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18 Books I read in 2018

What. A. Year.  I could easily get into all of my feels of 2018.  It was my first full year of my first full time job.  It was a year of moving houses.  A year of growing and deepening friendships.  A year of transitioning, reorienting, and reorganizing.  A year with a broken heart.  Another year of pursuing a Masters of Divinity.  Another year of grief.  Another year of learning and growing and in between each chapter, per usual, a year of reading.

This year I felt compelled to add some diversity to my reading list.  In the spaces I fill, I often find myself advocating for diversity, yet my 2017 reading list looked a little too unified.  So this year, I mixed it up.  I read some fiction on the beach, read an autobiography over Christmas, and read many a Christian living along the way.  I wanted to read books by both men and women of various races and ethnicities.  And I have many to recommend for your 19 books of 2019.

Disclaimer: I am in no way endorsed by these authors, though I do review for various publishing companies and receive copies of free books.  If you are interested in contacting me to review your books, please comment below!  Also, these are in alphabetic order.

Let’s jump in!


1.) And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick

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In this work, Kate Merrick shares about the difficult journey her family faced through her daughter Daisy’s cancer, ultimately ending in Daisy passing away.  She describes the ups and downs of Daisy’s cancer, when she and her husband felt hopeful and hopeless, when she was angry that these were the cards they had been dealt, and when she would lay in bed and hold every precious minute she had with Daisy.

Through some of the most broken experiences of her life, Kate Merrick nudges readers of And Still She Laughs to shift their perspective from defining God through our circumstances to defining Him through His Word and proven character.  She holds the sacredness of grief and the depths of suffering she has faced, but walks with bravery and honesty into the truth of Scripture that provides the hope with which broken bones can rejoice. Read full review…..

2.) Becoming by Michelle Obama

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I have always loved all things first lady.  When given the decision of which museum to visit in Washington D.C. I always have a hard time choosing any other than the Museum of American History to admire the dresses and pearls of each first lady.  I love the way their clothing embodies that era, both the economy in its elegance and the role that women played in the culture of our nation.  I grew up admiring Laura and Barbara’s poise, Jackie’s fashion, and Michelle’s courage.

I felt welcomed by Michelle Obama to consider more deeply the uniqueness of my own story and how it has painted, shaped, and sculpted the person I am today.  I felt empowered to own the spaces I fill with confidence, but mostly authenticity.  Despite it’s length, I would greatly recommend this read. Read full review….

3.) Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

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Wrapping up my first year of my full time, big girl position, in my first year of supervising direct reports, I kept reading to see what I could learn.  And the insights were endless.  Brené entered into the work place which can seem so institutionalized and cold sharing on shame, vulnerability, the need for connection, and ways to show up brave, bold, and honest.

Upon reading Dare to Lead I have found myself using skills Brené teaches right away in my work place, on my small teams and big ones, with my direct reports and with those I report to.  I have found myself seeing the people around me differently and as I value them more and lean into my curiosity, finding myself much more generous with them.  I have since recommended Dare to Lead to many due to its specific insight, relevant research, and challenging message that is vital to any company culture. Read full review….

4.) Everybody Always by Bob Goff

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I love Bob’s writing style and even have used it as an example at writer’s conferences when some more tenured friends just cannot seem to understand “those Millennials.”  (Funny how sometimes we, ourselves, are the ones people have to walk across the line to love.)  He tells wild and crazy stories that made me laugh, cry, and have chills all over.  Then, he draws connections to the nature and character of God and who He calls us to be packing many heavier punches than I ever thought possible.

Bob simplifies what we overcomplicate emphasizing the theme that Jesus never gathered people around Him to agree with Him; instead, He gathered people around Him to go and be like Him.  Bob challenges believers to love bravely, deeply, and to never overlook our own personal transformation in the process. Read full review…

5.) Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons

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In Freefall to Fly, Lyons shares her story wrestling with severe anxiety as her family transitioned from Georgia to the hustle and bustle of New York City.  Painted with beautiful word choice, the author lets readers into her innermost wrestlings and questions with God as she struggled to face each and every day, fighting to believe each day would be the end of this relentless battle.

Freefall to Fly is bold, honest, and brave.  Rebekah Lyons story is extremely relatable and her writing style, beautiful.  Read full review…

6.) Gay Girl, Good Good by Jackie Hill Perry

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Gay Girl, Good God.  This title captured my attention, knowing Jackie’s story in part, but knowing all the more how often I sit across the table in restaurants and coffee shops from students in my ministry who face a similar battle.  I shared with a friend recently that I am not quite sure why, but I have found myself to be a common confidant for those who are attracted to the same sex.  While this has never been a part of my story, I have found it an incredible honor to hold these precious people’s stories, hearts, wrestlings, fears, and frustrations.  While I hold this privilege, I have also held a lack of resources.  To know me well is to have been recommended a book by me, and I found this topic of Christianity and homosexuality to be limited in its scope of resources and all the more limited in individuals who would speak out about it.  And along came Jackie.

Perry’s work is real, raw, compelling, honest, and a great launching point for the Church to enter significantly more honest conversations regarding same sex attraction, specifically in conservative Christian circles.  Read full review…

7.) Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer

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Comer magnifies the two bookends of Scripture to piece together his thesis on work and rest.  He narrows in on key aspects of the Garden of Eden and God’s original calling and commandment for man and woman. He furthermore explains the concept of the “Garden City” to come or the New Jerusalem and how our lives will take shape in this future Kingdom.  Between the two of the Shalom that was and the Shalom that is to come, Comer offers a Biblical perspective of the role of work and rest in our lives and how we often convolute them.

I highly recommend this read to all believers, specifically those wrestling with calling, work and life balance, or the Biblical call to rest.  Read full review..

8.) The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

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Butterfield explains hospitality does not have to be complicated.  She emphasizes the simplicity of setting up a card table in the carport and placing paper plates in a stack in an effort to make strangers, neighbors and friends.  She explains that practically this includes budgeting for hospitality, purchasing extra groceries, and in her case owning multiple crock-pots (aka speaking my language).  Practicing what Butterfield terms “radically ordinary hospitality” includes making room to host a single friend following eye surgery on a living room couch by buying blackout curtains and filling her prescriptions.  Making room includes making space in her schedule to help pick up a neighbor’s child from soccer practice or feeding another neighbor’s dog.

Butterfield’s tone is so conservative- literally including the phrase “sacred patriarchy” that when she began sharing her story of her life before Christ I checked back multiple times to be sure she wasn’t sharing someone else’s story.  I was shocked to learn this pastor’s wife in suburban North Carolina who knits by her neighbor’s bed sides during surgery and bakes bread each Saturday for Communion on Sunday came from such a different lifestyle.

Thus, The Gospel Comes with a House Key is a challenging and compelling read, with sections and ideologies I would omit in order to reach a more relevant and diverse audience surrounding an important subject. Read full review…

9.) Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley

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I was late to the Grace Not Perfection party, but so thankful I picked it up.  Emily Ley openly shares her story of battling to be perfect and in the midst of striving, finding grace.  Within each chapter she shares practical tips for organization and cleanliness in your home, work place, and daily life.

Ley’s word pictures of her story battling perfectionism, infertility, and health issues, invited me into her home to sit down and have coffee.  Each chapter felt like sitting across the coffee table from a wise friend and rather than feeling tasked with another creative organization plan, I felt accompanied by a friend saying, “me too, girl.”

I loved Grace Not Perfection and found myself in a bit of a book rut upon completing it, because I felt nothing could compare as it offers the sweet embrace of a friend and practical insights to simplification and organization, woven amidst a story of grace.  Read full review…

10.) The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

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This was a refreshing beach fiction read for me.  The protagonists are a light keeper and his wife who find a baby washed ashore the light house and are lost as to what to do next.  This story was a page turner, interlaced with romance, suspense, history, and hard decisions.  I’ve not seen the movie but loved the book!

11.) Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

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In her own journey of seeing the sacred in the ordinary, Warren began to see the presence of God infiltrated in her every day life.  She began making her bed every morning as a practice of His presence.  A normal chore that is routine for many was the means by which she was reminded of her call in the Kingdom to create order, imaging God in a fallen and disordered world.

Warren highlights the sacredness of soup, sleep, and slowly sipping a cup of coffee, demonstrating that these facets of our lives no mater how ordinary or plain are integrally shaping as as spiritual beings nonetheless.  Read full review…

12.) Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

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Jennie’s story of feeling so unworthy and incapable facing a growing ministry refreshed my soul.  As she named fears and lies, I was able to name many of my own, both in ministry and as an individual.  That nagging, stabbing lie that knows precisely when to whisper and when to shout beneath all of our performance, “You are not enough.”

Jennie shared so bravely about many painful parts of her story, facing an eating disorder, wrestling with showing up as a pastor’s wife, walking with her sister through a divorce, and I was so thankful to be met by her humanity, authenticity, and struggle, rather than another read of why I should be more and do more.  I walked away from this book feeling less challenged and more like I had gained a new friend, while reframing my view of Jesus and all that He’s called me to.  Read full review…

13.) The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman

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Gloria Furman’s work Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love is a message to all women who find themselves in the role of being a wife of someone in full time ministry.  She shares stories of times when many members of the congregation placed their expectations onto her to fulfill obligations she never imagined were hers, such as working to repair a leaking ceiling in the church foyer.  Furman and her husband pastor a church in the Middle East, thus gender roles are defined and experienced differently than in more Western environments; yet, Furman shares stepping into this role God has called her into with courage and care, especially as she has to work so tirelessly to protect her children and care for her husband who faces a muscular disorder.

Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love is specifically helpful in honestly addressing many expectations pastor’s wives face with very specific anecdotes that help bring this tension to light.  Furthermore, Furman’s experience translates to a variety of global contexts for pastor’s wives in any part of the world.  On the other hand, Furman’s work is limited in directly addressing wives of pastors rather than all women in ministry and addressing wives from a very conservative context.  She addresses women in similar contexts to her own which prescribes a very small church with limited staff and extremely conservative gender roles.  Read full review…

14.) Rediscovering Church by Lynne & Bill Hybles

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Lynne and Bill Hybles share their story in detail of building Willow Creek Community Church from only a vision and dream.  The first half of Rediscovering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church is composed by Lynne who begins with Bill and her first engagement that she broke off.  She shares of the two of them beginning their ministry together and Billy learning the gifts God had given him of teaching and leadership.  Lynne describes their journey of stepping out in faith to plant a church while both of them were only twenty-three years old.  She honestly shares the difficulties of this season of men coming to Bill stating they were about to lose all the collateral they had put on the line for the church, Bill trying to get out of debt by selling tomatoes door to door, a scandal in the church that split it in half, and the Lord protecting them from purchasing a condemned property.

Bill’s half of this work takes on less of a narrative form, but rather conveys his passion and zeal to see irreligious people become saints.  Bill also shares about times of incredible joy in watching the congregation of Willow Creek grow, make disciples, reach out to others, and give so generously.  He furthermore shares of difficult times and decisions as a leader, yet amidst every struggle and time of questioning of seeing God’s faithfulness.  Hybles consistently focuses on the importance of continuing to reach out to unbelievers and charging members of the congregation to do the same in order to see growth.  Read full review…

15.) Remember God by Annie F. Downs

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Should you stop reading here, just go ahead and order Annie F. Downs’ newest book.  I am a huge fan of Annie F. Downs as you can read in my reviews of her past two books (read more).  I love Annie’s works for her creativity, storytelling nature, sense of humor, admiration of Gilmore Girls, and love of glitter.

Remember God reaches into such darkness and so blessedly meets its readers there without any cliches of “choosing” to cling to any Truth or joy, but real and honest wrestling, hoping, believing, and remembering who He is and who He will be.  Read full review…

16.) Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot by Mo Isom

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This was my first ever coauthored review with my friend, Erin Moniz, M. Div. What we loved about Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot was its honesty and candidness, specifically bringing into the light that Christian women struggle with pornography, masturbation, and sexual desires in general.  So many “struggles” of sexuality have been gendered as men’s issues in the Church, yet as Isom shares her story she openly reveals these are not only issues guys face and they are temptations girls are facing at extremely young ages.

I, (Erin here-) valued Isom’s explanation that sex in marriage is not a magic thing that comes together just because you followed the rules of purity culture.  While Isom lacks a full emphasis on how a theology of intimacy creates the way for success in marriage, she at least dispels this HUGE myth we are still trying to sell people.

Isom leads openly and honestly with her story throughout the text.  I (Emily Katherine) so valued her rawness and authenticity, yet this story driven nature sometimes led to theological points which drew me to check for her seminary education on the back of the book.  The story driven nature of Isom’s book to me (Erin) somewhat limited the issues that could be addressed by leaving out the narratives of victims of sexual abuse and narrowing the focus to one persons’ story, limiting the Church’s ability to respond with better conversations pertaining to sexuality.  The author takes so much personal responsibility for her struggle with sexual sin that she overlooks affects of her environment and family, perpetuating the Western narrative of private salvation overlooking the fullness of the message of the gospel which openly points to the effects of environment and generational sin, along with the Church’s role in sanctification.  Erin and I also discussed many students we counsel’s stories of sexuality include same sex attraction or wrestling with gender identity which were not even acknowledged as this book focuses on Isom’s story rather than issues of sexuality and Christianity as a whole.  Read full review…

17.) The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan

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This, too, was a beach fiction read.  The story of a couple who travel the world together to learn about life, generosity, and refinding one another is engaging and eye opening.  I will say, though, I found myself a little annoyed by the main character’s lack of appreciation for her husband… but overall well written and a good story!

18.) Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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This, too, was a beach fiction read and I’m realizing I went to the beach more times in 2018 than I had previously thought.  I never read John Green’s first work every teenage girl freaked out about, A Star is Born, so I wanted to peak into the rage.  Turtles All the Way Down is an interesting, engaging story as a young teenage couple falls in love in the background of uncovering a murder mystery.  The protagonist embodies adolescent OCD precisely which did my Psychology heart good, but annoyed many friends I talked to about the book.


My 2019 list is underway and forever growing.  What did you read this year?


Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 1.57.56 PMMy name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Review of “Becoming” my Michelle Obama

I have always loved all things first lady.  When given the decision of which museum to visit in Washington D.C. I always have a hard time choosing any other than the Museum of American History to admire the dresses and pearls of each first lady.  I love the way their clothing embodies that era, both the economy in its elegance and the role that women played in the culture of our nation.  I grew up admiring Laura and Barbara’s poise, Jackie’s fashion, and Michelle’s courage.

I was excited for this read as I have admired Michelle Obama’s drive, ambition, sense of fashion, and extremely in shape upper body.  Countless friends were posting this, too, was their Christmas read.  I found myself surprised by Michelle’s talent as a writer with incredibly descriptive word choice and images that invited me into her small apartment in Chicago she grew up in and eventually invited me to the  White House, the home she gave everything to help her husband reach, which often felt so isolating.

This autobiography begins all the way back as a young girl finds her way through the school system of Chicago.  I learned many new facets of Michelle’s life including her father’s struggle with MS, her Ivy League education, law career, and that she and Barak met as she was his intern advisor one summer at their law firm.

Throughout Becoming, I enjoyed getting to know the Obamas as people, rather than figures, hearing about their first dates, arguments, differences, and struggles.  The book renewed my appreciation for so many individuals who are so committed to politics and change that they make countless sacrifices including time away from their family and regular public scrutiny.  It was interesting to learn of how the tragedies and successes of the United States of America specifically affected the home of the president and the conversation at the Obamas’ dinner table that followed.  Furthermore as Obama took office as I was just beginning high school, it was fascinating for me to relive the experiences of our nation as an adult, holding their weight a little more clearly.

In Becoming, I learned nuances to the United States presidency I had not previously known which I found incredibly interesting.  Specifically as the first lady, Michelle Obama shares of the difficulty of taking on a position with no job description, yet with countless expectations, commitments, and limitations.  Michelle shares of the burden when they learned Barak had won the presidency of finding a new school for her girls and just praying they would be seen and known as girls rather than their last name.  She shares of the fear of having to uproot themselves from just feeling settled when Barak was up for reelection for his second term.  Beyond any preconceived notions or caricatures, what I loved most in hearing about Michelle’s tenure as a first lady was the heart of a Mama who wanted the very best for her girls.

The book occasionally felt drawn out and long, yet Michelle interwove many of her anecdotes into later occurrences in her life.  She speaks openly and honestly of the challenges of often finding herself as the only black person in the room and the challenge the Obamas faced as a couple of not only representing themselves or their families, but the entirety of the community.

I felt welcomed by Michelle Obama to consider more deeply the uniqueness of my own story and how it has painted, shaped, and sculpted the person I am today.  I felt empowered to own the spaces I fill with confidence, but mostly authenticity.  Despite it’s length, I would greatly recommend this read.


Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 1.57.56 PMMy name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review of Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Brené Brown is one of my favorite speakers, teachers, and writers as she reaches between the gaps of psychology, work place culture, religion, and faith.  I have been an avid studier and reader of Brené for the past couple of years and have been taken aback by her influence of wisdom that seems to be penetrating every sphere, because no matter how successful our companies or missions are, they will always be filled with people.

So Brené steps up to the plate, equipping leaders of companies, organizations, churches, and movements both in positions of head leadership to midlevel with skills of how to have courageous conversation which she terms “rumbling.”  I learned of Dare To Lead at Catalyst Atlanta, a Christian leadership conference and was eager to read as I had read a number of Brené’s previous works.  In beginning Dare to Lead, I was honestly somewhat disappointed and curious if I would finish the book.  I found the first part of Brené’s work to be somewhat repetitive of previous works, just reapplied to the workplace.  I missed the stories and examples offered in Braving the Wilderness and The Gift of Imperfection which really gave the concepts she was describing flesh and bones.   Nevertheless, I persisted.

Speaking is about the uncontrollable, unconventional art of connection.

Wrapping up my first year of my full time, big girl position, in my first year of supervising direct reports, I kept reading to see what I could learn.  And the insights were endless.  Brené entered into the work place which can seem so institutionalized and cold sharing on shame, vulnerability, the need for connection, and ways to show up brave, bold, and honest.

She told stories of her work with various companies on the ideas of courage and connection including various military units, fuel companies, and countless other variations of companies internationally.  Yet, what struck me the most were her stories of taking what they teach and train into practice into their own companies through activities like having each person identify and share their 2 key values, why those are important to them, and how this evidences in their work.

Amidst each of these topics, Brené dives in deep on empathy.  She offers incredibly insightful do’s and don’t’s on entering into difficulty with people.  I found myself wanting to soak in every word she shared as I have personally been so built up by healthy empathy and so turned off and angered by unhealthy empathy, to the degree that I was at a local salad and sandwich restaurant when their computer system was down.  Naturally (because these kind of things always happen to me) I was the person in line ordering when everything crashed.  I found myself starting the narrative of “Of course this happened to me” and beginning to make a plan B then I begin to really see the girl across the counter from me.  Beneath her hat and brave face, her eyes were darting in every direction seeing all of the customers she needed to serve, unsure of how to respond in this moment.  So, I leaned in.  I heard Brené coaching me in my head on what to say and what to avoid.  Sure, I in no way fixed the situation but I was charged to be present with her in that moment of fear and panic.

A response can rarely make something better.  Connection is what heals.

Upon reading Dare to Lead I have found myself using skills Brené teaches right away in my work place, on my small teams and big ones, with my direct reports and with those I report to.  I have found myself seeing the people around me differently and as I value them more and lean into my curiosity, finding myself much more generous with them.  I have since recommended Dare to Lead to many due to its specific insight, relevant research, and challenging message that is vital to any company culture.

Vulnerability is the greatest casualty of trauma.


dalton-31My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Review of “Remember God” by Annie F. Downs

Should you stop reading here, just go ahead and order Annie F. Downs’ newest book.  I am a huge fan of Annie F. Downs as you can read in my reviews of her past two books (read more).  I love Annie’s works for her creativity, storytelling nature, sense of humor, admiration of Gilmore Girls, and love of glitter.

But this book.  I mean I wasn’t ready.

Knowing Annie, I knew I would love it.  I knew I would get caught up in her stories that are all too relatable then suddenly find myself wrecked by the profound truth she draws out of them.  I knew I would relate, but I never imagined the depths.

God, are you always kind?

This is the question Annie F. Downs whispers in her heart amidst an extremely dark season.  Interestingly enough, a very dark season that aligned perfectly with the timing of my deepest of griefs.  Remember God walks readers through Annie F. Downs journey of wrestling, questioning, and looking around to find God in the darkest of places, seeking with her whole heart to continue to believe that He is good and kind.

And oh is it honest.

“I’m tired of cliches that are just tweetable enough for me to feel like I can’t be sad about what I’m feeling.”

Amidst her journey of wrestling and darkness, she describes a battle with depression, disordered eating, and singleness with such rawness.

I was able to grab an early access audio version of Remember God, which Annie herself read.  And by read, I mean she wept through a majority of the pages, because this season of fighting to believe that God is kind, was just so real.

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And I get it.  I get it and I know it, and I lived it at the very same time Annie was.  The darkness and emptiness she describes, the wondering if you can even get out of bed the next day, is not a battle Annie faced that I read about, but a real journey of my own, speaking Jesus’ name in the darkness just hoping to believe His name somehow still has power, even when I had been really let down.

Remember God reaches into such darkness and so blessedly meets its readers there without any cliches of “choosing” to cling to any Truth or joy, but real and honest wrestling, hoping, believing, and remembering who He is and who He will be.


Thanks for stopping by!

dalton-31My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Review of “The Gospel Comes with a House Key” by Rosaria Butterfield

If I am honest this might be the most torn I have ever been on a book review.  I was overjoyed to begin this read, having heard its title as a recommendation from another favorite author.  The title alone sparked my curiosity as I am so deeply passionate about discipleship through hospitality and the calling on our lives to love our neighbors through welcoming them.  Few things bring me more joy than the ability to welcome someone into my home and make them dinner when they are weathering a storm.  Because of this, most of the students I minister to know where I store my spare key.  Many times I have walked into my kitchen or living room to find them full of my people or with one or two asleep on the couch or taking a video interview in my bed.  I love every minute of hosting.  I honestly find creating a nourishing place for people sacred, even worshipful.

Thus, I began the journey of The Gospel Comes with a House Key eager to discover words I would soon have posted in calligraphy on my dining room walls.  The author Rosaria Butterfield’s life and story dramatically changed due to Christian hospitality.  Butterfield served as a college professor at a liberal arts university.  She was a noted advocated in the LGBTQ community as she identified as a lesbian herself.  I am making use of the past tense here as Butterfield’s life dramatically changed upon a couple who invited her into their home.  The hospitality was simple, a meal and conversation; yet, the sacredness, the specialness of someone seeing her, knowing her, and continuing to provide her a place where she was welcomed and loved, changed everything for Butterfield.  Upon experiencing such hospitality, the author came to know Jesus and her life dramatically changed.

Hospitality always includes heads, hands, hearts, messes, and weaknesses.

And I am here for how transformational hospitality can be.

I loved the ways Butterfield challenges believers to walk in obedience by loving their neighbors.  She offers a story in her own neighborhood when her family in North Carolina befriended the neighbor on the street everyone else simply whispered about.  They befriended this neighbor and assumed the best of him, despite each of their neighbor’s warnings that he was not to be trusted.  Upon forming a tight connection, this neighbor was arrested and removed from his home for cooking methamphetamine.

Following his arrest, Butterfield shared that she and her children continued to write this neighbor and his girlfriend.  They mailed packages and pray for them.  Despite his decisions and locations, they were determined to be a good neighbor.

The transition from stranger to neighbor  to family does not take place easily, but over grace, intent, grit, and sacrifice.  The hospitable develop thick skin.

Butterfield explains hospitality does not have to be complicated.  She emphasizes the simplicity of setting up a card table in the carport and placing paper plates in a stack in an effort to make strangers, neighbors and friends.  She explains that practically this includes budgeting for hospitality, purchasing extra groceries, and in her case owning multiple crock-pots (aka speaking my language).  Practicing what Butterfield terms “radically ordinary hospitality” includes making room to host a single friend following eye surgery on a living room couch by buying blackout curtains and filling her prescriptions.  Making room includes making space in her schedule to help pick up a neighbor’s child from soccer practice or feeding another neighbor’s dog.

Hospitality renders our houses hospitals and incubators.

Having been so touched and moved by Christian hospitality in her own story, Butterfield doubles down on the importance of welcoming one whose beliefs and ideas are foreign and making them feel welcomed and valued.  She preaches the importance of making room for someone’s perception and experience incredibly.

Do I have the grace to say little on a subject rather than everything possible?

Stop thinking of conversations with neighbors as hidden evangelical routes.

Have I made myself safe to share the real hardships of your daily living?  Even in a post-Christian world, we can still claim unearned privileges rooted in sentimentality for days gone by.

And if you have read up to this point, you may be thinking, I don’t think Emily Katherine is actually on the fence about this book. I think she actually loves it.

You see if I were Butterfield’s editor, The Gospel Comes with a House Key would have been shaped as the book I reviewed.  Yet, should you flip to the second or third page which list the publisher and editor, my name will not be found.  While I loved certain fruits in the forest of this book, many times I almost stopped and turned away due to the weeds.

When Rosaria Butterfield came to know God through Christian hospitality, her life radically transitioned.  She left her established career in academia along with her homosexual lifestyle.  She was soon married to a Reformed Presbyterian Minister and became a homeschooling mom.  She radically embraced “conservative Christianity” and often claims that title both for herself and her readers throughout the text.

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The author steps away from the topic of hospitality including lengthy discourses in topics such as gender, the Refugee crisis, politics, and church discipline.

Butterfield’s tone is so conservative- literally including the phrase “sacred patriarchy” that when she began sharing her story of her life before Christ I checked back multiple times to be sure she wasn’t sharing someone else’s story.  I was shocked to learn this pastor’s wife in suburban North Carolina who knits by her neighbor’s bed sides during surgery and bakes bread each Saturday for Communion on Sunday came from such a different lifestyle.

Thus, The Gospel Comes with a House Key is a challenging and compelling read, with sections and ideologies I would omit in order to reach a more relevant and diverse audience surrounding an important subject.

But these are my thoughts.  Comment below with yours!


Thanks for stopping by!

H8ULakjvMGHuOo5uritQ9Lrm0KZkxT0ncqFEIMOVNU0My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Collaborative Review of “Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot” by Mo Isom

This is my first ever collaborative review which I am so excited to share.  Just as I began this read, a friend, mentor, minister, and coworker (?) shared she was reading as well.  We have recently begun meeting together for lunch which make up some of my favorite days.  So we met together to discuss this read and coauthored our review.

But let me start with my manners and first, introduce my friend Erin to you.

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Erin Moniz, M.Div. serves as the Assistant Chaplain and Director of Student Ministries at her alma mater, Berry College.  I first met Erin as a student and have since had the privilege of leading many ministry events and experiences alongside of her working in college ministry.  She has commiserated with and encouraged me in the Master’s of Divinity process while also serving as a safe place when those classes are not always the most welcoming for women.  I recently overheard a student in my kitchen describe Erin stating, “Ya know, she is the most badass minister I know.”  And I’m convinced nothing could describe her better.

Discussing Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot with Erin was a great dialogue as we approached this book both as women raised in the Church, working in ministry, yet one of us married and one of us single, both with different stories and experiences we brought to the literal table we were dining at.  Not to mention, I am an Enneagram 2 and Erin an Enneagram 8, so the balance was extremely beneficial and occasionally ironic.


What we loved about Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot was its honesty and candidness, specifically bringing into the light that Christian women struggle with pornography, masturbation, and sexual desires in general.  So many “struggles” of sexuality have been gendered as men’s issues in the Church, yet as Isom shares her story she openly reveals these are not only issues guys face and they are temptations girls are facing at extremely young ages.

Furthermore, Isom elaborates on the emphasis of abstinence and purity culture in the Church.  She shares from her own story that she crossed every line imaginable, yet sought to keep her “purity” in tact by only avoiding vaginal penetration.  While some may drop their jaw we just used such words on a blog, this is a common misconception that we have both heard from girls, describing their physical boundaries in dating relationships.  Isom highlights sexual purity is so much more and begins so much sooner, reaching to so many different areas of our lives.

We were thankful that Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations The Church Forgot acknowledged singleness, upholding its value as Scripture describes.  Yet, (Emily Katherine here-) Isom seems to explain singleness from the point of view of chosen singleness, never addressing those of us in a season of singleness that is not chosen or preferred.  She describes a season of singleness when she felt closer to the Lord than ever before and free of so many complications and complexities- yet this is more a chosen fast from dating and her only time of singleness according to her story.  (My single sisters, here’s your trigger warning.)

“We don’t need a partner to assign us value when we feel worthless.  We need a soul reawakened to its worth in our Father’s eyes.”

I, (Erin here-) valued Isom’s explanation that sex in marriage is not a magic thing that comes together just because you followed the rules of purity culture.  While Isom lacks a full emphasis on how a theology of intimacy creates the way for success in marriage, she at least dispels this HUGE myth we are still trying to sell people.

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations The Church Forgot is a valuable read I have already recommended to mothers, small group leaders, and student ministry workers, specifically those who work with girls.  Yet, Erin and I ended our conversation by summarizing while we are so thankful for this book and the great conversations it has begun, this book is only an appetizer for what we were looking for.

Isom leads openly and honestly with her story throughout the text.  I (Emily Katherine) so valued her rawness and authenticity, yet this story driven nature sometimes led to theological points which drew me to check for her seminary education on the back of the book.  The story driven nature of Isom’s book to me (Erin) somewhat limited the issues that could be addressed by leaving out the narratives of victims of sexual abuse and narrowing the focus to one persons’ story, limiting the Church’s ability to respond with better conversations pertaining to sexuality.  The author takes so much personal responsibility for her struggle with sexual sin that she overlooks affects of her environment and family, perpetuating the Western narrative of private salvation overlooking the fullness of the message of the gospel which openly points to the effects of environment and generational sin, along with the Church’s role in sanctification.  Erin and I also discussed many students we counsel’s stories of sexuality include same sex attraction or wrestling with gender identity which were not even acknowledged as this book focuses on Isom’s story rather than issues of sexuality and Christianity as a whole.

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Erin and I were extremely thankful, Isom aims a few arrows toward purity culture and offers some great examples of how it is falling vastly short in the conversations the Church offers regarding sexuality, especially for girls.  Yet, as Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot is driven by Isom’s narrative, it lacks in undoing some of the conversations the Church has had regarding sexuality, and providing recommendations of conversations the Church should be having.  Isom explains feeling isolated and alone, trying to fish for her Mom to see how many questions she had, offering a charge to the Church to step up, but between the pages I (Emily Katherine) found Isom less often explaining how the Church can better communicate about sexuality and rather continuing to describe through vivid details of her own story why sex outside of marriage is wrong and damaging.  And if I’m honest, that’s a conversation the Church has overdone.

We need a theology of intimacy.  A healthy and honest theology of gender, sexuality, identity, and a lack of fear of what is appropriate because individuals beginning at early, early ages are being told from every avenue what to believe about these things.  We have to stop separating boys and girls and using clichés, hoping their parents explain more.  Church, we cannot be silent in a sexually saturated culture.

Erin and I are thankful for Mo Isom’s courage to open up this issue and direct our attention to how the Church is or is not addressing sexuality and honored by her rawness in Sex, Jesus, and Conversations the Church Forgot.


FullSizeRenderThanks for stopping by!

My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Review of Everybody Always, by Bob Goff

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Click to purchase.

I seem to have this funny theme in my life of always running into Bob Goff, but never meeting him.  It’s honestly hilarious at this point the number of times we’ve been in the same room.  A couple years ago I went to lunch at work, and he was also eating lunch there.  This past year, I attended three different conferences in three different states, in which, Bob spoke at all three.  So here’s my faithful pledge next time, I’ll say hi.

I was eager to start Everybody Always as I loved Bob’s first book, Love Does in 2015.  I also loved Maria (Bob’s wife) Goff’s Love Lives Here.  (Read my review here.)  I love listening to audiobooks on long drives or while folding laundry, and when I learned Everybody Always was recorded on Audible by Bob himself, I downloaded right away.

This book focuses on “becoming love.”  And I love that about Bob Goff.  Having crossed paths with him many times, I have been able to see that for him, it’s not about understanding love or having a correct definition of love, it’s about stepping out and becoming.  When I heard him speak at the past couple conferences a line he said got under my skin- not because I disagreed, but because I felt so challenged and compelled.

“Go.  Go and find the people that creep you out the very most and love them.”

I had just read Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness (review here) challenging me to “move in” because people are “hard to hate close up.”  And Bob Goff’s words reminded me of how often I fall short of loving “those people.”

When we draw a bigger circle around us in the world like grace did, God’s loving kindness gives us bigger and newer identities.

I love Bob’s writing style and even have used it as an example at writer’s conferences when some more tenured friends just cannot seem to understand “those Millennials.”  (Funny how sometimes we, ourselves, are the ones people have to walk across the line to love.)  He tells wild and crazy stories that made me laugh, cry, and have chills all over.  Then, he draws connections to the nature and character of God and who He calls us to be packing many heavier punches than I ever thought possible.

Sometimes when we ask God for an answer, He sends us a friend.

Jesus promised to be a voice they could trust.  All they had to do was run toward it.

Bob simplifies what we overcomplicate emphasizing the theme that Jesus never gathered people around Him to agree with Him; instead, He gathered people around Him to go and be like Him.  Bob challenges believers to love bravely, deeply, and to never overlook our own personal transformation in the process.


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Thanks for stopping by!

My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.