Best Reads for 2012

One of my goals this year was to read more. I read 44+ books in 2011 (With the best 10 listed in THIS POST). Including the homeschooling books, cookbooks (yes, I read those cover to cover), and e-books, I at least doubled that number in 2012.

And I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you.

PLEASE NOTE: Most of these books have been published for years. I’m just that far behind in my reading. I’m hoping some of you have missed these along the way and I can enhance your library request list for 2013.
Also note: I am not an affiliate of Amazon. I just prefer visuals and they provide such an easy way of doing that. Feel free to click on these images to find out more about the book, but do not feel obligated to purchase from them, etc…

Favorite Memoir/Biography

It’s a toss up between these two:

Both are so different and yet completely relevant. Inspiring. Eye opening.
And this one I borrowed from my hubby’s bookshelf and oh my. It’s long, but worth it.

Favorite Novel

I’m not a huge novel reader, but I devoured this one in a weekend! So good.

Surprised Me The Most

I have to be honest. I didn’t expect 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker to hit me as hard as it did. You see, extravagant is not an adjective to describe me. It’s been a year since I’ve purchased any new clothing for myself. And I wouldn’t consider my home cluttered. Until I read this, looked inside myself and realized I have much to shed…

Was so Good I Had to Read it Twice

This book hit me so hard I had to read it twice. You might have noticed, I quote from it often. And to think, I discovered this on my own (well, my hubby’s) bookshelf!

Friends, it will make you look in the mirror and question your own spirituality. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says — you’ll see grace in a whole new way. And it’s a really quick read!

Need to Add to My Personal Library

I’m not sure why it took me so long to read these. They’ve been out awhile. But I’m so glad I fixed that this year. The Ragamuffin Gospel and A Circle of Quiet I had checked out from the library (more than once). The Pursuit of God I own on my kindle. Even still, I think I’ll be adding these to my own personal library this year so I can mark them all up!

Favorite Cookbook

I read this cookbook a couple years ago and have re-read it multiple times. I finally added it to my cookbook collection and enjoy referring to it while I’m trying to toss in extra veggies into my dishes.

A number of these muffins and cereal bars, I make a couple times a month. If you haven’t looked at this cookbook before, I do recommend doing so.

I was going to have an honorary mention category, but I couldn’t narrow it down…

Earlier this year, I started listing the books I was reading on my blog (not including the homeschool or cookbooks). It was buried in my Personal Bucket List and hard to find, however. Going forward, I plan on giving what I’m reading it’s own page, making it easy to locate. Please feel free to visit the page at any time (You may find it HERE). I would love if you would also whisper out suggestions of some to add throughout the year!

How about you, friend? What have you read recently that is still resonating with you? What book would you like to see me add to my list for 2013? I’d love to hear. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Craving Results {And a Little Graffiti, Too}

Friends, I’m completely honored to be sharing some thoughts from my dear friend Alene with you today. I trust she will bless your heart as much as she does mine (and I’ll talk more about her at the end).

Take it away, Alene!

Do You Crave Results?

It was a precious moment in time. I was visiting with my friend Rick, who lives on the streets, when he sensed I was tired and worn-down.

I didn’t realize my wavering spirit was easy to read. I was frustrated. I had been serving and pouring into others and waiting . . .

Waiting for the fruit. I wanted to see results.

Couldn’t God just show Himself to confirm the direction of my call?

I so desperately wanted to know what I was doing was making a difference. I wanted to know that being tired and weary was worth the battle.

Arriving at church the next Sunday, I was met by Rick. He handed me a poem he had written.

The Seed

“We as Christians are called to a deed
To share the love of God, thereby planting the seed.
Not being concerned with the ground it might fall
Just do it with prayer and answer the call.

The world is hurting so much it’s crying
Don’t be another Christian who’s not even trying.
Pointing a finger at one that has fell
Knowing even God wishes no one goes to hell.

Oh! What a tragedy it would certainly be
If even one is lost that could have been free.
Seeing a brother or sister in such desperate need
Then only able to cry to God “why didn’t I plan the seed!”

Are you craving results?

Those are not ours to reap. God instructs us to plant the seed. He is responsible for the results.

Matthew 13:18-23 NLT
“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds:
The seed that fell on the footpath represents those
who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it.
Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed
that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil
represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long.
They fall away as soon as they have problems or
are persecuted for believing God’s word.
The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out
by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth,
so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil
represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word
and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

About Alene:  Alene loves to tell the story. With a heart for the broken, Alene Snodgrass speaks, writes, and blogs about her real life experiences serving people in the inner city. Alene’s blog,, is where many come who are seeking and searching to be challenged to find their purpose through serving others.

You can connect with her

on Facebook
or Twitter.

Friends, Alene has a new e-book out that I am so excited about! I devoured it in one sitting…

Graffiti is about the amazing journey of how two people, Alene and a homeless friend, thought they had nothing in common. As they stepped out of their comfort zones God revealed there was a common heart-story to be shared.

This e-book has a way of letting you see others through the lens of love. Won’t you consider adding it to your library?

You may Download
it here.

Friends, I am blown away by what Alene is offering right now with her e-book Graffiti. If you order it BEFORE November 30th, she is offering 9 of her other amazing resources FREE! That’s a $75 value for less than a tall mocha…

I could go on and on, but you can find out all the info you need HERE.

You all know I’m not a big promotional blogger. I rarely do reviews and it’s not because I haven’t been asked. It’s just not what He’s called me to do. But Alene is near and dear to my heart. I met her in this crazy cyber space back in February. And her passion for reaching out with His hand of love is contagious. Friends, my faith has blossomed because of her outlook and I’m certain you would be blessed by her, too.

How about you? Have you been craving results? Have you planted seeds lately? How do you wait for the fruit? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with us.

Simply striving,


You’re Already Amazing {Giveaway!}

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. has spoken and picked #3.
Kristin, you’re the winner!
Email me your mailing address.
Thank you everyone for participating!
I hope you will find a way to get your hands on this book.
When you do, let me know. I’d love to chat with you about it.

Friends, I must admit I started this book a bit skeptical. I doubted it would convince me the title is in fact true. You see, I have my mother in me. And she is not one to talk about herself, or make note of any of her successes or try to prove anything of herself in words. Why, that would seem selfish and self-centered. And I truly am my mother’s daughter. I have never used the word ‘amazing’ to describe myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than willing to admit when I fall short in areas. Why, just look at the title of my blog. But I have a very hard time admitting I am anything close to amazing.

Until now.

Holley reeled me in in the first chapter (yes, I’m on a first name basis with the author. I read her blog after all). She called me on the carpet right away and said:

“If you want to understand yourself just so that you can do whatever you’d like for your personal gain, then it’s self-centered. If your intent is to love God, others, and yourself more, then knowing who you are is one of the most unselfish things you can do.” (pg 24)

And it just got better from there.

This book is not a self-help book to becoming perfect. It’s a book to help you learn how to turn to Jesus and give Him your all. To be brave enough to be who He has made you to be. Not be like anyone else. Just you. Amazing you.

If I were to sum up the book with one quote, this is the one I’d pick:

All you are, everything God created you to be,
becomes a gift when placed in His hands.
There’s nothing He can’t mold, shape, redeem,
form into something beautiful.
You don’t have to be afraid or hold back —
just hold out your heart to the One who
promises to complete the good work He’s already started in you. (pg 184)

A part of me wants to share with you all the ways God spoke to my heart while reading. I’m sure I will at some point. But that’s not what I want to do today. I want to give a book to you. So we can talk about it together. How it impacted each of us.

Friend, do you think you could benefit from reading this book? Or do you know someone you’d like to gift it to? I’d love to hear.

This book was given to me by my friend Mary (as I won her giveaway for it) and I would love to do the same. I have a new copy ready to gift to you! I so hope you win.


I plan on giving away one book to one winner randomly. I’m sorry–US Residents only.

Any valid entry can win as it will be via random selection (yes, my dear sister, even you could enter).

Giveaway will end Memorial Day, May 28th at noon. I will contact the winner shortly after and update this blog post with the results.

Winner will have 48 hours to respond or another name will be chosen.


Simply comment. Tell me why you’d like to win. And if you would also share the book with someone else. Please make sure I can contact you if you win by commenting with a valid email, Facebook or twitter log in.


If you follow Simplystriving either by Facebook or email/reader, let me know in an additional comment for an extra entry.

NOTE: You must make an additional comment for this extra entry (it’s the only way works fairly).

Feel free to share this giveaway if you think someone else could benefit!

I can’t wait to hear from you! And look forward to notifying the winner.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Well on my Way

It came in the mail just over a year ago. I was so excited for it was one of the first giveaways I had ever won and a book I was so anxious to read. I had been following the author’s personal blog for a while and was elated to finally hold her words in my hand.

When I read:

living with losses, I may choose to still say yes.
Choose to say yes to what He freely gives.
Could I live that — the choice to open the hands
to freely receive whatever God gives?
If I don’t — I am still making a choice…

on page 18, I knew I was in for some soul-searching. For losing my son was something I still held on to too tightly.

I was captivated. A complete sponge. It was challenging to put down, but even harder to read fast. I wanted to savor every page, make sure I didn’t miss anything.

About two weeks later, I was ready to begin the dare. The challenge of putting the book into action. And on March 30th, 2011, I did just that.

Count one thousand gifts,
bless the Holy One one hundred times a day,
commune with His presence filling…me.
This is what it means to fully 226

I am an optimist by nature and thought it would come easy. This writing down brief moments where I felt/saw God’s hand of love. My Savior gifting me with joy. Was I ever wrong. It required more focus, intention, than I ever anticipated.

In the beginning, my goal was to write 10 each day. I failed miserably. So I decided to strive for 3. That came easier while still requiring conscious effort. But soon, I was only listing on the weekdays. And some days, I would forget completely.

I went the entire month of August with my journal on a shelf. Only 255 gifts were listed.

Excuses, now they came easy. I was in a knee brace during this time, unable to put any weight on my right leg for too long. And when I look back on it now, I see why I needed to be that still. I see what God was preparing me for.

Am I living God’s best for this life
or am I bankrupting any legacy of faith?

Stress can be an addiction and worry can be
our lunge for control and we forget
the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ.” pg 159

God spoke to me while my legs were elevated. He stirred my heart like never before. And He showed me what I needed to do. To live more intentionally. To keep my focus upward and not in the mirror. To be more accountable.

Gift 256 read: No knee brace.
Gift 257 read: Lessons learned in starting a blog.

God asked me to open up and share my heart. At first, just for me and Him. Simplystriving was set to private. Only my husband and I were able to read those first few posts.

Nov. 5, 2011 Gift 273: Sharing my heart with anyone who will listen. I opened the doors.

And on March 23, 2012 — nearly a year after I began, look what happened:

I’d like to say I made it, but that wouldn’t really be true. No, friends. I’ve finally figured it out. I’m well on my way to receiving His lavishing love.

And so I continue. Counting my thanks. Acknowledging gifts given to me from Him:

  • God will never go back on His word. (Isaiah 45:23)
  • Even Jeremiah felt ill-equipped.
  • A reader reaching out, blessing me with her words in my hands.
  • A cleansing spring drench.
  • Friends praying for me simply because they want to.
  • Warming up the house by baking.
  • I am set apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)

How about you? What are you thankful for? How have you chosen joy lately? Have you read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp yet? How has it changed your perspective? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


NOTE: I am not an affiliate of anything. There are links in this post that allow you to view the book I’m referring to and purchase if desired. They’re used for your convenience as there are fabulous reviews listed there as well.

Linking up with:

My Best Reads for 2011

I’m really striving to remember. To reflect on how far I’ve come. To be reminded of all that God has shown me this year.

And as the year-end is on the horizon, I’d like to share some of that with you.

One randomly scattered post at a time.

I must admit I lost count somehow, but I can recall reading 44 books/cookbooks (yes, I read cookbooks cover to cover) in 2011. Here are the books for 2011 that had the most impact on me.

1. Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

I may have finished this book by the time this posts. It’s my current read and I’m nearly done.
I must admit I went into this book skeptical. I honestly didn’t think my soul had much mystery.
I was wrong.
I don’t consider myself a girly-girl, but that doesn’t stop me from having all three of every woman’s main desires mentioned in this book. So thankful I read the words with my heart open wide.

2. The Bible

Who would I be if I didn’t list this one. I read the New Testament through this year in The Message Translation (which I had never done before) and was quite surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
I read the Old Testament through in the NRSV version — straight from THIS BIBLE I was gifted with years ago by my (then future) in-laws. Next year, I plan on reading out of the Living translation simply because I haven’t before. And I’m going to read the Psalms and Proverbs from The Message. My friend Lisa inspired me to do so.

3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Don’t think I need to say much about this one except that I lost some sleep while reading this as I had trouble putting it down!

4. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I enjoy reading this book every few years. It’s one of my all-time favorites. If you have not read it, please put it on your 2012 list. Please.

5. Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

It doesn’t matter if you believe the story actually happened. What matters to me is if you believe it could. If you believe in the place Jesus went to prepare for us. And I loved how this book allowed me to reflect on my eternity.

6. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

This is the only parenting book I’ve read more than once. This year was my 3rd time reading it and I learned just as much as the previous two times. I love his perspective on parenting and the Biblical foundation he lays down as he provides a practical approach to the most important role I’ll ever have.

7. I Will Carry You by Angie Smith

I read this book in 2010 right after I delivered my 2nd son stillborn. It was just what I needed. So much so that I read it again in 2011. Even if you haven’t experienced the loss of a child, this book is worth a read. Because we all grieve. And we can all experience the joy on the other side.

8. Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D.

Yet another book I went into skeptical. And I’ll even admit I’m not living out the diet laid out in the book. But it changed the way I eat for a variety of reasons and the knowledge I gained about grains, carbs and even my disease of Hashimoto’s made this book worth my time. I even think it would be worth yours.

9. The Healthy Family Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen

I have a habit of checking out cookbooks from the library. Some I check out multiple times. This was one of them. And this has even made my list of cookbooks worth purchasing (along with a number of America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks — I love them).

10. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

It was the reason I started this blog in the first place. It was the only book I read for the first time in 2011 that will be added to my forever favorites. For it has changed my perspective on joy. If you haven’t read it I implore you to change that.

How about you? What are some of your favorite books? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


(NOTE: This post is filled with links to Please know that I’m not an affiliate. Amazon doesn’t know me from Eve. Feel free to click on any of the images or links to see more about the book I’m referring to, but do not feel obligated to purchase from the site you’re directed to. If you’re like me, you’ll check with your library first!)

Am linking this up with: