Since I was a child, I have always enjoyed reading. But now as a single mom of teenagers, reading is a positive way for me to cope with stress and also receive wisdom and inspiration.
It’s an inexpensive form of self-care for me. :)
Here are most of the books I read in 2018. I hope at least one of these might be a good resource for you!
1.) Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors
I read Katie’s first book when it came out a few years ago. This is her second book, and it is a beautiful continuation of her story and the lessons she has learned in Uganda. Her example inspires me to love others sacrificially, to reach out of my comfortable life and make the most of it. When I look at her life, I am challenged to drop all my excuses that hinder me from doing more to help others.
2.) If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free by Jamie Ivey
I LOVE listening to Jamie Ivey’s podcast (“The Happy Hour”) almost every week, so I wanted to read her book when it came out in January. I admire Jamie’s heart and her authenticity in sharing her experience of how God has set her free from the shame she carried in her life. If You Only Knew is an important book not only because it offers grace for all of us who carry burdens that we don’t want others to know about, but also because it encourages loving responses when others confess hard things to us. Perhaps my favorite part of the book is when Jamie confesses her past sins to her new boyfriend (who would eventually become her husband). Her boyfriend’s forgiving response to her should be the model for how we receive our loved ones when they confess their sins to us.
3.) Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families by Jayne E. Schooler, Betsy Keefer Smalley, Timothy J. Callahan
As a foster and adoptive mom, I found this book to be comforting. Most books that I have read on fostering/adoption are focused on the child’s experience, but this book gives more attention to the parent’s experience. I found the insights in each chapter to be incredibly helpful and true to life. I asked my mom to read it too! This is a little more academic writing compared to the previous memoirs I listed, but it’s still an accessible read.
4.) From Basement to Sanctuary: Finding Healing and Transformation through Surrender by Holly Christine Hayes
I heard Holly speak on Jamie Ivey’s podcast and decided to read her book. Holly is very genuine as she tells her story. Holly became addicted to alcohol as a teenager, and the circumstances in her life grew worse and worse until she cried out to God on the floor of a public restroom. Holly experienced homelessness and abuse, but she shares about how Jesus pursued her heart, and little by little, she grew to love Him. She had stolen a Bible from a library at one point, but she started reading it. She gave her life to Christ. She didn’t go to church at the time, so she didn’t realize that she could get baptized in a local church. But she read in the Bible that when people decided to follow Jesus, they got baptized in the Jordan River. So she traveled from California to Israel to be baptized in the Jordan River. I love how Holly describes her journey of healing through Jesus.
5.) No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert
I read this novel this summer, and it’s one of the best fictional books that I’ve read in a long time! I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this novel. I loved exploring the different perspectives of the three main characters amidst the racial tension in their community. Near the end, there is a conversation between a young teacher and her mother about forgiveness, and that beautiful dialogue alone was worth reading the whole book. I highly recommend this book. Please, please, please make this the next fiction book you read!
6.) The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert
This is another fictional book by the same author. It was not as good as No One Ever Asked, but it was still a pleasant read. I took it to the beach with me when we went to Indiana Dunes, and it was a great easygoing book to enjoy that day!
7.) Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Traumatized Children (Third Edition) by Daniel A. Hughes
This book fascinates me. It was definitely not a quick read; it was one that I read slowly and underlined lots of lines to remember for later. It was written by a child psychologist who has worked with many children in foster care. Each chapter has two parts. The first part of the chapter is a fictional story of a child named Katie; the second part of each chapter is the psychologist’s commentary of what is happening in the child’s mind and body. The book starts when Katie’s biological mother is pregnant with her and follows every step of her childhood until she is adopted at age 8. It includes the trauma that Katie endured and her reactions to it. It shows the perspectives of Katie’s biological parents, her child services case manager, her different foster parents, her therapist, etc. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this book. I’ll be referring back to in years to come.
8.) Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner
This book took me months to read. I would pick it up and then forget about it for a few weeks. The author is a stylist and has made a lot of success through blogging and showcasing her home decor projects. She and her husband lived in Los Angelos for awhile. She writes about her journey of wanting to slow down her pace in life, of letting go of her drive to always succeed at more, and of pursuing minimalism and gratitude in life. She shares her personal stories of her husband’s brain tumor, her father-in-law’s death, her “online presence,” and her adjustment in having a baby and becoming a mom. Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t relate to how she felt about something, but usually I absolutely loved the points she was making. I think she has some important things to share with this generation about not losing our identity in social media and the pursuit of more and better. Also, her writing style and the book’s layout are pretty cool. Sometimes it felt more like a meaningful magazine. :)
9.) Hope in the Dark: Believing God is Good When Life Is Not by Craig Groeschel
I enjoyed this book and recommend it. Pastor Craig taught about the story of Habakkuk in the Bible as he related it to modern stories of what people endure today. I was reading it during a week where we had some difficult things happening, so it was the perfect encouragement for me at the time. I had it on my kindle, and I remember one night I couldn’t fall asleep because I was worried. I read this book on my kindle in the dark that whole night, and it brought a lot of comfort to my heart. Pastor Craig has a sermon series about this on youtube that you can check out as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGmABuH0sa0.
10.) Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely (Study Guide) by Lysa TerKeurst
I read this book with my bible study group on Thursday mornings. It goes with a teaching DVD by Lysa TerKeurst. The chapters help the reader consider the emotions that arise when someone rejects us in some way. I’ll be honest and tell you that the title didn’t appeal to me, but once I read some of the first chapter, I realized that we we all deal with being rejected. Rejection can be a huge trigger for our emotions, and if we want to be mature as we walk through challenges in life, we need to figure out how to handle all types of rejections. I thought the DVD teachings plus the study guide material were extremely insightful. I’m going to go back to Lysa’s teaching in this book and DVD for my personal reference and also to share with others.
11.) She is Yours: Trusting God as You Raise the Girl He Gave You by Jonathan and Wynter Pitts
I skimmed this book quickly and mostly focused on the prayers at the end of each chapter. Even though I didn’t read every word, I loved the theme of the book and how the authors focused on always having the attitude that their daughter is God’s first. I picked up the book one day when I was feeling like my girls are growing up so fast and don’t need me for the same things that they needed me for last year (Gabby has her driver’s license and a car now!). I loved the reminder that I can trust God to watch over my girls and work in their hearts (even when I’m not with them).
12.) Calming Angry Kids: Help and Hope for Parents in the Whirlwind by Tricia Goyer
The author Tricia Goyer has 9 kids. She has adopted 6 of her children, and she wrote this book out of her experience. The trauma her children have been through has caused them to carry a lot of anger. In order to help her children heal and bring peace back to her home, she researched, went to family counseling with her kids, and adjusted her methods. This book is really an accessible resource for parents. She does a good job of simply explaining biological and psychological effects of trauma on children. I enjoyed hearing some of her journey and particularly how she humbled herself to take responsibility of her own anger. She emphasized that calming our kids first starts with calming ourselves. In those angry moments, we as parents have to handle our anger appropriately before we can help our kids to handle theirs. I have experienced this to be 100% true in my parenting. Tricia shares some practical tools to help calm our kids, listen to what is hurting them to discover the reasons behind the anger, and how to help them feel seen and heard and safe.
13.) Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff
This book came out in 2012, and I have probably had at least a dozen people recommend it to me since then. I heard Bob Goff speak live twice since then, and I loved the way he spoke with such contagious joy. I finally bought it to read on my Kindle, and I have to say that I laugh quite a bit in almost every single chapter. Bob demonstrates how to live out our faith with actions of love and joy. He is the opposite of a boring Christian. He seizes opportunities and is making a wonderful impact around the world. This is a good book for everyone!
14.) It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered by Lysa TerKeurst
This is Lysa’s story of walking through her husband’s affair and her cancer diagnosis and treatments. She doesn’t try to spend a lot of time giving readers too many details of what her husband did, and she doesn’t try to cast blame on him. Instead, she focuses on how she felt and what helped her through it. At the end of each chapter, she gives main points to remember, a Bible verse to focus on, and reflection questions to consider. This isn’t just a book to inspire us from Lysa’s experience, but it’s also a book that gives solid wisdom from someone who has walked through this. This would be a great gift for someone going through something difficult. Also, after reading the book, you should listen to Lysa in interviews and in her social media posts to see the wonderful things that God is doing in her family now.
15.) Indestructible: Leveraging Your Broken Heart to Become a Force of Love & Change in the World by Allison Fallon
I read this book in two days. It’s a true story, but it felt as engaging as fiction because Allison is a great storyteller. I met Ally about 4 years ago at a writer’s conference, and I was interested when I saw she was releasing this book. This is the story of Ally’s journey of coming to realize that the marriage she was in was abusive and how she decided to get out of it. I sense that Ally is in an ongoing search to find what is healthy for her. I’m proud of her for writing this. This is a book that I’d like to discuss with some friends in a book club or something. :)
I texted my friend that I needed to cancel our dinner plans. My teenage daughter had been crying for hours, and I didn’t want to leave her. Nothing I had tried had helped console her. I sat down on the floor outside her bedroom door because she didn’t want me to come in.
I started to feel like maybe this would never end. So many nights had ended this way for her, and I didn’t want this overwhelming heartache to continue to be the pattern for her future. She had been so brave and tried so hard, but then every time another painful thing happened, her heart hurt so badly that there was nothing I could do to protect her from it.
Maybe she’ll always feel pain so deeply. Maybe I’ll never be able to help her through it. I knew enough to know that this isn’t just some teenage issue that she’ll grow out of. This is a wound in her heart that needs healing from God.
I’ve told her before during past incidents that I believe a breakthrough is coming for her.
“What’s a breakthrough?” She asked.
I explained that when we go through difficult things, we can pray for God to help us to break through the obstacles and burdens that are causing us heartache. Like if there is a wall in front of us that is holding us back, God can help us to break through that wall. God may not take the pain away immediately, but He is still working on our behalf. We just have to wait and keep praying. He will give us a breakthrough. We won’t always have to carry this much pain.
“Well, then, yes, that’s what I need,” she said so simply.
But outside her bedroom door on this night several months ago, I could still hear her crying. And I started begging God on her behalf. “God, she has prayed to You. She has asked for Your help. Won’t You answer her prayer? Won’t You comfort her heart?”
I try never to promise my daughter anything unless I know for sure that I can deliver on that promise. I had promised her that God will give her a breakthrough. But on this night, after this struggle, I began to wonder if I was wrong to make that promise to her. I had tried teaching her truth about God, but maybe my words didn’t help.
Then as I was sitting on the floor by her bedroom, my phone beeped with a new text message. It was from my friend Kayla. She and her husband were good friends with my brother Dave, but I hadn’t talked to Kayla much at all in the past few years. Yet she texted me to say that God had put my girls and me on her heart that evening. She wanted to know if there was anything she could pray for us.
I recognized that this was God’s way of encouraging me. I texted Kayla back and explained the situation—how my daughter was hurting so badly tonight and how I was starting to doubt if her breakthrough was ever coming.
Kayla told me that she had been shopping in Kohl’s when she suddenly had an overwhelming impression to pray for me and my girls. That’s why she texted me. She took a few minutes to pray for us again, and then she texted me what God had spoken to her. She said that she could feel God’s heart for my daughter, how precious she is to Him. She said that God wants to heal her completely—that it is His will to heal all her wounds. She said she felt God tell her that He has a mighty plan for my daughter’s life, and He has assigned an angel to protect her. She feels a breakthrough coming…a deep healing. Satan will not get the victory in her life!
This next part might sound weird to you, but Kayla said that God gave her a vision of me, and it looked like a river was coming out of my mouth. She believed that God was showing her that my words were a source of life and healing for my girls.
I started crying as I read all of Kayla’s texts. I was amazed that God cared so much about our situation, that He saw our tears and pain in our little house and prompted Kayla as she was shopping in Kohl’s to reach out to us.
Every doubt and worry I had been feeling that night was addressed in Kayla’s encouragement to me, and I was blown away by God’s personal involvement in what we were going through.
This happened awhile back, but God brought this memory to my mind as I was driving home from work yesterday. I decided to write it out in hopes that it would encourage someone else to know that God sees your situation. If you are praying, He is certainly listening and working on your behalf.
“Cast all your anxiety on God because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.