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My Top 8 Reads from 2016 + my reading goals for 2017

A lot of you have been patiently waiting for me to put together this post on my Top Reads from this Past Year! Last year’s post on my Top 10 Reads from 2015 was one of my most popular posts. So I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer!

I find it interesting that people are so interested in what I read. But then I remember that I LOVE these types of posts on other people’s blogs, so it’s no wonder! Avid readers are always looking for new great book recommendations, aren’t we?

Part of me feels like I can’t really classify myself as an “avid reader” — if you just take this last year into account. You see, I read 45 books this year — which is about half the number of books I’ve averaged over the past 4 years. This includes 5 chapter books I read aloud to the kids + 4 books I listened to on audio.

Many of you have wondered where my book posts have been and have asked me to please write more about what I’ve been reading. The truth is: I didn’t read as much in 2016 nor did I set any reading goals because I let myself have a lot more time to rest, feel, think, process, sleep, and just slowly go through one or two books at time.

I also left a lot of time in my schedule this past year for quiet. Not only because I knew my brain needed a break, but also because I wanted to see what that felt like! I’m usually a person who always wants to fill up the nooks and crannies of my life with good podcasts or good books so that I can always be learning new things, stretching my mind, and challenging myself.

But this past year, I learned that some quiet in my day was good for my soul and helped me to really be able to think and work through some hurts and things in my past that I’d stuffed down deep and ultimately be able to live a much more whole and healed life.

It was so good to do for a year, but I’m really anxious and ready to get back to more reading and having a few books going at once! (I’ll share my reading goals at the end of this post!)

Of the 45 books I did read in 2016, here were my top 8 favorites: 

1. The Happiness Dare

This book changed my life this year. And it’s one of the reasons I’m having a Year of Yes!

I loved Jennifer’s encouragement to start looking for shots of happy in the middle of the mundane, cultivating cheer in the midst of the messes, and celebrating the gifts and wonder and beauty to be found all around us!

As Jennifer challenges us, let’s “refuse to join the chorus of negativity, stop sleepwalking through life, boycott cynicism, and wring the joy out of ordinary days.” We were made for more!

I loved this quote:

We can stop trying to be someone we’re not. Happiness begins in that moment, when we look within and say, “I was not created to be her; I was created to be me”. Happiness is an inside job. You don’t find happiness by being the best version of someone else; you find happiness by being the best version of you. 

As I’ve been taking the Happiness Dare, I’m realizing that there are so many beautiful things all around us, but often, I’ve been too busy and focused on productivity that I’ve missed them. This dare has really challenged me to look around my world and find the happy. To add more shots of joy into my every day life. To wring the delight out of what might seem ordinary.

I’m letting myself take time to slow down and enjoy a bike ride, to buy those discounted flowers, really be in the moment in a conversation, to savor the beauty of the ocean, to slowly enjoy booksto wear colors I love, to stop saying to myself, “That’s not who you are!”

Read more of my thoughts on this book here and here.

2. Finding Spiritual Whitespace

This book wasn’t anything like I expected it to be, but it was everything that I needed to read. It was so good and messed with me in such a profound way!

Bonnie shares how she had to go back to the broken places in her life and work through and heal those before she could find freedom from her intense anxiety and panic attacks. As someone who has experienced anxiety since the time I was a young child, I resonated with her journey so much and this book was a big piece of my own healing journey this year.

If you feel like you’re running on empty with no time for rest, no time for yourself, and no time for God, I think you’ll be blessed and challenged by this book.

3. Present Over Perfect

This book is one I savored slowly and it was the perfect book for me during this Year of Rest. This book resonated with me at such a deep level.

I feel like Shauna and I have been on parallel slowing down journeys… And I could have written almost every word she’s written in this book. (Only she expresses it much more poetically and beautifully than I ever could!)

I shared a lot of what I learned from this book on Instagram and other places online. Here was one of my favorite quotes:

If you are struggling to get off the exhausting hamster wheel of life, if you feel like life is beyond crazy but you can’t figure out how to slow it down, or if you just wonder what it would be like to not live life at breakneck speed, I highly recommend this book.

I slowly savored it like a cool, refreshing drink of water and have re-read so many parts of it because it’s been such a balm to my soul!

4. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

I’d had this book on our shelf for a long time, but honestly, the cover just looked boring so I didn’t pick it up to start reading to the kids. I’m glad it was assigned reading in our Sonlight homeschool curriculum last year, or we would have missed out on this gem of a book.

Yet another great example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover! All three of the kids found it very engaging and attentively listened when I read it and always begged me to read more when I’m done.

5. Presence

Before I left for my trip to Israel and Italy, I had ordered the book, Presence, by Amy Cuddy. I’m not even sure where I heard about this book, but it was the best thing I could have read on the plane. There was so much in the book that really challenged me.

The thing she said that impacted me to the core was about the “impostor syndrome”. She explained this is a complex we develop when we go into situations where we feel that we are an impostor. Like we’re the only one who doesn’t really belong and if other people found out how scared or unqualified we felt, they would find out we were just an impostor.

This really hit me hard, because I had felt exactly like that going into the trip (and in many, many, many other instances in my life!). A few days before we left for the trip, we were given the bios of all of the people who would be on the trip. The group was made up of some amazing individuals who had done incredible things with their life. They had huge followings, had won major awards, they were well-known, well-qualified, and well-experienced.

When I compared myself to the others who were there, I felt like I didn’t belong. But I realized that I probably wasn’t the only one who felt like this going into the trip (and I found out through conversations with some who were there that that was indeed the case!).

Every time I would start to tell myself how out of place I was among the group, I would make myself say, “I belong here.” Not in an arrogant way, but as a reminder that I was asked to come on this trip and that, as such, I was not an impostor.

I might have less life experience or fewer connections, but I had something to offer and bring to the table. So I would hold my head up high, remember that God had allowed this opportunity for me, and remind myself that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

If you struggle with insecurity or feeling like you have something to offer or bring to the table in settings with others, I would highly recommend this book. It’s packed with lots of practical advice — some of which I will carry with me and follow for the rest of my life!

Read my post here where I share more about how this book impacted me.

6. Johnny Tremain

This was our second top pick for a read aloud this year. Such a fascinating story that we all enjoyed!

7. Unbroken

I listened to this audiobook and now know why so many people have raved about it! We went to the movie back at the end of 2014 and I’ve wanted to read the book ever since! And the book was definitely every bit as good as the movie. Such a powerful, powerful true story of courage and forgiveness.

It’s a L-O-N-G book with a lot of details and information, so I found that listening to it via audio (I got it from the library) was perfect for this type of book! Highly recommended!

8. Good News for Weary Women

I just finished this book and it was SO good! Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“You don’t need to learn secret steps, try harder and harder, wear yourself out in an attempt to be beautiful, snag Mr. Perfect, or raise perfect children. You are already welcome, loved, forgiven, and completely okay.” 

This. This is the message of the Gospel. This is redemption. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “it is finished” while dying on the Cross.

The Gospel is not about what we do, how we measure up, or our good deeds. It is about Jesus and what He has *already done* for us.

Our one job is to live lives of worship and love to Him, resting in His grace, relying upon His strength, and living in the knowledge that — in Christ — we are loved, we are redeemed, we are beautiful.

There is no condemnation in Christ. None. So stop beating yourself up over what you haven’t done or aren’t doing. Start living in the joy, rest, and forgiveness He is freely offering you!

My Reading Goals for 2017

As I told you yesterday, one of my goals for 2017 is to read 48 books I already own. I picked out a stack of 12 books that were old Christian reprints, a stack of 12 books that were story driven, a stack of 12 books that were about improving your life, and a stack of 12 books to encourage me in my Christian walk. My plan is to try to read one from each stack each month. We’ll see how it goes!

I’ll be sharing updates on what I’m reading and what I’m planning to read each Sunday in my new Peek Into My Life posts where I’ll be sharing snippets from my life —  what I’m reading, watching, listening to, working on, pondering, etc. 🙂 Look for the first post tomorrow!

What were your top reads in 2016? Tell us in the comments!

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

My 10 Goals for 2017 + 2 Habits I’m Working on Developing

Last year, I only set 4 simple goals. Mostly, because I knew that there’s no way I could have a Year of Rest and have a long list of goals. It was good for me, but I am so ready to get back to more formal goal-setting and to get back to our Monthly Goal-Setting Updates here. I’ve missed those!

Here are the 10 goals I have for this year:

Personal Goals

1. Run 3 miles in 30 minutes — I took up running again this year — as part of my fitness plan that my nutritionist put together for me. I’ve never been skilled in the running department, but I’ve started to really enjoy it and am wanting to push myself here and be able to easily run 3 miles in 30 minutes. Right now, I can run a 10-minute mile, but it’s really pushing myself. So we’re working on building up my endurance so that running a 10-minute mile is simple!

2. Make it to Phase 4 of the nutrition plan — I’m currently almost finished with Phase 2 and am so excited to start Phase 3. My nutritionist says that I’ll feel 10 times better than I feel now when I hit Phase 3. It’s hard for me to even imagine that since I feel SO amazing now, but he’s been right about pretty much everything else so far on this program, so I’m going to trust him!

He thinks that at the rate I’m going and progressing, I’ll be able to start Phase 4 by mid-2017! And I guess that when I hit Phase 4, I’ll feel absolutely and utterly amazing!

3. Read 48 books I already own — I didn’t read as much in 2016 nor did I set any reading goals because I let myself have a lot more time to rest, feel, think, process, sleep, and just slowly go through one or two books at time. I wanted to see what that felt like… and I realized it was good for a year, but now I’m anxious to get back to more reading and having a few books going at once! I decided to challenge myself this year to focus on reading books I already own.

So I picked 48 books — a stack of 12 books that were old Christian reprints, a stack of 12 books that were story driven, a stack of 12 books that were about improving your life, and a stack of 12 books to encourage me in my Christian walk. My plan is to try to read one from each stack each month. We’ll see how it goes! (By the way, my top 10 reads from 2016 post is coming this weekend!)

Marriage Goals

4. Go on a 4-day completely unplugged tripJesse and I went to Hawaii earlier this year and it was downright incredible. I left my computer at home and didn’t get online or on social media the entire time. It was BLISS!! We walked for miles on the beach, I fell in love with the ocean, I read 10 books (!), we scouted out the cheapest food options (because the food is SO $$ there! But never fail, we found a Subway we could walk to a few miles away from our hotel!), and we just had so much fun together.

We’re planning to do the same sort of trip of this year, but we’re going somewhere different. We’re currently saving up and looking for deals so that we can do the trip for just a few hundred dollars like the Hawaii trip! 🙂

(If you look closely, you’ll see that the dates on The Confident Mom Household Planner are off. I think I accidentally printed a page from another year. But I just adjusted for this week and will make sure that next week I print off the correct page for the correct year!)

Family Goals

5. Go to South Africa as a family — Our kids have been begging to go back to South Africa and we’ve set a goal to make that happen this year. We’re hoping to find a great deal on tickets like we did last time during a timeframe that works for our friends in South Africa. The kids are already getting really anxious thinking about it (and of course, Jesse and I are, too!!)

Financial Goals

6. Sell our 3 rental houses in Kansas — So, we loved having rental houses and it’s been a great investment for us (we paid cash for them and have turned a profit on them pretty much every single month we’ve had them!), but we have decided that we’d like to sell them (and hopefully turn an additional profit when we sell them) and put that money into our house savings. Then, once we’ve purchased a house here, we’ll start saving to invest in local real estate.

7. Save up to pay cash for a house here in TN — As I mentioned above, this is something we’ve been mulling over a lot this past year and thinking through and have decided to start saving aggressively for in 2017. We currently have around 15% of the total amount we’d like to save set aside in our house savings fund. By selling our rental houses, we should have about 75% of the total amount saved… which will mean, we should be able to save the additional 25% needed this year if we careful and strategic.

And yes, homes in this area are much more expensive than Kansas!! We could move about 30 minutes away and homes would go down significantly in price, but we love this area and we love being so close to our church, to the kids’ school, and to other places we go to on a weekly basis. We’ve also decided we’d like to buy something that would be our “forever home” and would give us enough space to have offices + bedrooms for each of the kids.

**Not listed specifically, but very important to us: We decided to take a leap of faith and significantly increase our giving this year. We didn’t feel comfortable listing the details of that as a goal here publicly, but we wanted to acknowledge that this was happening. Because honestly, it’s our heartbeat and one of the number one reasons I blog and have a business — so that we can give generously to causes and people near and dear to our hearts.**

Business Goals

8. Release 2 courses — We have plans in the works for me to release two full-fledged courses on two different topics. More coming on that in the next 3-6 months!

9. Start 3 new blogs — More on this coming on Monday! I can’t wait to tell you all about what’s coming and what’s changing here. And I promise I haven’t up and lost my mind… this is something that we’ve spent a lot of time talking through and sitting on and making sure was not over-committing. I think when I explain it all, it will make sense to you, too — and I hope you’re excited about it like I am!

10. Learn YouTube/iMovie — I already told you about this goal! You can follow me on YouTube if you want to watch me learn! 🙂

2 Habits I’m Working on Developing

I decided to choose two very specific habits I want to work on in 2017. Both of these are ones that will make a big impact on our home and family for me to be consistent with. I’m going to use the habit tracker at the back of my new Brilliant Life Planner to keep tabs on my daily progress on these. I think this system will really encourage me to make this a priority!

  • More compartmentalized work schedule — This is one way that I’m saying “yes” to my family. I’ve done a lot better this year at having a compartmentalized work schedule, but I want to get even better at it in 2017. Which is why I’m putting it out here and making it a habit I’m tracking every single day. My official work times starting on Monday will be: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. = Work Time, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. is Unplugged Family Time. We’ll see how this goes!
  • To bed by 11 p.m. — My actual bedtime is 9:30 p.m. so I can get in a good 7-8 hours of sleep and still wake up by 5:30 a.m. But I’m giving myself a little wiggle room for the occasional later night or for weekends. Which is why I decided to go with 11 p.m. — because I think it’s a little doable longterm and I’ll probably have more success and consistency if I give myself a little grace here. 🙂

What are YOUR goals for 2017? Tell us in the comments!

Do you need some motivation to make your health a priority in 2017? I have a passion to help you become your best self. I don’t want you to go through life feeling exhausted and burnt out. I don’t want you to have to rely upon coffee or coping mechanisms to make it through the day!

I want to help you prioritize your health, boost your energy, and set realistic goals for self-care. Join me for the 15 Days to a Healthier You Program — registration ends in just a few days! Sign up here.

Natural & Organic Coupons & Deals

Here are the best natural & organic deals with thanks to Andrea from The Greenbacks Gal for compiling them:

Top Coupons to Print: This week’s hot coupons include Organic Valley Cheese, Back to Nature, and Greek Gods Yogurt. Head over to the Natural and Organic Coupons roundup and get printing!

Bob’s Red Mill: Do you like overnight oats? Then you’ll love these Bob’s Red Mill Organic Thick Cut Oats! Try them while the price is right.

Simple Green Smoothies: The ultra popular Simple Green Smoothies Cookbook is on sale for a limited time. Download it today for just $1.99.

Target: Pick up a 4-pack of Happy Baby Organic Squeezers for just $1.75 after rebate.

Thermal Tote:
The ever popular Rachael Ray Thermal Tote is back on sale!

Wool Dryer Balls:
Make 2017 the year you ditch toxic dryer sheets and replace them with a 6 pack of wool dryer balls while they are on mark down.

Amazon Under $5: These Natural and Organic Subscribe and Save items are all under $5! This massive list includes popular items such as Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers, Natracare feminine products, and Happy Baby Yogi Bites.

Free 4 Week Meal Prep Plan: If you need some inspiration for healthy real food prep for the New Year, this free 4 week meal prep plan is full of delicious recipes.

Andrea Green of The Greenbacks Gal wants to help you eliminate processed foods and unhealthy toxins from your life. What if you could make a better future for your family by eating nourishing, real foods and using non-toxic products while still maintaining your budget? Let me help. Whether you need easy, real food meal prep plans, grocery and savings strategies, or natural living education, she’s got the solutions and strategies for you.

HUGE New Year’s Magazine Blowout Sale!

Just in time for the new year and all of the health & fitness goals that go along with it, DiscountMags is having a HUGE sale on some of the best health & fitness magazines! They are also featuring some of the lowest prices that we have seen on the most popular titles, so it’s also a great time to grab any titles that you have been wanting to try OR a great time to renew existing subscriptions!

There are over 100 titles in this sale and you can order them for yourself, as gifts and/or to extend existing subscriptions!

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You can purchase these magazines for yourself, as gifts for others and you can even extend existing subscriptions!

Go here to see all of the magazines in the sale!

Sale ends at midnight on January 3rd, 2017. No coupon codes needed!