My friend Shawn first introduced me to Janet’s courageous and strength-filled writing through his blog, and then Janet and I connected through Twitter and Facebook. Now, I don’t like to go long without hearing her wisdom through her blog. I’m very blessed to have her guest post for me today; it gives me a little more time to read some of these great books she recommends.

A favorite childhood memory is being under a blanket with a book and a flashlight long after bedtime curfew. I remember the exhilarating feeling of leaving my sheltered world and entering The Bobbsey Twins world or helping Nancy Drew solve a mystery. As a teen, reading Julie by Catherine Marshall had me dreaming of someday being a writer.

After leaving the boxes of my childhood, life brought new ventures … I became a wife, mother, business owner and runner. Through it all I read for entertainment, to escape and to learn.

In my late thirties, horrific accident injuries changed my world. The trauma and the lifelong effects turned everything I thought I knew about life on its head. My Pennsylvania-Dutch-traditional-Mennonite heritage, along with my Evangelical-touch-of-Reformed way of doing life wasn’t working anymore … and those labels made it hard for me to ask for help. All of those worlds were uncomfortable with questions and doubts. Living in that conflict sent me into a dark hole of depression.

Thankfully curiosity also describes me, and I figured there had to be other ways to do life. Naturally I turned to books to hear other voices.

Philip Yancey told me it was okay to be Disappointed with God or to ask Where is God When it Hurts. Henri Nouwen gave me hope that I could learn to live with my disappointments. Beth Moore showed me how to Live Beyond Myself as she taught me to study for myself. As I grasped for Oxygen, Keri Wyatt Kent taught me how to Breathe.

Joan Didion’s unique Magical Year helped me process and live with grief. Susan Isaac had me laughing, even if I was having Angry Conversations with God. Books by Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, Donald Miller and Rob Bell were breaths of fresh air as I learned it’s okay to question the status quo, think outside the box and trust my experiences and instincts/spirit.

Some days I just needed entertainment and that was provided by authors, old and new … Dickens, Gilbert, Harper, Hosseini, Picoult, Sedaris and many more.

Book by book, I moved away from depression, as William P. Young helped me believe in a God of love again, even with a Shack in my world. I stopped dwelling on the past or the future as I learned to live in the Now from Elkhart Tolle. Annie Dillard helped me be an intentional Pilgrim as I went through life. Anne Morrow Lindbergh taught me to view life like Gifts From the Sea.

Rachel Held Evans and Jason Boyett used a monkey town and a little boy with bandaged nipples to show me I wasn’t the only one having doubts. They taught me it was okay to admit that I didn’t have all the correct answers or that I only had a little faith.

Thoreau showed me the value of Walking for my body, mind and spirit. Christopher McDougall helped me trust my body by teaching me that I was Born to Run. Jeff Galloway gave me helpful running methods.

Books have been educational and exciting, but they have also been scary … taking me down paths I’ve never gone. They force/allow me to think about questions that have been simmering, but that I’d always managed to squelch before. But I never want to give up that exhilarating feeling that began under a blanket, with a book and a flashlight … so I will continue escaping to other worlds and hearing other voices through books.

What books have helped you?

PS: While all these authors have taught me something … I may or may not agree with everything they write.

A good day for Janet includes an outdoor workout – walking/running/biking/kayaking – followed by good food, chocolate and red wine with family or friends. Janet writes … she’s in the editing phases of my first book right now. It’s a body, mind and spirit memoir about adjusting to life after almost losing her life and her leg. She speak … sharing my story of hope to audiences large or small. Visit JanetOberholtzer.com to read more about her speaking and writing, including regular blog posts.

Janet Oberholtzer

Janet Oberholtzer