The Seven Book Challenge- The Books that have Inspired, Challenged, and Encouraged Me

The Seven Book Challenge- The Books that have Inspired, Challenged, and Encouraged Me

I was asked by one of my good friends to do the Seven Book Challenge that has been going around Facebook lately. The challenge is to post seven book covers over seven days without an explanation or review and then pass the torch onto the next friend.  It fosters a community of readers and introduces your friends to a new set of books.  I’m not usually one for these kind of Facebook challenges, but I do love sharing about books so I thought I’d give this one a go!

It was hard to narrow down the books I wanted to share to just seven. I decided to share the few that have been having an impact on me lately and a few that I’ve gone back to multiple times for inspiration. And because I didn’t want to stop at just sharing the covers, I thought I’d write a quick post for the blog, sharing my thoughts and reviews on these books.  I hope that you find one (or more) that will inspire you too! These are in no particular order, so scroll to find the ones that speak to you 🙂

The Seven Book Challenge

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1) Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

I love the Martha and Mary story in the Bible. It’s the one story that calls me by name every time I hear it- it brings me a calmness that I don’t find many places. I read this book in college, and it helped bring everything into perspective for me. It was okay to be busy, to do all of the things, and to want perfection, even, but God had to always come first.  Weaver shares how having a “living room intimacy” with Jesus will logically lead to a “kitchen service.”  We’re called to a both/and, not an either/or.  We need to center our days around Jesus, and then allow that to change us. The book also emphasizes that while we often place our own value on how productive we are, our value is, instead, in being God’s child. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World is such a good read for my heart, and I continue to find new nuggets of wisdom each time I read it. 

“Have you ever tried to do it all? I have, I do, and I probably always will. It’s not only in my nature; it’s also in my job description- and yours too. Being a woman requires more stamina, more creativity, and more wisdom than I ever dreamed as a young girl. And that’s not just true for today’s busy women. It has always been the case.” – Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

Read More: For All the Martha’s in the Back

2) No-Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. & Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

I just finished this parenting book recently, and I think it will be super helpful as I get more and more into the parenting trenches with our toddlers. The author’s focus is on parenting with a whole brain perspective. He shares that when a child is misbehaving, they are often reacting with their downstairs brain, defaulting to an irrational fight or flight response.  It is our job as parents to help them learn how to integrate their upstairs brain so that they may learn how to self regulate better in future situations.  My biggest takeaway from this book is the reframing of discipline as punishment to discipline as teaching. Discipline and boundaries are necessary. But, our goal is to connect, redirect, and then teach when the child is ready to learn, instead of pounding in a lesson in the midst of a chaotic moment.  If you’re at all interested in gentle parenting and the hows and why’s, this book is a great starting place!

“You’re probably not going to enjoy discipline, or look forward to future meltdowns. But when you realize that these “misbehavior moments” aren’t just miserable experiences to endure, but actually opportunities for knowledge and growth, you can reframe the whole experience and recognize it as a chance to build the brain and create something meaningful and significant in your child’s life.” -Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson, No-Drama Discipline

3) Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

This is the only book I read through again in my second pregnancy, and I will probably read through in any future ones as well. For anyone seeking a natural birth, this is the book to read. The first half is all birth stories, ranging from home birth to hospital birth.  The stories showcase the many ways that women react to labor and really puts a spotlight on some of the ways our current society medicalizes pregnancy and labor, rather than looking at it as a natural thing. The second half goes more into the details of the how’s and why’s of different labor choices and was super informative, especially as a first time mom.  What I love most about this book is that it empowers the woman in her pregnancy and labor to make the choices that are best for her and her body. Definitely a must read if you’re pregnant or at all interested in pregnancy and labor.

“What I mean by true capacities of the female body are those that are experienced by real women, whether or not these abilities are recognized by medical authorities. The way I see it, the most trustworthy knowledge about women’s bodies combines the best of what medical science has offered over the past century or two with what women have always been able to learn about themselves before birth moved into hospitals” – Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

4) Girl, Arise! by Claire Swinarski

Girl, Arise! is written by the creator of The Catholic Feminist Podcast (one of my favorites!). The tagline is “A Catholic Feminist’s Invitation to Live Boldly, Love Your Faith, and Change the World.” The phrase “Catholic Feminist” can sometimes seem like an oxymoron, and a lot of people wonder how these two things can come together what with the seeming disconnect between issues such as birth control, abortion, lack of women priests, and gay marriage. It all comes down to what your definition of a feminist is- Claire’s working definition is “to be a feminist is to believe that women are beautiful, unique, and equal in dignity to men.” The Catholic church is one that is focused on upholding the dignity of the person, so really, these phrases go hand in hand. I could probably talk all day about this issue, but I’ll save that for another time. This book is a great start to looking into what it means to be a Feminist and a Catholic, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone struggling with this dissonance.

“Pro-life should be more than a rallying cry; it should be more than a slogan on a bumper sticker or tank top. It should be more than abortion, capital punishment, and immigration. It isn’t a set of laws but a state of mind and heart- one that consistently puts people over profit and puts those people on equal footing. To be pro-life means to avoid wishing harm on others and to instead put them first.” – Claire Swinarski, Girl, Arise!

5) The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart

I raved about this book when I read it, and it had to make this list too. I had originally gotten this book from the library and ended up buying a copy so that I can read it again and/or share it with others.  In The Grace of Enough, Stewart shares how her family made the radical decision to leave their “normal” lives and move halfway across the country, away from extended family, to start a life doing an internship on a sustainable farm with no flushing toilets, all with three small kiddos. Through this journey, her family learned about slow living, sustainability, and hospitality, among other things, in a way they might not have otherwise. These are all ideas that I’d love to incorporate more into our lives, and so I am using this book as a reminder to not get caught up in the world. I want to instead focus on our family, those around us, and, most importantly, on Jesus. 

“But the heart of the matter is that our children will watch us. The most powerful antidote to the throwaway culture is when we model simplicity, hospitality, and generosity in “the domestic church.” In this school of love, the home, we aim to educate children in faith and charity so that they will not be taken in by the false promises of consumerism… My prayer is that someday my children will see something beautiful in our crazy experiment and the goodness of what we wanted to offer them.” – Haley Stewart, The Grace of Enough

6) Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery with the Saints

This book is set up as a daily devotional with each month focusing on a different virtue to grow in.  Each day has a quote from a saint and then a few stories of that saint or others living out the virtue that is being referenced. I have been using this book in my prayer time, allowing myself to skip to the day I’m on instead of trying to catch up.  Maybe some day, I’ll read them all!  The Lord has been using this book to really call me to growth in a lot of different areas. It makes me think deeper about what I’m doing and where I’m going and draws me closer to him in my prayer time.  If you’re looking for something to give more depth to your moral growth, this is the book for you! 

“When once we have placed ourselves totally in the hands of God, we have no cause to fear misfortune; for if any should come to us, He will know how to make it turn ot our good, by ways which we do not know now, but which, one day, we shall know- St. Vincent De Paul” – Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery with the Saints

7) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

This book seems a little out of place among the others, but definitely belongs among my seven top books.  The Harry Potter series was such an important part of my adolescence and taught me so many life lessons that I hope to also pass onto my children through the books. The seventh, and final book, stood out to me as it was the end of an era. I had grown up with Harry and the gang, and it felt like the closing of a door when the last book was finally published. Even so, the books were something that I grew closer with friends and family through, and still do now (Tony and I literally quoted Harry Potter today).  The greatest thing about the books is that I can go back and reread them as if I am meeting again with old friends, even as an adult.

If you have not listened to the audio books of the Harry Potter series, I highly recommend them. The narrator does such a great job bringing the characters to life in the recordings. My family used them as road trip books, and the bond that we grew out of sharing Harry Potter together is really beautiful.  Check them out through Audible– you get a couple free audio books with a trial (and you get to keep them even if you quit)!

It was hard to pick one quote, so here are two 😉

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – Dumbledore, JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.” – Also Dumbledore, JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Seven Book Challenge

So there you have it, my seven book challenge! I’d love to hear what your seven books are. Maybe they’ve changed your life, they are inspiring you currently, or they are your go to old friends. Whatever they are, send them my way so that I can add them to my to-read list too!

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Mama’s Inspired by Books Too- August Edition

Mama’s Inspired by Books Too- August Edition

Hey friends, I am starting up a monthly post in which I share the books that are inspiring me that month. Instead of wasting time on Facebook or my super addicting coloring app, I’ve been attempting to read more again- and not just parenting books! I’m finding that it is super important for my mental health with two small kiddos to make time for myself that isn’t turning my brain even more into mush. When I read, I not only get to practice a little escapism, but also I fill my brain and my heart up with new and inspiring ideas. The books I’ve been reading lately have definitely been calls to action and probably one of the reasons that I started this blog in the first place. I hope that one (or more!) of them may call your name and that you’ll be inspired by these books too!

Inspired by Books, Everybody Always, Bob Goff

1) Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff

I actually read this one several months ago now, but it was so good that I needed to share it here. This book is the follow up book to Love Does, which I actually have yet to read, so you can read them out of order without worry. Bob is a Christian speaker, author, lawyer, and father and strings many of his crazy experiences in with lessons he’s learned over the years. Each of these focuses on how important it is to give love to everyone you see no matter how they are to you or what it costs you. It made me want to break out of my introverted shell and actually talk to people when we’re out and about and, in doing so, push myself to do the uncomfortable thing that is loving on the strangers in my life. I’m really not great at this, but I’m working on it!

This book, and the next one on this list, also inspired me to actually meet our neighbors after living in our apartment for over a year.  I baked some cookies and awkwardly knocked on two of their doors (including the downstairs neighbors we’ve been scared of because our children are crazy, and we have wood floors). They turned out to be decently nice people and now we say hi to the people across the way whenever we see them out walking their dog.  Little steps in loving others make us better humans.

“Jesus talked to His friends a lot about how we should identify ourselves. He said it wouldn’t be what we said we believed or all the good we hoped to do someday. Nope, He said we would identify ourselves simply by how we loved people. It’s tempting to think there is more to it, but there’s not. Love isn’t something we fall into; love is someone we become.” – Bob Goff, Everybody Always

Inspired by Books, The Grace of Enough, Haley Stewart2) The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture by Haley Stewart

I just finished this book, and it was exactly what I needed to read right now. Haley talks about the cognitive dissonance between consumerism/the throwaway culture and living out the Gospel. It goes into the importance of slowing down and simplifying life, of focusing on the family home, and of creating a community of friends through breaking bread together.  She shares how her family made the radical decision to quit their jobs and move halfway across the country, away from extended family, to start a life doing an internship on a sustainable farm with no flushing toilets, all with three small kiddos. Just thinking about it makes me get a little anxious, and it did her too, as she quotes Mother Angelica, “Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.”  By taking a leap of faith, this seemingly crazy life change brought them closer to each other, to the Earth, and to God.

This book made me want to do something similarly crazy, except we don’t know what we’d want to do or where we’d want to go- I don’t think farming is for us ;).  Maybe, it’s as easy as starting off in our own home by slowing things down and not focusing on all the “stuff” that gets in the way of creating an intentional family culture.  Or maybe, it’s just giving ourselves over to the uncomfortable interactions we have with others and building up the community that we’re already surrounded by.  Overall, this book was a huge call out to me, and I’m interested to see where God is planning to take me (and Tony if I can convince him to read it!) next.

“Life is an adventure orchestrated by God, and our attempts to be in the driver’s seat will always result in mere frustration. Why? Because this is not the way of authentic love, which involves the total surrender of self. Authentic love calls for sacrifice. That is true of all of us. Whether it’s being up with a baby all night, caring for an aging parent, giving a hurting friend a landing place in your home for a while, or becoming a foster parent, we will be called on to sacrifice.” -Haley Stewart, The Grace of EnoughInspired by Books- Love Lives Here, Maria Goff3) Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want by Maria Goff

This book was actually written by the wife of the first book I listed. Where her husband, Bob, is an extrovert going out into the world and doing really big and important things, Maria is an introvert mostly staying at home and creating an intentional environment for her kids and husband to come home to. She talks about how often it is the small intentional decisions that we are making that really make the biggest difference in our families and in our lives.  Maria also shares how important rest is when we invest so much of ourselves into the people around us- something that I desperately needed to read.

I so loved her viewpoint as a stay at home mother in the background, as that’s often the part of the family that I take on. The points that she shared about creating an environment that is peaceful and loving for my children and husband to be home in have really hit home.  I don’t want the first thing that Tony feels when he comes home from work to be my anger and frustration with how my day has been going.  Now, I’m not talking 50’s housewife here, but by greeting Tony with a smile and not immediately going into all of the drama that my day has entailed, I am able to set a much happier tone for the rest of our evening.

“Ability is what we can already do; an ambition is who we want to become… I try to focus my time on doing things that serve and advance the most lasting and beautiful of my ambitions. The kind Jesus talked to His friends about. Figure out what those are for you, and do more of that.” – Maria Goff, Love Lives Here

Inspired by Books- Anne of Green Gables4) The Anne of Green Gables Collection: Anne Shirley Books 1-6 by L. M. Montgomery

I’m trying to figure out how to get back into fiction books and which ones are worth reading when there are so many to choose from at the library. I decided to start by going back to the classics. By scrolling through my Hoopla app (containing ebooks and audiobooks from the library), I found this collection and thought I’d give it a try. I vaguely remember reading these when I was younger, but a lot of the story is reading new to me. If you haven’t read the Anne of Green Gables books, I definitely recommend them, and if you haven’t read them as an adult, I’d recommend going back and reading them. Since I’m reading it in ebook form, I’ve been able to read it on my phone while I’m nursing Charlie back to sleep for the 4th time that night, allowing me to get a little more reading in during an otherwise “wasted” time.  I’m currently on the third book, and they are just so good for my soul.

Anne has such a beautiful, childlike whimsy about her that has been rubbing off on the way I’m seeing the world right now. It’s helping me to see more of the positives and to look at life with more of a childlike lens.  I’m remembering the importance of having an imagination and of using it to change what might seem like a bad situation into a good one.  Anne is the type of character I’m excited to introduce my kiddos to in the future- kind, but bold, and always striving to do her best in her life and in the lives of those around her. These are such sweet books and really easy reads for those of you who have mushy brains like me right now!

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

I’ve been having such a great time getting back into reading- it’s kind of fun to be sneaking another chapter in after my self-instilled bedtime! (#OnceANerdAlwaysANerd) I hope you’ll be inspired by these books too! I’d love to hear what you’re reading right now.  Comment below or share with me on Facebook what you’re reading- I have quite the stack waiting to be read right now, and I’m always looking for more suggestions of what to add to the list next!

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