What I Read & What I Learned (2015)

I regularly get down on myself for not reading enough books.  It seems like I consume article after article, without picking up many printed pages.  Reading mostly short blogs and essays leaves me feeling distracted, unable to persevere through thousands of words.  So when I went to compile this list, I was pleasantly surprised.  I guess I read more books than I thought!  More than one a month isn't a bad average for a person who isn't getting a full night's sleep and folds laundry at 9pm.

Here is a list of the books I read in 2015, a short summary of what (I thought) they were about, and a take away...

Just Do Something
by Kevin DeYoung
Take away:  It matters less what you do (assuming you aren't overtly acting in the flesh), and more how you do it (your motivations and attitude).  When it comes to gray-area decisions, I need to stop being paralyzed by a 'special' feeling from God.  Yes, it's good to pray, but I shouldn't be so afraid that I'm going to be 'out of God's will'.  This understanding really helped me progress in my writing this year, as I'd spent a long time agonizing over whether or not I should use my gifts more intentionally.  I think the answer to that is, yes, I'm free to, especially when it doesn't compromise other God-given priorities and my husband supports me.  And if I really want to be in God's will, then what counts is how I image him and love others as I do it.

The Mission of Motherhood
by Sally Clarkson
Take away:  Motherhood is an eternally important job.  This book helped me catch a vision for that, realizing I have so much influence over the hearts of my children.  What I choose to do (or not do) in these few short years won't determine their salvation, but it can equip them, train them, help them and shape generations to come.  Why not give it all I've got in this relatively short season?

An Organized Heart
by Staci Eastin
Take away:  We don't need more organizational strategies, what we need is a heart change.  Staci's powerful personal testimonies and close look at the idols that prevent us from being orderly was really eye opening.  I realized that most of all, I idolize recreation, which often keeps me from doing that which really needs to be done to serve and love those around me.  Repenting of this and following the lead of Christ to lay down my life was a huge step forward this year in de-cluttering and getting into a better routine at home.

The Gospel-Centered Mom
by Sara Wallace
Take away:  Gospel-centered moms don't ride the rollercoaster of 'good mom / bad mom' based on performance and meeting standards.  Instead, they abide in Christ and seek to make disciples of their children.  Read my full review here.

Desiring God
by John Piper
Take away:  Our purpose is to give God glory and to find joy in him.  Joy is a natural response to a heart that is fully satisfied in God.  Honestly, I'm still chewing on this book - it gave a me a lot of hard things to think about.  Maybe I'll make some more progress on the concept of Christian Hedonism in 2016.

Women of the Word
by Jen Wilkin
Take away:  I can (and should) study the bible on my own.  I loved Jen's straightforward and generalized approach to studying scripture, which I used to study the book of Colossians this spring.  If you want to see what I learned, check out the four part series.  (p.s. Listening to several of Jen's talks, both at a conference this spring and online have really encouraged me to lay down my fears about sharing biblical truth with other women.  I'm thankful for her gifts and leadership in this area.)

Own Your Life
by Sally Clarkson
Take away:  I can take responsibility for my own choices in my Christian life.  Although salvation is by grace through faith, it's still important to put time into our relationship with God through prayer and studying the word.  If we want to be growing, influential women who point others to Christ, we need to be intentional about how we spend our time, energy, gifts and resources.  This book helped reinforce my desire to be thoughtful about pouring wonderful things into those around me by first being filled up with wonderful things - namely the things of the Lord.

Made for More
by Hannah Anderson
Take away:  We are first created as image-bearers of God, and should reflect him in all we do.  When we think of ourselves as image-bearers (versus women, wives, moms, daughters, friends, etc.), we can find purpose and joy in even the most mundane task, hoping in Christ alone and not our individual roles.  Reading this book made me realize that there are two different ways I can do the laundry.  I can reflect God's heart or I can reflect a sinful heart of flesh.  It brings me great joy when I pursue the former!

I Am a Church Member
by Thom Rainer
Take away:  Being a church member isn't about what you get, but what you give.  My husband and I read this short book on a recent drive, and it was helpful to reorient our perspective, which often borders on church consumerism.  We agreed that we want our hopes and dreams for the church to be born from a motive of furthering the gospel instead of furthering our personal preferences.

by Michael R. Emlet
Take away:  Everything in the bible points to Jesus, so when we read scripture, we must seek to understand how it connects to the overarching gospel narrative.  Sometimes I'm tempted to use topical, taken-out-of-context scriptures to counsel myself and others; instead I should consider how I can utilize scripture to point myself and others to Jesus with hope in salvation.  Those topical scriptures aren't bad, but they are so much richer in light of the cross.

Lila: A Novel
by Marilynne Robinson
Take away:  I almost left this blank, because I'm still not sure what I thought about this novel - set in Iowa with a character named "John Ames".  From a literature perspective, it was very well written and the characters were developed beautifully.  Through the lens of "writer" I enjoyed it...but for something to do recreationally, it didn't keep me on the edge of my seat.  I could go to bed without finishing it.

Outliers (audiobook)
by Malcolm Gladwell
Take away:  This book was a secular way of saying, "Who we become is less about trying hard and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and more about the opportunities and genetics given to us."  It was interesting to hear a non-Christian in essence argue that we aren't as much in control of our own 'success' as we like to think we are.  Instead, all we have is a gift or 'the chance' of our life experiences.  My husband and I listened to this in the car, and it started lots of great discussions...I'm not really sure what I learned - except that 10,000 hours is the magic amount of time you need to master something.

Make Yourself Unforgettable (audiobook)
by Dale Carnegie
Take away:  This was another book I listened to with my husband.  Dale argues that the key to being unforgettable is to be a 'class act', which he says is a person who doesn't complain and takes responsibility for themselves and others.  His rich examples really got me thinking about people I know who handle things with grace and poise, even when the situation is stressful.  It also brought to mind times when I've seen people respond childishly, grumbling, complaining and being the victim in a non-so-desperate situation.  Basically this was a secular way of saying, "Christians who have the fruit of the spirit should be controlled by God and his word, not the choices and actions of others."

You bet I'm already compiling my list for 2016, which includes more books about motherhood, productivity and more!  Looking forward to some book reviews in the future...
Happy New Year!
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