I’ve always loved to read. Growing up, I would pray for a rainy day just so I could curl up underneath my covers and have an excuse to spend the entire day lost within the pages of an incredible story.
There are a few books that have not only entertained me, not only taught me, but have healed and changed me in so many profound ways on my journey. Most of my clients know my favorites – I assign them as homework! I am delighted to share them with you today. They are wonderful inspiration, but more than that, they are medicine for the deepest wounds that exist within each of us.
The Inner Voice of Love – Henri Nouwen
My favorite book by my favorite author is The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom by Henri Nouwen. Nouwen speaks to the deepest, rawest places in my soul in a way that touches my intellect, my body and my spirit and pours God’s healing salve offering new hope, new courage, and new life.
Nouwen was a Catholic priest who died in 1996. A renowned author, he taught at several theological institutes and universities in his home country of the Netherlands as well as the Unites States. During the final years of his life, he served people with physical and mental disabilities at L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto, Canada. He authored many books on the spiritual life, including classics such as, The Return of the Prodigal, The Wounded Healer, The Only Necessary Thing, and many others.
The Inner Voice of Love is a compilation of excerpts from his personal journal, detailing one of the most difficult seasons of his life in which he experienced an emotional and spiritual crisis. We get the benefit of walking with him during his fierce inner battle and strengthening our own lives as a result of his spiritual insights.
If you need a companion to guide you on your healing path, I can think of no better company.
Abba’s Child – Brennan Manning
Second on my favorites list is Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. This book was pivotal in my healing process. For any of us who have learned to live behind a mask in order to keep ourselves safe from ridicule, rejection, pain, Abba’s Child is an incredible journey toward recognizing areas where our “imposter” has prevented us from being authentic and has kept us from creating a safe, compassionate environment for our authentic selves to emerge as we learn to embrace our core identity as “Abba’s child.” Nothing to prove, nothing to earn, our identity simply is an undeniable fact of our being – not based upon us, solely based on His endless and powerful love for us. What freedom, what joy to experience His love!
Manning grew up in Brooklyn, NY during the Great Depression. After two years at St. John’s University, he joined the Marines, returning from war to study journalism until he had an encounter with God that drew him into the Catholic priesthood. He graduated from St. Francis College and Seminary and was ordained into the Franciscan priesthood.
He spent many years travelling the world, ministering to the poor and spending much time in isolation. He began writing and publishing his books in earnest, and his ministry grew to nationwide speaking engagements. Along the way, he found himself descending into alcoholism, spending time in Hazelden treatment center. Manning eventually left the Franciscan order to marry. He continued to write and speak about God’s unconditional love until his passing in 2013.
If you find yourself covered with anxiety, shame and guilt, trying to gain the acceptance and approval of others; if you long to lay down the façade you hide behind and discover the depth of God’s love for you, this book will be a rich source of understanding, healing, and freedom.
The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW
As this book’s subtitle states, this book is a guide to a “wholehearted” life, allowing us to let go of who we think we’re supposed to be and learn to embrace who we are.
So many of us have spent our entire lives engaging the world from a place of emptiness, neediness, self-criticism, self-hatred. We have needed so much external validation, approval, and love to feel whole, to feel “enough.” Brown teaches us how to give ourselves the gifts of compassion, resiliency, worthiness and authenticity so we can cultivate a place where our whole heart can be nourished well, freeing us to embrace a life of joy, love, faith, and peace.
Brown is a researcher, writer, and professor. She is a member of the research faculty at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work where she has spent the past decade studying a concept she calls “Wholeheartedness,” where she explores how we can engage our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness, as well as how we can develop the courage, compassion, and connection we need to embrace our imperfections and recognize that we are enough, that we are worthy to experience love, belonging, and joy.
As a recovering perfectionist, The Gifts of Imperfection was explosive in transforming how I thought, felt and engaged my own heart in a way that completely transformed how I engaged life. This book blends her research with her own story in a way that is relatable, understandable, and powerful. Get two copies, one for yourself, as well as another you will want to give away!
Anonymous – Dr. Alicia Britt Chole
I had truly never thought about it before —Jesus’ hidden years. I had never thought about how the hidden years of His life, His quiet seasons of anonymity were purposefully ordained by God to pour a solid foundation for His public ministry, to prepare Him for His season of greatness. If God used the hidden years as part of His perfect plan for Jesus’ life, could God also use the hidden years in our lives as part of His perfect plan for us as well?
A brilliant and thoughtful writer, Chole teaches us how we can recognize the riches in the uncelebrated seasons of our lives. By resisting resentment, pursuing deep growth, and learning to repurpose our hidden years, we can be prepared to live out God’s indestructible plan for our lives with clarity, integrity, and confidence.
Chole lived much of her young life as an atheist, considering herself somewhat of a realist who felt more comfortable with unanswered questions than she did with fairytales. But when God captured her heart in 1983, she began to use her gifts of words and introspection to write and speak around the country, ministering to a generation of individuals and leaders within the Christian community with a gentle, yet profound authority. I have been humbled and blessed to call her both a mentor and friend.
Anonymous freed me from the internal pressures to perform, as well as the external pressures of a hurried agenda, a missed opportunity, a limited timeframe. This book allowed me to rest in knowing that God’s timeline is perfect. He doesn’t pressure, He only leads. The seasons of hiddenness in my life have been just as timely and meaningful as any seasons of greatness. I have found freedom to be present in this moment. God’s will is being worked in my life as I surrender and obey. I’ve missed nothing and I’ve gained Him. My foundation is strong. There is nothing better!
This is the book you buy and keep telling your friends to buy!