Over the last two months, it's been a little devotional heavy over here. And for a few reasons.
One of my Christmas gifts from Mama was Beth Moore's Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer. It's a 70-day devotional which Mama bought for herself, me, and a couple of other women in our family. I had hoped we all could read it together and talk about it as we went along. However, we're all reading it at our own pace and on our own time (it's hard with busy schedules), but I jumped right in after the new year. I'm currently on day 45, and I actually wake up each morning excited to dive into my daily devotional. I am really, really enjoying this one. I like this so much I plan to devout an entire blog post to this devotional when I finish. But, anyhoo, my point. My point is this devotional had me checking my to-read list for other devotionals, and I found quite a few. While on Good Reads I found a reading challenge committed to your favorite genre. For this, I selected Christian non-fiction. I figured this would help me keep up with my devotionals and knock out a good chunk of my to-read shelf. However, it seems I just keep stumbling upon great titles to add.
Counter-productive, I guess. Oh well. I am definitely
A Perfect Mess: Why You Don't Have to Worry About Being Good Enough for God by Lisa Harper is the first devotional I want to mention. This book is all about our less-than-lovely moments, about how even through the mess God still sees a beautiful daughter. Harper invites readers to examine certain Psalms by breaking them down to figure out what is being stated. How the authors cry out to God, repent, grow angry, and praise him all in one breath. We may not be perfect, but God will forgive us our shortcomings when we repent. I felt it was more about understanding we all have flaws and make mistakes. You know, those times when our patience runs thin and we trip over our pride. Because Harper includes topical questions and psalm insights with each chapter, this would be a good women's Bible study group book. I like how she relates the Psalms to every-day things, in turn making it easy for readers to relate to as well.
Of course, I picked up another Lysa TerKeurst's devotional. This one, Living Life on Purpose: Discovering God's Best for Your Life, is a "Bible study that helps women design a life plan based on seven main principles of the Proverbs 31 woman." It's always great to take time to examine your life's purpose and your walk with God. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I would have read it as part of a group, where we could dissect the principles a little more and hear what other women have as goals and struggles. Albeit, this is a decent devotional for new Christians.
Nancy Sleeth's novel was a surprise find on a friend's TBR list. Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life was quite the hidden gem. This was an excellent read about slowing life down and truly living the way the Lord intended. Oh, this world would be so much kinder, more beautiful, and full of love if we did! This book was reminiscent of another title I really enjoyed, Mudhouse Sabbath. There are quite a few things from the almost Amish life I'm willing to incorporate into my own life and household. After high school graduation, I was too exctied to move away from my small hometown. Where everybody knows everybody and their grandparents and all other relatives. Where the words on the sides of the school buses change from "Village" to "Town" with every consensus. I miss that town...errr village...wait, town. No, I think it's village again.
I miss the community of knowing your neighbors, your grocer, your banker, your mailperson. While Mr. B and I are definitely not in the city or town, per se (we have a nice acre in the somewhat country), I still don't know my community. Maybe it's because neither one of us are from this area or we don't have kids yet. However, this book reminded me the joys of a small community, and opened my eyes to what I could be doing to reach out to others. Truth be told, some of the things I do now can be found in this book. I never thought it was the "Amish way." It's just the way I was brought up...in a family originally from the South. In a small town. Where we had tractor day at school, and most of us talked about 4-H winnings from that year's county fair. And a life centered around faith, what could possibly be better?
Faith is not something that happens once a week in the church pew; it is the totality of how [the Amish] choose to live. --- Nancy Sleeth (Almost Amish)
A faith-based life. It is a simpler and slower way to live. A way of being I need to get back to in all areas of my daily activities.
Yes, maybe the Amish are on to something.
However, I have managed to fit in a few other titles, one being a current Morris award finalist. (FYI...the William C. Morris award honors a debut young adult book published by a first-time author.) Leslye Walton's magical realism novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, was beautifully haunting. Full of pain and passion, this book had me at the prologue. I LOVED and was captivated by everything... from the unusual, yet perfectly fitting character names to the stories that broke off like feathers but still were vital parts of the whole story, to the way it was beautifully written. In short, this book, set mostly in a 1950s Washington State, is about a girl born with wings and an almost mute twin brother. The story chronicles her grandmother's and her own mother's history in order to figure out why she was born so differently. Absolutely stunning, dark, and quite magical, but it worked. An instant YA favorite. And the ending!!!!! So heartening, breathtaking, and beautiful but, oh so perfect. Flawless. This debut novel is definitely the kind of read that will touch your soul and stay with you forever. Walton is a true literary craftsman... err woman. She MUST write more.
Ahh, and you MUST read this.
With Love and God Bless,