Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Emily's Top Five: Books That Have Changed My Heart

I rank everything. I always have top five lists in my head of “favorites” that I can likely spout off at a moment’s notice. I keep track of my lists like it’s my job. Favorite Foods, Best Nashville Restaurants, Most Quoted Movies, Favorite Country Songs, etc. It has no limits really. I plan on sharing a lot of my lists with you, so here we have it: the top five books that have changed my heart. They are Must Reads if you haven’t checked them out (literally)!

I must preface this list by telling you that in my past I was never a reader. I hated it. I absolutely never read anything for fun with the exception of the occasional Glamour article in the grocery check out line (or the entire magazine rack when, after I have just finished emptying my entire cart onto the conveyor belt, the woman in front of me whips out a three ring binder of coupons. Go ahead and turn on your blinking light, Warrior in the Tight Blue Vest. We all know we’ll need a manager. Ugh.) But other than learning priceless information like I am a “Spring” even though I would have guessed “Fall” and am best dressed in jewel tones even though my closet is full of black, I never read anything of much interest or value.

In my condo, bookshelves are used to hold decorations, not really too many books. Get my jist?

Last summer however, my Dallas Friend kept talking to me about a book series she was reading by Karen Kingsbury that I just had to read. At the same time, my Birmingham Friend kept asking me what I had been reading. She gave me a million book suggestions. When she realized that I was still not reading, she actually started mailing me books. Guilty. I broke down and started reading. Once I realized that no one cares if I can’t identify how the syntax contributes to the overall theme of the book, that lifeless books can be stuffed right back into the spare closet with my winter boots and high school diploma (oops), and that when I read at night I actually don’t have to physically hold my eyes open to finish a chapter, reading took on a whole new meaning.

My Reject Pile. I literally had to move furniture to even get to this part of my closet. Yard sale soon?

It was quite the revolution, actually. I now usually have about two or three books going at one time – usually a girly, chick flick book (which I call Beach Reads) and a couple of devotional books of some sort – so that something is bound to fit my mood. And since I only actually finish about half of the books that I start, the Nashville Public Library is my new best friend. Plus, they let you check out magazines! And with self check-outs on the rise, how else could I keep up with the Kardashians? I recognize that I could get a kindle and download my books instantly, carry multiple books in one little hand held device, yadda, yadda, yadda, but when was the last time you took a big deep inhale of your snazzy electronic device and thought “That smells incredible.”. Point proven.

So here they are (in random order)…
Top Five Books that Have Changed My Heart:

1. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
Break out your highlighter and favorite ink pen because you will fill up these margins in a heartbeat. I love this book because it challenges both the way that I recognize God’s love and the way that I love others. I literally filled this book with notes and prayers and thoughts. One of my favorite things about books like this is that now that I have read it from start to finish, I can pick it up, flip to any chapter, skim through my notes and the text and be encouraged all over again. Do yourself a favor and pick up two copies. Once you read it I know you will want to give the second to someone you love.

2. Captivating by Stasi Eldredge
This book carried me through the college years and is a great read for any woman, but especially a 15-25 year old still learning and discovering who she is. The premise of the book is that every woman embodies the beauty of God. Beauty is not what we conjure, but what we reveal when we let our defenses down. One of my favorite chapters highlights the fact that we are all playing an irreplaceable role in a Great Story – a role that no one else in all of time could ever play. We are all written into His story, and the real tragedy comes when we choose to not play the part He created for us. (And we all know that I am a sucker for a good story.)

3. If You Want to Walk On Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of The Boat by John Ortberg
Okay, seriously. Don’t ask me what this book is about. I mean, I could guess, but I honestly don’t remember. But the reason why this book changed my heart is because when I was 14 my Bible teacher gave me his copy of this book to read. I actually read it (shocker) and it was the first Christian book like this that I had ever read on my own. I grew up going to church three times a week and attended a private school with Bible classes and chapel every day, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I took responsibility for my own faith. It wasn’t so much the content as it was the fact that I “felt like a grown up” and actually read a spiritual book for myself and not for someone else. I don’t remember the book, but it changed my heart and was a building block towards a personal faith.

But don’t let me stand in your way. You should read it. If you do, let me know how it is!

4. My Bible
I don’t want to sound like a cliché, so I won’t just say that it changed my heart, but I will tell you just one small example of how. Lots of things changed in my life in 2009. Some of it was great, some of it was hard, and some of it was just life. But on New Year’s Eve that year I decided that 2010 was going to be different. Yeah I know, I hate clichés, but I did decide to make a New Years resolution that I would actually keep. Who actually runs three miles a day? Not this girl. Come to think of it, I'm not too sure I have never done that. And since I am a marketing gal, of course I branded my resolution. It was “New Year, New You, New Do”. So on New Year’s Eve I cut off 13 inches of hair to donate to Locks of Love. Note to self, short hair makes my face look really round. Still worth it. I also decided that I would read my Bible every day, journal about it, and in that journal write one thing that I am truly thankful for each day. Now, I am a perfectionist, so at 3am on day 18 when I woke up on my couch and realized that I had missed day 17, I wanted so badly to go back and fill in the day so that there wouldn’t be any gaps. But I didn’t. I decided that there would be no pressure. Miss a day? Okay. Only make it through two verses? Sure. Some days all you are thankful for are puffy cheetos? That counts. Who doesn’t love orange fingers? Anyways, I was surprised by all of the things that I was reading that I felt like I was reading for the first time. One of the moments that changed my heart was when I was reading through the book of Luke. I had fallen so in love with this Jesus “character” and was enthralled with his journey and progression through the book. When I got near the end of the book, I intentionally started only reading a few verses at a time because I was scared to get to the part that I new was coming all too quickly – his death. I was in love with Him in a whole new way and didn’t want to get to the “tragedy”. So one brave night I snuggled under my Granny Quilt and cracked open my Bible to the final chapters. I made it through the torture and the death quickly but painfully. I was hurt and heartbroken. I wanted to finish the book, so I turned the page. There they were – words in red, accompanied by soft sobs and a steady stream of tears. In that moment the resurrection was more personal than it ever had been before. It was true, raw, unadulterated HOPE. He lives.

One of my favorite things in the whole world - My Granny Chair with My Granny Quilt.

On another note, take your Bible and make it YOURS. Just like I jot things down in the margins of Crazy Love, I find that underlining, making notes, and asking questions in my Bible makes it personal, meaningful, and challenging.

5. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Hope, and Happily Ever After by Trish Ryan
This was a book from my Birmingham Friend. I made it through about 45 pages before I put it away… for, like, a really long time. (Yes, I can type the word “like”. I do what I want.) But she begged me to push through and finish the book. So glad I did because I loved it and even read her next book “A Maze of Grace”. He Loves Me is a perfect book because it is a Beach Read and a Christian book all rolled into one. It is a first hand account of how Trish found God and found love in the craziest yet most practical of places. I am in love with this book. In fact, I might just read it twice! Now that’s saying something!

As a side note to my Dallas Friend, yes I did read the Karen Kingsbury novels that I just had to read. In fact, I am on my ninth Kingsbury book. I adore that series, but it is hard to add a collection of books to a Top 5, ya know? Want to read her stuff? Skip the stand alones and go straight for the first Baxter Family “Redemption” series. Sometimes they are a bit dramatic and corny, but I love the characters and the messages.

So there you have it, five books that have changed my heart. Have a book that changed your life? Have a book that you think I need to read? Let me know. It will go on my list! And if anyone even dares to suggest things like Lord of The Rings, Twilight, Harry Potter, or anything else in those genres, you 1) clearly don't know me and 2) are welcome to come shop in my reject pile.


  1. I love that your blogging. You write like you talk; I can hear your voice when I read. Which is a very good thing. Keep it up, yo.

    Book Recommendation:
    1. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. It is ruining my life.

    2. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. It's a book about how God and stories. I think it would be right up your ally.

    3. Anything by HA Rey.

  2. I agree with Travis. I totally love reading your blog because I can hear your voice in it and it's you!

    I love Crazy Love and am actually reading it a 2nd time currently. I think it's a lot like the bible and has so much information that when you pick it up the 2nd time your learn a lot of new stuff. I also really liked Captivating. It really taught me a lot about the me that's well me. I 've heard about the third book and need to get it because it sounds like a very interesting read.

    I recently read Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman. It is my all time, can't put it down, favorite read! It really spoke to me about perseverance through trials and how God uses us even in our lowest points in life. I would highly recommend it to anyone no matter what stage or season of life your traveling through.

    Oh and can I say I totally agree on the Harry Potter and all the other crazy series books. They are not me. I read the Twilight series since that is obviously what my teen girls are into and I will admit that I couldn't put them down at the time till I got to the last book but I've not had any desire to pick them up since, lol!

  3. Thanks, guys!
    Trav, I will add those books to my list!
    Jordan, I actually took Choosing to See to the beach but my mom read it first. She cried a lot so I made a mental note to read it later - not exactly a Beach Read for me! I need to check it out again! You would really love He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. I'd let you borrow it but it was a library book. Add it to your list!

  4. Anything by W. Dale Cramer is fabulous. Christian fiction, but really great Christian fiction. Not hokey.