A Free Indeed Book Flight

A book flight is a curated sampling of reading material that shares some defining quality: theme, setting, time frame, subject matter, etc. Like a beverage flight, the samples are selected with care and presented together intentionally with the purpose of expanding the sampler’s horizons, developing literary discernment, and encouraging reflection and analysis as she considers, compares, and contrasts each book.

Ever year, MOPS International puts out a theme that guides the content for individual groups around the world who are working to encourage and equip moms of young children to realize their potential as women, mothers, and leaders. The last two years have brought themes I found to be very in touch with the heartbeat and struggles of women in general, not just moms. This year’s theme – Free Indeed – is no different.

And because I’m a total nerd, my mind goes to all the books that speak directly to the theme and three focuses for the year – Let Love Be The Loudest Voice, Be Gutsy, and Go First. Even if you’re not a mom, we all want to experience freedom and love. These books will point you in the right direction.

Just to be clear – this post is not endorsed or sponsored by MOPS International. I’m just a MOPS participant who thinks in books. :)


What do you long for? What is the thing that your heart craves? Is it possible that your deepest desire is to be free? Free from worry. Free from feeling stuck. Free from hustling to be loved. Free from a heaviness you can’t put your finger on. Free from thinking you should be someone other than exactly who you are. At the core, maybe what we are all longing for is to be Free Indeed.

Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She Is Both Too Much and Not Enough by Haley Morgan and Jess Connolly

Two very different women have united to share their belief that God calls us to be both wild, “walking in who God created us to be,” and free, “resting in what Jesus has done for us.” In alternating perspectives, Jess and Hayley talk about the hurts, insecurities and fears that cause us to feel like too much or not enough and the grace that covers them all. Maybe my favorite part of the book is a short, 14 line anthem to being wild and free.

Mom Set Free: Find Relief from the Pressure to Get It All Right by Jeannie Cunnion

This newer release (August 2017) seemed tailor made for Free Indeed (even the feather on the cover fits with the bird graphics MOPS is using this year) so I pre-ordered it and found myself acting like a bobblehead, nodding along to all Jeannie’s words. The desire (and resulting struggle) to be a perfect mom is real. With that desire comes fear – fear that you’r not doing it right, that you’ll ruin your kids, that you’re just not good enough. Mom Set Free addresses these fears and struggles with freedom and Truth. Jeannie is also the author of Parenting The Wholehearted Child.

Deeper Waters: Immersed in The Life-Changing Truth of God’s Word by Denise J. Hughes

“This book is about determining in our hearts to study God’s Word and obey God’s voice because, when we do, we’re set free from the brokenness that binds us and the sinful patterns that permeate our choices” (126). I might contend that this book is about more than that, but it’s hard to argue that God’s Word holds the key (Jesus!) to freedom.

Deeper Waters is a well crafted memoir interspersed with a teacher’s (Denise is an adjunct professor at a SoCal university) heart to share her knowledge about how to study and connect with the Bible. Even though her story has been punctured with a lot of heartache, Denise’s stories are permeated with a gentleness that is so enticing. I love her simple method of studying the Bible (I’ve done one of her Word Writers studies) and have enjoyed incorporating it into my own time with God.


We will bask in the freedom of living loved by understanding who God is, and who we are because of it. We will be free from the need to hustle for our worth, and we will live in the truth that we are already loved and loveable, without all the striving. We will parent with fresh perspective and will treat ourselves with tenderness, because love is the loudest voice we hear, and it is proclaiming freedom and favor.

Love Does by Bob Goff

If you follow Bob Goff at all, you’ll notice he has a certain joie de vivre that lingers around himself and his work. How could you not when you’re office is at Disneyland? He puts hands and feet on love in a way that is contagious and confusing (because who sends flowers to the person who rammed their vehicle so hard it made them airborne?). Love Does is the kind of book you almost wish you hadn’t read because it will cause you to reevaluate life and how you live it.

Jesus Prom: Life Gets Fun When You Love People Like God Does by Jon Weece 

“He [Jon Weece] talks about the power of being present in people’s lives and the beauty of living a life of availability and inconvenience,” says Bob Goff in the introduction. Jon is a pastor of a large church in Kentucky and a darn good story teller. He uses that skill to champion the importance of love in the life and ministry of believers in Christ. Bonus: the book has a grammar theme (makes more sense when you read it, but think verbs, nouns, adverbs in relation to love). I cried and underlined my way through the stories and recommend it all the time. It’s another one of those books you almost wish you hadn’t read because it will prompt change and action.

Speak Love by Annie F. Downs

I’ve always enjoyed words and been pretty good at manipulating them to communicate. I like the creativity inherent in choosing words and witnessing them connect to others. But it wasn’t until I became a mom that I truly saw how powerfully words can effect others, both negatively and positively. It’s always gut-wrenching to watch my kiddos crumple under the weight of my words when I lose my temper and it’s a delight to see them snuggle into the security of gentle, kind speech. Not matter what age or stage we are, we have the ability to speak love, as well as do love (like Bob!). With her trademark humor and honesty, Annie Downs takes on the power of words in Speak Love.


Sometimes we don’t take responsibility for our lives. We carry the weight of expectations, feeling out of control over the pace and trajectory of our days. Being gutsy is about realizing that you get to decide how busy you are, what you say yes to, what is best for your family and what you make a priority in your mothering. The truth is, we have more authority to shape our daily lives than we think we do. Your life can match your values and your passions, it will just take some guts to make it happen.

Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown 

Brené Brown’s entire body of work would fit nicely in the Free Indeed theme so it was hard to choose one book. No one can describe this book better than Brené: “Daring Greatly is about what it takes to bust through the fear of not being good enough and not being perfect enough and not being bullet-proof enough, the fear of failing. Instead of asking yourself what would you do if you couldn’t fail, ask yourself what’s worth doing even if I fail?”

Reading People: How Seeing The World Through The Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

A book about personality may not be an obvious pick for this category, but I’ve found that having a deeper understanding of who I am and how I relate to others helps me make wiser, more gutsy, choices in life and parenting. Anne, of Modern Mrs. Darcy, gives and engaging, clear overview of 8 personality frameworks and does a great job of illustrating how you use this information to not only learn about yourself, but also understand how you interact with others. I’ve already returned to the chapters on cognitive functions and the Enneagram multiple times.

You still have time to pre-order and get good bonuses (like the audiobook, read byAnne, free and access to her Reading Personality class). This gem releases 9/19.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

I will read anything Shauna writes. Present Over Perfect, her fifth book, is a bit more prescriptive than the descriptive narrative running throughout her other books, but my soul will always resonate with simplicity and slow-living. While the entire book fits right in with the idea of being gutsy, I keep returning to one of the first chapters entitled You Put Up The Chairs. Shauna starts with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald that perfectly describes what it means to be gusty in the context of Free Indeed: “I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over.”


It is a fact that freedom is contagious. That is why we are choosing to go first in order to spark a revolution of women who are choosing freedom over fear. Going first is about being courageous enough to take steps before you are ready, to share the details of your journey, to extend invitations and conquer fears, and lead the way for friends and kids and family. In fact, one of the best ways to advocate for others’ freedom is to go first ourselves, and then we can share with courage and honesty because we have found the keys of freedom. We will go first so that we can set other captives free.

Permission To Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace by Anne Jackson

One of my best friends has the spiritual gift of being vulnerable (I totally made that spiritual gift up but I do think it’s a legit gift). We’ve been friends since childhood and she’s always been willing to go first in sharing her struggles with me and those around her. Anne Jackson would call this “going first” as giving the gift of seconds. It’s always easier to do something when someone else has gone before you, paving the way. Ten plus years after reading Permission To Speak Freely, I’m still thinking about this book.

People of The Second Chance: A Guide To Bringing Life-Saving Love To The World by Mike Foster

People of The Second Chance is an ode to grace and love and the freedom that is inherent in our identity as one beloved by God. It could have easily been in the Let Love Be The Loudest Voice category, but Mike goes first by sharing details about his own life that squeezed my heart, making me reflect on the parts of my own life that are equally broken and in need of the second chance we have in Christ. I particularly resonated with Chapter Six about changing our inner dialogue.

Many of these fit within multiple categories and there are so many books I haven’t read that would be keeping with the Free Indeed theme. Have you read any these or have suggestions for this book flight? 

What I’ve Been Reading Winter/Spring 2017

Short-ish reviews of what I’ve read so far in 2017!

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron

A book I couldn’t resist from an MMD Kindle Deals email around the beginning of the year. I love mysteries but have to avoid them because of an overactive imagination and inability to forget creepy details when I’m home alone. If Jane Austen is involved I figured the murder couldn’t be too gruesome. I enjoyed this and would read others in the series.

What Women Fear: Walking in Faith that Transforms by Angie Smith

We are fans of Audrey Bunny in my household (I can’t read it without tearing up), but this is my first experience with Angie Smith as an author for adults. I listened to the Audible version read by Pam Turlow which was a little stiff (Angie’s sense of humor came off flat) but was still very engaged by this take on fear. Angie is real with her struggles with fear (that are definitely more than the average – she was hospitalized as a young girl because of anxiety). Tied with Unafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe World by Susie Davis for most impactful books I’ve read about fear/anxiety.

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

I’m a huge fan of Katherine Reay. She expertly weaves classic literature into her own narratives, creating page turners that will effect you deeply. Dear Mr. Knightley is still my favorite of her four novels, but Emily Price delivered Reay’s signature subtle spiritual themes around the enjoyable framework of food, Italy, art, and romance.

Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster

One of my 101 things in 1001 days was to read five books about prayer. Richard Foster’s was book number one! With similar accessibility to The Celebration of Discipline, Foster’s guide describes 21 types of prayer that help move us inward, upward and outward. I loved this book.

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines

A fascinating peak in the mind and heart of a man who realizes he’s an alcoholic and journals through his journey to sobriety. Slim and well-worth the read.

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth

The second of my five books about prayer was a complete departure from Foster, though I think he would approve of this practice. As someone whose perfectionism often stifles their prayer life, using a kinesthetic activity to focus your mind and heart on the subject of your prayers was intriguing and welcome.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another of my 101 things in 1001 days is to read the favorite book of 10 readerly friends. (This has lead to the discovery of gems such as The Penderwicks and Code Name Verity.) The Great Gatsby is one of the favorites of a friend I’ve had since childhood. I hadn’t read it since high school and then heard this podcast where Megan Tietz (of the Sorta Awesome Podcast) raves on an on about The Great Gatsby. I may have understood it better on this second read, but I’m still not a huge fan.

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister

Picked this up because the MOPS theme for next year is Free Indeed and my Input strength (yay StrengthsFinder) now compels me to consume everything within reach about freedom. Radical Spirit explores the 12 steps of humility laid out in the Rule of Benedict. Humility, to Joan, is the key to ultimate freedom in faith.

After reading the first few chapters, I realized I only needed to read the section addressing the spiritual implications of that step of humility to grasp all the concepts laid out in the entire chapter. And even those could have been said in a couple sentences. I did come aways with a few chewy nuggets but wonder if just reading the Rule of Benedict would have been more productive and insightful.

(I received this book from Blogging for Books for free but all opinions are my own!)

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Previous to reading this, I knew nothing about Russia’s involvement in WWII. Winter Garden explores mother-daughter relationships and the hardships endured by inhabitants of Leningrad before and after Germans laid siege to the city. The narrative flits back and forth between past and present. Fantastic read.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reichert

I was (and still am) in the middle of four non-fiction books and needed a light fiction read to break things up a bit. This was definite fluff. I enjoyed learning more about the Milwaukee food scene as the food writer gets shown the city by a chef, but the rest was unremarkable. A good diversion, tho!


For reasons other than patriotism, July has truly been a month of freedom.

What often entraps us are our repeated offenses and that has definitely been the case for me. But, God has been faithful to soften my heart and bring me to a place of surrender with body image issues and contentment struggles that have previously stuck closer than a shadow.

Healing is a process, but the lightness of being I’ve experienced from accepting the freedom that God and His word offers is a gift.

A certain Samaritan woman is no stranger to both the sins that can shackle a soul and the freedom found in taking God’s hand. Her story is more relevant that I ever imagined. Read more about her story of shame, redemption, and hope on Kindred Grace {HERE} today! (You’ll also get to see a photo of my Elizabeth Bennet moment in Scotland…)


If the Samaritan woman’s story intrigues you, I recommend grabbing a copy of Paperdoll: What Happens When an Ordinary Girl Meets an Extraordinary God. Natalie Lloyd (who you may recognize as a columnist from Brio Magazine, my first magazine addiction) follows “Sam’s” journey to the well and her encounter with Living Water. She dissects the story in a way that makes it relevant and relatable to our society and culture. Natalie writes honestly and is a wonderful storyteller. The book includes great study questions, too.

Our worth isn’t wrapped up in what other people say about us, either. Our worth is woven into the fabric of God’s Word, into the ultimate truth that sets us free to be the unique, beautiful, godly women we were created to be.

Natalie Lloyd inPaperdoll

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On vulnerability, battle cries, and Glennon Melton

When writers commit to vulnerability in their work, they are inviting readers into the most sensitive areas of their lives. Layer upon layer of garments, grit, and grime are shed with every word until nothing is left but the bare essentials. Authenticity and truth-telling leave a person naked and unarmed. It’s both a scary and freeing place to be.

Too often, we view vulnerability like a super power, treating those who possess the uncanny ability to be completely honest like they are made of cold, hard steel, brandishing their mistakes and faults like a sword. What we view as a weapon is hardly even a shield. Instead of deflecting or conquering pain and trials, authenticity leaves people bare and unprotected.

It’s easy to respond with judgement even though the battle cry of vulnerability is, “I’m human. I’m just like you!”

We heap on expectations and assumptions like transparency equals perfection. The fact is, authenticity and vulnerability don’t exempt one from mistakes. Truth-tellers are brave, but they are not invincible.

Carry On, Warrior

Glennon Melton, of Momastery.com, is well-known for being one of those brave truth-tellers. She has made a name for herself writing about faith, marriage, and motherhood with an honesty that can be shocking, humorous, and heart wrenching all at the same time.

The blogosphere has come to honor and glorify this type of all-or-nothing honesty and, in turn, readers have come to demand it.  But, we don’t always remember that life is a process. What is true and real right now may not be true and real a week, a month, a year from now. It is unreasonable to apply static standards to the ever shifting seasons of life.

Most of my readers have agreed to an unwritten rule that we don’t use the truth’s I tell against me… I walk onto this field every day without armor or weapons, by choice, and so the risk is that every once in a while, someone will shoot. It happens, it hurts, and it always makes me want to quit writing.

Glennon in Carry On, Warrior

I have been guilty of being a sniper, standing on the sidelines applying static standards to the conclusions someone has made about the ever shifting seasons of in their life. As a consumer and producer of this type of honesty, I want grace and tenderness to infuse my response to vulnerability. I want to see past the point where my views intersect with theirs and appreciate where our thoughts may diverge.

It is with this in mind that I read Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, Glennon’s collection of new essays and best-loved material from her blog.

Glennon is unflinchingly honest about her “brutiful” life, sharing the ins and outs of addiction, a shotgun marriage, motherhood, and friendship. Her perspective on life and faith will appeal to Millennial Christians who are frustrated by the anti-this, anti-that sentiments prevalent in religion today.

I didn’t always resonate with her sense of humor (though I won’t go to the dentist without thinking of her) and her challenges with motherhood/marriage aren’t quite the same as mine, but I found her honesty disarming in the best of ways.

There were gems like this:

But when your miracle doesn’t happen the way you planned, it becomes important to look for peripheral miracles. Peripheral miracles are those that aren’t directly in front of you. They’re not the ones on which you’ve been too damned focused. You have to turn your head to see peripheral miracles.

Carry On, Warrior (261)

And, since the book contained selections from her blog, I will be able to refer back to some of my favorite pieces.

And then, there were the pieces that reminded me of other writers I love and admire and their unique battle cry.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Carry On, Warrior – in part for the reason I think everyone should read Can I Ask That and also for those little gems that challenge and bloom into truth for the giver and receiver.

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Can I Ask That?

It all started with the apocrypha. My Intro to the Bible course required a Bible with the apocrypha. I hadn’t ever heard of the apocrypha, but since it wasn’t in the NIV Bible I had been using most of my life, I was instantly wary. My expectations were high going in to my first year at a small, Christian college and this wasn’t the start I was picturing.

While my classmates and professor discussed different theories behind the canonical order of the gospels, I sat cringing in my seat. By the time we started reading from the Gospel of Thomas, I had mentally, emotionally, and spiritually checked out. Biblical criticism was a new concept for me and I wasn’t prepared for the inner conflict welling up as we studied various viewpoints on Scripture. I was confident, maybe a little cocky, in what I believed, but I found myself unable to explain many of my convictions in the face of these new concepts.

I hadn’t expected my beliefs to be academically challenged. That’s certainly not what I had been looking for in a “Bible class.” Since I purposefully didn’t take another religion course in college after that, God found other ways to break through my spiritual comfort zone, which, in retrospect, was one of the best things about my college experience. Those four years became a turning point in my spiritual journey. I began to wrestle with my beliefs and make faith decisions for myself. There was less spiritual assumption and more circumstances that required me to articulate my beliefs.

As I continue to follow Christ, I’ve realized that questioning your faith and having your faith questioned is an essential part of spiritual formation. Unfortunately we live in a Christian culture that doesn’t always encourage questions. Especially if you’ve grown up in the church, questions are associated with doubting and woe be unto thee who doubts…

As someone who comes in contact with youth on a regular basis (my husband, Tim, is a youth pastor and I’ve volunteered in middle and high school ministries for the past four years), I want to be someone who embraces and encourages questions.

Tim models this very well in his own life and in ministry. He’s chosen a book for the high school group to walk through on Sunday mornings together that encourages students to explore their faith and ask tough questions. I was challenged to grapple with my convictions about the character of God, women in ministry, and the validity of Scripture while reading through this book.

Can I Ask That?Despite being geared towards students, I couldn’t help but wish everyone would read Can I Ask That? 8 Hard Questions About God & Faith. Even though it was written as a curriculum for students, the content promotes conversation and critical thinking about common questions asked by believers and non-believers alike.

The authors of Can I Ask That? don’t give answers to the 8 difficult topics covered. They guide readers in discovering their own convictions and help them to articulate the why.

Beyond the important themes and values supporting the content, here are some other reasons I love Can I Ask That?:

  1. Design: The graphics, layout, and illustrations are just plain cool.
  2. Format: Each question is approached from five different angles – story, questions, notes, scripture, and dialogue. The stories and dialogue are fictional but so relevant and relatable. I’m not too old to know the authors have taken an accurate pulse on the current generation.
  3. Conversation: You can just tell Can I Ask That? was created and crafted to promote conversation. The authors provide tips for promoting healthy dialogue (in the leader guide) and the question sections are designed like conversation bubbles. Readers may not recognize the hints, but this book is filled with the subtle message to get talking!

Can I Ask That? would be an awesome book to go through as a family, too. I’m excited to be part of the conversations we will have on Sunday mornings with our high school group this Summer and I’m even more excited (and somewhat terrified) about having these conversations with James as he grows.

I never want to be too old or too comfortable in my faith to ask questions. Can I Ask That? is a great place to start.

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