In 2021, I set out to read a mixture of fiction and nonfiction books. Typically, I read nonfiction books – biographies/autobiographies or books that challenge me in my faith. This past year, however, I wanted to get back to my love of reading fiction as well. When reflecting on my favorites for the year, nonfiction won; however, there are a few fiction titles that made the list.
I am Restored: How I Lost my Religion But Found My Faith by Lecrae
“I am no longer willing to accept Christian expression that refuses to hear voices from the margins. Christ’s body is global and diverse. The perspectives that come from the people who make up Christ’s body reveal the brilliance of our Creator, like the different facets of a diamond. Erasing the edges is equal to denying the beauty of God. Others have different contexts and areas of emphasis, but they should be heard and valued as legitimate.”
I listened to this via audiobook, read by Lecrae himself, which I highly recommend. I felt challenged and encouraged to hear Lecrae’s heart about how he has wrestled with God in the past few years. It challenged me to think of how the Church is loving and caring for all people in the world– not just those who happen to look and be the most like me. It also challenged me to look deeper at Christ’s heart for the world.
That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs
“Asking am I supposed to be a pro or am I supposed to be an amateur – is the wrong question. The right question is what brings flourishing in my life and in the lives of the people I love.”
My entire life, I have always played it safe. I weigh out options. I play out every possible scenario. I am the girl who watches videos of rides before I commit to riding them – even kiddie rides at Disney World. I am not someone who seeks out fun. I thrive on routine and knowing what to expect. I fear failure and not living up to others’ expectations. All of these characteristics – and possibly prideful attitudes — have caused me to miss out on fun and adventure that God has in store for me. This book was so sweet in providing real life examples of places where Annie stepped out in boldness to pursue fun with the Lord – completely surrendered to His plan and the identity He has placed on her. After reading, I felt more confident that I do not have to do something perfectly before trying it or to share about it with others. I have a desire and new sense of urgency to pursue fun and to trust the Lord with the rest.
Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl & Melissa De La Cruz
“Except, wasn’t this love, also? Showing up when you were needed without being asked?”
As someone who always rooted for Jo & Laurie – this book really fulfilled my literary dreams. The story was so sweet and the characters were captured in all their former glory. It was so easy to read this book and to be whisked away into life with the March sisters. Nothing makes me feel more loved than being truly known and my needs being anticipated – this book shows that in all types of relationships – in parents, sisters, dear friends, and finally (blissfully) in lovers.
This book is also so sweet to me, because it was while reading it that I found out I would be having a little woman of my own.
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas-
“… What can I tell you? Roses can bloom in the hardest conditions.”
I adored this prequel. The story is captivating, challenging, and thought provoking. It was so encouraging to witness how beauty can rise from even the most broken, seemingly dark situations. While this book is not intentionally written with spirituality in mind, the Lord used it to teach me how He tenderly cares for and prepares us to spring up even in rocky, hard, barren ground. Just as He did with our hearts, He desires for us to mirror this miracle to the world.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (reRead)
“Once upon a time there was a hazel-eyed boy with dimples. I called him Khalil. The world called him a thug.
He lived, but not nearly long enough, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember how he died.
Fairy tale? No. But I’m not giving up on a better ending.”
Of course after reading Concrete Rose, I needed to reread The Hate U Give. This book is as equally engaging and challenging as the prequel. This book is a beautiful picture of the fact that no matter what each of our backgrounds or experiences have been, we still have an opportunity for redemption and a better ending. May we be chasers of Light and justice in His ways.
Still Life – Louise Penny
“Life is choice. All day, everyday. Who we talk to, where we sit, what we say, how we say it. And our lives become defined by our choices. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. so when I’m observing that’s what I’m watching for. The choices people make”
This was my first Louise Penny book, and I will absolutely be coming back for more! The characters and plot were so intriguing and relatable. Woven throughout the story, we see the impact that choices make in our life.
The Lazy Genius Way – Kendra Adachi
“Sure, your difficult season of life won’t always be this way, but when it is this way, pause. Instead of forcing yourself into a more palatable set of emotions, or ignoring your longing, be aware and gracious. See your season as an invitation to be human, to name what matters,and to strengthen who you already are. You don’t have to be afraid of stress or sadness. You don’t have to panic when things fall out of order. You don’t have to run away from a season of life that seems to require more than you have to give.”
I learned practical tips for “tending to the necessary” in my life through this book, but ultimately – I learned more important lessons about confidence in who I am and daily grace for myself. I have systems in place and a fresh perspective that has helped carry me into this new season of motherhood and teaching.
Strong and Kind – Korie Robertson
What America needs today is parents who don’t just say they value these virtues, but who live them and passionately and boldly teach them to their children.”
I listened to Willie and Korie Robertson read this book via audio book. I felt like I was sitting down with them for discipleship. The advice and stories they shared were simple and easily transferable – but above all, I love that they point you towards scripture as your main source of wisdom, encouragement, and guidance. Their parenting style is intentional yet independence building. I can’t wait until I am in my rhythm of parenting, and I am excited to see the fruit of living out a faithful, passionate life for Jesus in front of my family.
Stay – Anjuli Paschall
“I believe we can all be place holders of Heaven for others. We can create a seat at the table, offer a single cup of coffee, leave bread on a doorstep, or clear an hour in our schedule. God will continually bring us people who are in desperate need of home. If we can embrace each others’ differences, move toward the disabled, welcome the foreigner, laugh with a child, talk to the elderly — all kinds of Heaven can burst open like a flower in bloom here on Earth. Even the tiniest spaces can become a place for others to taste eternity.”
Anjuli’s words pierced my heart. I could so relate to her natural leaning towards being a fixer, or even playing ‘Messiah’. I too have an addiction to helping. To being strong. To feeling needed. To viewing my helpfulness as an indicator of my significance. Yet, like Anjuli, when I fight for control, then my world spins out of control. It is God alone who holds my fragile frame while simultaneously controlling my world. There is something truly beautiful that He can do, when we decide to just stay with Him and to just stay with His people. May we see glimpses of Heaven as we deeply love Him and our neighbor.
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry – John Mark Comer
“For many of us, the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.
“It’s not that we do not love God, we love God deeply. It’s just that we do not know how to sit with God anymore. We have become perhaps the most emotionally exhausted, psychologically overworked, spiritually malnourished people in history.”
This book challenged me to the core. How often do I settle for a watered down, quick version of Jesus? John Mark Comer provides practical insight as well as challenging questions/quotes in order to reveal just how unsatisfying life is without Jesus. If you are someone who struggles with burnout or stress from feeling overextended, this book is for you!
Overall, this year I learned to boldly stand firm in who God has created me to be. I learned to use those giftings and characteristics to deeply love His creation. To chase light and to rest in His complete work. He desires to give us life and life abundantly – may we receive it with open hands and hearts.