This list was compiled by iBelieve editor Kelly Givens.
As I reflect through all the amazing books published by Christian women this year, it’s clear these ladies are living up their calling as ezers – helpers—leading us through challenging topics like calling, contentment, anxiety, post-partum depression and forgiveness, among many things. I’m excited to highlight just a few of my favorite books from this past year. In no particular order, here are my top 10 favorite books from 2013:
1. Packing Light, Allison Vesterfelt. Allison has done a remarkable job weaving her road trip across America with her own reflections on faith, love, and living with less stuff. As Allison makes her way across the country, she realizes the freedom that comes from letting go of the things she thinks will make her happy and learns to embrace the meaningful life God is calling her to.
“We never want to be without. We always want to be prepared. But I wonder if we ever notice how much our expectation for bigger and better is weighing us down.”
Here’s a clip of Allison sharing how her road trip helped her learn to pack light and to let go of the things that have kept her from embracing the journey God has for her.
2. Beyond Ordinary by Justin and Trisha Davis. This is Justin and Trisha’s (very) personal story, from the beginning- and almost the end- of their marriage. It is about what happens to a marriage when it becomes “ordinary”—when dissatisfaction and dullness creep in. Ordinary is what lead to Trisha’s misplaced expectations, it’s what lead to Justin’s affair.
Although their marriage almost unraveled, through faith in God and faith in what they believe marriage should be, Justin and Trisha have rebuilt their marriage into an extraordinary one- one where Jesus is at the center and working in big ways.
“God’s vision for your marriage is extraordinary! Don’t stop fighting… The vision you had when you said, ‘I do’ isn’t nearly as extraordinary as God’s vision for your marriage.”
I had the chance to talk with the Davis’ about their book- click here to watch!
3. Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons. There’s something that happens to us as women when we settle down and start families. Our priorities shift. Our daily duties take precedence over dreams. That’s not a shameful thing, but it does leave a disconnect- a longing- between the dreams we had when we were young, and the realities of our lives now.
When Rebekah's family relocated from the Georgia suburbs to New York City, she anticipated the move as a chance to start over and rediscover her calling. But she soon fell into anxiety and depression, wrestling with those big life questions. Why am I here? Does my life matter? Her journey of discovery was a freefall- surrendering everything to find the meaning God intended for her. She encourages women to reexamine the gifts and passions, to start seeing how the talents they have fit into the life they are living.
“Each of us must find our own path to totter down as we seek to live out our purpose. We must find those God-gifts that make us uniquely us, and then pair them with a burden that those gifts fit like a key. When we do, rescue will flood into our lives. And in the deluge, we’ll begin to discover meaning.”
In an interview with us, Rebekah shares how women can find meaning and purpose in their lives, regardless of their job title. Click here to watch.
4. Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. This is a book written by mothers, for mothers, and yet I- very much not a mother- found so much to glean from it that Desperate has landed in my list of books to re-read and recommend.
The things about motherhood that scare me are just the things that Sarah Mae and Sally talk about- losing your patience, feeling exhausted, underappreciated and under-stimulated… the list goes on. However, the heart of Desperate is that yes, you will have hard days, but they will pass. God has and will continue to equip and strengthen you. He’s created you with just the right blend of gifts, passions and abilities to make you the right mom for your children. This book is paperbound assurance that there’s hope, and it’s for you, weary mom.
“We are not good at everything, but we embraced the talents and messages that God put on our hearts, and consequently, our children have grown up generally free from peer pressure. They have developed a love of pursuing their own dreams by faith, because that is what we modeled and taught.”
Sarah Mae talked with us about opening up to struggles and seeking out support from other women. She also shared how she learned to become a better housekeeper- something she’s not naturally gifted in. Our conversations with Sarah can be found here and here.
5. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Neiquist. Shauna’s no stranger to the disarray life can bring. She writes openly about her own struggles with hospitality, with infertility and miscarriages, with her body and what it means to be hungry and to eat, and how all of those things impact the way she fellowships with others. Throughout Bread & Wine, I was challenged with my own ideas of community and inspired by Shauna and her friends, how they reached into one another’s messiness and extended the grace, love and, yes, the food we all need in our most vulnerable moments. When we gather together, our supper tables should reflect God’s design—that eating together is a sacred act, one meant to draw us closer together and closer to God.
“I love the table. I love food and what it means and what it does and how it feels in my hands. And that might be healthy, and it might be a reaction to a world that would love me more if I starved myself, and it’s probably always going to be a mix of the two. In any case, it’s morning and I’m hungry. Which is not the same as weak or addicted or shameful.”
6. Restless: Because You Were Made for More by Jennie Allen. Ok, so Jennie's book isn't actually available until January, but since I received a review copy, I'm highlighting it here anyway. I love talking about vocation and calling; the integration of faith and work is one of my passions. So every time I’m handed a book on calling, I’m excited. And Jennie’s book is one of the best I’ve read. Incredibly practical, Restless is a book you’ll want to read with a journal in hand, ready to take notes. She walks her readers through how to journal through your life, putting together the puzzle pieces that make each of us unique, each of us equipped with gifts and experiences to lead extraordinary lives for the Kingdom.
“Work was given as a gift before the fall; we weren’t made to sit around and do nothing. We were made to work in the mundane, but we aren’t defined by the mundane. Because Jesus set us apart with a deep purpose to live out as we teach or write or mother or build homes or fly planes, there is no difference between a vocation and a calling.”
7. Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food by Rachel Marie Stone. Have you ever read a book and wished you had written it yourself? Well, this is that book for me. Eat with Joy takes a very ordinary topic—food—and helps us figure out just what is so extraordinary about it. Rachel helps us see how eating is redemptive in nature. How it’s communal in nature. How we can be more joyful, generous, creative and sustainable in the way we eat. Essentially, it’s about the deep connection between our food and faith.
“But there remains that food and drink appear at crucial points in Scripture, from forbidden fruit to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and dozens of places in between. It’s in there more than angels, sexual ethics and heaven, and it’s a site of sin, grace, mercy, communion, life and joy.”
Rachel talked with us about the importance of food in the Bible and why food and faith are intrinsically connected—you can watch here. She also has some great thoughts on addressing the obesity crisis in America and about changing the meatpacking industry.
8. The Greatest Gift- Ann Voskamp. If you’re a fan of Ann’s best-seller, One Thousand Gifts, then you’ll want to pick up a copy of this Advent devotional. Written in her poetic, lyrical style, Ann walks us through twenty-five days of exploring the lineage of Jesus, leading up in anticipation and excitement to the miraculous arrival of Christ. Each day gives you a manageable amount of reading, with space for reflection. I’ve deliberately not written in my copy this year so that I can gift it to a friend for the next year (what a great tradition that might become!).
“So go to the window. God to the hills, the desert, the corner, the back door, and be ravished and taken and awed, and you who were made by Love, made for love—be still and know and watch love come down. The answer to deep anxiety is deep adoration of God. And the greatest gift we can give our great God is to let His love make us glad.”
We talked with Ann about her book and how we can slow our lives down to cherish the importance of advent. You can listen here.
9. The Wall Around Your Heart by Mary DeMuth. Sadly, none of us are immune to wounds from others. We’ve also all likely (definitely) hurt a friend or family member before. Hurts can be overwhelming, and often our natural reaction is to put up walls in our lives—to guard ourselves from letting anyone in who might hurt us again. But Mary says this isn’t the way to heal. We can’t close off our hearts, we have to live with our hearts open. She encourages us to pray through the pain, and using the Lord’s Prayer, models how we can work through our pain in a healthy way.
“Of all the people on this earth who had cause to wall of His heart against those who hurt Him (what would be the entire world), He had cause. Yet he engaged Himself in the very world that put Him to death. Jesus is our example of openhearted living, of exhibiting wild love.”
10. Comforts from Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
My last book was my favorite devotional of the year. I read Comforts from Romans during a particularly dry spell in my quiet times, and this book gave me much to chew on and meditate through. If you’re looking for an accessible guide to Romans without the length of most commentaries (her devotional runs only through Chapters 1-8 of Romans, just a heads up), her book would be a great place to start.
“You are part of God’s blessing to the whole earth. You are part of a grand family. You are his new race. You can believe without fear of disappointment.”
So- that’s my list. Now tell me yours-- what books were your favorites from 2013? What’s on your “Must Read” list for 2014? I’ve already got a list going for next year and would love some recommendations!