Top 11 Favorite Books Read in 2015

Each year I catalog my favorite books read throughout the year. I try to write about them along the way in this space, and yet I inevitably read many more than you hear about – and sometimes I overlook my very favorites.

So I annually look back at the year past and record my favorite books read. For 2015 I give you not a countdown as in the past – a rating from #11 to #1 – but I’m giving you my top favorites in the five categories I read from most often.

#5 Parenting

No -Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel – This builds on his foundational teaching in Whole-Brain Child and makes it practical. Literally included are cartoons showing you as a parent how to implement his teaching on parenting. I would be lying if I told you that our home has transformed and there is never any drama ever – but this lays out a worthy goal to aim for, which has resulted in small changes. Like being emotionally more attuned to our daughters, even and especially in the midst of moments of discipline.

#4 Motivational

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – by Marie Kondo – Wow. Just wow. It has been magic in our home, and I have a long way to go before I’m at the place where I would say I’ve finished her method of home-organizing (a.k.a. “radical purging”). At least with Kondo, I have a map of what’s next and directions as to how to get there.

Rising Strong – by Brené Brown – Read my review here. I love Brown’s work, and her latest book continues in her trajectory of thought, inspiring action and courage – especially in the midst of so-called failures.

#3 Writing

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – I felt like I was on a writing retreat with Dillard as she described her process of writing candidly. Writing can be incredibly isolating, but somehow this book makes a writer feel less so as you nod your head in agreement at the inevitable highs and lows of the writing process.

If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit  by Brenda Ueland – If Dillard’s book felt like a companion, Ueland’s book became like the writing coach I’ve always wanted. She gives helpful pointers like how to find your voice, and how good writing is best done in the midst of real-life – not separate from it on the proverbial “mountain top.” A classic and a must-read for all my fellow writers out there!

#2 Fiction

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen – Quindlen’s fiction is poetic and her narrative is gripping. You’ll savor each page – pun intended.

 The Space Between Us by Thrity Umbrigar – A piercing piece that transports the reader to another culture and unexpected joys and tragedies of a close network of relationships.

 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Amazing. Page-turner – beautifully written. Worth the hype and the Pullitzer Prize 1000 times over.

#1 Spiritual/Devotional/Christian Non-Fiction

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with both our Hearts and Minds by Jen Wilkin – I call this gem of a book a condensed and highly accessible version of everything I learned in seminary about studying the Bible. Jen will feel like a friend and mentor as she takes you through her process of Bible study, making God’s Word come alive in new ways and coaching you through owning your Bible study for yourself.

A Loving Life by Paul Miller – Miller’s book met me with hope mixed with challenge, giving me the push and courage I needed to depend on Jesus’ life of love within me as I loved those around me. He uses the book of Ruth as a guide for looking at what it means to lay down your life in “one-way love” – a “one-way love” that is motivated and empowered by the ultimate “one-way love” of God for us in Jesus Christ.

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily Freeman – Freeman’s book is another favorite of hers. This book more than any others I read continues to reverbate through my soul, calling me to notice the sparkle of the ordinary and the gift found in sitting and being still. The result has been a deeper willingness to embrace the mundane and a more pervasive joy in even the “simply Tuesday” moments of my life.


my favorite things

A friend told me about attending a “Favorite Things” party this year, and besides feeling like that must have been the best kind of party ever, it also inspired me to think about my favorite things and to create a list to share with you. RPCo Calendar 2016Rifle Paper Co. wall calendar. My friends know how *obsessed* I am with everything RPCo. Not the least of which is because I know the founder, Anna Bond. And by “know,” I mean that I’ve met her a couple times because my husband grew up with her in New Jersey. Her older brother was in our wedding; her mom helped to host two beautiful showers for me in NJ (bridal and baby); and so *of course* I love promoting her products. (Which honestly promote themselves – she and her business partner-hubby have done amazingly well over the past few years, which is putting it very modestly.)

journaling bible

The ESV journaling Bible Beautifully typeset, art-worthy cover design, AND space to write/draw in the margins. It’s a no-brainer for this writer-artist-who loves the life-giving words of the Bible. They carry many other covers and designs here, including this one that male readers may find a bit more appealing: esv journaling bible - black

And while you’re buying Bibles, consider this one for your 5-10 year old:

ESV children's Bible

My five-year-old daughters’ top toys on their wish list:

palace petsPalace Pets


Disney Frozen sing-a-longDisney Frozen Sing-a-long


magnetic tilesMagnetic tiles

model magicModel magic



Brené Brown’s “Living Brave” semester 


“The Living Brave Semester is a unique, online learning experience that provides participants with the opportunity to explore what it means to fully show up in our lives – to be brave, lean into vulnerability, and to rumble with the challenges that come with living a daring life. The semester is divided into two six-week sessions. The first six-week session will focus on Daring Greatly and the second session will focus on Rising Strong.” (click on highlighted title to read my review of the book at The Gospel Coalition Blog)

These curtains at Pottery Barn kids:

PB curtains

And, of course, no list of my favorite things would be complete without a few books:

Permission to Parent



This parenting book is my #1 go-to right now. Published in 2014, I keep thinking, “Where has this parenting book been all my life?” (Or at the very least, for the past three years of seeking to parent two delightful and strong daughters without crushing their spirits OR appeasing their demands.)

journey to joyThe devotional gem Josh Moody has written about the Psalms of Ascent are leading my heart along with its words to hope and joy in Jesus.

For the LoveJen Hatmaker’s latest has done all that it promised – made me laugh, cry, and feel like she’s my new best friend while pointing me to life’s truest calling: Love.


[Note: There are affiliate links for the Amazon items, meaning that Amazon will give me a teensy-tiny portion of whatever you decide to order. It’s the *only* monetizing I’ve done with my blog, intentionally so because I want to keep this space advertising- and offer-free. We get enough marketing in every other aspect of our lives, Amen?!]

Days 18 & 19: the best advice for twins, elementary school age and beyond

This will be the final part of “the best advice” mini-series, addressing the area of elementary school age and beyond.

photo from

photo from

On the twin connection: 

“I read an article written by 18-year-old twin sisters attending different colleges. They agreed that the strangest part of that experience had been remembering to refer to themselves singly: “my birthday,” “my mom,” etc rather than “our.” That put into perspective that they not only share the same home life, as all siblings do, but also their external childhood experiences: same grade in school, same Sunday school class/teacher, same sports teams, many of the same friends, etc. No wonder the bond is so strong.” – Stacy L., mom to 2-year-old identical twin daughters

On perspective: 

“We pretty much threw ourselves into parenting…..till the girls were 2 and our older son was 5. We went on a short term mission trip that was great for both of us to see ministry outside of parenting. It caused us to come home and 1. work on our marriage hard core, 2. seek to see what God was doing outside of our family.”- Penny F., mom to 28-year-old fraternal twin daughters (who are both pregnant and due within 10 weeks of each other!), and a 31-year-old son

“During pregnancy, I was given a “Chicken Soup for Moms of Twins and More” book, and there’s a story in it about a woman who gave birth to triplets in the 1910s — obviously, a complete shock. Her husband would go away during the week for work, leaving her home to care for all three babies in a small apartment. In the early days, when sleep was at a premium and I felt sorry for myself with all of the pumping and bottle washing and diaper changing, I thought of that woman, who had an extra baby and no refrigerator, dishwasher, Diaper Genie or Netflix subscription!! All of a sudden, life didn’t look so bleak.” – Stacy L., mom to 2-year-old identical twin daughters

On whether to separate your twins or keep them in the same class at school:

“Put them in the same class.  Plenty of people will argue with you and of course you know your kids better than anyone else.  But when it comes to remembering which days you have to wear tennis shoes (PE) or which days to return the library book or the amount of HW or even if one kid gets a great teacher and the other doesn’t….the same class just evens everything out.– Heather B., mom to 10-year-old identical twin daughters

As a counterbalance, I’ll add that another twin mama said the opposite to me in a conversation a few months ago. She said that separating her twins helped tremendously with their ability to get along together when they were back at home. She said that it was harder on her than on them.

For us – we have a year (or less) to decide what to do when they attend kindergarten. So far, they’ve been in the same class for each year of preschool, which seems comforting to them to have each other and certainly is easier on us in terms of remembering school-related details. Both sides have unique appeals: I like the idea of them being able to cultivate their own friend groups and classroom experience; but on the other side, they’ve never been without each other for longer than a few hours, and I wonder what the impact could be on them of separation.

I would love to hear the experiences of my fellow twin parents who are reading along – what did you do? Would you recommend it or not? Why or why not?

(And note that only positive and encouraging/helpful comments will be approved – no adding to the all-too-common online “mom wars.” We are all warriors doing hard things and so let’s support each other in every way we can.)

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.” 

Day 11: the 6 best books on twins

#write31days series/IRL note: For the next week, I will have double features for each day to give space to catch up with the 31-day series. Everything I wrote about regarding how raising twins takes a village and abundant grace we have experienced the past few weeks, this past week especially as the girls were sick and couldn’t go to school the.entire.week. With the exception of A. going on Wed. – but then spiking a fever of 103 later that night. #momguilt The village of grace looked like me reaching out for help and asking for meals, and friends graciously reading between the lines to know that this meant I felt pretty desperate. At the end of this week, I can honestly say that I feel both worn out and refreshed. #graceparadox

Ok – if you’re like me, you probably had no idea that there were so many books on twins out there. All of these were extremely helpful, and I’ll try to categorize these as “best for …” in order to differentiate between them.

#1 – Best for twin pregnancy, labor, and delivery: 

twins barbara luke book

When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads by Dr. Barbara Luke and Tamara Eberlein

Besides making you feel like, “whew! I *only* have twins,” Dr. Luke is warm in tone and knowledgeable in her advice. It was almost as great as my biweekly visits to my incredible OB-GYN and midwife. It includes sections on bed rest, a recipe collection at the back of the book, specific weight gain goals, and what to expect if your babies spend time in the NICU.

#2 – Best for practical tips and advice for pregnancy through year one of twins: 

Twinspiration: Real Life Advice from Pregnancy Through the First Year by Cheryl Lage

This mother of twins throws in lots of humor to make you laugh as you wonder how in the world you’ll make it through … ! She also has a great blog that has been incredibly helpful to let me know what to expect along this journey, since her twins are a few years older than mine.

#3 – Juggling Twins Best for practical tips and advice from newborn to toddler phase of twins: 

juggling twins

Juggling Twins by Meghan Regan-Loomis 

This is another mother of twins who is also quite humorous. My mother-in-law read this book and she said she found it very helpful – that it covers everything and gives specific ideas. I wholeheartedly agree.

#4 – Best balance of medical advice and practical wisdom for the first 5 years of twins by a mother who’s also a pediatrician:

raising twins

Raising Twins: From Pregnancy to Preschool by Dr. Shelly Vaziri Flais

She is straight-forward with helpful advice and not a lot of “fluff” with a style that is both readable and practical, like discussing the specific steps of how to actually transport twins from your house to the car when they’re still infants.

#5 and #6 – Best for sleeping and feeding advice for the first year of twins if you choose to take a more structured approach:

“A Contented House With Twins” by Gina Ford and Alice Beer 

a contented house with twins

There will be some British English “translation” required – such as deciphering that “dummy” refers to pacifier/etc. It’s a combination book, written primarily by a British nanny who’s an expert on child-rearing with introductions to each chapter by a twin mom. She is very, very specific, giving an hourly/daily schedule as a guideline which could be off-putting to some. Worth sorting through for some good gems and advice on the desperate days and weeks of raising newborn twins. Especially if you don’t read her book title as a promise!

healthy sleep habits, happy twins

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins by Dr. Marc Weissbluth 

Dr. Weissbluth applies his formative insights and instruction on developing healthy sleep habits from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child to twins. It’s best to read/browse his general sleep book first, and then read the twins version.

Five Minute “Friday”: “dream”

It’s been a full week – the week of “Camp” where my girls got to be part of Camp Jr., and my husband and I helped out with running the sports and arts camp that our church puts on every year in a low-income housing project. I love that it’s more than the traditional vacation Bible school – much more demographically diverse, and that it’s a launching pad to relationships with this community that we as a church nurture throughout the year. But, yes, it’s also exhausting, and we are all thankful for a low-key Saturday ahead of us.

I’ll start with Five Minute “Friday” – this week’s prompt is “dream”:


dreamDreams are what fuel ambition. They get me through the mundane and the monotonous that always comes with pursuing a dream. Like the dream of writing a book. It feels glorious until you hit writer’s block and you have a third of the book left to write. It feels better-than-amazing until faced with the challenge of carving out enough time to write from the busyness that is life.

And the dream of marriage and parenting (and a white-picket fence). We don’t have a white-picket fence, but in realizing the dream of owning our first home we also have the reality of endless home projects and maintenance/repair. Marriage and parenting? Those dreams are good and beautiful dreams, as long as I don’t let the difficulty of their real-life day-to-day taint the dream itself. The dream I had/have of marriage and parenting could be what keeps me going despite the seasons that feel so at odds with the original dream. The essence of my dream? Building a community of love around THE love of Christ. To walk towards that, to remember that, even when irritated by the competing of dreams … well, that’s worth recapturing.


last minute gift ideas for 4-year-old girls

If you’re like me, you might – just might – still have a few items left on your Christmas list. And if you’re looking for good gifts for the 4-year-old girl(s) in your life, I thought I would share some of our favorites. These are a few of my twins’ favorite toys they own. Guaranteed smiles for the little ladies in your life.


Here are 7 of our favorite gifts (and let me be clear – there wasn’t a single gift they opened that they didn’t like) – in case you need ideas for your own special 4-year-old or a niece or friend:

1 – Frozen Elsa and Anna dolls. Of course. What I love about this set is that you get both of them in one package for a much more affordable price. (Right now $49 for both at Amazon.)

2 – Enchanted Princess Cupcake game. They love putting these cupcakes together and pulling them apart and pretending to have a tea party with them.

3 – Hello Kitty (anything) but particularly their Hello Kitty notebook and pen. They enjoy “writing” while sitting in bed. (I think they’ve seen me do this a *few* times?!)

4 – Lego Juniors princess edition. Seth and I love all things Lego since we both had hours of enjoyment as kids with our Lego sets. How great that this is a simpler version of the “real” Legos! We have had the Duplo-type Legos, and this seems to be a nice bridge to the “real thing.”

5 – Mermaid Factory sculpture kit. The girls loved doing this art project. I’ll admit that the glitter presented a bit of a challenge to me, but the finished project was more than worth it. The girls have their hand-painted sculptures proudly displayed on their bedside tables.

6 – Frozen dress up trunk. Again, 2-in-1 was attractive to me. Both the Elsa and Anna dresses come in this set, along with matching headbands and jewelry. Every little princesses’ dream!

7 – Melissa & Doug princess craft set. We pulled this out on Sunday morning before church and the girls had fun decorating the wand, princess crown, and magnetic princesses. Glitter, glitter everywhere – as well as stickers, and paint. They enjoyed every minute.

day 24: dare

photo credit:

photo credit:

I’ve never been one for risks. I trembled when standing on the edge of the 10 foot drop, about to leap into the lake below behind my teenage friends. I likewise hated the twice-ever rappelling down the side of a mountain as part of summer camp. I like to hang behind, assess a situation, and then gradually ease in. No surprise to tell you that I’ve never been one for high diving boards, and sky diving is not on my bucket list.

But there are ventures that I have dared to attempt. I’ve been on overseas mission trips to Haiti, Mexico, and Ireland with hardly a second thought. It terrified me, yes, but I still did it because there was something worth risking for. I entered into marriage relatively quickly – only after 1 year of friendship, 6 months of dating, and 6 months of engagement – I walked down the aisle and say my forever-and-always yes. It felt daring but safe all at the same time. I trusted my husband, but most importantly, I trusted God.

Then there have been risks and dares that I’ve been given. Like raising twins. And beginning a book proposal. And shifting careers, and a few break-ups before the marriage-to-the-man-of-my-dreams. So I may be more careful in calculating risk, but then that might make me more brave when I do perform a daring act.


Part of Five Minute Friday and the 31-day writing challenge. Read more here.

A few of my favorite links lately

It’s been awhile since I have shared some of my favorites, so here’s a list of some of the *many* that have spoken to my heart and captivated my mind recently.

  • When you’re a mom waving the white flag on erstwhile dear

The muchy muchness of two knocked me totally on my back last week. I could not seem to refresh, no matter what I did. Conversation at the playground usually does it. Or sunshine. Maybe a podcast and a pastry treat on the way home. But not last week. Their needs seemed to be growing like basil on the windowsill—long, droopy tendrils reaching out to brush you, desperate for water every time I looked over. …

When we stood in the check-out and you leaned over and said, “What? I can’t hear you?” I could read it right then in your eyes.

Right there by all the glossy magazines screaming at you like a pack of jockeying hawkers.

If you listen long enough to all the loud voices about who you should be, you grow deaf to the beauty of who you are.

[from Allume] I let the accolades of others fill my soul and speak to my worth. I loved the recognition, however small, and craved more. And I slowly took the reigns of my writing career away from God, and placed them firmly in my own hands. … Not consciously, of course, but I did it. Instead of praising God over the growth of a ministry, I stressed over the numbers that still weren’t “enough”. I slowly stopped writing what was on my heart, and started writing what I thought people wanted to hear, what I thought might have a shot at going viral. …

Two recent bloggers I’m following after finding them through Five Minute Friday: Sara at “poets and saints” – particularly love her latest “the fearless list”

I wrote down several ideas of fun and somewhat nerve-racking things I wanted to “try” this summer.  Then I wrote down several more that will be real challenges for me. All of them are scary for me in some way and that’s how the Fearless List was born …

and Kim at “dappled things” 

When I grow up I really want to be a writer, but probably more than that I want to be human, as fully human as it is possible to be. So I practice both these things, writing and being human, on this blog which I call Dappled Things, borrowed from a poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins. Here, I will share some stories, grapple with some problems and bring a little faith encouragement, some knitting and friendship whenever I can.


Happy reading, everyone!


what Google says I need

I’ve seen this quiz/activity a couple times now – on facebook, and my friend Jill’s post and I had to follow suit. You google your first name and “needs” and list the first 10 things that come up. Here’s mine — for some laughs! 

What I need (acc. to Google): 

1. Two therapists – definitely! As a counselor myself, I do think that there are benefits to “talking it out” … though TWO therapists could be confusing, since each counselor/therapist inevitably approaches counseling from their own bent. 

2. A childhood – umm, no – I like mine pretty well and wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s. 

3. Something more to be satisfied – of course! yet I think that’s found in a relationship with Christ – and it’s what I’m awaiting in the hope of resurrection and a new creation

4. Two therapists – ok, I get the point …

5. to grow up – some moments, I’m sure I do need to (no comment, please)

6. a childhood – again, I like mine ok …

7. men now – not at all! I’m very glad to be married to Seth – he is much more than what I want and exactly who I need

8. help – probably … 

9. facebook – too often, sad but true

10. an eccentric beauty parlor owner as her ‘official spokesperson’ – only if this meant I got free beauty treatments whenever I wanted to!