JOY: Love Jesus, Love Others and Love Yourself . . . and Some of My Favorite Books

Just a little background about me to give you some context . . . I worked as an educator for over 31 years. I enjoyed this work, but my last 15 years of being a superintendent were all-consuming. I was accustomed to working 12-16 hours most days with tremendous stress. I retired a few years ago and now work part-time as an education consultant. The time demands and stress are far less and for the first time, I have more balance in my life.

I have always been a lifelong learner; learning truly feeds my soul. I am constantly trying to become a better version of myself. To do this, I read my Bible (try to do so daily but sometimes fall short), pray, and listen to spiritual and personal growth books.

I listen to books on Audible when I travel, while I exercise, or do household chores. Listening to and/or reading books always leads me to other books that the authors mention. The more I learn, the more I want to learn.

I want to share some of my favorite books with you and it seems appropriate to do this close to Valentine’s Day, especially because these books have helped me love Jesus, love others, as well as know and love me for who I am. As part of becoming a better version of myself, I want to grow closer to Christ, be a better wife/partner to Neal, be a better mother (even though Ryan and Emmy are grown), and a better friend.

I have found it liberating to understand who I am, which means identifying my gifts as well as my flaws and imperfections. I have embraced who I am and thus try to resist the temptation to compare myself to others or attempt to compete with others. I still fall short in this area sometimes, but I am comparing myself with others less and less over time.

While loving and embracing who God created me to be, I also want to become the best version of who God intends for me to be. I want to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy, which for me includes being more sensitive to the needs of others (less about me and more about others), learning and developing myself through reading, studying the Bible, and developing healthy habits (growing my brain by learning how to play the violin, getting eight hours of sleep, eating healthy, exercising, etc.). I am not “there” yet and some days and weeks I fall short, but I am on the road to becoming a better version of myself and that is what counts. It is the process that matters most and I am embracing that journey. My slogan is "Celebrating Progress Over Perfection".

So here are some of my favorite books helping me on my journey. I hope they will help you to become the best version of yourself too.


Bob Goff’s books are feel-good, inspirational books that challenged me to be more like Jesus. I was weeping at the end of Everybody Always because of Bob’s powerful story of forgiveness. It deeply moved me.

Marie Goff’s book really resonated with me. Her words challenged me to start small by getting to know my neighbors better and participating in service projects at my church.

Christine Caine’s book and Charles Stanley’s book came at a good time for me when I had just retired and was trying to figure out the next chapter of my life. Since then, I have grown to admire Christine Caine’s philanthropic work with regard to human trafficking.

And my new favorite books are by Joanna Weaver. I heard Joanna speak at an online writer’s conference and knew I had to read (actually listen to) her books. When offering advice to other writers, she shared that her focus is on spending time in God’s Word and letting God inspire her writing. I love the sincerity of this and it shows in the authenticity of her inspirational books.


Neal and I have had all the ups and downs, stresses and struggles that all marriages experience over the years of running a household, pursuing our careers, managing money, raising children, and doing life together. We have had many years of happiness, making memories, and even enjoy the day-to-day aspects of life together. Neal is truly my best friend. I have learned that having a good marriage requires attention and effort.

We have to be deliberate about attending to the needs of our partners, being willing to grow, giving and accepting forgiveness, seeing the best in our partner, giving and receiving unconditional love, and cultivating a deep friendship. For those who know me well, they know I have to have “my Neal time” each day, which consists of talking with Neal about the events of the day.

Gary Chapman’s book is an oldie, but a goodie. It helped me to understand my “love language” (know myself better) and Neal’s “love language” so I can understand what makes him feel loved and thus be a better wife/partner.

John Gottman and Nan Silver’s book was a little challenging to listen to on Audible because it had so many lists that were read, so I would suggest actually reading this book. He shares at the core of marriage is friendship and to be friends, you must know your partner well (their interests, dreams, insecurities, fears, etc.). This book also included helpful strategies for going deeper into your relationship and working through challenges.

Other Favorite Personal Growth Books:

These next three books were helpful books that helped me develop some strategies for personal growth. Each of them also included the science and research behind their theories.

I encourage you to think about who you are and how you can become all God wants you to be. . .

    • Do you know yourself?
    • Do you love yourself and recognize that you are a precious child of God?
    • What are your gifts?
    • What are you passionate about?
    • What do you like to do?
    • What are your dreams?
    • How can God use you for His service?
    • What are some areas you want to improve your knowledge?
    • What skills do you want to improve?
    • What dispositions within your personality do you want to refine or improve?

Know who you are but also identify areas you want to improve to become the BEST version of YOU!

What is something you love about yourself?

What is an area you want to grow or improve?

Something I love about myself is my love of learning and I want to improve my ability to “be present” in the moment.

How about you?



  1. Margaret on 02/14/2020 at 9:14 AM

    I love my dry wit. I make my friends see the humor in things. I need to improve my use of sarcasm. It gets me in trouble sometimes.

  2. Donna on 02/14/2020 at 10:25 AM

    love my focus on health
    hate I compare myself to other people

  3. Monique on 02/15/2020 at 11:14 AM

    Love Brene Brown! I’ll check out the others.

  4. Monica on 02/15/2020 at 3:22 PM

    Thanks for sharing list! Read Goff and Rachel Hollis books but not some of the others. Gonna get some of these to read.

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