There are times in life, when as women, we need the words of those who are further along in their journey. We need our moms, grandmothers, mentors, or co-workers who we can share our lives with, to tell us what our hearts are longing to hear. Things like “it will pass,” or “it will get easier,” or even honestly “it never gets easier, but you can do this.”

Sometimes, we don’t just need their words. Sometimes we need the look that comes over their faces as they have taken time out of their day to listen to our story–the look that says “I too, went through that.”

In my life, I have been blessed by such conversations. I have been blessed by women who have taken the time to be present to hear and encourage my story. But I have also had times in my life where I needed the words of women I don’t even know.

Today, I want to share and celebrate women who have spoken into my life, without even being present.  I want to tell you about three books in which three different women tackle important aspects of living our lives as females in this world.

The first book I want to share is Stronger than you think: Becoming Whole Without having to be perfect, by Kim Gaines Eckert.  I read this in a time when my life looked nothing like I wanted it to, and I felt completely broken.  In this book, Eckert talks about our desire as women for wholeness, and all the things that we go to, to fill us, and yet end up leaving us feeling more empty (relationships, body image, career, etc.).  If you are in a place where you are feeling like you can’t keep up, where all your striving is leaving you feeling lonely and desolate–this is a great book that will bring you hope.

With the second book, I have to tell you that I committed the “cardinal sin” of booking reading; I judged this book by its cover the first time I saw it.  The woman on the cover is cutely dressed and looks like she is dancing in the snow.  I quickly put it back on the shelf and labeled it as “fluff reading.” But Longing For More: A Woman’s Path to Transformation in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton, is anything but.  I don’t remember what caused me to pick it up again, but I am so glad I did. Never have I read a more comprehensive book on living life as a strong, becoming-whole woman. Her words call us to be brave women who confidently become who we are created to be–not alone, all in context of our relationship with God and in our friendships.  In addition to chapters on calling and career, she has powerful chapters on marriage and sexuality. I was single when I read this book, and every chapter was life-giving and transforming.

Finally, this last book, I have just finished.  I have a history of struggling with fully using my voice–especially in contexts where I need to speak up for myself–which is a struggle that I know many women have.  Terry Tempest Williams tackles this in her new book, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice. The fifty-four variations are short vignettes that tell her own story about trying to find her voice both as a writer and as a woman. She begins the book by sharing the story of her mother’s death.  Her mother died of cancer, and before she died, she told Williams “I want you to have my journals.”  A few days after her mother passed, Williams went to read them, only to find they were all blank. Throughout the book, she is trying to figure out if her mother was trying to say that she didn’t have a voice or was she saying something even more powerful by never filling them?  It is an inspiring read that will stir you to use your voice a little more each day.

What are the books that have inspired or encouraged you as a woman?