All the Books 2019

I have always been a lover of books. This year I read 25 books. I was hoping for more but not too bad. This is my annual post where I share about some of my faves. Here’s my top ten! (Followed by the list of the rest of what I read this year)

Remember God by Annie F Downs—I love everything of hers that she has written. But this read was so much more. The words woven onto the page were incredible. In a lot of ways this book was so mature and grown up as Annie reminds us to trust and remember God.

Inheritance by Nikki Kapsambelis—If you know anyone who is struggling with Alzheimer’s in their life, this book is a must read. Heartbreakingly beautiful. This is based on the true story of a family where most of the family ended up with the gene and were some of the first to be tested.

Becoming by Michelle Obama—This memoir was so so good. I loved learning about her journey as the First Lady and so much more. Michelle shares personal details and how she found her voice. I also love what she shares about being a mom, her own public health campaign and so much more.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans—I didn’t want to put this book down. It was especially hard after losing a Rachel. I’m so thankful for her words and that they carry on in her books. This one was a favorite! I took so many notes that my copy is very marked up. It helped me to see the Bible even more beautifully.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng—This was fantastic! I fell in love with the characters and they are still with me to this day. I didn’t want this story to end. You’ll just have to pick it up for yourself to see what I’m talking about.

Love Big: The Power of Revolutionary Relationships to Heal the World—This is Rozella’s first book. I first heard her speak at an ELCA Youth Gathering. Rozella is a life and leadership coach as part of her company RHW Consulting. This book is a gift as it invites all of us to fall more deeply in love with ourselves.

Dear Church: A Love Letter from a black preacher to whitest denomination in the US by Lenny Duncan—This book truly challenged me especially as a leader in the ELCA. Duncan writes in a way that is very thought provoking and gets me thinking deeply about how others see this church. I found myself realizing my own white privilege as he writes about his own struggles. I think too often we have a hard time seeing our own sins and this book opened my eyes even more to what my race has done to others.

The God who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible and the Journey to Belong by Karen Gonzalez—Another book that challenged me. She opened my eyes to new interpretations of specific stories especially in the Old Testament.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens—This is one of my favorite reads EVER!! It kept my attention all through its over 300 pages. It is stunningly written. I fell deeply in love with the characters in this book. This story is so breathtakingly written and captured as the story unfolds on the pages. I just found out it’s being made into a movie but for the love….please read it first!

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate—I will start by saying there is a little content warning as there are some elusions/stories of abuse in this book. The storyline is intense but is also beautiful. It often took me by surprise. It’s based in a true story about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. It reminded Me of the reality of many of the challenges children in our world experience every day.

The rest of the list:

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Everybody Always by Bob Goff

You are a Enough by Mandy Hale
Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Seven by Jen Hatmaker
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans (a reread)
Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Big Magic:Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (another reread)
I See You: How Love opens our eyes to Invisible People by Terence Lester
Ruins and Kingdoms by Jen Rose Yokel
God’s Country by Brad Roth
The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

Currently Reading: Educated by Tara Westover

After reading my friend K’s post, I’ve add some Frederick Bachman books and Light in the Distant Stars. What else do I need to read?

From Healing to Transformation


This picture was taken five days ago on the first anniversary of Grandpa Wilbert’s death. It was the ninth death in my life from October 2017-December 2018. Grandpa’s death embodied the reality of 2018 as a year of loss and grief. So it seemed only appropriate that 2019 would be a year of healing thus heal was birthed as my 2019 one word. And this picture reminds me that 2019 was indeed a year of healing. It shows joy on my face and in my heart and is a beautiful reminder that in time, healing comes about in our lives, but not always as we expect.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, healing is defined as “to make sound and whole;” “to make well again;” “to restore to health;” or “to patch up or correct.” This year was indeed a year of healing; healing from the various forms of loss and grief.

Healing comes in various shapes and sizes. It comes in ways we never imagined. Healing is more than being healed physically. It can be moving past the wounds and realizing one’s own strength in the midst of life’s loss and grief; obstacles and challenges.

For me, healing came in simple ways. It came in my sweet kitty Luna and in her new brother Neville. Healing came in putting words on a page and lifting them up to God like incense rising. Healing came in seeing resurrection appear in the midst of loss. Healing came in you, my dear friends and family; God’s living breathing kintsugi.

Healing came in hard ways too. There is a special place; Shepherd’s Canyon I had never heard of before this year started. And little did I know the healing that this place would bring about in my life. (Learn more here: https://www.shepherdscanyonretreat.org)

I attended Shepherd’s Canyon in Arizona in early summer. I will be honest I did not want to go at all. Everything in me fought this request and invitation to attend yet I went trusting God. It was easily one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my 41 years on this Earth. But now six months later, I can evidently see the ways that retreat; that place and my newfound friendships healed my aching, hurting heart. They showed me again and again my own strength! I also came away with gifts that continue to bless me each and every day.

A few weeks later, I sat in a holy circle around friends as they prayed with and over me. Tears streaming down my face as God continued to wash some of the pain of the loss and grief from the last year away. Another simple gesture as a friend gifted me the hat he wore during his days of chemo therapy. Once again, holy tears that started the trickle of healing in my life and soul.

In addition, healing has come in understanding who I am as a beloved child of God. I understand how and why I operate the ways I do. I am a peacekeeper. I will do anything to keep the peace. (I mislabeled myself as an Enneagram 2 all these years but the more I read I identify more as a nine!). Understanding my makeup helps me move and breathe better in this world. I am fully living as who God created me to be; a healthier version of me.

I’m reminded of this quote by Gwen Flowers: “I had my own notion of grief. I thought it was the sad time that followed the death of someone you love. And you had to push through it to get to the other side. There is no pushing through. But rather, there is absorption. Adjustment. Acceptance. And grief is not something you complete, but rather you endure. Grief is not a task to finish and move on, but an element of yourself–an alteration of your being. A new way of seeing. A new definition of self.”

With new eyes, I see that health came in words and deep conversations. Health came in knowing that sometimes it’s ok to walk away. Health came in holy tears releasing the pain of so many losses. Health came in holy conversations around numerous cups of tea or coffee. Health came in kitty cuddles from sweet Luna and Nevy. Health came in music that spoke to my soul like Lauren Daigle’s You Say and Ellie Holcomb’s Red Sea Road. “Sometimes we have to bury dreams, leave them deep in the Earth behind us.“ Health came in knowing I would never be alone. And health will continue to come.

I am leaving 2019 behind stronger than I imagined and dare I say healed in a lot of ways. I know because I have been able to catch my breath again. I have found some of the joy that seemed to have been lost. I’m proud of the healing work I’ve done to be the best version of who God created me to be! I am at peace; a peace that only God can provide! Healing has indeed happened this year. I pray that from healing, transformation will come!

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”–Romans 8:38-39

Getting Real

The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “birth.” This word prompt also fits well for the #AdventUs Advent devotional from the Slate Project from Luke 1:30 for today.

“The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God—Luke 1:30

Let’s get real friends! Mary had every right to be scared. As a woman who has chosen to be a virgin, I would pee my pants if someone, an angel came to me and told me that I would bear the Messiah. So Mary’s fear was real. A virgin with child..only God could pull this off!

“Do not be afraid.”

Mary gives birth in a manger; really in a barn. Can you imagine the smells that she was experiencing? Or even the noises? Cows mooing. Sheep bleating. And then an infants cry. The cry of Emmanuel; God with us.

“Do not be afraid.”

I empathize with Mary. I am an individual who tries to do her very best to trust in God. What if Mary hadn’t believed? Who would have born the Christ child? I wonder if the other women around here wondered if it would be her. I know I would have asked and pondered and wondered.

“Do not be afraid.”

Yet Mary did more than trusted! She gave birth. She “pondered all these things and treasured them in her heart.”

In the Darkness

The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “darkness.”

In the darkness

A pregnant Mary

Rides on a donkey

Bethlehem bound with Joseph.


In the darkness

No room for them

In the inn

So a stable

Is where they lay.


In the darkness

Amidst the animals

Mary labors

Until her sons cries

Pierce the darkness


In the darkness

The infant king

Swaddled in a manger


In the darkness

Wisemen follow the star

Bringing gifts

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh


In the darkness

Stars twinkle bright

Thousands of years past

We remember and honor

This king

The one sent for us all.


In the darkness

On this holy night

Emmanuel

God with us

Oh come let us adore him!

In the darkness

A promise fulfilled

From a stable in Bethlehem

To Calvarys hill

Savoring Advent

The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “rush.”

This time of year is rush, rush, rush for so many. Yet Advent is all about slowing down and savoring the moment. It’s about remembering what this season is all about.

Yesterday my sister and I savored the season. I was able to slow down and not worry about where God is calling me next. I went to a friends baby shower. We went to Frozen Two. Then we went to our local parks light show topped off with a peppermint hot cocoa blizzard from Dairy Queen.

Advent waiting

Slow and steady

Until the manger.

Christmas lights aglow

Kittens cozy under the tree

Cinnamon tea in hand

I read the story

Wait, watch and wonder

An infant born to Mary

His cries piercing the dark

Emmanuel

God with us

Oh come let us adore him!

Tamar and the Townspeople

“He asked the townspeople, ‘Where is the temple prostitute who was at Enaim by the wayside?’ But they said, ‘No prostitute has been here.’”—Genesis 38:21

A wink and a smile….that’s what I imagine the townspeople doing after the man asked where she was. They were going to show him. A woman is not defined by her actions.

In seminary, I attended a J term course on domestic violence. One of the places we visited was Genesis House in Chicago. I remember the humanity and vulnerability I saw in these women as they shared their stories of escaping through prostitution. They were more than faces in a crowd. I saw them fully as beloved children of God.

Tamar, Bathsheba, Rahab, Ruth, and Mary are beloved children of God too. Tamar is not who others say she is. She is a mother. She is badass and I love how the townspeople advocate for her in this story. He is going to have to look a lot longer and harder for her. And she isnt going to let him get by because he’s already screwed his brother over in death. If she has the last word, she’s going to screw him over.

Tamar shows us what it means to be a badass woman in the Bible!

Badass Tamar

“But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother.”—Genesis 38:9

Semen and blood spilled out

A mighty grudge he held

Even in death screwing his brother over

What the hell?

Onan must have been hanging onto one heck of a grudge. He did everything in his power to make sure his brothers name would not be carried on. Spilling his seamen on the ground. Dirty, unholy. Tamar is ultimately the result of this grudge.

Oh what a mighty woman she is. Still carrying this child. Tamar a harlot in many aspects of the word. But truly Tamar is a woman of God called to carry out a promise; to carry on the promise of the gospel.

I want to be a badass like Tamar!

The Commodity of Time

“It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and settled near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah.“—Genesis 38:1 (NRSV)

Advent is upon us. And the season of Advent is all about time. Time to prepare for the birth of this newborn king. Time for Mary to bear the Christ child. Time for Tamar to bore her sons. Time for all of us to prepare for what is to come.

Tamar and Mary along with so many women understand the commodity of time. Nine months their bodies carried a child. Nine months to bring about justice for the world. Nine months that remind us of the power of a woman. Nine months that lead to a holy disruption; the cries of the newborn king to rouse a deaf world.

A deaf world that often forgets that time is a commodity in our world. We need these holy cries to remind us that we need time for peace not war. Time for life and time for death. And time with those we love. The truth is that time is a gift and often that gift can be lost so easily.

So this Advent season, I want to use my time more wisely, I want to use my time; time to pray for peace, time to pray for love, time to pray for those who are grieving. But most of all, to dwell in the time that has been given me.

Time to wait, watch, and wonder what is to come. To wait for this holy child who comes as the light in the midst of the darkness. To wait for Emmanuel; God with Us.”

God’s Promise

Today is the weekly Five Minute Friday! Today’s word prompt is “unknown.”

Sometimes our future, our next step is unknown to us. Yet God has a plan for all of us. God knows us by name. We are not unknown to God!

I take great comfort in the words of Jeremiah 29:11. “Fir I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not harm you.”

There are days I still wonder what God is up too. But I trust in God’s promise. God knows every hair on my head. God knows where I am needed.

God says, “Tara, my beloved child, you are loved. And I promise to never leave you or forsake you.”

Unsettled

Today is the weekly Five Minute Friday! Today’s word prompt is “settle.”

Empty shelves

Bare walls

Boxes scattered to and fro

A sense of unsettledness

The kitties confused

Wondering why their home

is in disarray.

Wondering what’s next

Where is a God calling me next?

Listening to the Holy Spirit

Wishing and praying

that God will show up

Sooner rather than later.

My soul is not settled

Waiting and yearning

Longing to be settled again.