On this fifth Friday of December, let’s have some fun! Here’s a look back at some of my favorite things of 2017…kinda random but all free.

Favorite podcast: I couldn’t narrow it down to one.

  • Stuff You Missed in History Class produces three episodes each week throughout the year, and I listen to them all–whether it’s something in which I was previously interested or not.
  • Malcolm Gladwell (author of Outliers and Tipping Point) has done two ten-episode seasons of Revisionist History. He challenges us to understand the story behind the story, to look at circumstances in recent history without bias. I sometimes listen to these episodes twice, and I may re-listen to both seasons soon. It’s that good. And look into Gladwell’s background for another fascinating story.

Favorite blog: Oh, this was hard, too.

  • I recently discovered Scott Sauls‘ thoughtful, gentle style. If I lived in Nashville, I would go to his church.
  • I like blogs that step on my toes a little and that confront our culture with more courage than I personally possess. Every post I read by Lori Roeleveld (don’t ask me how to say her last name) leaves me going “Yeah! What she said!” or “Ow. Thanks, I needed that wake-up call.”

Favorite non-writing thing to do: Running. Couldn’t live without it. (Even though I had to add a knee brace to my ensemble this past month.)

Favorite app: My Fitness Pal. It’s related to the running. I struggle with my perfectionism on this, so even as I log my intake and exercise, I have to constantly reminding myself that “close” is good and that one day won’t change the course of my health forever. Still, it’s helped me get a grip on my physical fitness beyond just fat and calories.

Favorite local thing to do: Visit museums on their free days. Check on-line. Most museums want to be accessible to everyone, so they have weekly or monthly days where there’s no admission fee.

Favorite social media platform: Twitter. You may laugh, considering how I can’t write a short blog post, but the constraints of Twitter push me to be concise. I wish they hadn’t increased the character count. Follow me, if you don’t already: @Carole_Sparks.

Favorite book I read this year: In 2017, I alternated types of books. This worked well for me, and I read many more books than usual. I can’t choose just one, so one for each type. These are free at your local library.

  • Non-fiction: Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, by Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor. This is not the most exciting book I read this year, but it challenged my faith in profound ways. Close second: Gospel Fluency, by Jeff Vanderstelt, or Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.
  • Fiction: Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. I read some modern fiction (e.g. John Grisham, Khalid Hosseini) and some so-called classics. Cannery Row amused me and led me to think about the influence and interconnectedness of our culture/history.
  • Newbery Winner or other children’s book: Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George. I didn’t expect to like this one, but it spoke to me regarding personal and cultural identity–great for someone who has lived cross-culturally.

Favorite Bible Verse: “Favorite” isn’t really the right word. This is the set of verses that sustained me through the most difficult part of 2017. And of course, the Bible is free for everyone.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  –2 Corinthians 10:3-5

A few of my favorite (free) things from 2017. #FifthFriday #NotAboutMe via @Carole_Sparks (click to tweet)

What were some of your favorite free things in 2017? I’m taking ideas for 2018, so share your thoughts in the comments below!

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