Back in February I wrote down this quote from Lisa Hensley: “Be generous with what lights you up. Someone may only take a sip of what you’re savoring but it might change them.” I love that she used the word “savor” because it perfectly describes what I do when I discover that I love something. I go all in, follow everything I can about the thing or person, and tell people (and my journal) about it too. This list of favorites I’ve compiled came straight from memory when I started thinking about the things I remember loving from this past year and wanted to tell others about. It’s long and full of great content that I hope you’ll enjoy some of too!
Words that stuck with me
“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” – 1 Corinthians 7:17 (ESV)
“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there.” – 1 Corinthians 7:17 (MSG)
I’m someone who greatly struggles with living in the present moment. I can be overly nostalgic to a fault and on the flip side, can also find myself endlessly daydreaming about the future, as if living in my head long enough could bring back my favorite days and feelings or make those wishful dreams come true. When I came across this scripture while reading through the entire Bible last year, I was so convicted and impacted by it that I immediately wrote it on an image and made it the lock screen on my phone. I wanted to be reminded of it as often as possible. I wanted to remember that the creator of the universe and author of my life has placed me exactly where I am in life right now, with the people and job and relationships and house and church and family that I have, for a good and sanctifying purpose. The present circumstances of my life is right where I’m supposed to be, and it is His best for me.
“God has called you to be faithful only to today, moment by moment, in the situations He places you in.” – Cindy Stephens
This piece of advice was given to me by a friend of mine at my church who is much wiser than me, and it has been saved in the reserves of my memory and heart ever since. She reminds me over and over again that I’m not called to be faithful to (or in my case, worry and fret about) the assumptions I’m making, the thoughts others may or may not have about anything to do with me, or the reactions from others that I’m anticipating, but rather to the moment right in front of me that I’m given. These words of wisdom, clarity, and encouragement have helped me navigate hard conversations, gain clarity in my decision-making, and apply more specificity to my prayers. It has helped me learn to be more sensitive and attuned to the Holy Spirit’s voice guiding me through situations, and it has been one of the most pivotal shifts in my thinking as a believer.
“Figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it.” – Therapist on How Do You Know movie
This piece of general advice was given to a character in the movie who had no idea how to think or decide anything for herself, and it has been so applicaple and helpful for me in the past year. I love how it can be used in all kinds of scenarios ranging from simple and trite decisions like what you want to eat at a restaurant, to harder and more consequential decisions like discerning what boundaries to put in place with others. Sometimes the act of naming what you want is the hardest part of making a decision and moving forward, but I’ve found that it helps you know how to ask for it and it’s made all the difference.
“What you wear and how you look is the least interesting thing about you.”
I believe being a female in a society that is obsessed with beauty and youth has subconsciously engrained in my head that it’s important for me to look a certain way when I’m in the presence of other people. This has consequently led to a lot of my mental energy thinking more about my appearance than I realize. Hearing this phrase has helped me recognize when I’m thinking or caring too much about what people might think of how I look (because they probably don’t), and also challenged and encouraged me to turn those thoughts elsewhere. It’s been a freeing reminder and shift towards self-forgetfulness.
“God equips you for what He calls you to.”
As someone with a Type-A, perfectionistic personality, I am easily crippled by imposter syndrome and have a tendency to not do things unless I feel overly prepared or qualified for them (yes, my pride and fear of man is showing). I can’t remember who I heard say this phrase, but it has been such an encouragement and motivator to embrace my limits and remain teachable. I’ve learned that (usually) stepping into roles that feel challenging or a bit scary and daunting are usually where the Lord grows me the most, not only in my abilities to do what He’s called me to do (which of course comes only from Him), but also in my trust in Him and His presence in every step of the way. It has also been so wonderful getting to pass these words along to others to encourage them to use their talents and gifts for the Lord too.
Books that I read
I finished reading a total of 20 books in 2021 (you can see the list on my Goodreads shelf), and these are the books that left a lasting impression or that I couldn’t put down!
Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
I love how the author of this book takes the reader through a full day of being herself in her normal routine and helps readers see the sacred in the ordinary mundane as of everyday life – where worship and prayer are interwoven into her daily liturgy. This book has given me a new perspective and reminded me to keep my eyes open to the presence of God’s work in each and every moment of every day.
The Gift of Forgiveness by Dr. Charles Stanley
Even with all my years of being in church and hearing about forgiveness, reading and memorizing scripture on forgiveness, and talking about forgiveness, I don’t know that I’ve ever been taught ~how~ to forgive and what that process looks like. Dr. Stanley shares specifics of how to receive God’s forgiveness, and then extend that forgiveness to ourselves and others to make the process an ongoing, practical experience throughout our lives and circumstances. He shows the reader how the peace that comes through forgiveness affects our relationships to ourselves, others, and the Lord. I cannot recommend this book enough to every human being, but especially to those who are following Christ.
Meet Cute: Some people are destined to meet by multiple YA authors
This was my favorite fiction read from last year! It’s an insanely heartwarming anthology of varying kinds of “meet–cutes”, and the hopeless romantic in me loved all of the stories. My semi-heartbroken self needed this book as a reminder that anything can potentially happen between two people, especially when you least expect it.
Not Yet Married: The pursuit of joy in singleness and dating by Marshall Segal
I’m not one who particularly enjoys consuming content that I think will tell me how to live a good and fulfilling life as a not-yet-married person (mainly because I already think I’m doing it pretty alright), but this book and the wisdom and guidance it gives was worth putting aside my lowgrade bitterness and resentment for still being single at 25 in Bible Belt Christendom. I found the author’s perspective to be refreshing and encouraging, and I loved how all of his points and teaching ultimately pointed to Christ.
Podcast episodes that I listened to
I listen to a plethora of podcasts every week ranging in diversity of topics and speakers, but each one has different niches within faith-based thinking and practice that I appreciate and love to learn from. In no particular order, these are the episodes that kept me thinking long after I initially listened to them, so much so that I made this list off the top of my head as I sat down to type this out (which I’m honestly quite impressed by)!
What I Wish I Had Known with Shauna Niequiest on Coffee + Crumbs
This was such a great conversation about marriage, friendships, motherhood, and writing, and her thoughts on expectations and accepting reality really resonated with me. I also pre-ordered her new book after listening!
Question & Answer on Singleness on That Sounds Fun
Annie F. Downs is my go-to girl on all things being a single Christian female. This nearly two hour episode covers about 100 questions on singleness, and I believe all church members, single and married, would greatly benefit from listening. Her answers are full of grace and truth and was a balm to my soul.
Being Single in the Church on Looking for the Middle
Another great episode on singleness, this conversation covers both pros and cons of being single in the church and is both humorous and insightful. I was really convicted by something one of their listeners submitted that talked about her love for being able to model what godly, single womanhood looks like for younger girls in the church, and that’s a perspective shift that I’ve carried with me and want to continue to cultivate.
How Habit is the Backdoor for Faith with Jen Pollock Michel on Cultivated
I love Jen Pollock Michel’s writing, so getting to listen her talk about her habits and how her roles as a writer and mother have been shaped by them was delightful.
Talking to Our 20-Something Selves on A Drink with a Friend
Listening to Tsh Oxenreider and Seth Haines, two of my favorite conversationalists on embodied spirituality and practices, share advice that they’d tell their twenty-something selves felt like receiving life wisdom from an older friend. I’ve listened to this episode three times in total so far, and I keep taking away something different to think on more with each listen.
Tradition (aka Democracy of the Dead) on A Drink with a Friend
I used to be a hater on traditional church services and practices until the Lord changed my heart and gave me a deep appreciation for the connection that tradition has to saints who’ve gone before me. This conversation gave me even more to love about traditions, how they form us, and how they can be used by God to bring His people back home.
Dunbar’s Number on A Drink with a Friend
I am someone who’s always conscious of how many people I’m following on my social media accounts because I know getting higher than around 300 overwhelms me. When I listened to this episode and learned about Dunbar’s number, I felt a level of solidarity and relief when I learned that there really is some science behind my cognitive limit to keep up with people in real life and the internet. This conversation inspired me to unfollow / mute / unfriend some people in attempts to get those numbers down, and it’s been so helpful.
5 Strong Ways to Finish Regular on The Next Right Thing
I loved these words from Emily P. Freeman: “For the one who might not finish strong, it’s…okay to just plain finish. If you can’t finish strong this time, you’re not the only one. So maybe let’s just finish regular.” She shares great ways to finish in this episode, and it was just what I needed to enter into the holiday and end-of-the-year season.
…about how to talk (or not talk) about people’s bodies on Annie and Eddie Keep Talking
I walked away from this episode with an idea that I’d just never considered before, and I think that applying it could change the whole body image game.
Newsletters that I subscribed to
2021 was the year that I actually read the numerous newsletters that I’ve subscribed to via email, and it has been a highlight and delight in my reading life. There are so many benefits to both the reader and writer of newsletters that I cannot believe I’ve been ignoring or missing out on them over the last several years. These are the ones that I always read whenever I’d see them in my inbox. I hope you subscribe and enjoy some of them too! (PS – I’m starting a newsletter in 2022 and I’d love for you to subscribe to it!)
Ashlee has quickly become one of my favorite people to follow on the internet. Her writing on grief, motherhood, business, and life draws me in and keeps me going back to her for more.
Jen Pollock Michel
As a person of faith and habits, getting to read another person’s reflections on faith and habits has felt very soul-sister-y and bonding and makes me feel like I’m not alone in the practice of holding onto hope.
Tish Harrison Warren’s NYT Column
After reading her book Liturgy of the Ordinary, I knew I wanted to read all of the other words that Tish Harrison Warren published that I could. This weekly newsletter on faith both in private practice and public spheres is intriguing and challenging, and I simply love it.
Almost everything I’ve shared on Facebook this past year has come from Christine Keegan, who currently lives in China with her family of 8 and writes on life and faith. Her words resonate with many of my thoughts and keep me thinking, and that’s my favorite kind of writing.
Annie B. Jones
Annie’s online presence is one of the main reasons why I keep social media at all. She has this down-to-earth presentation that feels comforting and friendly, and her essays about her life as a person of faith, small business owner, and avid reader really do feel like front porch chats.
I’ve admired Lisa for years on Instagram for her thought-provoking and reflective captions and questions, so subscribing to her newsletter where she writes about theology, women in ministry, and spiritual discplines was a must. Her words challenge me to think deeper, and I’m grateful for it.
That wraps up my favorites for 2021! If you discovered any favorite things from the year, please share them! I’d love to know what you’ve been savoring too. Here’s to a new year and new favorites!