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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.

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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.

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An open letter from a woman sitting in your service

There’s a road near my house that I call a highway, but considering the expanse of my small town, it’s probably more accurately deemed a road.  I live in a small town with many rivers that both surround and pass through our town. Thus, many destinations can only be traveled to by using one or two roads that go over the river, somewhat limiting the number of paths that can be taken when trying to get around town.

On my path home from work and the college where I minister, I take a road that goes behind the hospital and borders a levy which has recently been raised to prevent flooding with the high rise of the river.  On this very busy road for our small town, road work has created even more traffic, removing an entire lane as they repair some damages. Despite the congestion in this area and the delay, I still find myself taking this route home from work.  Every time I get there and a couple minutes, if not more, are added to my journey home I ask myself why I took this road. Why didn’t I choose to take another way over the river to get home? Why do I keep doing this and keep asking myself why?

But I think I travel taking the same turns and seeing the same sights because I leave work and head for home on autopilot, sometimes not even thinking, driving my car out of habit rather than mindfulness, muscle memory rather than striving to make the best decision.  And I think the Church has responded to women in many of the same ways and I have seen businesses do the same. As the Church, these bodies of people of which I know and love, we have moved forward seeking to glorify God, make disciples, and steward what has been entrusted to us often waking up to face each day in muscle memory rather than mindfulness, charging forward in tradition and familiarity, unfortunately overlooking the important steps to make the best choice.

We have reached a time when more women work outside of the home than ever before, women are more educated than ever before, and women are taking positions of leadership and power in every sphere except in many of our churches.  But we move forward in how we have always operated, forgetting to be sure sermon language accounts for women’s experiences, only using male pronouns in our sermons and prayers, and hosting entire worship experiences, in which, the only time a woman is invited on stage is to sing.

We charge forward in our churches, hosting weekly meetings where important decisions are made and under the table each and every decision maker’s shoes look the same.  No women are invited to the table. One in three homes are fatherless, yet the best answer women are offered in many traditions I am more acquainted with, when pursuing leadership is that their homes are represented by the man in their home who can serve as a deacon or elder.

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We consistently offer inadequate excuses as to why women are asked to serve in the discipleship of children and youth where they serve so faithfully, yet when an individual reaches 18 or older a woman no longer has the authority to teach or disciple them.  I have been told women are too busy focusing on their families to help teach an adult discipleship group. I have been told “we wouldn’t want to get near the line of women discipling men” in groups of predominantly women that men fluctuate in and out of. I have been told the place for this is in women’s ministry, yet many churches still do not have a women’s ministry or if they do, their leader can only reach the “director” level rather than minister level both in compensation and authority.  Furthermore, I have never experienced commentary on Biblical Manhood or discipleship of men to only be reserved for Men’s ministry.

I sit in your services every Sunday.  I listen to your sermons and read your books.  I am a woman in your seminary classes, pursuing equal education and reading the same textbooks.  I attend the same conferences, taking notes under the same speakers. And on Sunday mornings I almost always wait in line to use the restroom, while at ministry conferences I have almost never waited in line for a women’s restroom.

Even in writing this I am hearing messages I have been told.  I have been literally walked through how to “write an e-mail to a man” changing my complete thoughts into bullet points.  I have been groomed on how to carry myself in meetings with men or simply in entering their offices as I walk an unnecessarily delicate line as a woman walking in obedience to God’s calling in my life.

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So as I have been trained in these things, as I have been asked to teach on Sunday morning and stand to the side of the pulpit as to not take away from its sacredness due to my God-given gender, pastors would you do the work of mindfulness rather than traveling through your ministry on autopilot. Here are some bullet points of recommendations:

  • Be mindful of pronouns.

Consider using phrases like “men and women”, “individuals”, or “people” rather than only masculine pronouns in your message and teaching.

  • Include women in your leadership teams.

Hear their perspective on key decisions.  Women comprise over half of Church population, yet are rarely brought to the conference room table.  Look around at the shoes beneath your table and if they ever all look the same, be very concerned. Be sure that the woman who is best suited to contribute based on the matter at hand is brought to the table, not just someone’s wife to claim a woman was in the conversation.  

  •  If you are going to talk about manhood, talk about womanhood.

I have heard countless messages on Biblical masculinity, yet every message I have heard solely on womanhood has taken place in a context of only women.  And if you do preach on womanhood, be sure you run your exegesis of controversial passages by a woman whose theology you trust. If you do not know a woman whose theology you trust, be very concerned.

  •  Interact with women about your messages.

They may be able to offer insight, metaphors, and ideas you could have never come up with yourself.  Be sure this does not only include married women. People are marrying later in life and if your only examples of women are mothers, again many women in your church context will feel underrepresented in your sermon.  To stick to my guns, I shared this post with 5 men whose theology I trust to hear their feedback and perspective which reshaped key parts of my message.

  • Invite women on stage.

As a discipler of girls, each Sunday when no woman is seen reading the Bible, teaching, praying, sharing her testimony, or meaningfully serving in any way, feels extremely defeating when I am charging them to step up and claim their faith with authority.  Girls and newly believing women along with seasoned women of faith need examples of women walking in their faith and they need to see them serving meaningfully in worship experiences.

  • Meet with women.

I remember the first time I really understood that Jesus talked with women and it absolutely transformed my theology.  I have experienced ministers avoiding eye contact with me and creating countless boundaries with women; yet, Jesus creates a safe place to hear from and honor women.  Do not be afraid to meet with women and minister to them. There is an important difference between protecting women with your boundaries and communicating that their presence threatens your reputation. Communicate value by working together to create a forum for connection which protects both of you.


Despite how many times I take the same convenient road to my house and get caught in the same traffic, this does not make me a bad driver.  In the same way, emulating the examples you were given and obeying the instruction you were offered does not make you a bad pastor and minister.  While there are incredible strides to be made in how the Church stewards women, this is not to negate your incredible commitment and duty to the church you shepherd, often making sacrifices so many will never see or know.

But there are steps of mindfulness and inclusion which as we work together can help us more effectively represent and disciple the entirety of the Kingdom.

So let’s get the conversation started and learn together.  Please share your thoughts below!


women's blogMy 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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Guest Blog: Five Steps to Plan Repeatable Events

This guest blog is written by a dear friend, coworker, and my supervisor, Preston Tippett.  Preston has worn many hats in the WinShape College Program including Event Planner, Small Group Leader, Event Specialist, and now serves as a Coordinator of Programming.

Everyone who works around us thoroughly enjoys laughing at our dynamic as Preston is definitely the “how” to my “wow”.  While I am most excited to meet new people and dream up new ideas, Preston keeps us grounded, on track, and productive.  Below he shares practical insights on planning repeatable events!


As a ministry leader of students, you know very well how often events take place.  All. The. Time.  As soon as one is finished, your focus and energy shift to what is next on the calendar.  Often, you are forced to think about and plan for multiple events simultaneously.

I’m here to give a few thoughts about how you can go about planning for events in a way that could alleviate your future to-do list.  Because let’s be honest, who wants to reinvent the wheel or duplicate work every time you gear up for an event?  Me neither!  Below are five essentials for creating repeatability in planning events.

  1. Have a trackable task management system, something that you can refresh and reuse each time.

    Ideally, this system should track how far out from the event (days, weeks, or months) you need to complete the task.  Once you input that information for each particular task, you won’t have to take the time to think about when you need to do that certain task, nor are you feeling overwhelmed in looking at every task that needs to get done for the event to happen.  Rather, the system is reminding you when you need to complete that task.  I recommend your system to have a filtering or ordering option, where you can select which parts you want to view based on how far out from the event that task is to be completed.

  2. Know your budget.

    We are called to be good stewards of what is entrusted to us.  Planning events usually comes with stewarding a good bit of money and using that money wisely.  It is important that you keep track of how much you are spending throughout the planning of your event.  The benefits to tracking your spending are twofold: you know on the latter end if you spent more or less than you were allotted, and you have a very accurate estimate of how much to allot for each line item the next time around.  I would recommend not just tracking the overall amount spent, but know how much you spent on each individual aspect of the event.  Break it down as specifically as you can.

  3. Take notes!

    Have you ever had a great idea and think, “There’s no way I’ll forget that, that’s too good of an idea,” only to later have no recollection of it?  One of the easiest ways to limit your ability to create repeatable events is to forget what you’ve done before.  This might sound slightly like the part above regarding task management, but the difference here is not just knowing the task that needs to be done, but knowing how to go about completing that task.  Let’s say, for example, that you used an outside vendor to provide supplies for your event and you would love to use them again.  You would want to take note of that company’s name, the specific vendor’s name and contact information, as well as any additional notes about the specifics of what you did.

    Bottom line: take note of how you completed tasks, and create a reminder in your task management system to review those at the start of your next event.

  4. Evaluate and refine.

    This step is crucial if you want to create repeatable events and maximize your efforts.  If you don’t evaluate what you are doing, how would you ever know if you are creating the best version of what you are doing?  Don’t just do it the same exact way year after year.  You could be left with designing your programming around a theme to a TV show series that none of your students have context to because it’s that outdated (yes, my team has made that mistake).  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to replicate what you do year after year, but rather to do so with discretion.  Essentially, you should schedule time after each event to sit down with your team and evaluate what you believe went well and what needs to be improved.  I have a practice of creating a new note in my phone during events where I can quickly jot down anything that comes to mind in the realm of tweaking, improving, or removing.  This helps me when I come to the team’s evaluation meeting, as I can pull up that note and see the list of items I think should be reconsidered to make better.

    The second step to evaluating is refining.  The reason for evaluating is to know the areas that need refining.  Use the energy and momentum from your evaluation meeting to put the refining into action.

  5. Celebrate!

    This isn’t necessarily a tip for planning for repeatability, but it is an important step that, surprisingly, can easily be overlooked.  After you’ve accomplished your event and evaluated its success, it can feel natural to simply move on to the next event that needs attention.  However, I would highly encourage you to schedule time for you and your team to celebrate the completion of your event.  Set aside a specific time in your calendar for your team to enjoy a meal together or create a shared experience.  Be sure to clarify the connection between the accomplishment and the celebration.  Celebrating with your team is a great way to create a natural close to the event you have just planned and executed.

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Inconvenient.

There’s never a convenient time to break a dish, but especially when preparing to cook dinner.


I reached into the backseat of my car into my duffle bag to find something to blow my nose on.  Tears poured down my face and my chest hurt deeply for my best friend facing her first Mother’s Day without her precious mama.  And it hurt a little deeper for precious friends who were also facing the day without theirs.

This was a hurt I knew.  I remember my first Father’s Day fatherless.  I sat on one of my best friend’s front porches and wept on his shoulder.  I kept asking him how in the world I could ever face more Father’s Days.  I knew my friend would probably go to sleep that night with a pillow full of tears as would a handful of my other friends wishing they could buy their mama flowers.  That tearful pillow was not just something I could imagine, it was a feeling I knew all too well.


I was trying to cook dinner tonight after a pretty long day at work with lots of questions swimming in my head.  I reached to grab a cutting board to chop up some ginger and garlic when a glass dish fell and shattered all over my kitchen floor.

Everywhere.

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I froze for a second (which is my typical stress response) then grabbed a broom and began sweeping up each and every piece, amazed at how tiny shattered pieces found their way in each nook and cranny of my kitchen.  In one hand, I was thankful no one was hurt, especially the three baby kittens that have found residence in my laundry room (We’ll talk about it later).  I was thankful no one was about to come over and that I didn’t have a living room full of guests, but that thankfulness lasted for about a minute.  I was frustrated, not to mention hungry that I could not even cook a meal without something going wrong.  And this just was not the best time for my kitchen floor to be covered with glass.

As I swept pieces big and small into a dustpan all over my kitchen, I thought of how tired I can feel of cleaning up messes.  Yes, physical ones at times but so much more messes in my heart.  I am tired of weepy drives when I struggle to see the road through the puddles of tears crossing South Carolina state lines, wishing with all my heart when I saw the beautiful state flag flying I didn’t think of the one handed to me next to the casket that held my Daddy’s body.

And the inconvenient grief can hurt the worst.  This week I stood with my coworkers in an activity that was supposed to be fun and exciting that for me required choking back tears.  I’m just tired of explaining why things are hard or triggering.  I’m tired of jumping when I hear certain cadences of beeps in a nearby printer because it reminds me of machines in the hospital that I pretended to understand to fathom together some hope of my Dad surviving.

I’m tired of holding the broken with the blessed.  Of receiving sweet sweet blessings, that somehow prove themselves to be the tipping point that knock my mended heart off the counter and back into a million pieces.

The inconvenient grief is often unexpected.  The moments of pure bliss and joy, of answered prayers, knowing there’s a presence missing in the room.  Of still trying to call him after two years to talk through those questions swimming in my brain.


There’s never a convenient time to be broken.  To hurt and to grieve.  But sometimes the shoe drops, even in the sweetest moments, and the pieces of hurt and reminders of loss scatter deeper and wider than you could have imagined, making the cleaning more detailed and time consuming.

Because glass will always be breakable and we are too, but some of the best dinners are served in glass dishes.


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A few summers ago I was rushing to a work dinner when I hit a curb, causing my tire to deflate.  A dear friend and his family pulled up in their van right behind me for the same dinner.  As he began replacing the deflated tire on my car with my spare, his two oldest daughters came up to me.  The oldest began asking questions of how this happened, how it could be fixed, and if all cars traveled with an extra tire in case you hit a curb?  But the younger came and stood by my side and in every bit of her six year old wisdom looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Hey Emily Katherine, I’m sorry your car is hurt.”

And I’ve learned these are my two options in those unexpectedly hard moments- to question or to lean in.  To either ask why in the world this had to happen or why ofall moments this had to be the one for me to be upset, or to let myself have the tenderness of my six year old friend, Selah, and just admit that I’m sorry things are the way they are, whether that’s a shattered dish on the kitchen floor at diner time, a hard moment of fighting back tears at work, or a Mother’s Day without a mama.


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.

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Review of “Freefall to Fly” by Rebekah Lyons

Rebekah Lyons is a gifted speaker whose teaching I’ve enjoyed sitting under a couple times.  I have admired her authenticity, ferocity to proclaim who Jesus is and how He has worked in her life, and if I’m honest her taste in shoes.

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.

She shares of finding small glimmers of peace and hope in her son Cade’s honesty, friends she sat across the table with, and her husband’s steadfastness.  Rebekah eventually experienced radical healing from her anxiety.  As someone who has prayed for a miracle very close to my heart that I didn’t receive, I at times have a hard time with these reads of prayers being answered so abundantly.  And I felt so thankful for Rebekah’s honesty that as she shared her experience with her friends some of them had the same response.

Only those in our midst- our physical lives- can accurately assess when we’re embracing our true selves.

Lyons furthermore so bravely addressed a phenomenon faced by many women who overlook or abandon unique callings on their lives to pick up the reigns of motherhood.  While not diminishing the sacredness of this call, Rebekah Lyons begs the question if maybe we are limiting ourselves and the work of God in us, when we push down these gifts and callings God has planted deeply within us for a specific purpose.

Once we know what we’re good at, we must match those things with a deep need in this world.  This need is what makes your heart break.  That memory that makes you weep on quiet nights, that creeps up on you when no one else is around.  When you discover this, you will know your deepest burden.  It’s tricky to find a suitable match in a world that’s broken in so many places.

She shares openly about so much of her “hard stuff” and the difficult situations she’s walked through with friends, demonstrating the theme that God meets us at the very end of our rope.

I think of more stories- so many women walking from a place of bravery.  I think of marriages imploding after years of infidelity and watching as grace rushes in.  Of families suffering financial ruin and finding provision to rebuild.  I’m in awe that I get to befriend these battle-wounded women of beauty.  While time and space separates these stories, they are sewn together by a common thread.  As I consider these women’s lives, a consistent theme surfaces:

Survivors make the most beautiful people.

Our bruises don’t have to make us ugly.  They make us who we are.  They add texture and color to our lives.  They strengthen bonds that might otherwise break.

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


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. dalton-31