a million little ways by emily p. freeman (a book review)

“Pursuing desire is only toxic when we demand our desires be satisfied on our terms and in our timing. As recipients of the new heart of the Spirit, our deepest desire, when honestly realized, will always lead us to God”

I have wrestled, questioned, picked apart this book. it convicted me, shocked me. Finally, inspired me. It changed how I feel and think about my work as a poet.

A MillionLittle Ways by Emily P. Freeman is about discovering how God made you, as a son or daughter, to reflect his glory. 

For the past several years, I have relegated my poetry to a guilty-pleasure, squeezed in during the odd moments here and there in the week. I have been suspicious of my desire to write—thinking of it as an exercise of the ego, a selfish indulgence, a distraction from my true purpose in life, to be a wife and mother. I didn’t want to give it the time of day, literally. I have taken pride in my sacrifice—putting my writing on hold, while tending to better things. 

I wouldn’t have told you this, or confessed to it if you’d asked me. I would have told you the right answer – that writing is how I worship, that writing is how I express what I see in the world. I was raised southern Baptist, and if there’s anything a southern Baptist girl knows, it’s the right answers. 

Sometimes I believed those answers—in the middle of writing a poem, the images connecting to each other in unexpected ways, the pleasure in a slant rhyme, the metaphor that exactly captures that fleeting moment and emotion. Maybe, maybe, God can show his glory through not just one way, not just seminary-approved ways or easily categorized ways or immediately visible ways—maybe he can show his glory through a million little ways. Through cooking dinner for hurting friends, reading a bedtime story to my daughter, sending a student an encouraging email, and, yes, writing a poem.

“why do we so often assume that pursuing those things we want to pursue can only be done at the expense of our responsibilities? Why can’t we recognize and embrace the connection between the kind of art we want to make and the reality of our truest identity?

What if you desire to do a particular thing because God created you a particular way, not to tease you or make you miserable, but to actually mold you into becoming more like him, 
for his glory and the benefit of others?”

A Million Little Ways taught me that the desires of a heart made flesh—a heart changed through God’s grace—are not evil desires, if they do not conflict with who God is. Freeman speaks to the challenges of the artist—and, in the term artist, she includes mothers, scientists, doctors, the cashier at the local Walmart—anyone fully alive in the task they are completing. 

She urges her readers to find a still, quiet place, search back, find what it is that makes them who they are, that most reflects God’s glory. To step out in courage to pursue their particular art, not to the detriment of daily responsibilities or of season in life, but in the daily rhythms. Taking criticism as a reminder of our humanity, and the poison of competition as a signal to step back from your art. 

With my book coming out, the question I’ve come to dread is “so when are you going to write a novel?” which really means when will you write something that will make money? That will earn reputation? That people will want to read? 

It is hard to feel like my work has purpose sometimes. I feel like it’s a daffodil choking in pinestraw-shade, sometimes. my season in life doesn’t afford much time to write, but when I don’t value my deep, inmost – God woven—desire to write, there is that much less time to do it. There is guilt with it, suspicion, confusion, rather than embracing who God made me to be from when I was in my mother’s womb.

I wasn’t made to be a chicklit vampire novelist. Or a computer programmer, or high school teacher. When I embrace my true design, my truest identity in Christ, it shows God’s glory. It might not be to many readers; I may never influence hundreds or hold a high position. But I trust that God will use the meager, small art I offer—seldom read poetry—to show his glory, even if it is to one person, once. 

I hope that you will read this book—whether you already consider yourself an artist or you have never considered that you have anything to offer. 

“The upside-down mystery of God is that you can still be a miracle gift even when you have no idea where your giftedness comes from, even when all you can bear to do is know you are loved and live like it’s true. You are art and you make art, but you are not your art. You are God’s art.”

(no compensation or free book was received for this review--though i would very much like to own a copy of this book, since i just interlibrary-loaned it, as i do most books. i read it twice before returning it.)


  1. Thank goodness you're not a chicklit vampire novelist! :)

    1. for real--there are enough of those in the world, right?

  2. When you say "I have been suspicious of my desire to write." ...right there. That is the tension so many can relate with.

    Your words today are a gift in so many ways. Thank you for taking the time to share them.

    1. Thank you Emily! I am excited that you read and commented on this review--your book was exactly what I needed to read in this point in my life. Thank you again for writing it!

  3. Anonymous1:39 PM

    Thank you for being so open and vulnerable. I have only read bits and pieces of the book and it has changed me in similar ways. I was brave last week and shared a piece of my soul on my blog. Piece by piece, I will honor the story God has given me and do so without regard to who else is reading it. I don't know if God made me a "writer" but I do know he must smile when I allow him to work through my words.

    1. Hi Grace,
      Thank you for visiting my blog! I love what you said about allowing him to work through your words--it is so true.

  4. Wow...I definitely want to read this book!