Soul Keeping – Words & Music For Soul Care



Given the fact that my favorite genre of book is the spiritual memoir, I can safely say that I am no stranger to reading books about the soul.  I still remember picking up books like Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul when I was barely old enough to understand its depths.

While I’ve read books that focus on aspects of soul care, until I read this book I don’t think I’ve ever read words that so accurately and simply define what a soul is in ways I can understand and actually comprehend.  The soul is such an intangible part of us, and yet it is everything.  Its breath and life, and the part of ourselves that will endure when our bodies are long gone.


John Ortberg’s latest book, Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You is a book to move through slowly, lest you miss all the wisdom packed in its pages.  This is a book best served with a side of contemplation–one that requires swigging and sloshing around its wise passages like fine wine.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the glimpses Ortberg gives us into his lifelong friendship with Dallas Willard.  The book is dedicated to Willard, with various quotes, stories and interactions with him on every aspect of the soul.   One of my favorite quotes from Willard imparts profound truth:

 “The most important thing in your life,” Dallas said, “is not what you do; it’s who you become.  That’s what you will take into eternity.  You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.”

The book is broken down into three sections: what the soul is, what the soul needs, and the soul restored.  At times he does get a tiny bit long winded, but usually brings the reader’s attention back with a story or quote from Willard.   One of my favorite things about Ortberg’s writing is his ability to converse about complicated topics, while always remaining conversational and relatable.   Ortberg takes his deft hand and breaks down heady thoughts; distilling the information into easy to understand morsels.  This was one of my favorites:

 The will is a form of energy.  You can drive and stretch and push the will.  The mind has an endless ability to think and feel.  You can direct your attention.  You can focus and study.  The body is your little power pack.  You can place demands on your body.  You can exercise it, strengthen it, hone it, and force it to run for miles.

But it is the nature of the soul to need.

Ortberg speaks my artistic language when he reminds us of an important fact about the soul.  “We can’t seem to talk about beauty or art without talking about the soul–particularly music.”   I was inspired by this book to create a Soulkeeping Playlist. {To listen, click on the Spotify link below.}

If you’re looking for a book to speak beyond the surface of life, and enrich your soul and spirit, look no further than Soul Keeping.  Open its pages, grab a cup of coffee or hot tea, {and perhaps take a listen to my SoulKeeping playlist while you read?} and get ready for the nurturing of your mind, spirit and soul.

Ortberg reminds us that “the best place to start doing life with God is in the small moments.” Any time spent in these pages will be well worth it to your own spirit and soul.

{I received a copy of this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.}

Writing Lessons & Where I’m From


One of the things I’m enjoying in the New Year is taking my first writing e-course.  I chose this particular one because it focuses on an area I’m grappling with in my writing  – Finding Your Writing Voice.

Ally Vesterfelt {author of the book Packing Light} is guiding a small band of writing novices like me through exercises to help us not only hone our own unique voice, but figure out our message as writers.  {More information about her e-courses opening this spring can be found here.}

Our first writing assignment was a poem.  The thought of writing poetry practically sent me into a case of hives, but once I started writing, it unexpectedly and rapidly spewed onto the page.  This was my first time actually fleshing out a writing exercise like this, though I’ve seen variations of it before.

Mustering up my courage to share it in this online space isn’t easy for me, but doing so makes me feel like I’m finally starting to get to the heart of why I write.


 I’m from the cherry wood upright piano I learned to play on.

I’m from the tiny kitchen with the window above the sink and the closet in my room where I made a pretend childhood library from my young adult paperbacks.

I’m from her hands, and the way she took care of me when I was sick.  From “Does this mean I HAVE to take you to rehearsal?!” and “Love You, Sissy!” and her childlike rebellion.

I’m from Star Trek re-runs and Herbie Hancock and The Phantom of the Opera records.

I’m from the scent of her freshly washed hair and perfume, when I hugged her goodbye in the dark of the morning before she left for work at the hospital.

I’m from my  blue bedroom with the blue curtains and the twin bed.  I’m from Gammon Elementary across the street and the three-legged race at the National Awana Olympics.

 I’m from the First Bible Baptist Church and The Walrus & the Carpenter and The Prayer of St. Francis.

 I’m from the way she cursed and her handwritten lists.   From her astrology knowledge she espoused and said she didn’t believe.  I’m from her heart and her excellent advice when wearing her nurses hat.

I’m from dinner in the living room while watching t.v. and Christmas Eve Gumbo and new traditions with my husband’s family.

 I’m from birthday cake in a metal pan and ‘Happy Birthday Sarah’ in thick icing letters.

I’m from love and fear and basement doors slamming and cassette tapes playing and simple means.

I’m from loving step-parents and Mom’s reserves of strength I never knew she had.  From a distant Father and “You’re My Favorite Granddaughter!”

I’m from divine saving grace of a Godmother and spiritual families.

I’m from 5 year old salvation at the church down the street, and the house on Dellrose.

I’m from more love than I’ll ever remember.


Sacro Speco {Sacred Space} – Sunday


Today’s Sacro Speco Soundtrack: Sunday by Billy Porter & the Broadway Inspirational Voices Choir

Its a cloudy, cold and dreary Saturday in Texas.

The perfect day to bring back to the blog a practice I started two years ago.



I like to share pictures, Scriptures and/or quotes that lead to rest, reflection, meditation and reverent quiet. {I am occasionally adding music to the mix as well}.

I call this practice Sacro Speco, which is Latin for ‘Sacred Space’. 


I am aspiring to return to the pursuit of Sacro Speco in my own life this year and look forward to building community here.


In the past I have done linkups so other bloggers can share their own Sacro Speco inspiration.  Let me know in the comments if that is something you’d like me to start doing again.

Grace, Peace & Rest to you friends.

2015 Book Releases I Cant Wait to Read



The last few years I have made a list in my journal at the end of the year where I write down the upcoming year’s book releases I’m excited to read.   As I perused my list this year, I realized a plethora of my favorite authors are on that list.  Being that booklist posts are my favorite, I thought I’d share these titles with you.

Here is my current list–sure to grow as the year goes on– of anticipated 2015 reads!

{Affiliate links below support keep the lights on here – thanks!}

Searching For Sunday: Loving, Leaving & Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans:   I’ve been a big fan of Rachel and her writing since reading her fantastic memoir,  A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  She writes and says things I believe but can’t always articulate, or am afraid to write about.  I don’t normally resonate with ‘leaving church’ stories, but I can’t wait to read hers.

Fringe Hours: Making Time For You by Jessica N. Turner:  Though this book comes out in February, I am reading a copy now, as I’m on Jessica’s book launch team.   For women who struggle with ‘doing it all’ {and who doesn’t}, this book has  practical advice and wisdom on finding time for yourself and creating margin for the important things in your day.  So far, I’m underlining and ‘MMmHmmm-ing’ through each chapter I read.

Scary Close: Dropping the Act & Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller:    I’ve pretty much read every book Donald writes–I’ve been a big fan of his writing since his first book, Prayer & the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance.  {Its now out of print, but was re-issued as Through Painted Deserts} Its been awhile since Don has written a memoir-like book such as this one, and if the first chapter is any indication of the rest of the book {he sent one out to his email subscribers}, I think I am going to love this book.

Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist:  Shauna’s last book, Bread & Wine was my favorite read of 2013. {I wrote about it, and even created a foodie playlist here.}.  Unfortunately, this book doesn’t look to be a completely new title, as its a devotional with sections of her previous books.  But it looks like there will definitely be new content.  I look at it as a reading appetizer before the  book she’s currently working on, Present Over Perfect.  {I only know these things because I read her blog and follow her on Facebook. So yeah, I’m pretty much a fan girl of her writing.}

Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire & Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God  by Lauren Winner:  Lauren Winner is one of my favorite writers, bar none.  I don’t think I’ve heard of any authors writing about the concept of this book, which is intriguing.  I’ve been looking forward to this book for awhile now.  If Lauren writes a book, I’m pretty positive I’m going to devour it.

What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self  by Richard Rohr:  I’m just discovering the remarkable writing of Richard Rohr, though I’ve heard of his work for some time.  I read through his book, Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent last spring and loved it.  I’ve got some of his other titles on my to-read list, but this one jumped out at me as the one I want to read first.

Out of Sorts: On Being Comfortable With Unanswered Questions by Sarah Bessey:  I found Sarah Bessey’s blog a few summers back, when she wrote out her own fabulous reading/booklists posts.  I am a huge fan of her book,  Jesus Feminist, and pretty much anything else she writes.  {Read my interview with her here.}  The only bummer about this book is its not set to release until August–I can’t wait to read it.

For the Love: Fighting For Grace In A World of Impossible Standards  by Jen Hatmaker:  I first learned of Jen Hatmaker when I read her book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  With her family’s  HGTV show, and her presence in the Christian speaker/conference scene, she has become a bit of a writing superstar. {And from my own hometown no less.}   I learned of her upcoming book by following her hilarious updates on Facebook.  I also loved an essay she shared from her upcoming book in her newsletter.  This is another book slated to release in August–its definitely on my summer reading list.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown:  I know absolutely nothing about this upcoming release, but I know that if its coming from Brene, I’m going to read it. I loved discussing her book Daring Greatly for the Red Couch Book Club at SheLoves last year, and I worked through her book The Gifts of Imperfection with her online Oprah e-course.  I think this going to be a huge book this year.

What new or upcoming book releases are on your list?  Let me know in the comments, so we can grow each other’s reading lists!

My {Favorite} 2014 Reads {And A Giveaway!}



I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: end of the year and booklist/reading posts are some of my favorite reads in the blogisphere!  {And its always fun to link up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy.}

I was surprised when I checked my yearly reading list in my journal, and discovered that I  read the same number of books this year as last year.  {My grand total this year was 35 Read about my 2013 reads here.}

I’ve divided my 2014 reading list into my absolute favorites and runner-up-faves.   I honestly could probably have switched the lists depending on when you asked me.  All of the books I read this year were truly fantastic.  My favorites weren’t necessarily better than the other books.  They simply struck a chord, or came into my hands at the exact moment I needed to read them.

All of my reads were at least 3 stars, but mostly 4, with the occasional 5 stars.  I am not one to stick with a book if it fails to captivate my attention.    If a book didn’t hold my interest, I stopped reading it and moved on.  Chalk it up to ADD and good taste. 

I also started and stopped reading many a book this year that was fantastic in its own right, but didn’t speak directly to me at the time.  Until I read a book cover to cover, it doesn’t appear on this list.

I’m also giving away a book I loved this year and a journal to one reader who comments below!  Don’t let the long list of titles deter you – its so easy to enter this giveaway–I’d love for you to win!  {See the end of the post for details!}


{This post is chalk full of affiliate links.  If you purchase something through any of these links–at no additional cost to you–I may receive a small compensation that will go directly back into running this blog.  Thanks so much for supporting All Manner of Inspiration!}

My Favorite Reads of 2014 

{Not all of these books were written in 2014, but I read them all this calendar year, and listed them in the order I read them.}

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber:   I started off last January by flying through this book  I couldn’t stop nodding in agreement at points Nadia made, marveling at her wisdom and underlining passages like mad.   I’d never read a memoir like this before, and that’s no doubt due to Bolz-Weber’s incredibly unique voice.  The book’s chalk full of colorful metaphors {meaning f-bombs and the like}, and while its not my everyday normal kind of read, it was one of the best books I read this year.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman:  This book is a GAME.CHANGER.  {I raved about it here.} This book reminds me at times of Walking On Water, my favorite book in the world.   If I get the privilege of writing a book someday, I can only hope its half as good as this one.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful  by Myquillyn Smith:  Thank goodness for the blogging sisters Emily & Myquillyn!  {Emily, mentioned above, is Myquillyn’s sister}.  The Nesting Place is the only home design blog I read almost everyday, and that’s absolutely because its about so much more than that.  Her blog’s tag line became the title of this bestselling book for good reason.  This is the only home decor book I’ve devoured cover to cover.  While the suggestions,  advice and pictures are gorgeous and right on pointe, its her heart and soul message of seeking beauty and loving what you have and where you are that resonate so deeply with me.  If you only read one home decor book, make it this one.

Still Writing: The Perils & Pleasures of the Creative Life by Dani Shapiro: I found this book through friend and author Michelle DeRusha. {Her book, Spiritual Misfit is listed below–a fantastic read.}    I felt like Shapiro was both schooling me as a writer in the best ways, and sharing her heart and intimate feelings and experiences about the written word at the same time.  A must read for both aspiring and seasoned writers.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett: I knew I would enjoy reading a memoir by Micha in part because she’s a fantastic writer, but that’s not why I loved this book.  I loved that this book followed the Benedictine rhythms, that it made me slow down and breathe every time I picked it up, and that it bore her heart and soul about motherhood so beautifully without alienating someone like me who hasn’t been able to have children.  This prose sings with poetic beauty–don’t miss it.

Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage by Molly Wizenberg:  I read Wizenberg’s first book, A Homemade Life, a few years ago and loved it.  I devoured this book as soon as it arrived in my mailbox.  A continuation of her story that chronicles opening her celebrated Seattle restaurant Delancey with her husband, I think I liked this book even more than her first one.

Breathing Room: Letting Go So You Can Fully Live by Leanna Tankersley:  I first heard about this book from an editor at Revell books, which made me excited to read it from the start.   {I also love that two of my favorite writers, Emily & Myquillyn LOVE Leanna and this book.  They podcasted with her with their Hopeologie site.}.  I carried this book around in my purse for 3 solid months, highlighting and devouring its sentences.  When I went through some unexpected health challenges, the truth in these words sank deep down into my bones.  Leanna shares her experiences as a military wife in Bahrain, and her everyday challenges, and the wisdom she’s gleaned–but really, my words don’t  come close to captivating the beauty of this book -please just go read it, it will do your soul and spirit good!

Favorite Fiction:

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead:  This book took me by surprise at how un-put-downable it was!  Centered around a ballerina and the people in her life, I thought Shipstead did an incredible job of getting into the mind and psyche of a dancer.  I only danced for a brief time, but I had friends who were professional dancers.   The culture, the extreme discipline and environment in the dance world really does breed the kind of mental anguish and perfectionism that these characters struggled through.  I couldn’t put this book down when we were on vacation in Colorado, and the feeling and the voice of the characters stayed with me long after I finished reading.  I hope I can find more fiction this captivating to read next year!

Runner-up Faves

{Translation: Just as amazing as the books above.   If I wrote this post on a different day, they may have landed in my favorites list too.  So many amazing books, so little time!}

A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration & Encouragement edited by Barbara Abercrombie:  I’ll be coming back to this book again and again for sure.  Editor and writing professor Abercromie writes a page a day on various aspects of the writing life.  Its chalk full of wisdom, amazing quotes from a plethora or writers and exercises to use in your writing process.

Diamond In The Rough: A Memoir by Shawn Colvin:  Shawn Colvin is one of my FAVORITE musicians.  I found her music in college, and have loved it ever since.  Colvin’s lyrics are full of beauty, wit and story, and her book felt like an extension of her talent and creativity in the same vein.  This memoir is her story, and I loved reading it.

Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith by Michelle DeRusha:  This fantastic memoir by one of my first friends in the blogisphere was one I had looked forward to reading for some time.  I have followed Michelle’s writing and publishing journey through her blog, and loved connecting with her at various conferences.  I absolutely love Michelle’s honesty about her struggle with unbelief.  She doesn’t mince words, and she shares truths and feelings we all think, but maybe don’t have the courage to voice out loud.  Michelle’s words always give me hope, and help me remember I am not alone.  This is a book with a genuinely authentic voice and bounds of beauty and clarity.

Unnaturally Green: One Girl’s Journey Along A Yellow Brick Road Less Travelled by Felicia Ricci:  I found this memoir on Amazon, while researching the apparently elusive ‘musical theatre memoir’.  Ricci is an extraordinary writer {with a degree in journalism from Yale to boot}, and shares her journey as a musical theatre performer who attains the coveted Elphaba understudy/stand-by job in the San Francisco company of the musical Wicked.  She is hilarious, witty and at times profound in her assessment of working in the wackadoo world of musical theatre that I love so much.  Reading this memoir made me want to take her out for coffee, perform with her in a musical, and beg her to write another book!

An Altar In The World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

I had heard of BBT in years past, but this was the year I discovered her writing for myself.  Of her two books I read this year, this was by far my favorite.  {Though I copied numerous quotes from her book Leaving Church into my journal, and marveled at the beauty of her writing.}  I had the privilege of writing a discussion post about this book for SheLoves.  Her words are reminiscent for me of a modern Madeleine L’Engle.   {And I don’t throw that type of compliment out lightly!}  This book helps me see the beauty and the spiritual in the mundane everyday, and her writing schools me with every sentence.  A must read.

The Rest of My 2014 Reads:  

{There’s truly not a bad one in this bunch.  A good handful of these books were almost in my favorites pile, and many listed below were in other blogger’s favorites lists.  I was truly blessed with the fantastic writing I read this year.}

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Crowded Skies: Letters To Manhattan by Tara Leigh Cobble

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

A Year of No Sugar: A Memoir by Eve Schwab

Phantom {musical theatre script} by Arthur Kopit

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Travelling With Pomegranates: A Mother & Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey & France by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of A Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

At Least You’re In Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life With Everything You Have by Annie F. Downs

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge & Found Self-Help That Actually Works: A True Story by Dan Harris

Tables In The Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost & Found Again by Preston Yancey

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed

A Short Guide To A Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott


What I’m Reading Now

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff,  The Fringe Hours: Making Time For You by Jessica N. Turner, The Martian by Andy Weir, Small Victories by Anne Lamott,  On Being A Writer by Ann Kroeker & Charity Craig & The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski.

Leave me a comment below to be entered to win one of the books I read this year, and a journal to start writing out your own year!
What were your favorite reads of 2014?