My Year, As Told By Books // 2015

The story of my 2015 could be told in a lot of different ways. My New Years Resolution was to read more. i can't say that i read more than normal, because the life of a college student or camp counselor or even camp intern is not designed for much leisure time to delve into the pages of a book. However, there have been very few times this year that my bedside table has not had a book on it. The year is ending and tonight i picked up a novel for the first time since August.

i'm in my bed and Bon Iver is meeting the dim lighting and warm candle smell to make the perfect night. This year has been a lot of things and sooner than later, i think i will process them all, but not now. Right now i will enjoy this night, with the familiar weight of my computer on my lap and my favorite sound of keyboard clicks as my brain spills itself out for you. In all that this year has been, God has been my only constant and books have been a safe place. i have learned so much, changed so much, and cried so much because of the books that i have read this year. i could go on and on about the highs and lows and tears and smiles of 2015, but honestly, i don't want to do that. So, i will tell you about the books. They will tell you my story. These are the pages, the words, the sentences that carried me through all the ups and downs that 2015 has offered me. 

i promise i won't write about all of them, just the ones that meant the most. 

Jane Eyre // Charlotte Bronte
i met Jane Eyre over Christmas break last year. It is Elizabeth's favorite book and within one hundred pages, i knew it would be mine too. For me, this story of redemption in the midst of messy darkness and sin and sadness spoke life to my heart. It birthed inspiration for honest words and feelings and desires. It reminded me that there can be beauty, even if it is dysfunctional and different. The wording of the novel and the depth of the story changed the way i view classic literature. i want to read it again and again and again.

Pride & Prejudice // Jane Austen
The second time i read P&P was right after i finished Jane Eyre. i have a beautiful copy of this novel, which makes it fun to read and carry around. It is a beautiful story. i think every person can identify with at least one of Austen's characters in this novel. There was not a moment in this book that changed my life, but reading it was restful, like returning to an old friend. 

"Her heart did whisper, that he had done it for her...
For herself she was humbled; but she was proud of him."
Chapter X

Walking on Water // Madeline L'Engle
2015 was the year that i owned the title of a writer. Walking on Water brought me face to page with the truth behind my desire to create. Madeline is a writer who makes you feel like her friend; the entire book feels like a coffee date and it is wonderful. In this book, i found peace with my calling as a writer, i found direction with the my desire to create words, and i felt a lot more of Jesus in my writing habits. She taught me about being a creative and how that part of me comes from being made in the image of our Creator Himself. Though this is a book about faith and art, it it mainly a book about the abundant life we have in Jesus. It is a beautiful book that i read this summer between Bible Studies and meals and i will be sure to always have a copy on my bookshelf. Creative friends, please read it. 

"God is always calling us to do the impossible. It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during His life here on earth is something we should be able to do, too."

Loveology // John Mark Comer
Loveology taught me so much. It's a book on "God. Love. Marriage. Sex. And the never-ending story of male and female." And it is a book full of bold truth. JMC is an honest writer and his heart is after Jesus and you can tell through his words that he is passionate about sharing truth with people. i have read a lot of cheesy Christian books on relationships and purity, but Loveology blows them all out of the water. This is not a book composed of Comer's opinions, but Biblical truth and advise from experience. i learned so much and the Father used it to set me free from lies that culture has told me about marriage, sex and relationships. i finished this book more in love with Jesus, which i think is more important than anything else. If you're single, dating, or even married, it's worth your time. 

"Jesus' life is the example of how to love.
It's that easy.
And that difficult."

Scary Close // Donald Miller
This book came out in February and i've read it twice. It's important. i could talk about it forever. A theme of this year has been vulnerability and intimacy. From sitting in my counselor's office to sharing my heart with campers and friends and even in my writing, i have learned a lot about authentic vulnerability, even when it isn't pretty. Scary Close showed me just how afraid of being known i was. God used it to reveal the walls i put up and the masks i wear, but He also used it to show me that i don't need walls or masks. He used it to show me that i believe in conditional love, but Don writes about how if love is conditional, then it isn't really love. This entire book is a heart-check and a kick in the stomach. Donald Miller wrote from a place of gentle honesty, with an attitude of, "This is my story. Learn from my mistakes." and though it was painful to read (because it hits places in me that i didn't think could be hit), this book changed my life. i finished Scary Close excited to love people and to allow the Father to guide me in being known. Jesus used the words to teach me about myself and He is in the process of healing the deep-rooted lies. 

"Perhaps that's another reason true intimacy is so frightening.
It's the ones thing we all want, and must give up control to get." 
Scary Close, Chapter 8

One Thousand Gifts // Ann Voskamp
"Have you read One Thousand Gifts?" 
"No."
"You need to read it. Today."
So, i read it. It was a Tuesday in November and i spent my day with One Thousand Gifts in hand. It is a beautiful book, not just because it is full of wisdom and truth, but because Ann Voskamp was created to write. Her every sentence is a poem and, for this writer, reading her words was the best way i could ever ask to spend a Tuesday. With the winter approaching, i began to wonder what life would look like for me. i wondered if the months would be heavy or light; if i would beat mental illness this year or if i wouldn't. To my knowledge, there was no shield to hold up against depression, no way to arm myself against the illness that romanticizes the darkness. And then, Mrs. Voskamp's book told me otherwise. i learned about gratitude, about the act of giving thanks and how it changes everything. i learned about how obeying the possible command of giving thanks in all circumstances can make the worst days, the worst situations, the lowest of the low, a gift. All of life, every moment, is a gift, we just have to look at it that way. We have to choose to be thankful when we could choose anger, hate, or frustration. There is always something, even if it is the way the sun is shining or your dad laughs, that we can give thanks for. This does not insure that depression will not come my way, but God used One Thousand Gifts to teach me how to arm myself in the midst of it.

"The ugly can be beautiful. The dark can gift birth to life;
suffering can deliver grace."

My Name is Hope // John Mark Comer
An honest conversation about depression and anxiety is a simple way to get my attention. A honest book, written by a Christian, using scripture to talk about depression and anxiety is a way to get me to cancel my plans for two days. My Name is Hope is gentle and sure and true. John Mark Comer, once again, wrote from experience and with grace and the product was incredible. It helped me realize that i'm not crazy, i'm not a fluke, and that Jesus is in my struggle with depression. Jesus has been using depressed people to change the world for a long, long time. My Name is Hope was the invitation for me to talk about my depression, because John Mark Comer talking about his struggle changed the way i viewed mine. This book stripped me of my ability to believe that i am the only one with this battle. Jesus used it to silence the lies, which is not a passive thing. i think that lies are one of the hardest parts of depression and anxiety. If you struggle with depression and/or anxiety, it is worth your time.

"Because He loves you, He's willing to hold back the answers
to your prayers and allow a time of pain, if that's what it takes,
to make something beautiful out of you."

East of Eden // John Steinbeck
i got a tattoo inspired by this book. Obviously, it's important. That's why it's last. i had a really hard time getting into East of Eden (like, read 250 pages and put it down for three months) but once i hit "that point" in the novel, i couldn't put it down. The character development of the novel never ends and by the end, the characters feel like friends. It is the second greatest story i've ever read, one that inspired me to feel everything imaginable, from fear and pain and love and heartbreak and even, in the beginning, boredom. The undercurrent of the novel, the reason that everyone that reads it loves it, the literary punch that sets it apart from every other book i've ever read, left me staring at my ceiling for an hour. Seriously. East of Eden is the only novel that has ever driven me to put it down and pick up my Bible. John Steinbeck changed my Christian walk, the way i think about God, and how i live. So much so, i got a tattoo. i won't share the punch because Hunter hasn't gotten there yet and i refuse to steal that "staring at the ceiling" moment from anyone. Read it. It's worth it.

"And now that you don't have to be perfect,
you can be good."

i also read:
Love Does // Bob Goff
If You Feel Too Much // Jamie Tworkowski
He Loves Me // Wayne Jacobson (via audiobook) 
The Opposite of Loneliess // Marina Keegan
Leadership & Self Deception // The Abridger Institute
So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore? // Wayne Jacobson

i attempted to read:
Wuthering Heights // Emily Bronte

i am reading:
Saturate // Jeff Vanderstelt
The Magician's Nephew // C.S. Lewis

i didn't write this to be a list of book recommendations, but if you read one or two or all, i hope you aren't disappointed. This blog happened because i was looking at my bookshelves and i got overwhelmed by all of the wonderful books i've read this year. i didn't necessarily end this year more well read, but i am ending it with a lot more favorite books.

My year was a lot of things and these books carried me through it all. Words are so powerful and when they're put together in a book they can, obviously, change lives. i am walking out of 2015 a different person than i was when January showed its face last. These books have a lot to do with the change that God has orchestrated. i love words.