Hallelujah Anyway

As the year winds to a close and an opportunity for a fresh start approaches, I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads from 2017. Stories have always inspired me and encouraged me to keep going through my hardest days. I find comfort in the redemption stories of others, and in seeing that I am not alone in the darkness.

Here are some of my favorite non-fiction reads from this year. Check back next week for some of my favorite fiction reads!

The Princess Saves Herself In This One is a modern poetry collection by Amanda Lovelace. Amanda’s collection is powerful, honest, and deeply personal. Her style isn’t for everyone, but her story is relatable and her words draw me back again and again. Amanda knows what darkness is and her collection is proof that yo can come out the other end of it.  I was lucky enough to chat with Amanda about her story and her work, look for that interview soon!

I devoured many of these books, but especially Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, Anne Lamott’s newest work. It was very timely and personal for me. Lamott discusses the limitless power and presence of mercy in our world and how to embrace it. I recently took a spiritual gifts assessment and mercy was listed as my number one gift, so it is no surprise I connected to Hallelujah Anyway so much. I will likely pick this one up to re-read in the coming months. Like a few others on this list, there is so much good content that is impossible to soak up in one read.

b9a18a8b7b29608918b9039dbeddf772

Present Over Perfect was one of those soul refreshing reads that I so needed to start my year with. Shauna Niequist has long been a favorite of mine. I read her book Bread & Wine last year and I cook her Gaia cookies regularly. She’s the reason I started doing regular dinner parties or impromptu girl’s nights. This idea of present over perfect became sort of my mantra this year. The message came through in many other reads and Niequist was the beginning of God sending me this message to slow down and savor my days.

Several of my non-fiction reads this year were directly related to faith or published by Christian writers/speakers. A few of my favorites that deviated from that genre this year were Born A Crime by Trevor Noah, Wild by Cherly Strayed, The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (whose loss I am still mourning), Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Several of these touched on race relations and societal structures, and there was a lot of talk about being true to yourself. I recommend all of them, but fair warning – if you’re going to listen to The Princess Diarist, do it alone with some tissues.

Several of my other non-fiction reads were more faith based, soul searching, love of Jesus and this broken world reads. I sincerely enjoyed Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey and Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. I also regularly seek out both of their blogs each week. I found Learning to Love the Darkness by Barbara Brown Taylor and Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown this year and learned so much from them. These are both books I will likely go back and re-read.

Earlier this year, I discovered one of my new favorite people, Emily Ley. She is the founder of the Simplified Planner, which I can not wait to start using in the new year. She is the author of two books, Grace Not Perfection and A Simplified Life.  Emily’s motto of holding yourself to a standard of grace not perfection is something I have clung to this year. She released A Simplified Life a few days before Thanksgiving and it made Amazon’s top 5 books in no time. I read through it on my holiday break and could not wait to get home and implement some of her suggestions. I have gone back to it several times already.

TheBrokenWay_BrokennessHappens

My last book is one I will probably read several more times next year. I borrowed a copy from my library and then immediately sought out a copy to own. About a month later, I listen to the audio book during my daily commute. I still am not sure I really soaked it all in. The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp poured so much hope and faith into my cracked soul this year. This quote has become so true in my life. My soul spent years breaking but God is redeeming my story and his power is moving in my soul now, his light instead of the world’s darkness.

 

 

What about you? Any favorite non-fiction books I missed? Have you read any on my list? I would love to hear from you!

Darkness Will Not Overcome the Light

I was created for darkness.

Not to be darkness, but to be the light in the darkness of this world. This is a concept I am still reconciling in my life, and honestly, I think I will struggle with this concept on some level for most of my days. Is there a darkness hovering around your days, an overwhelming feeling of sadness that you just can not get away from?

I have experienced depression for ten years no, give or take. My world started to get a little darker, day by day, around the age of fifteen. Through years of therapy, medication, and prayer, I have learned that this is just a part of my story. One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with depression has been how it interacts with my faith. For years, my depression terrified me. It held me captive and dictated my days, and distracted me from the Jesus I so badly wanted to believe in, with whom I so badly wanted to spend every moment.

My depression told me that I could not believe in a just God and believe that my struggles were real. Let’s stop right there for a moment and get one thing very clear: regardless of your belief in God or religious leanings, depression is a liar. Depression feeds on your fear, on your loneliness, on your hardest experiences. Your struggles are real, your story is important. 

It took years for me to know, and really believe, that my depression is not a punishment, not a result of sin, or a simple reaction to childhood trauma and adolescent stress. While my trauma, stress, and sin do play into my daily life, my depression is not something God placed in my life as a result of these events. God is not the cause of my depression, but he is the redemption of my struggle with depression.

I have lived in the darkness, and I have found the light of Jesus. I have finally, finally surrendered to the knowledge that God has a purpose for my struggles.

I was created for darkness. I was created to be a light in that darkness, to point back to the light of Jesus that will not be overcome by the darkness of our enemy or our world. I have been meditating on John 1:5 countless times this week. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. God does not promise us an easy life or a life free of darkness, but he does promise that that darkness will not overcome his light.

If you are not in a place to believe that there is light inside of you and that the darkness will not overcome you, please know that it is okay. It is okay to not be okay, to struggle every moment of your day to stay afloat and not let the darkness drown you. Please know that I have been in your shoes and I can tell you with absolute certainty that it does get better, that God is redeeming your story, even if you can not see anything other than darkness.

Take a deep breath and write yourself a note – it can be as simple as a post it note or the back of a receipt from your last grocery run. Write down the following words, even if you don’t believe them yet:

Depression feeds on your fear, on your loneliness, on your hardest experiences. Your struggles are real, your story is important. Darkness will not overcome the light. 

Put this note somewhere you will see it everyday. I pray that this reminder will make it even a little bit easier to breath today.