2023 Books List

Hey friends. I hope you are having a great week. I’ve been wrapping up my 2023 planner and I was counting up the books I read in 2023.

I was impressed considering the year we had and as I looked back over the books I read in 2023 they really did symbolize a whole lot of personal growth. Some of which I fought tooth and nail because it went against how my brain works.

This year I also started my book review journey again. Which I really hope to continue this year as well. Later this week I will share my plan for books in 2024!

Here are the books I completed in 2023

  • Perfectionism
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Resilient (Review book)
  • Who stole my cheese?
  • Becoming Elisabeth Elliot
  • On Getting out of Bed (Review book)
  • The Great Divorce
  • Book Girl
  • The House at Pooh Corner
  • On Cleaning House While Drowning
  • Tips to Romance Your Husband
  • Tips to Romance your Wife
  • Dwell (Review book)
  • Becoming Free Indeed
  • Find your People
  • The 6 Working Geniuses
  • Shepherding a Child’s Heart
  • The Pray Better Devotional (Review Book)
  • Courageous Creative
  • Untapped church
  • Share Your Story

The Romancing your husband and wife books hubby and I read together when we attended a Marriage conference back in March of 2023. We alternated pages and commented on the ideas given in the book.s. It was a great communication moment to share what we liked and didn’t like!

My to 2 favorite books of 2023 was

1) Share Your Story

2) Becoming Elisabeth Elliot (Not gonna lie I’m super excited for reading the sequel to this book later this year)

I can’t wait to share with you the goals and plan for 2024!

What were your favorite reads from 2023?

Patient Endurance

Every year I pick a word (or words ) for the year. Then in the weeks after the new year starts I write a blog post that starts like this, “Well that’s not what I intended” This year is no different. Except for one thing.. After June of this year I lost sight of my words. PATIENT ENDURANCE! Or at least I thought I did. Over the last few weeks I have beat myself up because I hadn’t’t made any progress in Patient Endurance…or at least so I thought.

I have these two amazing women in my life who have supported me on my writing journey for a number of years now, but it’s not just my writing journey really it’s life!! It’s not just one sided either. We lift each other up. Sometimes they ask hard questions to push me into next steps.

Well back in June my amazing friends asked me if I heard anything about “our case”. Our case was just a few short months shy of 9 years long. It’s had been a roller coaster ride of “soon but not yet” answers.

I told them no because Hubby.s phone had been stolen a year earlier and that was the only contact with the U.S. Attorney we had. Periodically we would do a google search for the guys name to See if the trial had happened. It was the same old news articles so over time I just gave up checking. For whatever reason that day when Beth asked- I felt drawn to search again .

This time was different…i stumbled on an FBI posting I had never come across before. I OPENED THE ARTICLE…it was pretty much just like the others BUT THIS TIME it had a U.S.Attorney.s name AND phone number. I closed my phone I got up from my bed. I was shaking. In my head and heart echoed CALL. I went to leave my room. I glanced back to my bed and the phone that laid in the middle of it. I walked back, hands shaking, I picked up the phone and I clicked on the link My phone dialed than rang.

My chest was pounding all I was looking for was a simple answer…..yes or no. That’s it. I got more than I bargained for. The answer was NO the trial hadn’t happened yet. I got transferred to a really nice lady. . D basically told me that if the attorney wanted to talk to us she would call us by the end of the week. I hung up…..shaing worse than when I started this. At least we had a date…END OF AUGUST.

Can you guess what happened at the end of the week? A big fat NOTHING! We let it go like all the other times and we just kept doing the everyday. Until two weeks later. I was at church after a day of ministry and meetings and I can’t remember where hubby was off to but I was sitting fat his desk using a charger when my phone rang. It was a blocked number. I almost didn’t answer, but something said Pick up. So I did.

The U.S. Attorney introduced herself and I nearly fell off the chair in shock. The details I learned from that phone call made me ill. I felt like I could throw up. I also learned more about the FBI and Federal Court system that I never wanted to know. At the end of the phone call she asked how I felt about the kids testifying? We may need them to. By this time I was outside of our church and I had just walked inside and two staff members had joined me…but they had no idea shat I was about to tell them.

I was in shock. The ball was in motion…..we would be involved and I had major regrets for ever making that call. We didn’t change our plans. We didn’t tell the kids yet. We ended our homeschool year, 3 kids went to work at Camp, hubby and I had phone meetings and even went to a meeting in the Federal building where our phones were confiscated. We went with a friend who had walked a similar path. Her words to and from were soothing to hubby and I. The laughter was healing. There would only be a sentencing…..no trial. (there will be another post on that subject) Sentencing was moved (as expected) . It moved from the end of August til the end of September. We started school. We went on vacation with friends. Ron and I left for a Pastors and Wives retreat. We left one week to the day before we were to appear in court.

Everyone else was having a great time…..we on the other hand had a job to do. Four victim impact statements had to be written. Hubby and I would take breaks and hike the trails around the retreat center. There is one trail I didn’t think I could do. It was steep….so very steep and I had killed my ankle and knee in June and I had not fully healed and the rocks that cover those Pennsylvania mountains were brutal.

Upon the encouragement of our teaching pastor who was also at the retreat we decided to hike the yellow trail Thursday morning. It was tough. I was in pain, it was a hard climb because for 3 months had babied my left leg. BUT IM INCREDIBLY STUBBORN AND I DONT GIVE UP EASILY. It took us way longer than it should have but as we reached the summit in the middle of the Poconos my phone rang. It shouldn’t have…..i shouldn’t have had reception. It was D. Our advocate. She informed us that our kids didn’t need to come and that none of us had to testify. None of us would have to stare at him in the face. Hubby and I could read our victim impact statements and that would be it.

We hugged and cried and cried and hugged. That climb was so very symbolic of those last nine years (we passed the anniversary the grinning of September) it was rocky, tricky and sometimes straight up. We had each others backs Then coming back down the very steep side I literally had to lean on hubby.

I look back on that time in September and yes in the months surrounding those events I may have dropped some balls. I may have lost track of some things and forgotten stuff but in the middle of all that we came out the other side maybe a little ruffled but we had our faith and our family intact and we had this amazing group of people who really acted as our Aaron and Hur. They held up our arms in some of the craziest times. Some of them even went to court with us. They sat with us, held our hands rubbed our backs and sobbed with us our words…..our testimonies of Gods grace and forgiveness were heard not only by the man who hurt us but also a judge, attorneys, and US Marshalls who sat in that court room.

As for the patient endurance I look back on The last year and from July through the end of the year I may have fallen short and dropped the ball in some areas but in hindsight we patiently endured 9 years. Waiting. There were lots of “Soon but not yet” Moments. The waiting is over. It was hard but the idea of endurance eludes to hard work. As much as I felt like I was failing I wasn’t. We ran that 9 year marathon. We kept our eyes on Jesus and we served with all of our hearts. We could have hid and licked our wounds. We could have protected ourselves and not let anyone in. We could have lived in fear. We could have said no to the Attorney. B. Instead we didn’t run that race for ourselves but for Jesus. We let Jesus shine through.gh the pain. That’s who we kept our eyes on. Patient Endurance isn’t always pretty it will sometimes be messy. That’s where Jesus comes in. He makes the messy beautiful!

Next week I will share my word for this year.

Bits and Pieces

I know it’s been a long time and very sporatic at bestl

I’ve opened the app and the site sat and stared not knowing where to begin. I want my writing to be impactful and full of purpose but in the same respect I have just lost the joy of writing in this space like when I started writing here nearly 17 years ago.

A few weeks ago I really started contemplating why this was. it came down to a few things. Those things are:

l. When I started blogging it was simple. It was just me and my thoughts and a computer. Now when I write l create an image l fill out SEO stuff and I get lost in the tiny details. It’s all necessary and important but those details drastically suck the joy out of the writing process for me.

2. The expectations of my own writing and the perceived expectations of others. Over time as my writing has changed and growsn I seem to think that every writing piece needs to resemble some big work of spiritual art. The reality is that can’t always happen. Some days are yucky and Hard. I have nothing profound to say just the realness of my heart. THAT has been criticized in the past. There are people who didn’t like my being real with where I was. (That’s about to change). Keeping up of appearances is one of the things that needs to change, especially amongst Christians. God writes our story. He helps us through it and yet we don’t tell the how. We just put on a smile and say “Im all good” and no one is any the wiser, and the work of God in our hearts, minds and lives goes unused to help that person who may be having sleepless nights, falling tears and loneliness.

3. Criticism. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I struggle with people pleasing and I have done a whole lot of recovering from that over the last two years. This past September I had to write a victim impact statement which got turned in to a federal court judge. A few days later I found myself sitting in a Federal Court before that same judge next to one of the most obnoxious defense attorneys. I read my statement. What happened next was…..frustrating to say the least. More criticism. I’m going to write more about this in the coming months. Walking away from that day I said well if I can face that nothing will phase me. Still……I chose silence.

I’m sure if I sat here I could think of a bunch more things. But those are the Bigs ones. I gave up on the things that I loved and that made me feel the most alive and connected to God. So now what?

For now Im going back to what worked at the very beginning. Bits and pieces of my life shared. Thoughts, questions fun pictures. Some days I won’t use SEO. Some days I will just write to heal, write to breathe, write to process. I’m not writing for you the reader. If along the way you like what Ive written….GREAT! If along the way God uses what I have written to impact you in some way…..AMHAZING. IF GOD USES MY WRITING TO HELP YOU GROW CLOSER TO HIM…..PRAISE HIM. In the meantime I will be sitting over here sipping my coffee, praying, reading and enjoying the process

Thanks for joining me on my journey of faith.

Steph: Influential Woman #10


Steph and I have been friends for years. Since college really. We lost contact for a number of years and really reconnected through the magic of social media. Then through a mutual friend, we reconnected in person and on a deeper level. over the last two or three years, we have become each other’s cheerleaders. She really has influenced me deeply with her voice of reason. When I’m frustrated that I haven’t met my own expectations she is there to speak the truth and say “Goodness Mary, here’s the logical reason why you can’t seem to make that goal…Life is a little crazy for you right now.”

She makes it so I can take that big deep breath and let go of my lofty expectations! She has taken time to REALLY listen about some of the darkest times in my life. Steph has taken that time to literally breathe life back into my soul. Helping me to see Jesus in the middle of it all! helping me to see my value in the muck no matter how cruddy it all was.

She spoke the truth in the middle of the worst physical pain of my life!

We know that we can speak truth into each other’s lives and it will make a difference!

That kind of Influence is life-giving and that is why I asked Steph (And Beth) to be on my prayer team for this blog! You can check out their introduction in this post here.

That in and of itself is a powerful influence. but to be willing to speak the truth in love into someone’s life is one of the most powerful influences a person can have.

How about You?

who is someone that speaks truth into your life?

Do you let them influence you with that truth?

How can you influence someone by speaking the truth in their life?

You Can Check out more #31days2022 authors here!



When the Fog Clears


My eyes popped open at 4 this morning. I made myself stay in bed until my alarm went off at 5. Yesterday I battled a scratchy throat and some congestion so I didn’t want to overdo the not getting rest. But as soon as my alarm went off my feet were on the floor. I got dressed grabbed my journal and my coffee cup and headed to the barn we are turning into a house.

It was a brisk morning but no worries I had my sweatshirt on. I scanned the sky. YAY! There are clouds!! (More on that in a minute!!)

I went into the barn and started the coffee pot.

I gathered some other stuff around the barn for our typical day at church.

I went back to the coffee pot and grabbed my cup and as I turned to grab my creamer from the fridge my eyes caught what had happened out the window…FOG!!!!

WHAAAAAT? When I came into the barn a few minutes ago there was no sign of fog ANYWHERE! And now I couldn’t see the forest behind the barn-house.

I grabbed my coffee and headed to the picnic table but not without some apprehension first.


Taking the Step into the fog

It’s not the first batch of fog we have had at our new home. Matter of fact I shared a pic in yesterday’s blog post of another foggy morning from last week. I enjoy seeing fog. I think it is pretty. However, fog is daunting and a little scary too because you can’t see through it. You don’t know what is there with you.

This morning’s fog was thicker than the other days. Everything felt a lot “closer” than usual and I could see how someone who struggles with claustrophobia might not enjoy this experience. I could have chosen to stay safely in the barn. I didn’t know what was in the fog. I know what could have been….coyotes, fisher cats, Bears Oh my.

However, I was EXPECTING something so I took the risk and stepped over the threshold of our barn-house. And carried my coffee to the picnic table and watched the sky over where the woods should be.

Waiting Expectantly.

Over the next half an hour I took sips of my coffee and waited expectantly looking at the sky. I began to notice something happening. The sky over the tree tops started to lighten and change colors. I kept watching but with the next sip of coffee, I noticed something amazing. The more I stayed focused on the sky, the more the fog was clearing.

All of sudden this thought crossed my mind- Mary this is the perfect explanation of this restlessness you have been dealing with.

The funny thing about fog is that you can walk through the fog, seeing just what’s ahead of you for a few feet. So as I traversed through my restless fog I kept taking steps forward, but couldn’t see past my current place. I chose to write through it, baby steps inching forward in faith. I kept my eyes on God or at least in his direction waiting for some glimmer of the rising sun. I knew He was there, He always has been.

I began an old habit I had put in place during college and as I wrote my way through words and prompts I saw the brightness in the sky. I looked around me and realized the fog was beginning to clear.

What happened next is amazing.

When the fog lifts

It lifted just as quickly as it had come. I finished typing my last few words for the blog post Called Restlessness and Grace, I sat back and took a deep breath before I started the editing process and I was flooded with some understanding. I knew what my next steps were, albeit daunting.

I had to take the steps of faith in the fog before I was ready to say yes.


  • trusting my husband in a new way (nothing bad, just new)
  • changing my perspective/ idea for what my #write 31 days project in October will look like
  • tweaking the last 3 #write31days projects to fit a MUCH bigger writing project
  • Changing a title and a focus
  • Being brave in every way possible.

I told you all the restless fog usually comes before a big breakthrough.

Now about those clouds

We always seem to think that having a cloudless sky made a day beautiful. We also tend to think that a life without clouds and storms is a sign of a really good life. And yes some clouds are gray and can make us feel gloomy and sad.

Can I just tell you though I have gained a whole new appreciation for clouds both literally and figuratively, and here is why. Clouds give the sky character. I have a very distinct childhood memory of laying in the grass f our backyard just watching the clouds float by and talking with my brothers (i think) about the shapes we saw in them.

As we have transitioned into our new home and we have a much bigger view of the sky I have taken more notice of the clouds, especially at certain times of the day. Sunrises and sunsets. Sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous on their own but add in the clouds and wow! Extra colors, extra shadows. The sun just bounces off of them in so many ways.

How about the sunsets right after a storm? Gorgeous. So often we see the clouds in the sky and we forget that they can be transformed from what they appear to be into something so stunning.

The same is true for the clouds and storms in our lives

As I sat pondering all of this, this morning with a coffee cup in hand I saw these little puffy clouds. I could just barely see them as the fog began to lift. But as the fog lited those little puffy white clouds GLOWED PINK in the rising sun…..AND then I looked behind me, the fog had lifted and the clouds behind me weren’t just glowing pink, but were purple too.


Sometimes we get so incredibly focused on the clouds themselves that we forget to see what God has done around us.

I want to challenge us to do 2 things:

  1. Trust God in the middle of the fog. Keep taking baby steps in our walk with Jesus. Understand that he is there with us in the middle of the fog. Fog is going to look different for everyone. For me, it was a restless heart and mind. for others, it might be depression, anxiety, grief, and a host of other situations.
  2. When we see the storm clouds rolling in or overhead keep our eyes peeled for the painting God’s about to paint. He has a plan to take those scary clouds and turn them into something beautiful. We have to be willing for him to do that though. We ALSO have to keep our eyes peeled in order to see it.

So to recap we MUST