The first two I read I actually reviewed in the past two months. The first book that started the whole process was A Confident Heart, by Renee Swope. The second was Anything, by Jennie Allen. It would belabor the point to rehash them here, so please see the links for the reviews already written on these books. They are the titles that started the inkling of real change for me.
Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst, hit home hard. I had a consistent feeling of "this is me." The strange thing is, it wasn't what I thought it was going to be and I bought it more because of the author, who I already know I love. Plus, Proverbs 31 (a women's ministry of which TerKeurst is President) was running a read-a-long. I don't really have anyone to read books alongside so I always jump at the chance of a good read-a-long through Proverbs 31. I assumed the book would be about how to do more than just rote Bible reading and do-gooding. And it was that, but it went much deeper. TerKeurst probes at the core of who we are. What do you expect from life, what are doing in life, and is it going to really give you what you need? (Spoiler alert: it isn't). Among her discussion points she discusses allowing people and things to fulfill you and be the source of your happiness, which will fail you because no one and nothing is perfect. She talks about trying to measure up, do, do, do, go, go, go...and again this will fail because you are only human, you will tire going nonstop in your own strength. Plus, you don't have to measure up, you are accepted as you are by God...and true friends will see you the same way. There are many more points like these and all of them spoke to me of reevaluating my decisions and actions.
The fifth title, Undaunted, comes from another author I adore, Christine Caine. (Yes, fifth title because the fourth book I read is by far the best, so I'm saving it for last.) Undaunted discusses ways in which we find life getting us down and out and possibly giving up on what we've been called to do. I will admit some of what I read here was repeat as I've read other Caine books and the material from this book is referenced in them; however, Undaunted gave her story in more detail. She talks about ways in which we become easily discouraged or let the facts dictate what we can do when we are called by a God much bigger than any facts. And then her story of starting her A21 Campaign, an organization that fights human trafficking, absolutely backs up every point she makes. This book encouraged me in my next step forward and the life changes it will bring for me this Fall as I start my PhD program. It's daunting, but I can go forward undaunted if I choose to activate my faith.
Unashamed. This book can be highly personal to those for whom it applies and that's what makes it so valuable. Unashamed is about the ways in which shame has taken over our lives. Sometimes it's from something done to you and sometimes it's from things you've chosen to do. Everyone is affected by it in some way, at some point in their lives, and that's the value of this book. However, for some shame has played a much larger, tragic role, their lives encumbered by avoidance of and coping mechanisms for shame reactions. The best way to give a look into what shame does is to give a description Caine wrote (from experience) about how the mind reacts even in the smallest hurtful situation, intentional or not:
"So much emotion came with this hurt. Especially the emotion of shame—and it was loud just like a shame-producing giant always is. I was so tempted to interpret that I was being negatively judged. I was sensitive to and fearful of rejection and criticism—and wanted to withdraw. I began to feel I was the problem. I started to slide into my black-and-white perspectives of whether I was either loved or unloved, accepted or rejected, wanted or unwanted—with no rational zone in between these extremes. I began to be tempted to make adjustments to make others feel more comfortable, to people-please. So many of my shame buttons were being pushed all at once!"
Can you imagine living that way with each and every hurt and disappointment magnified ten fold? If you can or you do, you need to read Unashamed by Christine Caine. I've so enjoyed these books so far. It's all hard stuff, but when it comes down to making a life change, following a calling or becoming the you that you are intended to be, you can only change the things you are willing to confront.