Since this was our year of REST, I found that I had more time carved out to read, relax, and savor the words. I chose books that were relevant to our word for the year along with relationship books (marriage, parenting, and friendships.) There were plenty of fiction books for pure enjoyment, because, REST. Ironically, I read exactly 40 books, this year that I turned 40.
While I won’t review all of them, for not all of them are worthy of sharing, I want to pass along some of my favorites. In no particular order:
- “Rhythms of Rest” by Shelly Miller
This was the perfect book to set our year goal of trying to Rest more. I loved the suggestions as not hard and fast rules to follow, but rather fluid ideas to try to see what works for you. The idea to plan ahead with meals, housework, and anything else “work” related before you start your Sabbath, stood out to me not as a list of rules to make your Sabbath great, but to intentionally set apart your day to be different – to focus on your relationship with God. It should look different. Shelly wrote that “the act of preparation for our rest is an act of love and the actually rest an act of faith.” [paraphrased] That helped set the mindset of my year to remind me that resting is putting my faith in God – for Him to do a good work through my rest.
2. “The Way of the Heart” by Henri Nouwen
I read this book just prior to my solitary Sabbath weekend. (A whole two days of being alone.) I wrestled a lot this year with relationships and this one quote pierced my soul. Just what I needed.
“It is in this nothingness (in solitude) that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something. The task is to persevere in my solitude, to stay in my cell until all my seductive visitors get tired of pounding on my door and leave me alone. The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
3. “Parenting” by Paul David Tripp
We’ve been parents for over 22 years now. The learning is continuous and reading parenting books constantly reminds me to keep going. Each child needs something different and this Gospel centered book was just what I needed to remind me that I have no control over our children’s hearts. Only God can win them over. My job is to pray, get out of the way, and let Him work through me.
“So your hope as a parent is not found in your power, your wisdom, your character, your experience, or your success, but in this one thing alone: the presence of your Lord. The Creator, Savior, Almighty, Sovereign King is with you. Let your heart REST. [emphasis mine] You are not in this parenting drama alone. Your potential is greater than the size of your weaknesses, because the One who is without weakness is with you, and he does his best work through those who admit that they are weak but in weakness still heed his call.”
4. “All the Light we Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr
One of the few fiction books I read and it did not disappoint. I particularly gravitate toward historical fiction. This novel is set in World War II from a unique perspective. The main characters are a simple French girl who loses her eyesight and a young German boy who is drafted into Hitler’s army. Two very personal stories that weave together a tale of mystery. It gave me a different outlook of the war through the lens of two ordinary, but brave, people.
“But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you so the same?”
Sometimes, we don’t know what a brave life we are living, because we are simply living – living each day full out, not looking in the rearview for accolades of our ordinary.
5. “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi
This one hit close to home. Though I battled cancer and I am thriving, I am humbly aware it is not every warrior’s outcome. This memoir of Paul Kalanithi, the life of a neurosurgeon, faced with his own mortality with a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer, is real and raw and poses action items to live our lives to the fullest…now.
“Even when the cancer was in retreat, it cast long shadows.”
I’ve lived life not in fear of cancer, but acutely aware it could rear its ugly head again at any time. Each day is a gift. I feel as if I’m already on borrowed time. I mean, aren’t we all, really? Our days are numbered, but what are we doing to truly LIVE? What fills our days that is meaningful? After reading this book, I vowed to forge my new future and not drift with the flow of the tide, but create it. Which leads me to…
6. “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer
Another look at what it means to fix our eyes on Jesus and make Him our center of our lives. He is our everything:
“God wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held; it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day.”
Seek His presence, live there, and allow Him to craft a life with your dreams in accordance to His will.
7. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
Set in today’s times, a novel detailing the events of a young Black man murdered and his friend that witnessed it. It peels back the complex layers of social justice in a personal way.
As a white mom to a Black boy, I read a lot on how to parent him better. This book, along with many others, have been a foundation for our family to discuss the issues of today. These social justice issues not only affect our family, but also emphasize what we can do to be allies to support our son/brother and the Black community.
A poignant quote: “What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
8. “Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle
“Because I am a storyteller I live by words.”
I write to encourage, to tell stories, in hopes that it is helpful for others to live a more meaningful life. This book reminded me that my craft is more than just mere words on screen/paper, but simply a vessel for God to reach others. In my year of REST, I’m reminded that sitting and listening to God can only happen when I am quiet and in His presence and Word.
“And sometimes when we listen, we are led into places we do not expect, into adventures we do not always understand.”
A grand adventure is on my horizon. Where is God leading you? Are you listening?
This book is great for any artist that seeks a more meaningful way to create.
9. “Jesus Feminist” by Sarah Bessey
So what am I creating? What am I doing that will glorify God? This book was a catalyst for me.
“Rest in your God-breathed worth. Stop holding your breath, hiding your gifts, ducking your head, dulling your roar, distracting your soul, stilling your hands, quieting your voice, and satiating your hunger with the lesser things of this world.”
Yes, it’s time.
10. “Never Unfriended” by Lisa Jo Baker
God is so gracious. I truly had a God breathed awakening this year in regard to friendships. This book was affirming that I am not alone in this journey.
“I don’t want to be too busy.”
Friends take work and it is so worth it to be unbusy and become the friend who never unfriends.
Without REST, I would not have had time to unearth the richness that friendships can bring.
What are your favorite reads from this year? If you’ve read one of these books, let me know your thoughts. Comment below to share!