So 2020 was quite the year for everyone. It’s certainly a year we’ll never forget, but it’s one I am thankful for, just quite simply for the personal growth that took place. This is a sample of what my 2020 looked like which consisted primarily of learning—in more ways than one.

Today at lunch, I was giving out some stickers and snacks (because honestly who doesn’t want stickers or snacks especially when you’re in 8th grade?), and one of the boys said, “Miss Allen, you’re like Jesus because you’re always giving away stuff to us.” And I just thought to myself—how little I am like Christ, but how I truly yearn that to be said of my life. If I were to say the thesis statement for my life, it would be “More of Christ—less of Joc.” But guys, it’s hard to love like Jesus. And 2020 has proved to me that it’s hard to live peaceably with people that I disagree with or to be patient with annoying people. It’s hard to see people as human beings in need of love, and it’s certainly not in my nature to love the unlovely. But that’s who Christ is. The books and podcasts below are all resources that have helped me to know and love Christ more and to see people as image-bearers of the Creator who He died for.

Here are some of my favorite books from 2020:

1. Gentle and Lowly

I would place this book on my top 10 books of all time. Not only is it incredibly written, but it also leaves you yearning for more and more of Christ. It clears away so much fog and helps the reader see Jesus. There isn’t a Christian who wouldn’t benefit from reading this book.

“The Christian life, from one angle, is the long journey of letting our natural assumption about who God is, over many decades, fall away, being slowly replaced with God’s own insistence on who he is.”


2. forgiving what you can’t forget

I am not going to lie—I was not impressed with Lysa Terkeurst when I first heard about her, but her last two books have been no short of life-changing for me. If you haven’t read It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, do yourself a favor and read it. It is the rawest, most helpful book on trials, I’ve ever read.

Now Forgiving What You Can’t Forget is also incredibly raw and difficult to read—especially if you have been deeply betrayed and hurt. Lysa captures the feelings of unforgiveness in such a way that leaves you feeling vulnerable. She doesn’t shy away from the pain she’s experienced, but she’s also so straight up about the steps needed to move forward. 

3. Beautully Distinct

Guys—there is legit a book with Jen Wilkin, Jackie Hill Perry, Jenny Yang, Kelly Needham, and Karen Swallow Prior! Do you need any other encouragement to read this book? I mean seriously. But if you do—this is a short, well-written, easy-to-read book by some of the godliest women of our generation. It has relevant topics for the church today and touches on practical ways we can show Christ to our world. This book is filled with women who are honest, insightful, firmly grounded in God’s Word, and consistently pointing you to Christ.

4. Compassion (&) Conviction

This was a very helpful book for me as a Christian living in the highly political world of 2020. When every voice was screaming to be either or—the AND Campaign has put for this book to help Christians reach for compromise. We live in a highly polarized time—a time when the only choices appear to be assimilation or isolation. The authors lead us to principled yet loving engagement in civic and political affairs as Christian.

5. The Splendid and the Vile

This book was just insane—it’s one of those books that helps put life in perspective, especially helpful for 2020. Larson helps give the reader a better understanding of what the Battle of Britain was all about. He vividly depicts how much of England, not just London, was subjected to the horrendous bombings of the Germans. This book will leave you in awe of the English grit to withstand such atrocities. It shows the worst and best of humanity and how much we take for granted in our 21st-century life.

6. First

Can we just take a step back and recognize that this is not a book about Margaret Thatcher or RBG? Shocking—I know. I do have a bit of an obsession reading about Supreme Court Justices. They are just so incredibly brilliant, and Sandra Day O’Connor is no exception to that. She displayed a remarkable work ethic from the time of childhood on. Finding it hard to find a job after law school, she refused to demean herself or the education she had by taking the mere legal secretary positions she was offered. Thomas vividly depicts the remarkable tale of how Sandra went from a girl on a ranch in Texas to the most powerful woman in the United States. He displays her humanity by showing how she fought cancer and how she would at times breakdown in her chambers or at home. Thomas thoroughly shows the value that Sandra placed on her family—a value that leads to her eventual resignation.

7. Stop calling me beautiful

Phylicia gives you straight truth. In this book, she explains three problems in women’s ministries. 1—we are being taught pieces of truth, but aren’t presented with an accurate picture of Christ and the gospel. 2—The message we’re hearing is self-focused; flawed theology always takes the focus off Christ and on to us. 3—The messages given are superficial and watered-down.

“Theological education—learning about God, the Bible, and how these truths apply to life—is not just for men or for those called to ministry. Women must be spiritually equipped with the knowledge of God through His Word so they can minister to the people around them…The true gospel is available to all of us through God’s Word. We must learn to study it. We must know it well enough to rightly divide the truth and check teachings against the Word of God as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). In other words, we must cultivate a holy curiosity.”

Stop calling me Beautiful by Phylicia Masonheimer

Here are some of my favorite podcasts from 2020:

Guys, I became a full-fledge millennial and started listening to podcasts. Here are a few that I have enjoyed for their information, perspective, humor, and even personification. Take or leave them, but I have enjoyed each of them.