christ as he really is, not as I expected him to be.”

“We are forced by our suffering to wrestle with His teachings because we need to hear his voice to survive the confusion ministry brings. Only suffering makes us desperate enough to knock on the door of heaven until someone gives us an answer (Luke 11:5–13). We knock until our Father opens his door and welcomes us with his love and peace. Suffering keeps us from a life of glib answers and leads us into a life of listening to his Spirit.”

Later on she was reflecting Scripture passage where Paul talks about rejoicing in suffering. Her statements challenged me while bringing comfort and truth at the same time:

“Paul is also confident and full of joy even as he suffers because he does not fear that his suffering is a result of God’s inattention or displeasure. Suffering is a necessary cost of bringing the gospel to the nations. If we have placed our faith in Christ, we are safe in his righteousness and need never fear that our suffering is a result of his rejection or inattention. … Paul’s suffering was real and extensive, but it did not define him, make him bitter, or cause him to doubt God’s love or call on his life. Paul’s suffering brought him into deeper fellowship with Jesus.”

In my head I clearly know that having to walk through situations of suffering do not mean God doesn’t love me or isn’t paying attention to me. However, as I read these words it struck me that maybe my heart isn’t always keeping up… That I often do let a trial define my life or even worse, my identity… That at times I do let suffering make me bitter … And perhaps worst of all, occasionally I believe Satan’s lies that what I’m going through means God doesn’t love me or couldn’t use me.  

The opposite is actually true. The struggles I face on any given day, might be the very situation through which God can bring his grace and truth and love to the world.  Maybe as people see His work and presence in my life, they’ll long for it in their own.  Not only that, Christ suffered…. A LOT! Through suffering in this life, maybe we can actually, know Jesus a little better.  

Still pondering all this… Would love to hear your thoughts! 


Books, Devotional, Uncategorized

Is Cinderella a Christian?

Often when we think of Cinderella, we think of this picture perfect story with a fancy dress, glass slippers, and a handsome prince.  Of course we could have a pretty princess smile on our face all the time if we had THAT life.  But it’s easy to forget what Cinderella’s day-to-day life was like:

What about the Cinderella in the rags? In the movie, those big-footed stepsisters were rotten to her, and still she sang and was nice to mice and had pretty hair and was still skinny even in the midst of all that pressure. And she had to scrub floors and miss royal balls and churn butter out of mud. What a sweet girl she was, but I can’t help wondering, What if I was Cinderella in the rags? I would be hopping mad by the time that ball rolled around. I may have been able to hide it for a while, but the mistreatment and the unfairness of it all.

(Freeman, Emily P. (2011-09-01). Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life (Kindle Locations 1512-1517). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.)

This description of Cinderella makes me think again to the current sermon series on JOY.  It seems as if there had to be something behind the smile as she danced around in her rag dresses just waiting to hear the complaints from her stepsisters or stepmom about something that wasn’t done to absolute perfection.

Photo by Violscraper via compfight

While we all hear again and again that joy is not based on circumstances and happenings like happiness, “Be joyful always” is a command from Scripture that is often difficult to live out.

What about those days when our hair won’t cooperate or family members are trying our patience?  What about when a loved one gets ill or dies? What about the pink slip or the detention slip?  Do these things cause us to get grouchy or turn into the wicked stepsisters?  Or do we sing and praise in the midst of our trials?  Do we hold grudges or let forgiveness reign?  Do we let ourselves feel broken and put out when “bad things happen to good people” and “good things happen to the bad?” Or do we remember with joy that One day, our Prince will come to completely renew and restore?

Books, Devotional

Empty Hands and An Open Heart

Amen! Let it be so, God! Help me simply come to You…

Come to Me with empty hands and an open heart, ready to receive abundant blessings. I know the depth and breadth of your neediness. Your life-path has been difficult, draining you of strength. Come to Me for nurture. Let Me fill you up with My Presence: I in you, and you in Me.

My Power flows most freely into weak ones aware of their need for Me. Faltering steps of dependence are not lack of faith; they are links to My Presence. ~ Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

31 Days of Imperfection, Bekah's Heart, Books

Until God’s Love is Enough… {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 24}

Maybe you’ve been there-I know I have-getting ready to settle in and have some “date” time with Jesus but then, you just don’t.  You know it’s good for your relationship.  You actually enjoy it most the time you spend with him.  You even miraculously HAVE time to interact a little.
And yet…

You check your e-mail one more time.
You grab a snack or a drink.
You take a nap.
You run an errand.
You glance through Facebook.
(You write a blog post????)

(And these are only a few of the distractions I’ve personally used today.)

As I’ve mentioned before, these Sabbath moments each Monday have become a place to remember Whose I am and therefore who I am. I NEED some Jesus time… especially after this last week, a truly holy week, but also, especially in the life of a church worker, a busy week.  It’s a week filled with emotion and passion as we journey, and help others journey, through the most crucial days of our Savior’s life.  As I had the chance to share God’s resurrection power in my own life on Thursday, walk to the cross to lay down all our burdens on Friday, and celebrate together the joy of Easter this weekend…  I’m overjoyed, content, grateful, and at peace.

I’m also tired.

As I said before, I need some Jesus time.  And yet, for some reason, on these days when I need it most, I am the most distracted and distant.  I’m ever aware of my imperfect relationship with God… and unlike human relationships, the fault is all one-sided… me.

On about the fifth attempt of the day to settle in and let God remind me who I am, I read something that helped me understand a little more of why I had been struggling so much.

“Until God’s love is enough, nothing else will be.”

This quote from Renee Swope’s A Confident Heart hit me.  With each glance at Facebook, snack made, or errand run I was unconsciously seeking it to be enough.  I thought if I’d just get those things out of the way maybe THEN I’d be able to settle in and see God’s love for me.  But that way of thinking is seriously flawed and backwards of the way in which God’s kingdom works.  You would think after a week of so many reminders, after attending SIX Christ-centered, love-focused worship services, after living and breathing the life, death, and resurrection of Christ at home, at work, with my friends for the last week, after all that you think I would remember this simple truth:

God doesn’t love us because of what we do. He loves us. Period.

That great love came long before anything we do.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The things I need to do each day, the relationships in which I want to invest, the duties as a worker, a family member, a housekeeper, and more will still be there.  I can’t get those all done and THEN come to Jesus; I come to JESUS so that I can get all of those done.  I can’t get rid of all the distractions in life; I must come to Jesus and let him focus me in on what’s most important.  I can’t try to fill my life, I must give Jesus access to my heart and let him fill it.

“Our schedules are full, our minds are full, our stomachs are full, our refrigerators are full, our closets are full, our lives are full.  Yet, we find ourselves… empty…. Why? Because the wells of our hearts were created to be filled by God alone. The deepest thirst of our soul can only be quenched by Him.” (Renee Swope, A Confident Heart)

And so I shut down the computer, put away the snacks, turn off the phone, and open God’s Word.

Ready or not, He’s here waiting, and He is more than enough.

31 Days of Imperfection, Books

Because God’s Love is Perfect… {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 20}

“Because God’s Love is Perfect, I Don’t Have to Be”

Before I got past even this chapter’s title in a book I’m currently reading (A Confident Heart by Renee Swope), I knew it would likely have things to say to inform my 31 Days of Imperfection blog posts.  Within a couple pages I was overwhelmed by how much the author connected to where my heart was on this month-long journey.  I hope you enjoy a few quotes from that chapter as much as I did:

“We don’t want to be high maintenance, right? We surely don’t want people to see the peeling paint of our imperfections and the rotting attitudes in the wood boards of our minds.  It’s embarrassing for people to see our flaws and failures, so we work hard to look like we’re doing fine from a distance.  Sometimes I think we tell people we’re fine even when we’re not, because we want to be fine.  Or we hope by saying we are fine, eventually we will be.”

Oh, how I know this path in my life… we want to be fine… we long for it… and maybe, just maybe, if we act like it enough, we can even trick ourselves into thinking we’re fine.  The hard part is that sometimes we actually succeed in doing just that, and that is the most dangerous place of all to be.

“What we need is someone who will pursue us and accept us even though we’re flawed.  Yet most of us doubt anyone would ever stick with us if we let them get too close.  So we put up walls and hide our struggles, even from God, hoping we’ll convince Him and everyone else that we’re fine. … Slowly we begin to believe that we have to be perfect to be loved and accepted.  We know we never will be-but we’ll die trying, won’t we?  For much of my life, I put expectations of perfection on myself because I thought if I let others see my weaknesses and insecurities they would think less of me…”

I don’t think Renee is alone in believing that lie.  Don’t we all have a part of us that believes that if we let others get close, they’ll walk away… if we let others really see, they’ll think less of us.  Oh, how many times we struggle, perhaps even daily, with these lies from the devil and in the process block out the very community we need in those times when we’re not fine.  We live in that tension of longing for someone to notice that we’re in pain, but doing whatever we can in our power to keep from being seen.

“Oh how I longed for someone to see past the exterior façade and look into the secret places of my heart. I wanted to be known and loved for who I was. Yet if I let my guard down, I was afraid someone would say I was too sensitive or too serious.”

This makes me think of pastor’s sermon this last weekend, especially the part about how we let what other people think of us run our lives instead of letting our actions flow out of who we are in Christ.   We fear what others think or will think and so we fall deeper into isolation which never helps the original situation of why we weren’t “okay” to begin with.  You see, God created us to be in community and relationship… with each other and with him.  We need each other.  We need to hear each other’s stories.  Most of all, we need to remember that we have a God whose love truly is perfect and because of that, we don’t have to be.

Africa, Bekah's Heart, Books, First Trinity

All People Matter

As a person who generally does not make habit of reading the forwards to books, I’m extremely glad that I actually read the one at the front of Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.   This entire book has grabbed my attention and my heart.  I’m sure I will share other parts of this book as I continue reading, but for today I just can’t stop thinking about the very first paragraph of the forward by Beth Clark:

“People who want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another.  And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile.  They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound.  They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes.  Over time, though, the small changes add up.  Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.”

What so captured my attention about this paragraph is how well it lines up with First Trinity‘s Core Value that “all people matter” and directly connected it to the idea of “transforming our world” in our mission statement.  We also see through this that a transformation of our world is actually possible when we focus on doing so–as both our mission statements and the forward to this book suggest–one life at a time.

Author Katie Davis, a 22-year old American mother to thirteen (yes, you read that right, THIRTEEN) adopted Ugandan children and founder of Amazima Ministries in Uganda, is one of those world-changers… and she does it one life at a time.

Later on in her book she shares some humbling statistics of people living in poverty around the world:

143 million orphaned children + 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases + 8.5 million who work as child slaves or prostitutes + 2.3 million children who live with HIV

= 164.8 million needy children in the world.

As Katie says in her book, “At first glance that looks like a big number…”  I agree.  It seems like an impossible number, a number to big to wrap our minds around, and a number that surely I can’t do anything about!

However, 2.1 BILLION people on this earth claim to be Christians.  “The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for ONE child, there would not be any statistics left.”

EIGHT PERCENT!  That’s all it would take.

Do you truly believe that all people matter?  Who’s life can you change today?  Maybe it’s a smile and kind word to the cashier that seems to be having a bad day.  Maybe it’s a hug for a grieving friend or a hot meal for someone hungry.  Or maybe it’s sponsoring a child in Haiti or Uganda or even the US to go to school and be fed or rescuing a child out of sex trafficking.  One life at a time, we can transform our world, through the power of God’s Living Word along with the gifts and talents, passions and desires, resources and time he’s given us.    Will you join me?

Let’s change the world and love as Jesus did, living with the conviction that




“I have learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person. So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian.” ~ Katie Davis