Growing in Heart: What I read in 2017 for Compassion, Self-Care and Wholeheartedness


2017 was the year I turned 30, and I suppose this book list reflects that.  Looking back, I weathered a tough year with two littles - 3 & 1 and kept my heart growing in the midst.  I completed 26 books and this list isn't exhaustive, rather a highlights reel of the notables.  To see my whole list, click here.  Also, if we're not friends on GoodReads, WE SHOULD BE!  I love seeing what friends are reading and I obviously need to grow in reading some more happy books and some more fiction, so help a sister out.  

I feel like this year was one of developing deep compassion in my soul for the struggles and trials of others and yep - myself.  This girl has gotten into a pattern of rejoice over mourn with and skirting pains through performing and perfecting.  I'm sure you can relate - yes, no?  Then let's pop through this list of likes.  

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown  It's no secret that I'm a Brene fan....isn't the whole world?  While I'm not sure this is her best work I do think it makes short work of standing strong amidst life's difficulty.  It sort of encapsulates all of her teachings and presses you towards belonging to yourself.  Belonging is a strong value I want to instill in my boys - the wholeness, courage and bravery that comes alongside belonging - goals for sure.  

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott  Oh sweet, Annie.  I had the pleasure of listening to her, in person, at a lecture series and it only deepen'd my love for her.  She can take difficult topics and lace them tight with a firm dose of hope and this book is no exception. 

Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott . More Annie.  Seriously, this book woke up my mercy-heart and had me crying sweet, happy tears beachside.  I read it in a (long) sitting, but it was such a dear story of underdogs, kind exchanges between strangers and yep - a whole lot of mercy towards self and others.  If your heart needs a lift, a pep talk and a bit of restored hope in humanity - this book's your girl.  Would also make a lovely gift.  

Everyday Faith by Katie Orr This is NOT my first Katie Orr book and I certainly hope it won't be my last.  She taught me how to study the bible more deeply and fully, amidst my stint at seminary - that's sayin something.  Her FOCUSed study method opened my eyes to a bunch of bible resources and got me going deep into the original languages.  Loved this faith focus - another great gift and a super approachable book for easing back into bible study.  I'm all about some biblical literacy and her books really helped ease me back into studying the word and deeply knowing Christ.  One day I'm gonna meet Katie Orr - she lives just a bit up the road - but through these books my study has radically changed.  So good.  

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown  Love Brene.  Think every woman, mother and human should read this.  In the throws of motherhood, business and just life it's easy to get stuck living our lives for others, in the ways we feel they call us to - and Brene challenges us to let go of all the 'keeping up' - to step into living as wholly ourselves.  Good stuff.  Great stuff for dropping baggage I carry as a Momma so it doesn't rub off on my littles.  They need not carry more than this world will ask of them.  

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines  Loved Seth's wife's book and loved his nearly as much.  His story is a raw and honest view into his mind and heart as he quit a long love affair with alcohol.  So pure and honest as he takes you on a walk through hiding his addiction amongst friends, to stopping, through therapy and relationships changing.  Good, good stuff.  

A Fierce Love by Shauna Shanks Oh Shauna's book.  Are you stale in your marriage? Disgruntled about little things or stuck in other areas?  Shauna's book is a good perspective reset and shift.  She walks through her husband's infidelity - yes - but what is so much more rich and transformative is her own heart change and approach to what she felt like was an inevitable end to her marriage.  She makes much of Christ and both compels you to Him as well as in your own life.  

You Are Free, Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons  If you struggle with anxiety or know someone who does this read is for that's you.  Ha!  Rebekah takes you through her life in NYC, lets you in to her battles with anxiety in a season and the ways the Lord cared for and loved her through that.  So much compassion and understanding for those facing anxiety and panic and rich comfort and practical ways to trust the Lord in the midst.  

Soul Keeping by John Ortberg  This book pops up so regularly on my kindle deals email that I decided to give it a go and I am so glad that I did.  It was a good look at soul care through a spiritual disciplines lens.  Lots of good truths like being honest in every single last thing - to others, yes - but to ourselves - no denial etc.  Good stuff - lots of little truths from when we were littles that we so easily forget and don't apply to now.  

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster LOVED this classic.  I think delving into spiritual disciplines has deeped and widened my faith.  So many practical ways to pray, do solitude, study the bible etc.  It's like a 'doing' of Christianity primer.  

Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend  I've been working through Dr. Cloud's works over the past year and this has been one of the most transformational for me.  Looking at the people in our lives and sorting through who is safe, who has safe characteristics and who just isn't.  Also so much growth to be had reading this book in search of learning to be a more safe person for others.  Good, good stuff.  Ministry peeps should totes read this . 

All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth OH my starts.  I'm totally an Edie fangirl at this point and this memoir is what kicked it off.  I think it's the best memoir I've ever read.  For real y'all - and I LOVE me some memoirs.  Her story is just plain crazy, I adored the Appalachian ties, the trash to treasure sort of theme that winds its way through.  And dangit if Edie's transparency and honesty doesn't compel us into leading with our own stories, all hung out and honest.  So good.  If you read nothign, read this.  

Healing the Scars of Childhood Abuse by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD  I grabbed this in a random bookstore trip and am much better for the reading.  I think I read it right after Edie's book, above, that walks through a lot of implications of her own childhood.  After reading this, I feel like the standards for abuse are low (or high - not sure how to say that...) - feels like everyone experienced abusive situations if not length abuse patterns by the criteria within.  I am thankful for this info and the ways this book spells out what childhood abuse grows to look like when you're an adult - how people carry the pains, wounds and patterns of their lives before.  So much understanding and compassion can grow here.  And absolutely has made me comb my mothering with a magnifying glass - and has changed how I respond to my friend's mothering quandaries.  I'll warn you - it will also make you want to rescue quite a few little children from their own terribleness.  

Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton  If you're a high-powered, high-capacity lady (hello fellow enneagram 8's) then Ruths' writing is for you.  I loved her deep dive into solitude and silence from the perspective of a working mother.  Really practical and really transformative of my life with God when I'm sitting under this practice regularly.  If nothing else, I think it helps us claim some yesterdays from our culture.  I often wonder what sort of woman I'd be if I was reared in the 30's or 50' much more quiet.  

The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson, MD  Last in the line of serious -this book is a biblical sort of approach on Brene's shame work.  SO great and while much of the information is similar, much of it is different and eye opening.  Curt feels like an old friend, his merging of medicine, science and faith is approachable yet lofty.