Category Archives: Purple Crayon

Against All Odds: True Stories That Will Inspire You

If necessity is the mother of invention, then adversity is the mother of survival.

Do you ever wonder how you would fare in the most adverse circumstances?  Most of us will never know.

But, a few souls demonstrate incredible courage, ingenuity and triumph in the most dire circumstances.

Their stories can bolster our courage in the face of adversity.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.) 


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner and World War II soldier.

The perseverance and resilience Zamperini displayed in the face the multiple titanic challenges is an inspiration.

Knowing his background and family intensifies the story.

The final resolution is satisfying and heart warming.

Aside from the story, the writing is a work of art.

Buy now from Amazon

We Were the Lucky Ones

 by Georgia Hunter

“Inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive—and to reunite—We Were the Lucky Ones is a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds.” —Amazon

The Kurcs were from Radom, Poland, but in the course of the war, three generations are spread throughout Europe and beyond, fleeing the Nazi regime.

I am in awe of this story. It is a light in a dark time and highlights the triumph of love, family and the will to survive.

Buy now from Amazon

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

A Christian family in Holland hides Jews from the Nazis during World War II.  Corrie’s incredible story of espionage, imprisonment and forgiveness.

The Ten Boom family takes their faith seriously.  They believe the Jews are God’s Chosen People.  They risk their lives to protect them.

They continue to trust God in spite of horrific circumstances and they see His hand at work.

Buy now from Amazon

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in a concentration camp in Germany. As a psychiartrist, he analyzed the fellow prisoners, the ones who had given up hope and died and the ones who had the will to live.

He concluded that everyone needs to find their own reason for being on the planet: their life’s work.

Focusing his thoughts on finishing his book and seeing his wife again sustained him during the horrific experience of the concentration camp.

Buy now from Amazon

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

The story of a college rowing team going for the gold hardly seems the stuff of adverse circumstances. But, the pathos of the story draws you in.  Joe Rantz is an almost Dickensonian hero.

Tracing the background of Rantz and others on the champion rowing team puts you in the boat with the rowers and has you cheering with the crowds on the shore.

The up close and behind the scenes glimpses of history are instructive and sobering.  I love the real life lessons of leadership and teamwork.

Buy now from Amazon


What are your favorite stories of people beating the odds?

Did you miss these posts?

Love stories you can feel good recommending

8 Stand out novels that will rekindle your love for reading


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Better planning equals better days equals better life

Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

How do you spend your days?

I find managing my schedule is like trying to wrangle hippos.

In my ongoing quest to manage my life, here’s what I’ve learned:

Better planning makes better days. Better days makes a better life.

How can you plan your days better? Identify your true priorities. When you say yes to something, that means saying no to other things. Decide ahead of time what you can’t accomplish. This eliminates the frustration of beating yourself up for unrealistic expectations that weren’t accomplished.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by work and not prioritize relationships. It’s easy to be tyrannized by the to do list and not rest and refresh.

It’s easy to think that you have so much to do that you don’t have time to plan your days.

The investment you put into planning pays off.

One thing I like about really planning your day is deciding ahead of time that you can’t get something done. Like clean the fridge yesterday. I just moved it off my list. That helps you avoid the disappointment of getting to the end of the day and not accomplishing it.

You already knew you weren’t going to be able to get it done.

After a few days, you become more realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. The lists become manageable.

Prioritizing your to do list is a critical element in planning better days.

There’s always too much to do, isn’t there?  So every day there are decisions about what to do, but, also, what not do.

I’ve worked harder lately to prioritize my to do list.  It isn’t easy.  For one thing, we don’t always know which is the most important.  Sometimes a little, insignificant task results in a chance encounter that changes our lives.  But, we can’t predict that or prioritize that.

So, here’s what helps:  Choosing from the to do list which items are the most important.  Focus on getting those done first.  Let the rest go.

Also, you know if you don’t get very far down your list at least you did the most important things. You’ve spent some time thinking about what was most important. It gives you more focus.

It helps with that feeling of being overwhelmed. Of having too much to do and never being able to get to all of it.

Determining prioritities isn’t easy. It isn’t always easy to know which is more important. And when something unexpected comes up in your day, you have to make a judgment call about your list of things to do.

It comes back to juggling the glass balls and the rubber balls. Thinking through what are the consequences if I drop this ball?  Will it bounce back?  Or will it shatter?

Be willing to flex as circumstances change.

You have to plan some flexibility into your days. You have to have some margin to handle the unexpected.

That’s part of the planning. To be able to recognize when you need to flex and when to stick to the plan.

Here’s the other thing: Life is full of people.

People are unpredictable and impossible to schedule.

And, yet, we have to have some order in our lives.

So, we need a life management plan with enough flexibility to handle life’s unexpected turns.

Having unrealistic expectations is disappointing. Not following through on something you said you were going to do is an integrity problem, unless you make the decision to make something else priority instead. There has to be some flexibility for that.

You also have to have down time planned, so you don’t feel guilty when you need to rest and you are able to stay productive on the other days.

Prioritizing your to do list is the critical element in planning better days, with the caveat that you’re willing to flex when you need to. 

What have you learned lately that helps you manage life better?

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When a Tumbleweed Grows Roots: What I Learned Winter 2019

“I grew up transient, with change as my constant. I lived a privileged life in many ways, and benefited from a plethora of experiences denied many of my more settled peers. In fact, I felt competent to handle most of what my spinning world threw my way. It was when the world stopped spinning that I got dizzy.” Dr. Rachel Cason

I resonate with Rachel’s words, because her experience mirrors mine.

I’ve lived on the East Coast, the West Coast and the Mid-West.

I’ve lived in the Middle-East, the Far East and Mexico.

My nomadic life began before I was old enough to decide and continued when it  was my turn to choose.  I developed coping skills for transition, not for rootedness.

And now, my world has stopped spinning.

The first four decades of my life were transitory.

The past ten years I’ve lived in the same state, most of those years in the same house.

Occasionally, I wonder what would happen if we uprooted again.  Occasionally I want to.

Some call it itchy feet, some call it wander lust.

But, it appears this tumbleweed is finally putting down deep roots and coming to terms with it.

I wonder if a case of itchy feet comes from a desire to escape all the pressures and stresses of the life we lead.

I’ve written before about finding and creating community as a survival strategy for nomads.

Two other things help me.

Focus on gratitude.  Sure there’s things you wish were different.  Of course there are stresses, conflicts, tensions, pressures, fears and worries you want to escape.

But, it’s always a mixed bag. There are always blessings, too.

Contentment is the by-product of gratitude when I realize I don’t have to move an inch to be happy.

Escape into Fiction.  Reading has always been my go-to survival strategy.  That applies to transition as well as rootedness.  A great movie can do it, too.  Or even an engaging TV series.  But, my top choice is an uplifting, brilliantly written novel.  A based-on-real-events book can do it, too.

When I’m yearning for a change of scenery, it’s often just the desire to get out from under whatever’s pressing down at the moment.

A good two or three hour stint into the world of fiction takes me away from the pressures of life and provides stress relief.

Parmesan Cheese Lids fit on Canning Jars

This life hack popped up on the internet and inexplicably brings me joy.

I use canning jars a lot, especially for homemade kefir.  I have a couple of white plastic lids that fit on them.  I’m always wishing I had more, but it’s never priority to go looking for them.

Parmesan cheese lids, on the other hand, wander into the house every week or so without any extra hassle.

Take that, Marie Kondo.


Sarah Mackenzie                                                     Kate DiCamillo

Emotional connection to a story transcends literary analysis.

Authors don’t write stories for literary analysis. At least, Kate DiCamillo doesn’t.  Sarah MacKensie interviewed the author of Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux on the Read Aloud Revival podcast.

Kate DiCamillo tells of reading a story in elementary school that touched her emotionally and then turning the page to find fifteen questions about the story.  And her heart sunk.  She didn’t want to dissect the story and analyze it.  She just wanted to enjoy it.

Sarah talks about making meaningful and lasting connections with your kids through books.  The memory of a shared experience when you read a book out loud together.

The emotional experience of reading a book that touches you.

That’s what literary analysis ruins.

The emotional connection between the reader and the story.

That sacred magic that happens when you become part of a story.  Tearing it apart and studying it from all sides ruins that magic.

That’s what Kate was trying to avoid.

I’ve never heard anyone articulate this before, but I LOVE it.  Listen to the whole interview here.

So that’s what I’ve learned this winter. Some authors are writing for emotional connection, not literary analysis.  Parmesan cheese lids fit on canning jars.  Tumbleweeds who grow roots thrive when they focus on gratitude and consciously escape into fiction.

What have you learned this season?

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8 Stand Out Novels to Rekindle Your Love for Reading

I reached a point in my life when I wondered if there were any good books left.

You know, masterfully written page turners that sucked you into the story and left you feeling satisfied at the end.  Books that you weren’t embarrassed to be seen reading and could recommend wholesale.

I wondered if there were any of those left.  Because I couldn’t find them.

Enter the internet.  Enter book bloggers.  Enter bookish podcasts.

Open a new world of books.  Not all of them are to my taste to be sure.  But, there were enough winners in the bunch to spark my hope.

Yes, Virginia, there are some good books left.

Here’s some of my top picks.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.) 

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Based of the life of the first female lawyer in India.

Not only does this fictional account weave a riveting tale, it highlights the culture and customs of 1920’s India.

Limited educational opportunities, arranged marriages, gender segregation and inequalities.  These were real obstacles.

Navigating that world and winning is a real feat.                                           Buy now from Amazon


 Jewell by Bret Lott

It is 1943 in the backwoods of Mississippi. In the land of honeysuckle and wild grapevine, Jewel Hilburn and her husband Leston – whose love for his wife is the surest comfort she’s ever known – are truly blessed. They have five fine children who embrace the world as though it were a sumptuous table set for a feast; and when Brenda Kay is born, Jewel gives thanks for yet another healthy baby, last-born and most welcome.

JEWEL is the story of how quickly a life can change; how, like lightning, an unforseen event can illuminate our lives and set us on a course without reason or compass.”– Goodreads

Buy now from Amazon

Jewel fights the odds of prejudice and ignorance with a mother’s fierce love.

“Bret Lott has created on of the finest and most indomitable heroines of contemporary American fiction.”

Beautifully crafted. A pleasure to read.


Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

“Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry’s unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter’s children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors “live right on.”—from GoodReads

Enthusiastic five stars from me.                                                                          Buy now from Amazon

Brilliantly written, wholesome story.

The story spans the decades of Hannah’s life, giving a panoramic look at her life.

Human drama at it’s literary best.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I can’t remember the last time a novel made me cry.  This one did

Ove is near the end of his life, but this novel takes us back to his family, his first love and his losses. It is a bittersweet exploration of what really matters in relationships and what gets in the way.

Love, friendship, community and social awkwardness.  It’s the recipe for a great novel.

It demonstrates in brilliant colors that no man is an island.

Buy now from Amazon

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

“The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience. “–Goodreads

Buy now from Amazon

Rightly labeled a literary work of art.  Francie Nolan develops the grit and humanity she needs to survive her tumultuous life.

Masterfully written.  A joy to read.

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown

“Sharon Garlough Brown tells the moving story of four strangers as they embark together on a journey of spiritual formation: Hannah, a pastor who doesn’t realize how exhausted she is. Meg, a widow and recent empty-nester who is haunted by her past. Mara, a woman who has experienced a lifetime of rejection and is now trying to navigate a difficult marriage. Charissa, a hard-working graduate student who wants to get things right. You’re invited to join these four women as they reluctantly arrive at a


Buy now from Amazon          retreat center and find themselves drawn out of their separate

stories of isolation and struggle and into a collective journey of spiritual practice, mutual support and personal revelation. Along the way, readers will be taken into a new understanding of key spiritual practices and find tangible support for the deeper life with God.” –Goodreads

I found these characters to be well-rounded and relatable.  I also liked an inside look at spiritual disciplines outside of my experience.

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

“A moving, exciting, and heartfelt American saga inspired by the author’s own family memoirs, these words belong to Sarah Prine, a woman of spirit and fire who forges a full and remarkable existence in a harsh, unfamiliar frontier. Scrupulously recording her steps down the path Providence has set her upon–from child to determined young adult to loving mother–she shares the turbulent events, both joyous and tragic, that molded her and recalls the enduring love with cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot that gave her strength and purpose.

                                                                                                                                Buy now from Amazon

Rich in authentic everyday details and alive with truly unforgettable characters, These Is My Words brilliantly brings a vanished world to breathtaking life again.”–Goodreads

Unpredictable.  Well-written.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

“When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference, and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization. Without food or shelter, and only Ben’s mountain climbing gear to protect themselves, Ashley and Ben’s chances for survival look bleak, but their reliance on each other sparks an immediate connection, which soon evolves into something more.

Buy now from Amazon

Days in the mountains become weeks, as their hope for rescue dwindles. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever? Heart-wrenching and unputdownable, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us.” — from GoodReads

Another brilliantly written story with a commitment to traditional values.

The plot differs at critical points from the movie version.  Skip the movie.  Read the book instead.

Which novels have rekindled your love for reading? 

P.S.  Looking for more great books?   Try Awesome Middle Grade Novels Adults Will Love

and Love Stories You Can Feel Good Recommending.


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What’s Saving My Life 2019

As I type this, the outside temperature is -17 degrees F and wind chill is -42.

That’s insane.

Schools and businesses are closed.  Even mail delivery is suspended.

I’m hunkered down at home, thankful for a reliable furnace.

Overall, we’ve had a mild winter.  Today is an unusual extreme.

But winter in northern Indiana is no joke.

I scour all the winter survival strategies I can find to add to my bag of tricks. Modern Mrs Darcy makes it easy, by collecting lots of great advice in one place.

Here’s what’s working for me this year:

Email letters to my mom and dad

From August through April every year, my parents live and work in India.  For four months of the year, they live close by.

Long-distance relationships are an accepted part of my life.  Maybe too accepted.

In the natural rhythm of life, there’s no obvious time gaps to invest in long distance relationships.  For me, I found I had to be intentional.

My mom and dad both like to read, but their tastes in reading material differs. Fortunately, a lot of what they like overlaps with I like.

I decided every month I’d send them links to books I thought they’d enjoy.  Since they have a membership to our local library, I can send them the link to the ebook and they can check it out.

Game changer.

I like sharing books.  I love sharing free books.  And, twice a month I have an easy excuse to catch them up on family news.  It’s been so fun.

Who knew such a little tweak to my monthly rhythms could bring such joy?

Protein smoothies in the morning

I started drinking protein smoothies in the morning on the advice of Izabella Wentz, the thyroid pharmacist.   Her nutrition advice impacts my health in huge ways since I found out I have Hashimoto’s.

I still eat breakfast, but after a protein smoothie, morning cravings disappear.

I always put homemade kefir in my smoothies– until the day we accidentally ate the grain and couldn’t make more.

Then I stumbled onto my favorite smoothie hack.  Pour boiling water on frozen strawberries so they blend easily.  Now I do half boiling water and half homemade kefir for the liquid.

I buy my Pea Protein from Thrive Market, which seems to have the best price. I’m new to Thrive Market, but I’m pretty excited about the automatic shipments. I still need to work out a few bugs and get it tweaked to work for

Another favorite is adding Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder.  Chocolate strawberry smoothies for breakfast?  Yes, please.

Note:  Frozen fruit, boiling water and glass could be a hazardous combination.  Use caution. 



Jesus Always and 20 minutes a day focusing on a loving God


Non-religious studies have found that decision making is positively impacted when you spend 20 minutes a day focusing on a loving God.

It’s easy to believe that there’s so much to do you can’t spare 20 minutes, especially on rushed mornings.

But think for a minute about the returns on investing in eternity.  Taking time to Be still and know that I am God helps the rest of the day to fall in place.  There’s enough time for everything.  At least everything God has planned.

This winter, I’m reading both Jesus Calling and Jesus Always large print editions and I don’t limit myself to the daily selections.

Intentional Gratitude

Maybe because I’m  glass-half-empty sorta girl, I have a hard time seeing the positives.

I have to regularly remind myself of the blessings.

Top of the list these days is our first grandchild, Caroline.  I might be biased, but I think she’s the sweetest baby ever.




What’s saving your life this winter?

PS Just for fun, I’m adding links to past posts.

What’s saving my life 2018

What’s saving my life 2017

What’s saving my life 2016















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What I’m Reading January 2019

There is snow on the ground and it feels like winter.

January is the best month for reading, because so many “best of 18” book lists have been published.

I’ve read several newly published books that are worth the hype.

In other news, I started babysitting my 3 month old grand daughter.  Maybe I’ll have to start reviewing board books.

Joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit for January.

(Note:  Links included are affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will support this site.)

   Buy now from Amazon

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding unexpected strength when disappointments leave you shattered by Lysa TerKuerst

Everyone has pain.  Everyone needs help dealing with it.  Lysa’s story shows the way.

Lysa deals with sensitive issues without belaboring the messy details.

The pain is real, but she focuses on hope, biblical principles and helping the reader apply truths to a range of challenges.

Her story bears testimony that there is hope and faith even in the most excruciating circumstances.  She throws a life ring to her readers even while her own vessel is in upheaval.

  Buy now from Amazon

Everyday Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth and How You Can Too by Chris Hogan

Chris Hogan works with Dave Ramsey.  His area of expertise is preparing for retirement.

Hogan and Ramsey Solutions studied 10,000 millionaires to find out what their lives were like, what their financial strategies were like.

Everyday Millionaires draws stories, stats and inspiration from the lives of  those 10,000 millionaires.

There are recurring themes: wealth building takes a long-term focus, discipline and a conscious decision to live below your means.

What it doesn’t take is  an outrageously large annual incomes.

One caveat:  a long-term focus means 25 years or more.

Turns out the path to becoming a millionaire is fairly simple.  Not easy, not quick.  But fairly simple.

   Buy now from Amazon

Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Perry Hill

Jackie tells the story of her spiritual journey, which includes leaving a lesbian lifestyle, getting married and becoming a mother.

I love the way she writes about her sexuality as only one piece of the puzzle and how it fits into the larger context of becoming a Christ-follower.

It’s a story more people need to hear.

Did you miss these posts?

9 Stand Out Memoirs That Will Inspire You

5 Fascinating Tales About Women Who Made History



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Why you need that reunion and the reunion needs you

I used to think community was one network that served as a safety net.

But, community isn’t just one circle. Your network is actually multiple circles where you belong. Sometimes they overlap and sometimes a it’s a group that you were part of in the past.

Like your nuclear family.

Or a class that you were part of.

Or a church or small group that you used to attend.

The fact is that past communities helped shape who we are as humans.

Reunions are communities of the past that we re-connect with in the present.

Reuniting with that community is important to understand ourselves. Who we were then and who we are now.

When that community gets together again, the shared memories are the glue that cements the community.

It is the communities of the past that have shaped who we are. And, we in turn have shaped them.

Some communities we have chosen and some we haven’t.

But the communities of our present and future we choose. We choose to identify with them. We choose to be a part of them. We choose to influence them. We shape those communities, to a greater or lesser extent. And they shape us.

All the communities of our past have influenced who we are today.

To re-connect with those people means to touch our former selves.

Emotional and relational health involves coming to terms with past communities. Being at peace with yourself in relation to them.

Accepting the good, bad and ugly and redeeming the negative.

Extending forgiveness when necessary. Accepting forgiveness when necessary.

Expressing gratitude for the impact the people in those circles have made.




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Why I bought an overpriced planner and why it’s not changing my life

I spent my birthday money on an overpriced planner.

It hasn’t changed my life for two simple reasons:

  1. My life changed before I bought it.  That’s why I bought it.

2.  I let go of an unrealistic expectation that one purchase would be the magic bullet that made my life uber amazing.

Life is messy.

There’s no way a planner is going to clean all that up.

Even if your schedule and your budget and your home organization is on target, you will still have other problems. That’s the way life is.

There is no magic bullet that is going to solve all your problems.

We buy things hoping they can do more than they can do.

Tools are only as good as the people using them. But, in the right hands, they can be powerful.

In order for a planner to work, the first step is a desperation to change.

A second step is a commitment to do things differently.

The fact of the matter is that we can’t see the future. We don’t know what’s coming down the pike.

We can plan for an uncertain future.

We can also trust in the one who holds the future.

What I love about the Living Well planner

It’s undated.  Affix the included stickers to the tabs to begin whichever month you want.

Having a separate spot for meal planning.

Even though I haven’t been able to keep up with the budget pages, I’m glad they’re there.

I love the Ruth Soukup’s goal crushing system and the breakdown on how to accomplish big goals.

Her online videos come with the planner purchase.

It’s so easy for me to dream big and want to skip to the end, without the messy middle.  It’s great to think through all the steps and obstacles to really accomplish the big goals.

What I don’t love about the Living Well Planner

I wish there were some place to work on quarterly goals. I see a lot of value in looking at the future 90 days at a time.

The budget pages feel a little restrictive. In the three months that I’ve been using the planner, I haven’t been consistent with the budget pages, so I still might be able to tweak them to make them work for me.

An overpriced planner isn’t going to change your life . . . unless it does.

I had low expectations for this planner. Because it’s not really a system or strategy or program that changes you: it takes a determination and motivation and “want to”.

No planner is going to work without that.

The truth is, there’s a long, hard road to success. You have to be willing to pay the price.

The other truth is, you have to wait for God’s vision. It is not ready and accessible on demand. It is ready when He reveals it to you, maybe only one step at a time.

There will be obstacles. There will be setbacks.

It will take dedication, determination and grit.

A system, program or strategy is not enough.

You need to do the work.

You have to have the motivation to see it through. You have to have the “want to”.

You also have to be paired up with the right system, program or strategy.

What you put in is just as important or more so than what you’re using.

That is why buying a planner isn’t going to change your life.

But that is why buying a planner could change your life.

If you are ready.

If you have the fire in your belly and you’re ready to change.

Then it could.

But, putting your hope in the program, system or strategy will never work if you’re not ready to do the work.


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9 Stand Out Memoirs That Will Inspire You

A personal history is powerful.

Some people’s stories are well told and they’ve risen above or conquered so much that just hearing their story is inspiring.

Some have broken out of a cycle of generational poverty.  Some have faced mortality with uncommon courage.

Some know how to put beautiful words to the every day human experience.

These are the memoirs I picked.

(Note: the following links are affiliate links.  At no extra charge to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

Rising above extreme circumstances:

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

A Christian family in Holland hides Jews from the Nazis during World War II.  Corrie Ten Boom’s incredible story of espionage, imprisonment and forgiveness.

The Ten Boom family takes their faith seriously.  They believe the Jews are God’s Chosen People.  They risk their lives to protect them.

They continue to trust God in spite of horrific circumstances and they see His hand at work.

 Buy now from Amazon

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

What would it be like to be convicted of a murder you didn’t commit and then spend 30 years on death row?

Amazingly, Anthony Ray Hinton is not an angry, bitter man.

It would be the logical reaction for an extreme injustice.

What’s it like for the men sitting on death row?  How would you feel?  What would you think?  How do you make it every day?

This is an inside look.  Incredibly, a hopeful look.

Overcoming the cycle of poverty

  Buy now from Amazon

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson

Ben Carson and his brother grew up in a single parent home in Detroit.

Ben credits his mother for the impact on his life that resulted in all of them breaking out of the poverty culture.

She valued education, discipline, the importance of reading and making wise decisions in the use of her resources.

In turn, Ben came to see poverty as a temporary state.  He could see the way out.  He developed a vision for his life.  He eventually attained some of life’s greatest successes as a pediatric neurosurgeon.

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was gratuitous language.  Sometimes language in a dialogue can prove a point, but there’s no good reason for it to be in the narrative.

That being said, I love the social analysis wrapped around a boot-strapping overcomer’s story. J.D. Vance emerged from an impoverished childhood to graduated from Harvard and become a successful lawyer.

It has some similarities to Ben Carson’s story in Gifted Hands.

I love the positive impact and stability the author’s grandparents brought to his life.

My heart breaks for the young people in this country, especially for the homes that so many grow up in–for the poverty–not of money so much as love, stability, education and faith.

One thing that struck me is that the author wasn’t able to find much help in counseling, but research, learning and understanding about himself and his formative years brought a measure of peace.

Uncommon courage in the face of mortality

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The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

Kara’s bravery in the face of her own mortality is inspiring.

It’s hard for young children to lose their mother to cancer.  It feels unjust.  But, Kara’s acceptance of God’s will for her life showed the world what it means to believe that God is good, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

She faced the reality that her marriage wasn’t eternal.

I highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with God’s sovereignty.


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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This memior was written by a man diagnosed with cancer.  That’s the kind of news that changes your perspective in life.

Kalanith writes in a clear, concise style.  What makes the book extraordinary is the author wrestles with the meaning of life even before he’s diagnosed with cancer.  It gives the reader pause in the very best ways.

Here’s my takeaway:  we make plans for our lives based on how long we think we have left to live.  We make different decisions when we think we’re going to live 40 years more or 10 or 1.

Also:  at the end of life, our close relationships are what matter most.  But, running a close second is a life dedicated to meaningful work and making an impact on our world in some way.  I’ve believed for a long time that having meaningful work was a critical element for the human psyche, but I’ve never seen it so clearly before, especially in light of the importance of close relationships at the end of life.

I also enjoyed Kalanitrh’s stories of his experiences in medical school.  Interesting to see the behind the scenes snapshots of a surgeon in training.

Beautiful words to express the human experience

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Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Blue Like Jazz is reminiscent of an Anne Lamott memoir.  They’re both off the charts in honesty, transparency and authenticity.  We identify with those inner insecurities that we can’t even admit to ourselves, much less to others, committing them to black and white and hurling them to the world.

I’ve read Donald Miller’s memoir several times. I have also read Scary Close, which is somewhat of a sequel, but it doesn’t have the same punch as Blue Like Jazz.  Growing up fatherless is an underlying theme of Blue Like Jazz.  By the time Scary Close was written, Miller has resolved many of his emotional issues and experienced a lot of healing.  So, it’s not driven by the same pain.

I believe writing in itself is therapeutic.  As is sharing your story.  I heard Miller recently talk about the desire people have to be heard and seen and known.  He’s been there, done that and now has no more need to be seen and heard and known.  He’s heading a successful company now called StoryBrand that helps businesses tell their story .

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Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

One of my all-time favorites that I re-visit periodically.  Written sixty years ago, this book is truly timeless.

Listen: “What a circus act we women perform everyday of our lives.” Really?  1955?

“how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life, how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center: how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel”

I love her reflections.

In a class by itself


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Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

This is the raw, treacherous journey that Nabeel Qureshi took to find faith in Jesus. The sacrifices he made. The intellectual and emotional and relational barriers that kept him from finding faith in Jesus. And the story of overcoming those barriers.

Why do we need to know Nabeel’s story?

Because no man is an island. His pain is our pain. His victory is our victory. His story is our story.

There are millions of devout Muslims on the planet. If we understand Nabeel’s story, we come closer to understanding them.

There exists a great chasm of beliefs between us, but we share the same humanity. Our desires and dreams are common to the human experience.

To understand the Muslim mindset opens the door to greater compassion, to a better chance of building bridges to individuals who are seeking.

Statistics are one thing.

One person’s story is something else altogether. What difference can one person’s story make?

I can be inspired by their story. I can travel the road with them and return to my own life and take the courage with me. This is the power of story.

We are faced with the same choices Nabeel Qureshi faced.  Are we going to accept what we were taught growing up? Or are we going to search for something else?

We have no say about the situation we were born into. But the time comes when we accept or reject the life we were given. Do we perpetuate the values, attitudes and beliefs we were given or turn from it to something else?

These are the questions that individuals from every devout family faces. These are the issues that we wrestle with. These are the answers that we must find. This is the peace that we must come to.

It might be a life long journey. It might takes years to find that peace. Our foundational beliefs might be shaken to the core.

But, we must search. We must know if the values, attitudes and beliefs that we were handed without our knowledge or consent are truly ours. Every person must choose.

And that is why Nabeel’s journey is everyone’s. Coming of age has nothing on coming to faith.

We need to struggle deeply with these critical issues. We need to come to peace.

Irregardless of the belief system we choose, the struggle is universal. It’s the dragon we all must fight.

What memoirs would you add to this list?

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The Simple Secret to Getting Rid of Piles (of Laundry, Dishes and Paper)

Here it is: are you ready?

The secret is do it daily.

Make it part of your daily routine.

It’s simple, but certainly not easy.

Decide what will be part of your morning routine and what will be part of your evening routine to stay on top.

There’s always something, isn’t there?

Always roadblocks and obstacles.

Always a reason to reach down and do hard things.

So, back to piles.

This is something that I still struggle with. It’s hard to be consistent. Even when you have a routine figured out.

I’ve been working for years on a workable system to keep on top of the papers that pile up around here. Mail. Receipts. Random paperwork brought home from random places.

My first “aha” moment was when I realized I suffered from decision fatigue and couldn’t process papers at the end of the day. I just didn’t have what it took.

So, I started doing it in the morning.

I’d set the timer for 2 or 3 minutes and sort, purge and process the papers.

Knowing that it was for such a short time and knowing that I could stop when the timer went off helped. Doing it the morning when I still had some mental capacity to make the decisions was a must.

Staying consistent, every single day has been a problem. Doing the extra catch up on weekends to handle the difficult decisions has also been a problem.

But, applying the daily routine to dishes and laundry helped me realize the power of daily.

When something piles up, it feels harder than it is and is so tempting to procrastinate.

Taking it one little bite at a time feels manageable.

Making it part of a routine means you don’t have to think about whether or when to tackle it.

What can you do to make laundry part of your daily routine? Put a load of clothes in the washer at night? Or wash them at night, dry, fold and put away in the morning?

Don’t wait till you have a full load. Do a load every day, regardless.

How about dishes?

They have to be done in the evening. There’s no way around it, unless you’re committed to paper products every suppertime.

But, you can incorporate as much as possible into your morning routine: unloading the dishwasher, cleaning the sink, wiping down counters and the stove.

If you have a good morning routine, the evening routine is easier.

Keeping on top of food planning and grocery shopping also helps.

So, the secret is simple, but it’s not easy.

One challenging part is figuring out what’s going to work best for you.

Another is being consistent.

When you’re establishing a new habit, it helps to keep a calendar where you can mark off every day you’ve been successful. Seeing a string of unbroken days is motivating.

Rosemarie Groner of the Busy Budgeter suggests 28 days in a row of a successful dishes routine to establish a habit.

There’s a lot of debate these days on how many times you need to repeat something before it becomes a habit. Some say it’s not 21. Some say it’s 66.

There’s a lot of factors that influence it, but you can count on at least 21, depending on what it is and what your resistance is to it.

Do you have trouble keeping up with your piles?  Try tweaking your daily routines to get them under control.

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