What I'm Reading: January-March Favs!

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I never stopped loving to read but like many other things I neglected in my early twenties that I didn't "love" enough to make time for, I put it on the backburner so that I could have more time to "enjoy" life. Silly, silly, Jessica! I've really enjoyed the past 10 months of my life because I've gotten back in the habit of making good habits again and am now rediscovering my love and appreciation for me time and a good book. Reading as an adult is so much different for me than reading "The Magic School Bus" so that I can take (and ace I must add) an accelerated reading quiz like back in the day. I feel obligated to read things, even if it's fictional, that will challenge me to grow in an area I need more growth in or that will stimulate my "adulting" senses enough to make me develop better habits, especially spiritually. The hopeless romantic and lover of the arts won't let me retire a good romantic plot or thought-provoking book of poetry so those, along with inspirational fiction, travel books, cookbooks and literature on music are on my list of favorites tackle as the year progresses. So what exactly have I been reading so far in 2017??? Geez, I thought you'd never ask........

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Fervent: A Woman's Battle Pan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer:

I actually bought this book September 12, 2015. I was still running from Christ. My life was still a HOTMESS. I was still a Sunday and Wednesday night only Christain even though I was posting scriptures that I wasn't actually living. I was still bumping heads with my parents because they saw through my many facades and kept calling me out on them. I still was all over the place financially, spiritually and emotionally. Ironically, I had just deleted my blog for the millionth time and was is a position where I'd been called out spiritually and was hiding under a rock until I was off the radar. Like many other things during that season, I started reading, with good intentions, posted a few excerpts on social media, and didn't really take what I'd read so that I could apply it to my life. Oh, but how I wish I had. Praying was something I struggled with so hard back then because 1) I knew I was still a sinner and 2)Even though it was a Tonex song that was so true lyrically speaking, why would God hear and answer a sinner like me prayers?? Fast Forward to now, and the second time I read it sincerely, I can honestly say that when I tell people this book is "life changing," I don't use the term lightly. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet but I will say through each page and prayer strategy, Priscilla Shirer reminds women of the importance and power of prayer as she leads us through specific areas in our life to pray over. Reading this book and writing out personalized prayers breathed new life into my prayer time. literally! Praying specifically and really waging war in my prayer life was something I really wanted to grow more in when I re-surrendered my life to Christ last summer and this book, even after reading it for the third time, has broken so many chains of shame, guilt, and defeat from my past that had stifled my prayer language and intimate conversations with God.

The Gift by Danielle Steel

I'm a huge Danielle Steel fan. When I tell you she caters to the Jessica who cries during the sad part of a movie or cheeses extremely hard when two people fall in love for the first time, she simply does that for me in almost every one of her books. If you're familiar with Steele's writing this one may be a little predictable but the story was so lovely it didn't spoil it for me and was still worth the read in my opinion. Although it's a tear jerker, it's also a really good symbol of innocence in it most vulnerable form. You'll experience true love, separation, grief all present at its most vulnerable and raw states. Some people pass through our lives to deliver a gift. When they have delivered the gift, their work is done and they may leave us after that. I plan on cherishing the message I received from this book forever. If you're into heart-wrenching chick flicks, I think you'll enjoy the plot "The Gift" offers.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

If I can be completely honest for a minute when it was announced that we would start a book study on this book in my small group, a little part of me cringed at the thought. I've always had a really hard time reading non-fiction Christain literature because even though there's usually always something you can relate to, they seem so formulaic, especially when the authors start each chapter with cheesy anecdotes from their own practice. Even though I wasn't able to make any of the book study sessions because of my non-social life friendly work schedule, I'm really happy that I didn't use that as an excuse to not tackle the one genre that as a Christian I shouldn't have been so closed minded to. The ideas put forth in Boundaries have so completely revolutionized my view on the subject. The authors give solid Biblical backing for why boundaries are important, how they are formed, and how to set them in your own life. I especially appreciated that they tackled several key myths about boundaries (i.e. "Won't I hurt others if I set boundaries?" "Aren't Christians supposed to be generous and self-sacrificing?" "Isn't it selfish to think about yourself?"). Even the anecdotes felt useful in this book as they gave practical and clear examples of the boundary-making process. Despite being written from a Christian perspective, I think this book would be useful for anyone who struggles with boundaries in his or her life whether setting and maintaining them, feeling guilty about having them, or having trouble respecting the boundaries of others. I like Fervent, definitely read this one over and over again!

100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda

“Before loving you, love, nothing was mine:
I hesitated through the streets and things:
nothing mattered or had a name:
the world was of the air that I awaited.” 
― Pablo Neruda

I mentioned earlier that I am a hopeless romantic. I'm always saying that am, each time half teasing because I sometimes wonder if I love right, love correctly, or if I love at all and am not just mimicking what I think, what I want, I feel. For me I love all at once, I fall very fast, but rarely. I can go long loveless periods, happy and unbothered by thoughts of what passions I am missing. Even when I'm in my feelings, I've always done a great job of being unenvious of people paired in love but when I am indeed in my feelings, it's usually kinda sorta overwhelming, in the sense that I am tormented in waiting out the storm, waiting for the dawn, the exchanged "I love you" or just a sign or symbol of reciprocation. What I love in poetry, especially in this book, is that it is always (when done right) an attempt at saying what I feel can never be said in this desensitised , unemotional generation without feeling like I'm "feeling" more than the other party does. I'm willing to admit that it's possible that other people in the world have been as in love with someone as Pablo Neruda was, but no one has ever expressed it so beautifully or ardently. With the eloquence and passion of a hundred poets, Neruda crafts lines that honor love so well that most people don't even know that love could BE so consuming or so light, so natural or so still. Divided into the categories of morning , afternoon, and night, each infiltrating new or different dimensions of love is equally and realistically. Not always happy or unrealistic, Neruda is honest in his declarations of love.