Digging Deep Into My Favorite Reads // part one

I am not myself if I don’t read a little each day. I find it’s very important, at least for me personally, to read a little bit of different literacy cultures at all times.

Today I’ll be sharing with you five books that are a big part of my all-time-favorite collection. These books not only enchant me with their language, but they’re the kind of books that make me want to jump out of my seat and do something. These books call me to action and motivate me in the Holy Spirit. But they’re also the kind of books that make me check out my surroundings, look down at my feet and whisper, “You are here. For today, you are right where you are supposed to be. Don’t be so afraid, you of little faith. Just bring everything you’ve got to the table – all the lessons you’ve learned and the mistakes you’ve made – and love fearlessly in Jesus’ name right here.” These books call me to not be so afraid of the dark, to create in such a way that people know who Jesus is, to love outside of stereotypes, to be grateful and honest, and to live life simpler.  

Learning To Walk In The Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor 

Is it dark out tonight? Fear not; it will not be dark forever. Is it bright out tonight? Enjoy it; it will not be bright forever.
— Barbara Brown Taylor

This book was a life-changing account for me. For the record, I don’t say something is life-changing if it hasn’t actually changed my life. I read this book months ago, and every time I feel literal or figurative darkness, I think about this book and all that Barbara Brown Taylor taught me in her research on darkness. Barbara Brown Taylor isn’t afraid of the dark. She isn’t afraid of thinking thoughts that everyone around her wouldn’t agree with. She seeks to be right in doctrine, but she’s not afraid to test everything she hears. We know the One that separated the light from dark. We shouldn’t be afraid of not being able to sleep at night – what keeps us up tells us something about ourselves. We should take notice to what makes us thankful. To what fills us up and what empties us dry. We should not be afraid of silence. We should pay attention to details, and commune with the Holy Spirit in thankfulness. We should not be afraid when the lights go out. Because if we take Him with us, the Light will never really go out, anyway. 

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be – unbelievably – possible! The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.
— Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp writes in her bestselling book, One Thousand Gifts, that if Christ is at the center of your mundane tasks joy can rain down. Not only is her message essential, but her writing style is a breath of fresh air. Her voice is unique in tone, wisdom, and honesty. I believe the world is a better place because of Ann’s attention to living a song of praise in our daily lives. She sheds light on the Greek word eucharisteo that Jesus practiced when he broke bread. He spoke grace. He gave thanks. She sheds light on the grace He gives us in our humanness. Through this book, Ann asks hard questions about injustice, grief, and finding purpose. The kind of questions we ache over and sit with, but subconsciously wonder if He could handle our honesty if we spoke them aloud. I saw the world differently as I read and even after I finished One Thousand Gifts. I began writing gratitude lists of my own, moment by moment, on paper and in prayer -- as was demonstrated throughout the course of the book. If you need to wrestle with God, find Holy-Spirit-given fulfillment, and get real practical about true thankfulness, it’s never late to join in on the journey of counting 1,000+ gifts. 

Love Does by Bob Goff 

That’s what love does – it pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end.
— Bob Goff

I’ll be honest. I avoided this book for several years after the release date in 2012. Because it’s popular. The trouble with popularity and everything it touches is that somewhere after words are repeated by lips of lukewarm people we believe they aren’t good anymore. But this isn’t true, especially when it comes to Love Does by Bob Goff. This man is incredible. He is known for going against the status quo. He’s a lawyer because of his persistence, Ugandan consul because he made good friends there, and long-time husband to sweet Maria after originally pursuing her with no luck for three years. In reading Bob’s stories, both deep and lighthearted at the same time, you can’t help but be full of whimsy and hunger for active righteousness. I was challenged to think of people as friends, not projects. To know that church happens everywhere, and only sometimes inside four walls. I was challenged to love Jesus more than I know about Him. Bob Goff is rightly against ‘’religious jargon’’ and believes instead in living within the equation of ‘’Jesus plus nothing’’. He believes in the power of friendship, that Jesus can use our brokenness, and that love does everything big. 

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

Uncovering your art is about uncovering what is really there within you, coming face-to-face with your profound capacity for beauty as well as sin, your deepest dream and your longing for God. You are capable of glory-grasping and it might get ugly.
— Emily P. Freeman

This book is one of the most encouraging books I’ve ever read, because Emily P. Freeman acknowledges the hardships of the creative life while also speaking truth over us. The truth is that what the world spends most of their time belittling (art, tears, etc.) is actually what they need most. Emily’s style is simple, elegant, and for this reason I am a regular reader of her blogs and books. A Million Little Ways woke me up to do what makes me feel alive, regardless of the audience. The little kid in all of us will be encouraged whenever we read these words from Emily, “Your childhood dream delights God.” She urges us to know who we truly are: walking poetry made by the Creator of all. She challenges us to pay attention to what makes us cry, because that often tells us something we need to know about our scars and passions. She explores how to healthily handle the critic from the outside and the critic inside of all of us. For me, the application was straightforward after finishing the last page: stop talking about what you want to do someday and just do it. Discover your art. God knows what the best thing is for you – when you get a glimpse, trust Him and chase after it. Haters gonna hate. Show up and be faithful anyway. Don’t be so afraid of your seemingly-crazy ideas and trust your first thoughts. Love even when you don’t feel ready. Come alive. 

Notes From A Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider

We were made to live slower than our fast paced western culture deems normal. But it means paddling upstream through strong currents.
— Tsh Oxenreider

I am a huge fan of Tsh Oxenreider, all of her writing, and what she stands for. In these pages, Tsh takes you to an Urban city in Turkey where she lived for several years, a congested city in Texas, and readjusting back to what-should-feel-like-normal-life in small town Oregon. Her husband bought her a blue bike, and to her, it was a symbol of how their family was going to fight for simplicity with all their might. I read this book over a summer that I spent jumping on planes, immersing myself into a foreign country’s culture for a few weeks, and then was pulled back onto the plane to come back to the United States with tears stains on my cheeks. In this sense, this was a timely read for me because I felt Tsh’s struggles. The struggles including when you’re back in the States and don’t feel comfortable spending the whole day at a friend’s house, when that’s the kind of relationships you experienced on foreign land. When you notice that you live among too many people that act like they love their stuff more than one another. Notes From A Blue Bike is a huge encouragement in always having global awareness, creativity, and slowing down with intention.  Tsh describes how and why she chooses to buy less, enjoy more, setting boundaries on her time spent on the internet, and traveling with her whole family. Together we explore the challenges and rewards of taking care of yourself, being an entrepreneur, seeking revival, and giving yourself grace. As soon as I finished this book, I started looking for a bike. But even more importantly, I thought long and hard about what I could bring back to the States that I learned overseas.  A message that still continues to convict and echoes in my heart every day. 
I don’t know about you, but I’m forever in love with words and the way they change my life, my mood, and my world every single day. 

Stay tuned for part two and part three of this series coming soon! 

Emilee Clemons.JPG

Emilee Clemons? She’s a hot mess and a sinner, dearly loved and made into a new creation by Christ alone. She’s a lover of rainy days, thick books, the Greek language, and classic movies. Her not-so-guilty-pleasures include Netflix marathons and dance parties along with one of her eclectic playlists. You’ll find pieces of her heart in countless cities and villages all over the globe. She believes in the power of prayer, a strong cup of coffee, authenticity, and long handwritten letters. Emilee’s prayer is that she would manifest God’s grace in her life and in everything she creates.

Follow her as she shares daily musings at @emyclemons on social media. You can find her writing about being born again and growing up in Christ at emykaye.wordpress.com.