I love words. So much. They teach, they convict, they inspire. And they make me think about things in new ways, always probing at that buried desire every single one of us has to contribute something meaningful to the world. Words have so much power, both for good and for malice, but I am convinced that is why we should fill our lives with them, so we can be people who weed out the malice and hold up the good.
Something I know to be true about myself is that if I am not reading, I’m going crazy. I must always have a night stand full of books, it makes my heart happy. And one in my purse, because one never knows when they will find themselves with a few minutes of wait time and, for me, it is a small tragedy to not have a book on hand when those unexpected pockets of time show up. Between two children, then a pregnancy, and now a newborn, I did not finish nearly as many books as I wanted to this year. My Amazon wishlist is growing much faster than my ability to keep up with it, but that’s the beauty of good words: there will always be more than enough to go around, and they will wait for us to get to them, even if it takes a few years.
Still, 2015 brought with it some great reads and really beautiful narratives. My favorites were a mix of serious and lighthearted, inspiration and informative. There were beautiful stories and heartbreaking truths about society. There were books filled with scripture and books that made me laugh again and again. But all of them made me think; and all of them pointed me to something worth praying about, whether it was my friendships, my walk with the Lord, my role in the world, or the most important people and place in my life: my home and my family. And as I stacked them up and revisited the highlights and notes in the margins, I actually started praying, dreaming, wondering and thinking maybe, just maybe, I could write one someday.
When words do all of those things for you, well those are gifts that keep on giving.
I have hundreds of quotes highlighted in these books; just so many thoughts I want to hold on to from each of them. But I leave you with this short excerpt from Just Mercy, because I truly believe that when we put our hands to the work God has given each of us to do in the world, we’ve got to do just what Ms. Carr says.
“Ms. [Rosa] Parks turned to me and sweetly asked, ‘Now, Bryan, tell me who you are and what you’re doing.”
“Yes ma’am. Well, I have a law project called the Equal Justice Initiative, and we’re trying to help people on death row. We’re trying to stop the death penalty, actually. We’re trying to do something about prison conditions and excessive punishment. We want to free people who’ve been wrongly convicted. We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice. We’re trying to help the poor and do something about indigent defense and the fact that they don’t get the help they need. We’re trying to help people who are mentally ill. We’re trying to stop them from putting children in adult jails and prisons. We’re trying to do something about poverty and the hopelessness that dominates poor communities. We want to see more diversity in decision-making roles in the justice system. We’re trying to confront abuse of power by police and prosecutors—” I realized I had gone way too long and stopped abruptly.
Ms. Parks leaned back, smiling. “Ooooh, honey, all that’s going to make you tired, tired, tired.” We all laughed. I looked down, a little embarrassed. Then Ms. Carr leaned forward and put her finger in my face and talked to me just like my grandmother used to talk to me. She said, “That’s why you’ve got to be brave, brave, brave.”
My favorite reads from 2015
Mom Enough a collection of essays published by the Desiring God organization
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Make it Happen by Lara Casey
You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan
Reclaiming Home by Krista Gilbert
Wild in the Hollow by Amber Haines
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
Chasing God by Angie Smith
Home is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson
Women are Scary by Melanie Dale
Scary Close by Donald Miller
What did you love this year? I'm always looking for good recommendations!