Who You Are {book review}

Hey y’all! I’m currently taking maternity leave from blogging but do have a few posts lined up for you to enjoy. I’ll be back soon! p.s. You can follow along on instagram since these days it’s easier to keep up there.


Last September, I read a book about raising a princess by author John Croyle. At the time, I was pregnant with Adie but we didn’t know the baby’s gender since we chose to be surprised at birth. Even though I had my suspicions that it would be a girl (just my guess!), little did I know just how applicable that book would become in our lives.

When I was asked if I would like to review Who You Are, I was intrigued because I really enjoyed the first book I read by John Croyle.  The tagline (technically, subtitle) of the book is “defying the circumstances that define us.” There is so much I could write alone about that but let’s jump right into how Croyle breaks things down in this book.

As some quick background, John Croyle is the founder of Big Oak Ranch, which is a Christian home for children who have been abused and neglected. What I found in reading this book was that Croyle tells the story about the ministry of Big Oak Ranch, from how it got started to where it is today. At the same time, he takes a measured approach in each chapter (as you’ll see below) to focus on one single aspect which is meant to help us define who we are, hence the book title.

1. Tag: You’re It

“I believe God can transform us into people who put others first just as naturally as we always used to put ourselves first.”

In this first chapter, Croyle lays the foundation for knowing God’s will in our lives. When we allow our past circumstances to affect how we choose to live today, we aren’t letting God’s will be a part of our lives. Croyle goes on to give an example by writing about a traumatic event from his childhood which shaped the course of his life. No matter what limitation or experience you have in your past, you can rise above anything you’ve come from and turn it into something good. That’s how you know you’ve got “it” and are putting yourself in a place where you can know God’s will for your life.

2. Focus: You’ve Got a Job to Do

“Being focused is sure to attract detractors just as quickly as it attracts distractions. But you can’t let that throw you. You can’t let others define the road for you that God Himself has called you to travel.”

In chapter 2, Croyle stresses the importance of focusing on what you’re supposed to be doing and living it out with drive and purpose. The example he gives is about a time he went stock car racing. He talks about how any slight motion to adjust the steering wheel will cost the driver speed and precision. In fact, if you were to take a curve too slowly it can actually be dangerous. Holding steady and never wavering like in the stock car example, is the only way you can have a laser sharp focus on the job you’re meant to do.

3. Stand: You’re in This for Life

“Trustworthiness must be built up over a lifetime. And it can only be rebuilt by showing a steady pattern of trustworthiness over a consistent length of months and years – a longer time than you’d want, probably, but not any longer than it takes.”

This chapter covers the topics of reputation, trustworthiness, loyalty, persistence, and streaming reality (i.e. freedom to be yourself). The one common thread these all share is that it takes a lifetime to build them up. Croyle gives examples from kids at the ranch and also examples from his own life which explain the importance of these character traits.

4. Soar: You’re Not Settling for Less

“We end up measuring success by all the wrong scoring systems. We base it on where we started from, then figure we can never catch up with everybody else…The quest for success – when misinterpreted – has a way of spoiling everything.”

There are two things which sum up this chapter, according to Croyle. First, you can’t soar to success as long as you’re mired in where you’ve been. Don’t look back in the rearview mirror of your life and allow your past to define what your present and future look like. It’s not that you’re going to pretend the past never happened, but instead don’t allow yourself to stay stuck there. Secondly, your future success is not even limited by your future. As Croyle puts it, “there’s no need to restrict your life’s work to sixty, eighty, a hundred years – whatever time God gives you on the earth.” You should live for a future that will outlive you.

5. Fight: You’re a Warrior

“If our homes and families needs anything today, it’s people who won’t lie down when life is hard. People who will do the right thing and do it with courage.”

In this chapter, Croyle focuses on how life is a battle. Because of this fact, we need to understand that there will always be conflicts thrown our way and we must fight them, to the death. Once we grasp this understanding, we should be willing to protect and defend ourselves and loved ones. We need to be prepared to always take action, no matter what. That’s who we are.

6. Trust: You’ve Got What You Need

“Trusting God to give you what you need as you follow Him each day is only part of what makes life such a rewarding adventure.”

So much of who we are depends on the outlook we have on our lives. Croyle talks about how so many times, we allow ourselves to be defeated before we even get on the field. We’re averse to change, or unwilling to ask questions or ask for help. We lack confidence, instead of trusting that God has already equipped us with what we need.

7. Choose: You’re Creating a Lifestyle

“None of us is going anywhere – even with all God’s power churning behind us – until we choose to cooperate with His sense of direction and purpose. That’s why it’s fair to say, looking at it from that perspective, that we determine who we become. We choose it…one choice after another, one choice at a time.”

I love the opening quote in this chapter: “Life doesn’t just happen. Who you are is what happens.” There are a few things in life that we can’t choose, like where we’re born or who we’re born to. Pretty much every other aspect of life is dictated by choices we have made, are making and will make. In this chapter, Croyle talks about the importance of moral choices, having family priorities, getting rest, and financial matters. All of those things are based on choices that we have to make on a daily basis, which will all add up to creating a lifestyle.

8. Multiply: You’re Making a Difference

“Investing in other people is an attitude. It’s a shift in who’s center stage in your next conversation. It’s the decision to make others the focus of your attention.”

This chapter hones in on the importance that our investments of time, money and talents have on the lives of others. Croyle talks about the multiplying effect that you can have in one person’s life and how that will be sown into future generations. The example he gives is from a man who was a kid at the ranch, and how this kid grew up and eventually left the ranch. Croyle ran into him one day, when he was an adult and came to find out that this ranch kid of his had become a Godly husband and father. The impact we have on other people will multiply across for generations to come, so the investments we make in their lives are of utter importance.

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9. Reach: You’re Not by Yourself

“By choosing to be comfortable with who you are, by believing in God as the one who birthed these desires inside your heart, you’ll soon get over the arrogance of thinking you’re above needing help or embarrassed to welcome others’ voices and investments in you.”

Croyle writes about how many times, we are willing to give so much and ask for little or nothing in return. To expound on this, he gives several examples about how the generosity of people have sustained the Big Oak Ranch throughout the decades. In his words, “I’ve never begged for anything a day in my life. To beg would mean not trusting God’s faithfulness to provide for our kids.” The same can be applied to our lives. When we choose to reach out and ask others for the help we need, we are trusting that no matter what God will respond and provide.

10. Care: You’re Here to Serve

“Serving is everybody’s business. Being a servant needs to be who you are.”

In this chapter, Croyle touches on the importance of serving others. He gives various examples from kids at the ranch, but more importantly he stresses how Jesus came to this earth to serve and how we should strive for that same servant attitude. Instead of caring so much about all our plans, our needs, our agendas and timetables we should turn our eyes outward to serve others. Simple enough, harder to carry out and always something to focus on.

11. Hope: You’re Never Too Late

“Hope is what readjusts your vision and perspective, despite whatever evidence appears to the contrary, and helps you see the real you again – even if the real you is somebody you’ve only heard about and wished for.”

The final chapter covers a topic, hope, which is hard to summarize yet Croyle does a great job of writing some key things about hope. He explains by example how kids that come to the ranch with hopelessness – scarred by horrible pasts and unable to think there’s anything left to hope for in this world. However, the most important thing that can happen for these kids (and anyone) to have hope again is to trust that even in the hardest of places, God can be our hope. Croyle uses a few words to help us remember to be hopeful – choosing our attitude, have a strong backbone, be Christ-centered, choose determination, and finish strong.


To read more about John Croyle, you can find his bio here and more info about Big Oak Ranch here. Who You Are is available for purchase on LifeWay, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound and other retailers.


Disclosure: This book was kindly provided to me by Shelton Interactive for my honest review. No compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

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