Baylee’s Bookshelf is one of my favorite features on my blog. The titles have personally exfoliated my heart and soul, pushing me to read outside my comfort zone. Today on the blog, I am reviewing five fabulous books. You will definitely want to get your hands on the pages of these titles. Enjoy!
Would you be interested in starting a book club around here? We could have discussion boards and form a little community around words that matter and move us closer to Jesus. If so, leave a comment at the end of this review!
Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
“Life with God is a daring dream, full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we’ve said we’ll never do. And with the surprises comes great hope.”
All of the confusion in my soul makes sense when I read Shauna’s writing. Her poetic voice is as smooth as a brush stroke and rights all of the wrong in the world.
Shauna starts off on the topic of waiting. We are always in a season of waiting. And if you are anything like me, we think when the wait is over, everything will be complete. However, sometimes when the waiting is over and we do receive the very thing we thought would complete us, it is not as good as we thought. We aren’t filled up as much as we planned. Trusted. Hoped. But instead of looking to the next big thing, may we have the audacity to “cultivate a true attention, a deep ability to see what has been there all along, we will find worlds within us and between us, dreams and stories and memories spilling over.” The “big moment” starts today. The little steps of joy and obedience and life explode with energy and delight and make up the big, special things we have been searching for with each passing season. And this is when we decide to celebrate the extraordinary nature of everyday life.
For my writing friends, read this book. Shauna speaks to the art and to the wrestling that comes with stringing hard-fought and hard-written work together. “What writing teaches me, over and over, is that God is waiting to be found everywhere, in the darkest corners of our lives, the dead ends and bad neighborhoods we wake up in, and in the simplest, lightest, most singular and luminous moments.”
Everybody Always by Bob Goff
Bob Goff is witty and clever, but he also has a way of making his reader take a step back and say, “Wow, this is me.” Everybody Always is for those who love difficult people, but also those people who are difficult to love.
There is SO MUCH I could write about here, but I want to touch on the topic I am still reflecting on weeks after reading this book. Bob weaves wisdom in with his storytelling about flying and museums and creepy people. But what resonated with me the most is looking to God for green lights. I believe we have all been given special assignments from God. Callings that are suited just for our souls because we have been given a package of hurt and happy, heartbreak and wholeness that have been so intricately intertwined with our personality and spirituality. When we press into the desires in our heart, it can be scary. I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of watching for more signs that this is the right thing, rather than jumping in. Bob describes this beautifully: “Recognize when your beautiful ambitions are getting stuck inside your head. You don’t need to take all the steps, just the next one. God may not give us all the green lights we want, but I’m confident He gives us all the green lights He wants us to have at the time. Go with what you’ve got. If God wants you to stay put, He’ll let you know. We also have some guaranteed green lights that are always on: our noble desires; God’s clear instructions in the Bible to love everybody, always; His love for us; and the gift of each other. You can put a lot of weight on these and triangulate from there to figure out the rest of life’s unknowns.”
So what if we did follow just one green glimpse and headed in that direction? We have the necessities to quench our thirst and subside our spiritual hunger. But staying put, looking for more signs from God, what if this makes us the very people who are difficult to love because we are brain-locked on figuring out where God is calling us to go? Just jump. Give it a go until God tells you no.
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
When you read a Shauna book, you can’t help but to pick up another. I felt something was missing when I laid down Cold Tangerines for the last time, so I had to pick up another title by this fabulous soul sister.
The season of change I recently walked through could have been defined by the very subtitle of this book: thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way. My fists have been clenched and my knees locked, and the words on these pages helped me unlock my heart and be open to the waves, the unknowns, and the lessons God desperately wants to teach me.
I love to-do lists, but Shauna encourages to make a to-don’t list. This helps compartmentalize our dreams and roles, yet gives us permission to slap a firm “NO” on the things that don’t sit well in our souls. The people in my closest circle deserve the best of me. And I know your people deserve the best of you. Try a to-don’t list...it’s groundbreaking.
Shauna also speaks to us twenty-somethings. Here’s a snippet of her advice for us: “Now is your time. Become, believe, try. Walk closely with people you love, and with other people who believe that God is very good and life is a grand adventure. Don’t spend time with people who make you feel like less than you are. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.”
And lastly? I am inspired to create. May we follow and press into what sets our soul on fire.
In Bloom by Kayla Aimee
In Bloom was put into my hands through the partnership I have with B&H/LifeWay Bloggers. Kayla’s writing is so refreshing. She writes with a perfect dose of wit and wisdom. Kayla isn’t afraid to be transparent and let you in on all of her insecurities.
The biggest token of wisdom I want to share with you is Kayla’s thoughts on change. “When we imagine ourselves before and after, we think of the end of one thing and the beginning on another. But that’s where I think we get discouraged because we assume change means becoming someone completely different. Maybe we’re looking at change all wrong.”
Kayla uses the symbolism of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and through His transformational power, we too are able to become a new and better different. “It’s meant to liberate us of our shame, enhancing our gifts and adorning us in grace.”
The Sinner’s Savior by Ben & Amanda McKim
If you’ve been around here recently, Amanda wrote an article for us during the “Fear Is a Liar” series. Both Ben and Amanda are near and dear to my heart, and I have always been a fan of their ministry. I had the opportunity to soak up all of their love and knowledge when I needed it most, in the beginning of high school and dating and making hard choices. I am forever grateful for them. But anyway, back to the review…
The Sinner’s Savior is incredibly descriptive. I am a visual thinker who loves details and creates a mean movie in her mind while reading. And this book made me feel like I was there, walking with Jesus and witnessing His grace and power and love. The words came alive for me, like I could reach out and touch the Savior of the world.
The one question that came to mind while reading all of the biblical stories in a first-person narrative was this: “What if they missed the miracle?”
All of the women and all of the men could have missed their miracle and missed Jesus changing the trajectory of their lives. There was spiritual healing and physical healing. But beyond that, the stories the men and women have to tell is proof that Jesus changes everything. Jesus is real and working and wants to be pursued and acknowledged. May we follow the example of these brave champions and turn our back on the lies and opinions. Jesus is waiting to change everything.
Are you eager to read? Invest in yourself for the next month and carve out some quiet reading time. Your soul and mind and spirit will thank you. Check back later for more writing and reviews.