In case you forgot, I love to read. Stacks of books seem to pile up all over the house — most of them half read. Other women buy shoes; I buy books.
Here is a quick wrap up of what I read in 2015:
- The Rundown: Jessica Turner inspires her readers to grab back “pockets of time” to dedicate to practical self-care and personal endeavors.
- Memorable Quotes: “If what you do doesn’t matter to you, it’s really not going to matter to anyone else,’ Work to fill your life with things that matter” (p. 35). “Relationships are the currency that matters, not the conditions of our homes” (p. 48). “..sometimes we have to let go of self-imposed have-to’s and settle for good enough. Just because you’re passionate doesn’t mean you have to do it” (p. 205). “If you don’t take proper time to rest, you’ll pay the price in one way or another” (p. 237).
- Biggest Takeaway: I really appreciated how Turner challenged her readers to “turn moments of comparison into catalysts for celebration.” In addition, I tracked my time as she suggested and realized that I do have significant “pockets of time” available that I need to vigilantly reclaim back for my passions, rather than squandering them away while trolling Facebook.
- The Rundown: Angie Smith encourages her readers to simply enjoy spending time with a God of grace, rather than checking off legalistic spiritual “to do’s” as we chase down our skewed view of a God of rules and regulations.
- Memorable Quotes: “Religion is what we build with our own hands when we can’t stand to feel like observers. And when it crumbles, we blame God. We have determined the man-made ceiling to be our own instead of the heavens themselves, and we have allowed our insatiable hunger for understanding to strangle the mystery we’re supposed to embrace” (p. 4). “The truth is that our journey with God isn’t really about living, and He never claimed it would be. It is, and has always been, a gradual death to everything we love outside of Him (p. 12). “He asks us to have the kind of faith that wakes in the morning not knowing how He will provide, but believing that He will, based on what we know of His character” (p. 118).
- Biggest Takeaway: Smith unwraps religiosity and shines a light on true intimacy with Christ. Her book makes you examine your own life to see where Pharisaical tendencies have seeped into your thinking and way of viewing God.
- The Rundown: Jennifer Dukes Lee confesses that for years she craved acceptance and approval. She spurs on her readers to lay down the “love idol” and accept God’s unconditional love. We are “pre-approved” by our Father.
- Memorable Quotes: “Eyes cannot look in two different directions. I want mine on Jesus–not on yesterday’s failures or successes, not on today’s agenda, and definitely not on the world’s scorecard. Eyes. On. Jesus” (p. 112). “When we uproot idols, we make room for God. We discover a love that is already ours” (p. 129). What if we became less interested in wowing others and more focus on being wowed by God?” (p. 168).
- Biggest Takeaway: This beautifully written book affirmed my spirit and reminded that God pursues me with the reckless abandon of a lover. I am completely loved. I am fully accepted. I am His.
- The Rundown: Melanie Shankle shares how marriage is a mystery and a magical gift from God. With humor and a big dose of fun, she pulls back the curtain and lets us see how God puts two completely different people together to create beauty and joy.
- Memorable Quotes: “In a lot of ways home improvement is like marriage. It’s not glamorous. It can take a lot of hard work and effort. There are days it feels like it might be easier to burn the whole thing to the ground and start all over again. Then you remember how much you love the house or your husband and you recommit yourself to what it takes to see the whole thing through. Even when it might involve paintbrushes and compromise and sanding and scraping all the rough edges” (Kindle location 1018). When I look in his eyes, I don’t see perfection. I don’t see a love story that would necessarily be something people would watch on a big screen and dream about. I see someone who will fight for me and protect me and love me in spite of all the ways I am still a wreck. I see home. Wherever he is. That’s my home” (Kindle location 2433).
- Biggest Takeaway: It’s good to laugh and to realize that we are works in progress. Melanie’s marriage memoir tickled my funny bone and nudged by noggin’ to think about how it’s a gift to be Mrs. Dunbar.
- The Rundown: Elisa Pulliam schools her readers in the role of a mentor.
- Memorable Quotes: “It is the willing spirit that matters, not life experience, a gifted personality, or a seemingly perfect life. Expertise and degree qualifications do not matter to hurting hearts, lost souls, or women hungry for love wrapped in truth” (p. 2). “A redeemed woman need not be ashamed of a forgiven past” (pp. 29-30). “Our mentoring should reflect a natural overflow of our position in the body of Christ, as we pursue the things of Christ” (p. 42).
- Biggest Takeaway: Part three of this book provided an inspirational acrostic on Mentoring — meeting, encouraging, noticing, teaching, offering, responding, inspiring, navigating, growing.
- The Rundown: Emily Freeman stimulates a desire in her readers to slow down and recognize the beauty in their everyday ordinary. The Kingdom of God is in our here and now, so we should “celebrate on purpose the messy, the lovely, and the unexpected moments of life” and “move toward others as Christ moves in us.” She argues that “what gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them.”
- Memorable Quotes: “It’s easier to celebrate in the beautiful small, but often it is in the terrible, the unexpected, and the uncomfortable small where we grow closer to Christ, share in His suffering, and ultimately find out true home” (p. 54) “Daily, I’m given the opportunity to recognize the gift of obscurity, trusting that Christ is doing invisible kingdom work in the stairwells of everyday life” (Chapter 6, Kindle location 1363). “Move toward others even as Christ moves within you. I am asked, invited really, to move toward others in my weakness” (Chapter 9, Kindle location 1723). “… letting go doesn’t mean I’ll be left with nothing. It means I can more fully hold on to Christ and trust the life He is building within me” (Chapter 11, Kindle location 2113). “…Love sits with” (Chapter 13, Kindle location 2517
- Biggest Takeaway: This book challenged my thinking on so many levels. Freeman re-framed the word “smallness” for me and helped shape my understanding of my role in God’s kingdom. I was also really convicted by her perspective on how we are to handle “boredom.” I think sometimes I miss the beauty of the everyday ordinary of today because I am looking forward to something spectacular down the road. I also loved it when she said, “Don’t try to change your attitude. Bring your attitude into the presence of Christ.”
- The Rundown: Paul Miller’s book on prayer is unique and encouraging. He allows us to see how he has personally grown in His intimacy with Christ and with his family by persevering in prayer that is honest before God during difficult times. God teaches us to really pray in the schoolroom of suffering.
- Memorable Quotes: “…a praying life isn’t something you accomplish in a year. It is a journey of a lifetime” (p. 21). “To learn how to pray is to enter the world of a child, where all things are possible. Little children can’t imagine that their parents won’t eventually say yes. They know if they keep pestering their parents, they’ll eventually give in. Childlike faith drives this persistence” (p. 39). “We can’t pray effectively until we get in touch with our inner brat. When we see our own self-will, it opens the door to doing things through God. Instead of singing Frank Sinatra’s song ‘My Way,’ we enter into God’s story and watch Him do it His way. No one works like Him” (p. 161).
- Biggest Takeaway: This book was a game changer for me. I will return to it often. One prayer practice that Miller shared that I hope to start using is choosing a “prayer verse” for each of your loved ones. He writes it on a 3×5 card and prays that Scripture daily for each person on his list.
- The Rundown: Laura Boggess shares how she draws into greater intimacy with her Father by setting a weekly “playdate” with her Abba. She rouses her readers to remember their days of innocence and to reengage with a child-like sense of wonder and freedom as they live out their everyday ordinary.
- Memorable Quotes: “Every moment is sacred when we pay attention to it” (p. 53). “The more I step out of my comfort zone, the more sensitive my ear is to the voice of the Spirit” (p. 105). “When did I forget the way of slowing down leads me into the arms of the Father?” (p. 162) “To grow in my relationship with God, to step deep into an intimate relationship with Jesus… I must set aside regular time to meet with Him. Time to play and pray, the two parts of Sabbath” (p. 176).
- Biggest Takeaway: Laura makes an intentional effort to look for God in her circumstances. She sets aside time to draw near to her God and connect with the beauty of His creation and character in a meaningful way. I want to have that kind of passion for my Father God.
- The Rundown: Will Davis, Jr. galvanizes his readers to pray BHAP’s — big hairy audacious prayers — that are bold, Scriptural, and pinpoint specific.
- Memorable Quotes: “As a follower of Christ, you need to know that you’re on solid Biblical ground when you’re seeking miraculous things from God” (p. 31). “Never stop believing and hoping in the redemptive work of God. Your very next prayer may be the one that turns the tide and moves your lost friend toward God” (p. 64). “Jesus is in the business of setting captives free, of breathing life into the spiritually dead, and of turning skeptics into servants” (p. 76). “The most powerful gatherings in the world are those that meet in Jesus’s name. When they meet aligning with His purposes and seeking His glory, He is there with them” (p. 102). “When you make the daily dive into into a world of sin, temptation, mixed messages, and spiritual chaos, you’d better be fully prepared. The daily protection, discernment and guidance you need are accessed primarily through prayer–by specific pinpoint praying for yourself. Without it, your guaranteed to fall hard” (p. 157).
- Biggest Takeaway: In one of the final chapters Davis discusses the importance of praying big for yourself. He lays out 7 prayers including “Lord, help me hate sin” and “Father, give me the gift of brokenness.” I can only imagine the impact of such purposefully surrendered prayers in the year ahead.
- The Rundown: Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband Ken share the lessons they’ve learned through serving one another in a unique marriage colored by physical suffering and the tribulation.
- Memorable Quotes: “…nowhere else — and with no one else — will you have quite the chance to experience union with Christ than through a hard-fought-for, hard-won union with your spouse” (Kindle location 2718). “…love is placing the welfare of another in front of your own” (Kindle location 2743). “…loving that one to whom you said yes, well … it’s just another way, maybe the best way, of loving and serving God” (Kindle location 2771).
- Biggest Takeaway: Reading Joni’s story reminded me that I have absolutely nothing to complain about EVER. The marriage relationship will sanctify you if you cooperate with God’s leading and surrender your will to His plan. Even in the darkest moments of life, there is joy in Christ.
- The Rundown: Wayne Muller unpacks the spiritual practice of rest and renewal that helps us to quiet our hearts and remember the abundance God provides.
- Memorable Quotes: “All life requires a rhythm of rest” (p. 1). “The world seduces us with an artificial urgency that requires us to respond without listening to what is most deeply true. In Sabbath time, we cultivate a sense of eternity where we truly rest, and feel how things can wait, and turn them gently in the hand until we feel their shape, and know the truth of them” (pp. 84-85). “Sabbath is an incubator for wisdom. When we allow the rush of pressure of our days to fall away, even for a short period of time, we are more able to discern the essential truth of what lies before us” (p. 165).
- Biggest Takeaway: On page 196, Muller states: “Sabbath time is set apart for remembering the holiness of life.” I am prone to forget, and so practicing the spiritual discipline of Sabbath helps me to “be still and know that He is God.”
- The Rundown: Annie Downs believes that words give us power to make a difference in this world. She encourages her readers to “speak love” and breathe life into others.
- Memorable Quotes: “The world could change because of your words. It changed because of God’s words, and it changed because of Jesus’s words. And that’s the model by which you were formed. You are made in God’s image” (p. 59). “Your voice rising to God is an atmosphere-changer. It changes the mood. It changes what is going on in the spiritual realm” (pp. 80-81). “Remember this truth: you are always speaking life or death” (p. 151).
- Biggest Takeaway: Downs nails it when she rallies her readers to “speak love” to themselves — negative self talk is a destructive. To love our neighbor, we must first love ourselves. If I wouldn’t say “that” about a good friend, why do accept verbal self mutilation? I am a beloved daughter of the King, and I need to treat myself with self respect in my thought life.
Let’s Talk: What did you read this year?
I am sharing “Read in 2015” and joining like-minded sisters at Give Me Grace, Still Saturday,The Weekend Brew, Spiritual Sundays, Faith-Filled Friday, Blessing Counters, Live Free Thursday, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Three-Word Wednesday, Purposeful Faith’s RaRaLinkup, Rich-Faith Rising, Sharing His Beauty, and Playdates with God.