what i read in september 

How IN THE WORLD is it October already?

October is one of my favorite months in the whole year, and I am not taking it for granted.

Before we wholeheartedly plunge into October, let’s look back at the two books I finished this month. Spoiler alert: I highly esteem and recommend them both. One takes a detailed look at racism, the other invites us into a life of stillness and abundance. They transcend into all life stages and have something to say to all of us!

22. Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper

That I am chosen for salvation in spite of all my ugly and deadly sinfulness, that the infinitely precious Son of God secured my eternal life through his own infinite suffering, that my rebellious and resistant heart was conquered by sovereign grace, and that I am kept by the power of God forever – if these truths do not make me a humble servant of racial diversity and harmony, then I have not seen them or loved them as I ought.

When the three-day consecutive shootings happened this summer, I found myself in a constant tension – wanting to somehow fix an issue that has been raging for decades on decades. Or at least to help people see that it is an issue. But more than anything, I found myself weeping. And I found myself reaching for this book on my shelf. John Piper does an impeccable job of laying the foundation of what racism is, giving a broad history, providing statistics, adding in modern arguments, and relating every turn to the gospel of Christ. It is a book of history, of theology, of inspiration, of rising up. It is about the obstacles in our way, and how we can become a people that eat together and worship together, no matter what side of town we grew up on or what the color of our skin may be.

RECOMMENDATION STATUS: I believe that we all need to take a step back, realize how much we can not understand about racism, and say “I want to begin building bridges. I want to start mending torn places and cleaning wounds. I don’t want to be silent anymore.” For me, this book was my first step. For some, it might be the first step to looking at the problem intellectually without the biased opinions of a Facebook feed. If you are finding yourself contributing to any conversation about racism, I suggest you take the time and make your way through this hefty read.

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

This isn’t about working less or more, necessarily. This isn’t about homemade or takeout, or full time or part time, or the specific ways we choose to live out our days. It’s about rejecting the myth that everyday is a new opportunity to prove our worth, and about the truth that out worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling.

My first thoughts on this book: Cute cover! I really should read one of Shauna’s books someday! I wonder why the whole world is in love with it. It’s probably terrible. Second thoughts: This is just a more poetic version of The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst and it is a waste of my time. To me, it seemed like a heart-level, get-down-to-your-identity version of The Best Yes. I was pleasantly surprised to see it had lived up to the hype. My ONLY comment of negativity on this book is that she often stated how women struggle with hustle and finding their identity in their work more than men – I see a sliver of truth in it, but on the whole disagree and thought it was unnecessary. Shauna’s writing style is so unique, inviting, and moving. Present Over Perfect gives you the grace to exhale in knowing your worth and the permission to live a life you’ve only dreamed of.

RECOMMENDATION STATUS: If you subtly or strongly find yourself addicted to noise and busyness, you need to meditate on these pages!

Titles I Put Down This Month:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. At first I LOVED it and blitz through the first 80 pages, but I was around 180 pages in and found myself confused and stressed because I hadn’t finished it. I decided that because I have so many types of books that I love on my shelves, I should dedicate my time to them instead of feeling guilty for the ones I’m just not into. I would love to read more World War ll literature in the future, but this one just wasn’t for me. Did anyone have a similar or different experience with it? Have you devoured any great World War ll novels?

Next Up:

Miracles by Eric Metaxas

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen

I am considering getting through as many new books as I can in October and only rereading my favorites in November, because I haven’t reread one of my favorite books since I was a little kid!

Whether it’s with new titles or old favorites that greet you like a friend, here’s to reading during the most gorgeous, coziest time of the year.

 

 

 

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what I read in July.

HOW IN THE WORLD IS JULY ALMOST OVER?

Half of my heart is grieving that these are the last few weeks of summer, while the other half is quietly anticipating the comeback of skinny jeans and Grey’s Anatomy. There is still much beauty to savor, and the beauty of autumn to anticipate.

As far as reading goes this month, I kicked off by finishing one of the best books I have ever read, and then put many books down or procrastinated opening them out of pure boredom.

scary close by donald miller blog review emilee

17. Scary Close: Dropping The Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller 

You can’t control somebody and have intimacy with them at the same time. They may stay because they fear you, but true love casts out fear.

No love is conditional. If love is conditional, it’s just some sort of manipulation masquearading as love.

Scary Close was a book that I had on my shelf for several months. I didn’t dive into it because I was afraid of how much it would convict me, because just look at that tagline. Although I know that was a silly reason, I believe that God led me to the pages at just the right time in my life and once I got going I finished it within just a few days. I’ll be the first to admit that I hate dating books. But, I especially loved this one because it didn’t have boundaries that only applied to friendships, dating, or marriage — it played into all of those components, although most of the stories come from Donald’s dating life and from his engagement period. The book takes you through personal mud as you contemplate insecurities, performance anxiety, manipulation, being too careful, and true love that equals immense amounts of grace. It was truly one of the best books I have ever read, and I don’t say this lightly. Donald has such a unique writing voice that I have always loved; it instructs you like a teacher, makes you laugh, and invites you in like a friend. He shared in particularly vulnerable ways in Scary Close that was essential, convicting, and breathtaking for the sake of the message of true intimacy.

Recommendation status: GET YOUR HANDS ON THIS BOOK, REGARDLESS OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP STATUS. I believe that the truths within it are vital to healthy, grace-filled relationships.

226 pages.

Books I Have Put Down and/or Rejected This Month…

  • For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. I got over 200 pages in. I plan on finishing it eventually. I swoon at Hemingway’s style, but the plot was boring me.
  • Hemingway in Love. I’ll finish this one alongside For Whom The Bell Tolls in the distant future, hopefully.
  • It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke. This book is easy-to-read and tackles an incredible topic, but I’m taking it back to the library because it was always on the backburner between all the other books I am reading.
  • Walking The Bible. I just never got far enough in it to be hooked!

I am all about giving books a solid chance, but sometimes there are other ones on the shelf that deserve more of my attention at the present moment.

Up Next On The Reading List…

Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh

Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper

A Testament to Freedom by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

All The Light We Cannot See

Wise Blood by Flannery O’ Connor

 

 

 

peace, packing light, and baby steps

If we were to have a coffee date, and I would look in your eyes, this is what I would say that I’ve been learning and this is where I am coveting your prayers. I would look like a hot mess, because I am tired. But I’d have a sparkle in my eye — because although I need rest and clarity, I am expectant.

1. I want to learn how to pack light. 

Both physically and metaphorically.

I wonder if this is why packing light scares us so much, because we aren’t sure we’ll get exactly what we want. We’re scared to choose anything – a school, a job, a spouse – because choosing one thing means letting go of several others. But sometimes having limited options is a blessing. It makes it easier to choose our path, and choosing means we get to zoom in and enjoy our one, complicated, imperfect path, instead of trying to halfway entertain a bunch of others. No matter which school we pick, it won’t be perfect. No matter who we marry, our spouse will have flaws. But choosing means jumping in and accepting that path for all of its triumphs and trials. It means letting go of other roads, but in the end, it’s better than never really choosing anything at all. In order to hold on to one thing, you have to let go of something else. — Allison Vesterfelt

More on this soon…

2. Pray for me?

Speaking of packing light, I am packing over the next few days to go on a trip to the mountains for a conference. I would love it if you would pray for all the little details to go smoothly, but most importantly for a personal and widespread revival. Pray that by next Thursday everyone that comes home will be closer to the heart of God.

3. It’s possible to have no idea what is next, and still be at peace. 

I have a lot of decisions coming up and unknowns scattered in my brain — but in a priceless way, it has made me pay closer attention to my present. It has forced me to pay attention to the season I’m in and to give it my all. I have been able to dance freer, and to laugh harder, and to be honest with myself. It makes me hug tighter and not grumble about my small town as much as I have in the past. We never know what is next, even when we have tentative plans, and I hope that this is the beginning of a long process that teaches me how to be where my feet are wholeheartedly and to leave stress behind. Which leads me to our next point: baby steps. 

4. We need to get excited about baby steps again. 

If you didn’t know this about me yet, I am a nanny. It is one of the biggest blessings in my life. Today, as the boy I watch was trying to crawl on his knees (and technically failing — he is so close), I realized that we praise a trying again spirit in young children, and we should praise it in adults, too. Babies love it when you get excited for them. They smile, recollect their energy, and try again. This is how they grow, and that’s how we grow. If we praised everyone around us in their spiritual walk as much as we encourage young ones as they try new things (but just aren’t there yet), I think that the world would be a better place. Get excited when you see yourself inching closer to your goals, to the heart of God. We aren’t going to know how to stand strong on our own without being wobbly for a long awhile. It is okay — and required — to lean on other people. Celebrate small victories and keep going.  

5. Sometimes, you just don’t have energy to hold on to Him. 

It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him. —John Piper

As John Piper says, we shouldn’t camp out willingly in the darkness, but it is important to know how to fight for joy when you are immersed in the dark. Sometimes, we just have to pray that He will hold us, even when we are punching His chest. I am learning the difference between wrestling with God instead of running.

What are you learning, and how can I pray for you?

what i read in may

These books that I finished this month are powerhouses.

They both also happened to be about biblical womanhood: gentle and strong, generous and loyal, humble and confident, wild and free.

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13. Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

Wild women know that the aroma of Christ and the wind of the Holy Spirit flowing through their home make it sweeter than any candle they could find at Anthropologie. -Jess Connolly

If you need a book that doesn’t sugarcoat cramps, this insecure generation of Spandex wearers, all the other joys and insecurities of being a woman, and the truth of the Gospel – don’t look any farther. I was nervous about digging into this one, because I had heard so much hype online about how it was already working in so many hearts in the first few weeks of it being released. I don’t read many books involving women’s interests these days, but this one was worth the hype for me. It’s about loving people well and wearing red lipstick. It’s about glorifying God and not being disgusted in your own skin. It’s about living freely and being yourself in the security of your identity. In addition to this book’s debunking of the lies we believe of being not enough or too much, it was so fun to read a quote from John Piper, see lyrics from Lauren Daigle, and read a story about Corrie ten Boom — all of which are some of my favorites. I will be keeping this one nearby for awhile so that I can revisit highlights and journal through the rough patches. I hope Jess and Hayley go on to write more books, individually or together!

Recommendation status: I could have shared hundreds of quotes with you, but instead I say: Read this book. I’ll be anxious to hear what God does through it in your life.

231 Pages.

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14. Seven Women by Eric Metaxas

Perhaps the best thing about biographies is that they enable us to slip the strictures of time and provide a bracing corrective to our tendency to see everything in the dark glass of our own era, with all its blind spots, motes, beams, and distortions. We must be honest enough to recognize that each era cannot help having a pinched, parochial view of things, and of course the largest part of that parochialism is that each era thinks it is not parochial at all. Each era has the fatal hubris to believe that it has once and for all climbed to the top of the mountain and can see everything as it is, from the highest and most objective vantage point possible. But to assert that ours is the only blinker-less view of things is to blither fatuousness. We need to delve into the past to know that we have not progressed to any point of perfection and objectivity, and in examining the lives of these seven women, we are doing just that. We see that our view of many things, not least our view of how women can be great, is fatally tinged by our own cultural assumptions. The Bible says we are to humble ourselves, and in reading the stories of great men and women from the past, we inevitably do just that. But in humbling ourselves in that way we ironically gain a far greater objectivity and a far better vantage point from which to see things.

When I picked up this book, I already knew I loved biographies, Eric Metaxas, and most of the women in the book, so I knew it would quickly become a favorite. In short and sweet fashion, we visit the lives of Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa. The stories range from the beginning with  Joan of Arc in 1412 to Rosa Park’s death in 2005. Some women I already knew of well, some I didn’t know of at all. Some shocked me, and some relit a fire in me to become more like them. I look forward to studying a few of their lives more intensely in the future, and I am grateful for this easy-to-follow book that was my kickstart. It stepped on my toes in all of the necessary and holy ways.

Recommendation status: If you love history and want to grow as a woman of God, this will be a perfect fit for you.

190 Pages.

Books I’ve put down and rejected this month:

  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Her writing, I will say first and foremost, is elegant and beautiful. I was okay with reading a few cuss words here and there, but when she called God a faulty name, I knew the rest would not be worth my attention. I’m sad that she had to include that, because I was looking forward to reading more of her beautiful words.

Up Next On The Reading List . . .

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Surprised by Laughter by Terry Linovall, PH.D.

No Baggage by Clara Bensen 

 

december reads. 

Here it is, friends. 

The books that are bringing my list of 2015 reads to an end. 

 

25. When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper.

“ …it is a good fight because we are not left to our own strength in the fight.”

I cannot say enough good words about When I Don’t Desire God. John Piper is an incredible teacher. This is the first book I’ve read by him. It had been on my shelf untouched for almost one year, merely because I was intimidated by the title and the legend of the author. I was continuously convicted and encouraged in what the fight for joy should truly look like. Piper laid the foundation with Scripture and wisdom, and finished the book with practical ways to increase uninterrupted intimacy with God. I tore up every page with notes and highlights. It drew me back into the Word. If you’re looking for a deeper book to enrich your relationship with Christ in 2016, I would highly recommend you picking this one up. 
 

26. Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri J. M. Nouwen, Donald P. McNeill, and Douglas A. Morrison. 

“By setting out with Jesus on the road of the cross, we become people in whose lives the compassionate presence of God in this world can manifest itself.”

Unexpectedly, I found that When I Don’t Desire God and Compassion correlated well together. Like When I Don’t Desire God, I tore up every page with highlights and it drew me back into the Word. I appreciated its size of 137 pages, but what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. Compassion reminded me that we will never exhaust the Bible or the attributes of God. The Christian life is so much more than what we have molded it to be with our weak hands. It’s about prayer and action. It’s about living in gratitude, within community, in the knowledge that all is grace. It’s about living for the God that could be human so well because He is so divine. I would also highly recommend Compassion

• • • • • 

The 26 books I read in 2015 were some of the best. I’m glad you let me tuck away my thoughts about them here. 

As you can imagine, I’m already daydreaming about the pretty words and the convicting words to come my way in 2016. 

What’s on your reading list for the upcoming new year?