At the beginning of this year, I created a list of books to complete a 2016 reading challenge. Well, that challenge never happened and instead, 2016 became the year of book launch teams. It all started when I joined the team to help launch Kaitlyn's book, Even If Not. Then, I joined another and another. And I've found myself on a total of four book launch teams this year! I'm pretty sure it's my new favorite thing to do, because I love books, love the authors, and love that they are brave enough to write their words in a book. Also, the community that builds itself around an author before they launch a book, is so special and fun! Every book that I've read this year has been so timely and much needed. I recommend them all and I'm pretty sure I have to various friends.
Even If Not by Kaitlyn Bouchillon | Kaitlyn's blog was one of the first that I started following when I first began blogging. She writes honestly and openly, but leaves you encouraged at the end of every page. Even If Not is just the same! This book is one that meets you right where you are. Whatever season or whatever part of your story you find yourself in, you will see yourself in this book. Even If Not is a book that reminds us that our personal story is important and that we are loved by a God who is mighty. Kaitlyn reminds us that wherever we are in our story, wherever we are on the dash, we can trust the Author, because He writes a more beautiful story than we could ever imagine. Even If Not is a book that spills over in encouragement and has you screaming, "me too!" on almost every page. Open it up and find your place, you have one!
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson | This book by Batterson challenged me in the way that I pray and ask God for things. Whether it be big or small, or something I fear, Batterson shows us how to draw circles around our prayers -- to keep praying until something happens. And something will happen, because God is looking to answer our prayers, fulfill our dreams, and erase our fears. After reading this book, I listed out three big prayers, God-sized prayers, that only He can answer. I've seen ways, slowly and sometimes not as often as I would like, that He is working to answer those prayers fully and faithfully. Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge can accompany this and I'm hoping to add that to my bookshelf as well.
Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs | This was another book launch team that I was on. In fact, the day I found out I was on her team, I was watching her welcome video and heard my roommate also listening to it in our living room. We were BOTH on her launch team and didn't know it! I've followed Annie around social media for awhile and have read her blog, but this was actually the first of her books that I read. And wow. When every chapter ended, I just sat quietly and let all my memories and lovely moments flow back to the front of my mind. Annie is open and real with sharing her lovely moments, encouraging us to not look over our lovely moments. She continuously points to God, Who is the giver of those moments. The sunsets, the trips with friends, the places that speak to our hearts. Little lovely moments that remind us how great and wonderful our God is. Plus, she sent our books in packages of confetti. You can't help but smile.
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay | Different than the rest of books on this list, in that this is a semi light-hearted fiction read. I had seen this book float around social media a bit, but then forgot about it until I was in the bookstore one day. It caught my attention because of the cover and slight Jane Austen feel. I read the back cover and then the first chapter while in the store. (that's how I know whether I'm buying a book usually. if the first chapter draws me in, while I'm standing in the store, I'll buy it.) The story tells of Samantha Moore, a lover of words and all things Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. She tends to answer as them, instead of herself, to her friends. An anonymous donor offers to put Sam through journalism school, she simply must keep writing to the stranger known as Mr. Knightley. Her letters become more and more open to the stranger as she navigates through life, learning to love. I honestly was not expecting the ending, nor to connect as deeply with Sam as I did. Looking forward to reading Reay's other beautifully decorated books.
Wreck My Life by Mo Isom | I've only met two LSU fans in my life that I've liked. Mo is now the third. Football rivalries aside, Mo's story is incredible and I was also able to be on her book launch team! Tragedies, setbacks, and heartbreaks are overcome by triumphs, victories, and love. Mo's personal testimony is a true picture of how to figure out your faith for yourself and live it as God has called you to. And how God will use you in unexpected ways, as long as you are faithful and willing to be obedient. A quick, but sometimes heartbreaking, read, Wreck My Life absolutely wrecked me in the best way possible, but encouraged me to be bold in my faith and how I listen to God.
Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst
Wild and Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan
Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Have you read any of the books on this list? What are you currently reading?
Several weeks ago, I pre-ordered and anxiously awaited for a book to arrive in my mailbox. I love mail and I love books, so this is nothing new. But, the book I was waiting on was one that I knew I needed to read. The day I got it in the mail, I skimmed through all the pages and gazed at the pretty front cover. Suddenly, I knew this was going to be a hard book and reading it was going to come slowly. When I pre-orderd Uninvited, the first five chapters were sent to my e-mail and I immediately read chapters one through four. Then, I stopped. See, I have a hard time with follow through and finishing things. Especially when things tend to get hard. Y'all, this book is hard, and so, chapter five of Uninvited is still not read.
Lysa TerKeurst not only writes timely books, but she is also the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Proverbs 31 does online bible studies, because "life can be crazy, but your Bible study doesn't have to be." I saw that their current study was going to be on Uninvited and I knew it was the push I needed to actually read this book. This is my first time doing an online bible study with Proverbs 31, but joining in and listening to what others are learning through this book has been so refreshing. We have only begun week 2, but already have I been challenged to dig deeper into the Word and be honest with myself and God about my feelings of loneliness and feeling left out. The challenge of 2 Corinthians 10:5 to "destroy arguments...take every thought captive to obey Christ" led me to think about lies and untruths that the enemy throws at me and replace them with truths and promises that God speaks over me. I've always thought that I'm better at giving advice than receiving it, but how can I properly encourage others to feel valued and believe they are seen and heard by God, if I first do not believe those things? So, here are some truths that I am telling myself when the enemy throws lies at me. Let us take captive every thought and imagination that is not from God and replace it with His words of truth.
6 Truths To Remember
When you feel unworthy, know that you are valuable to Christ.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31
When you feel alone, know that you are united with Christ.
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20-23
When you feel invisible, know that you are seen by God.
"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be."
When you feel ignored, know that you are heard by God.
"Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have give me the heritage of those who fear your name."
When you feel uninvited, know that you are wanted by God.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
1 Peter 2:9
When you feel defeated, know that you are victorious in Christ.
"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."
1 Corinthians 15:54-58
Remember how I said that I never read chapter five of Uninvited? Well, guess what one of the two chapters we are reading this week in bible study is? Here's to getting better at follow through...and believing the advice I actually give to others.
If you have seen Uninvited floating around and it is on your "to-read" list, I recommend getting it now. It's most definitely a book for those who feel less than, left out, and lonely. But, the moment you crack open the spine of this book, you will know that you are most definitely not alone in that walk. This isn't something to wait on for later, it's for right now.
"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word."
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I was not asked to write this post, nor do I get anything for writing it. I just believe in this book. Plus, when you buy a book, you are helping to change the lives of women in India. So, go. Buy one, two, or more and start healing all the old rejections and start getting rid of lies and replacing them with truths.