In 2022, I had a lot of plans for reading books that I hoped would challenge and grow me in many ways spiritually and mentally; however, all of those plans fell to the wayside. I only read one book on my TBR list. My brain was so exhausted from balancing a new baby, teaching full time, ministry, and just life in general. This past year, I read more than I have since probably Middle School, but most of the books served as an escape – a way to shut my brain off and just rest. I found the Lord using even these books that were not even written about Him to challenge me in my understanding of myself as well as the world He has created around me. Each character brings a unique history and personality which impacts the way they interact with the world around them. This caused me to seek to know those in my actual life deeper and to learn about the inner workings of how God has created them and fashioned them uniquely.
My favorite books that I read in 2022 were—
Grace for the Good Girl – Emily P. Freeman
“ Jesus brings His people to the edge of self sufficiency and urges us to fall to the ground and surrender.”
This book made me feel simultaneously known and exposed. As I read Emily’s words, I finally felt as if someone understood the inner workings of my brain. As if someone was putting words to years of people pleasing and striving. I learned so much about my thought patterns, which in turn impact my beliefs, which then express themselves as actions. Nestled deep into these self realizations, however, was the sweet hope of the grace of God. The reminder that He never intended for us to do any of this alone. The truth that He alone is our identity, and He alone leaves us fully known and loved.
Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted – Shannan Martin
“The trick math of this upside down Jesus economy is that we can never outspend our reserves. There’s no limit – only capacity.”
“The only thing I have to offer is Jesus Christ.”
I listened to this via audiobook and loved hearing Shannan’s story of how God turned her plans and goals into His own. It was like sharing tacos and stories with a friend. I learned so much in this book about surrendering my life to Christ and trusting in His ability to use the measly offerings I have to give. He is our best possession, and therefore, the best thing we have to give others. This doesn’t have to be flashy or grand, it can be simple and small – in the opening of our homes, in the chopping of vegetables, in the waving on our street. We are simply called to live with open hands, ready to receive and give back out what He hands us.
The Summer I Turned Pretty Series – Jenny Han
“It was like coming home after you’d been gone a long, long time. It held a million promises of summer and of what just might be.”
“The air tasted just the same, smelled just the same. The wind making my hair feel sticky, the salty sea breeze, all of it felt just right. Like it had been waiting for me to get there.”
These books transported me back in time to my late Middle School and Early High School days. I loved this coming of age story and adored the characters. It was so entertaining to see how the characters developed and how they each responded to life’s circumstances. While I did not have a whole Summer at the beach or my own beach house, my family always visited the same beach and often stayed in the same house. Like Belly mentions, it felt like returning home. Returning to a different part of myself. If you’ve seen the TV series, don’t worry, the books are cleaner. 🙂
House Arrest – K.A. Holt
“What good is it to be a teenager if no one will listen to anything you say?”
I was very quickly swept up into this story. It really challenges you to think of people and seek to know them deeper, rather than judging them by society’s labels. We never truly understand what limits we can each be pushed to in times of deep desperation. This book challenged me to look for practical ways to love those in my life with what I have to give, because it might just provide them a breath of fresh air or a moment of reprieve.
American Royals Series – Katherine McGee
“I wish we could erase all those—those atrocities,” she stammered, and was surprised by her father’s reply. “Never say that,” he insisted. “Say you want to make things right, to build a better future. But erasing the past—or worse, trying to rewrite it—is the tool of despots. Only by engaging with the past can we avoid repeating it.”
A friend encouraged me to read this series, and I am so glad I did! It was very interesting to imagine America if it was ruled by a monarchy. The characters were each relatable and all processed their roles in such authentic ways. My biggest take away from these series is Beatrice’s desire to shape her country by learning from past mistakes and pressing forward into brighter days. I think this is a great lesson for us all.
Who Are You Following: Pursuing Jesus in a Social Media Obsessed World – Sadie Robertson
“We don’t have a lack of time. It is a matter of who we’re obsessed with and who we worship. Who are you really following?”
I listened to Sadie read this via audiobook, and she brought it per usual. This convicted me that what I value most is what I invest time in. It is not that I do not have enough time to spend time in the Word, pray, or share with others – in actuality, I am not valuing those things to prioritize them. Instead, I have made time to entertain myself, to focus on my job, to define my identity and success elsewhere. I am following after the world rather than following after Jesus. This book pushed me to weigh my day and my priorities and to cast my vision back to God –to allow Him to shape my identity.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
“He made me realize that hard work–that the act of finishing, of completing, of accomplishing a task–is joyous”
“Life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community.”
I read this book because Annie B. Jones suggested it on her podcast, “From the Front Porch”. I was definitely warned by her, but I will say this book is a little more vulgar than I typically would read. Despite the realistic language and thoughts of a jaded, teenage boy, this book was very eye opening and allowed me to think deeper about our country’s treatment of Native Americans. The main character fights against falling into his family and tribe’s cycle of alcohol addiction and poverty, despite being treated as a social outcast. He pushes against racism in a new school and fights hard to become the best version of himself, which he learns includes his past as well as his future.
These books helped me see that God has designed each of us with distinct giftings and backgrounds. His desire is to use us to come alongside one another – not to compare ourselves, or to earn value or identity by another, but to point one another to Him.