On The Bookshelf

We are a house of book lovers. The affection runs to varying degrees depending on work schedules and school load but we’re all readers.

I have been a reader since around middle school when our family moved to a new neighborhood that didn’t have as many kids on my street. It was around that time my mother introduced me to the public library and I fell into stories with great gusto. To this day I would rather read a book than watch a movie.

Because I read so much as a teenager I read pretty fast, at least according to my mister, and I retain a pretty good knowledge of what I have read and I always scored well on vocabulary tests. In a bid to make reading more than just a form of entertainment though I have tried to become more discriminate in what and how I read. Instead of just reading whatever popular fiction was easily accessible I have broadened the scope by reading things that Rob was reading for various bookclubs he was part of, incorporated more of the classics, and, this is a biggie, I try to be reading more than one thing at a time. To that end, if it is what I call my serious reading I need to do it in the mornings and save the lighter just for enjoyment books for afternoon or evenings. (Basically because I am of a certain age I can be too tired at night to really get much from the heavier readings 🙂 )

My mornings usually involve whatever personal reading I have going at the moment and Scripture in general and specifically the Psalms and Proverbs everyday. I love this set of books my friends gave me for Christmas and use it throughout the week alongside my Bible. They combine visual imagery with Scripture and I find them to be beautiful. I hope to keep adding to my set but was delighted to start with the wisdom books.

Right now I am reading these two books with the church ladies. This isn’t my first reading of Eve in Exile and I just get so much from it every time I read it. Chapter twelve is so darn good! Loving The Little Years has been around for a while but as I have not had littles in a while I just never read it. Now that I am reading it I so wish it had been available when my kids were little! I think it may just get included with every baby shower gift from now on. And, being perfectly honest, I have found it quite beneficial even though my youngest is fifteen.

Sam loves to go to the library so I have a steady supply that leads to a stack of books to work through. Right now I am about four pages into this book. When it comes to books I am a sucker for the cover art and also apparently the author’s name. Ellery Adams is such a lovely name, isn’t it? From what I have read so far I think this will be pretty good. I will report back when I have finished it.

My last fiction novel was this one and I was drawn to pick it up because someone mentioned it was a bit Downton Abbey-esque in the sense of an upstairs/downstairs portrayal of Victorian England. I did not find that to be exactly true but it was still very enjoyable.

I really enjoy thrillers and mysteries, and while this was a mystery it moved at a much slower pace than books set in a more modern time. It took me a minute to really get into but I did enjoy it. Enough so that I searched out the other books in the series and will probably read them over time. I was surprised though by some of the other titles from her. They look to be a bit more, how to say it…risque? Not sure if they match their romance novel covers but I probably won’t pick any of those up. But this series is one I would be willing to let Claire read.

I don’t typically listen to audiobooks because I seem prefer actual physical books that I can hold but two that I have listened to and highly recommend are A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court read by Nick Offerman of Parks and Rec fame. He does such an amazing job! Pretty sure it is found on audible. The other book is The Princess and The Goblin by George MacDonald. What a delightful story! Even though it is considered a children’s novel I found it to be thoroughly entertaining. I think it falls into the category of what CS Lewis meant when he said, “One day you will be old enough to read fairytales again.”

So what are you reading? Do you have any book recommendations?

I am probably going to be in so much trouble for this but here is a quick picture I snapped of my love as I was writing this post. Please don’t be too angry, love. You looked so cozy and content to have fallen asleep while reading.

Severe Mercies

She’s a planner, this child of mine. She likes to know what’s coming. She likes knowing that what she is doing now is the right thing for now as well as down the road.

Everything seems to be right there in front of her, almost within her reach. She thought she knew how the story was going to go. Or at least how the next few chapters would read. But with the turn of a page the plot changed and nothing was quite what she thought. The narrative, her narrative, suddenly became a page of letters and words with no sentence structure, line breaks or paragraphs.

And it’s not an easy place for her to be. But I watch her set her shoulders and lift her face to the Son again and again and move forward to step into this story that she doesn’t know. Trying to see a break in the letters, to find the words to read His narrative…

looking for the goodness in this new and unknown chapter and verse.

She’s being taught the lesson we all must learn.

In one hand we hold tight-fisted the things we know to be unchanging truth. Namely, the character of God; He is good and does good. He is faithful and with us always.

In the other hand we hold loosely those things we want and desire. Knowing that we only see so much and He seeks our good in far reaching corners that we cannot even imagine. Trusting that He is growing our character to suit the story He is writing.

It’s a painful lesson at times for all of us. Because sometimes we think we know best. Sometimes we just can’t envision anything better than our own imaginations. Choosing our own story over His is like declaring a comic book a Pulitzer prize winner or comparing Shakespeare to a dime store novel.

Sometimes we just can’t see the story unfolding but His story is always better so we must learn to trust His mercy in the plot twists.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than
 all that we ask or think, according to the power at
 work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and 
in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, 
forever and ever. Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20

What We Wear Matters

It is quite the thing these days to choose a word for the year. I’ve never done it but I have enjoyed reading about the word choices of others and how it plays out in their lives through out the year.

Words are powerful.

Kingdoms have risen and fallen upon the words of good and evil men.

Fortunes have traded hands because of a well spoken deal or crafty conman.

As Christians we shouldn’t be surprised by the power of words. After all, the world and everything in it found it’s origin in the voice of God as He spoke it into being. As if that wasn’t enough He then crafted the most glorious tale of all time…one full of stories within the Greater Story. Beauty, love, intrigue, deception, betrayal, enemies and battles, death, triumphs and resurrection. We are people of story. It is woven into the very fabric of our lives.

I was at the library last week and randomly flipped open a book and saw this quote.

“Language is the dress of thought.” ~Samuel Johnson

What an amazing way to view words! It has stayed on my mind the whole week…this idea that language covers the nakedness of thought.

Our words can cover or reveal.

Sometimes my words rush out past my lips in nothing more than a diaper and a onesie.  My flash of angry or frustrated thought snatches the clothes of infancy for covering.

Harsh and unkind words are dressed with dirt stained overalls of one who has wallowed in the mud. Or as filthy as a dock worker or fishwife.

Words can be hard but life giving and their attire is that of a baker covered in flour who has labored in the kitchen to make nourishing bread.

Then there are times when my thoughts are guided by the Word and their expression is found in the soft gentleness of an afternoon tea dress that catches and flutters in the breeze.

Loving thoughts come in wedding finery, pure and brilliant.

Obviously clothing can be deceptive. (Spanks anyone?) The language we choose to use does not always truthfully reflect the reality of our thoughts so this analogy can only go so far. But Mr. Johnson went on to say this:

“…and as the noblest of men or the most graceful of action would be degraded and obscured by a garb appropriated to the gross employments of rustics or mechanics, so the most heroic sentiments will lose their efficacy, and the most splendid ideas drop their magnificence, if they are conveyed by words used commonly upon low and trivial occasions, debased by vulgar mouths, and contaminated by inelegant applications.”

The Bible tells us that “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

If we are being obedient to that then the language of our thoughts will be winsome. Or as Solomon put it, like apples of gold in settings of silver. We won’t come to a barn raising for our neighbor garbed for a night out on the town and therefore unfit to offer help. We’ll choose the cloth of forgiveness over the bitter cheap material of the too small suit of a mafia hit man.

Our thoughts, and how we dress them, should be a reflection of the garments we have been given by the King. And why would we want to cover our garments of salvation and our robe of righteousness with ill fitting and unbecoming layers that cover their beauty and hide who has truly dressed us?

Beauty From Ashes

I don’t photograph very many weddings. One, they are a lot of work. Two, they are pretty stressful because if you mess it up there is no do-over. That being said there is something fun and wonderful about being a part of that life changing event.

But never in my life have I been as moved and blessed to be a part of a wedding as I was shooting Lisa and Dave’s. From start to finish it was beautiful and humbling and so exciting to be a part of. Partly because I worked along side some incredibly talented friends who came together to create a dream of a wedding for a cherished friend and partly because in a very real way God was telling His story of redemption  and resurrection…of life coming after death…God’s way of turning mourning into joy…beauty from ashes. 
And pretty! My word was it a beautiful wedding! I don’t even know where to start. 
Wait, I take that back. I’ll start with Lisa because I have never seen a more radiant joyful bride.

Lisa’s boys walked her down the aisle and words cannot express how beautiful it was to see them delight in her happiness.

From start to finish the wedding told the Gospel story and everyone joined in singing praises.

After a hope filled homily and being pronounced husband and wife they invited everyone to stay and celebrate with them. And boy, do they know how to throw a party! I think I’ll have to share a part two post with pictures from the dance floor. 
I mentioned earlier about the talented people I worked beside during this wedding. These woman, all close dear friends with Lisa, are so very talented and shared every ounce of creativity they have to make this day stunning. From the flowers to the decor to the food it was simply beautiful.

Despite all the attention giving to details, all the extra sweet touches that made this wedding so lovely it was the atmosphere of joy that really set it apart from other weddings.
Dave and Lisa, your love for each other shines as only gold can after being through the Refiner’s fire. May you be a blessing to everyone around you as you live out a marriage that depicts living breathing grace.

Our Five Senses ~ Sound

Cacophony: a harsh discordant mixture of sounds

synonyms ~ din, racket, noise, uproar

In my house it sounds like Sam’s guffaw mingling with the giggles of the girls as they all crowd around Sarah’s

computer to watch their favorite clips from Mr. Bean.

It’s the sound of the metronome’s tic toc keeping time to Emily’s piano playing.

It’s the clang of plates and silverware as the table is being set and the oven timer goes off.

Its the low rumble of a kitten’s purr as they settle in our laps for an evening snooze.

The sound of his voice telling me he loves me as he kisses me goodnight.

The rustle of the bed covers and the familiar sounds of the house settling down for the night.

It’s the sounds of grace and blessing…sweet reminders that I live a life of abundance…evidence of His provision.

Telling The Story He Is Writing

One of the greatest lies we are tempted to believe is that we can write a better story than God. For ourselves. For our loved ones. For just about the whole world, really.

It can be innocent enough. We see someone we care about suffering and we immediately want to rewrite that chapter. Someone struggling financially and we wish for more disposable income to make life easier or better for them. A friend faces adversity and we yearn to smooth it out and remove the problems.

Sometimes it’s not so innocent though. Sometimes we want to rewrite someone else’s story because it doesn’t read like we think it should. Or because we feel like the paragraph they are currently in should be ours. Or we simply want to make someone do something the way we think it ought to be done.

The narrative begins in our heads and we produce rewrite after rewrite so that our own story, our own chapter and verse that we find ourselves living at the moment, makes more sense. Or we’re trying to rearrange our reality to what we think it ought to be.

It’s ridiculous though. To think that with our limited knowledge and foresight that we could possibly craft a better love story, a better adventure, or a better triumphant story than the One who authored the greatest love story of all time, penned the grandest adventure known to man, and accomplished the most miraculous triumph in the history of history, is in fact pretty ludicrous.

It’s like inserting our painfully pathetic middle school poetry in the midst of a Shakespearean sonnet. Or lifting a chapter from Moby Dick and dropping it into the middle of Pride and Prejudice.

Rob recently preached a sermon series on conflict that lasted several weeks. One of the Scriptures from really stood out to me, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:3

Ouch! The reason we seek to change and control our story, and the stories of those around us, is because we think we are something when we are not. At it’s root, all of our rewrites and all of our attempts to script each other’s lives, is pride.

Here’s the thing. That verse is set right in the midst of several verses where Paul is telling us how to handle conflict and/or when someone is in sin. And I’ve shared before that we all need proofreaders in our lives. So it’s not like God has called us to some passive existence that just allows life to unfold and happen around us.

But we have to be careful not to impose our own plot into the story line. We are called to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I think we fail to offer genuine consolation and sympathy when we are so busy looking for ways to make things right or better. And unfortunately we probably miss out on sharing in a lot of joyous paragraphs because we’re wielding our red correction pen with such vigor.

The verse in Galatians proceeding the one I quoted above says that we are to bear with one another and so fulfill the law of Christ. Sometimes we’re a little further up on the page than another, or sometimes in a completely different chapter altogether. Regardless we need to love the story we’re in.

Because the Author knows how it all comes together to tell a remarkable and timeless story that is for His glory and our good.

Stepping Into Community

As part of our twelve days celebration last month Rob gave me a pair of slippers. More as a joke than anything, they were leopard print and fuzzy. And, as it turns out, warm and comfy so I wore them all the time. I also washed them frequently and needless to say they didn’t hold up well so I had to get a new pair. Sadly the feisty print was unavailable and I ended up with somewhat the same style only in pink and not fuzzy. They’ll do I suppose but I liked the fuzzy warmth of the other pair and truthfully the sassy print was fun to wear.

I’m not really a good shoe shopper. I know what I like when I see it on other people’s feet but I really don’t have a great perspective when looking at them on my own feet. Then there is the whole fit thing. Some shoes will be just darling but the hurt like crazy…just uncomfortable. Others are so cute they make me wish I was the kind of person that could wear them but frankly I just look silly in them. Like those high top Converse sneakers. I think they are so cute but I just can’t pull them off…they’re not me. Or cowboy boots. Love ’em on other people but no way could I wear them without knowing that I was wearing them every moment they were on my feet and they would be the only thing I was thinking about. Then there are the ones that I like and they fit but there’s still that initial newness that has to be broken in for them to be a really good comfortable fit. Of course once in a while you find a pair that is the perfect fit and feels like a dream on your feet from the first moment.
Our church is about to do a study on community and friendship. It’s already generated a lot of helpful, and somewhat uncomfortable, conversations. I’ve been thinking that oddly enough finding community can be a lot like finding the right pair of shoes. I’ve come across some communities that, while I can see how other people fit there, I know I just don’t. I’m not comfortable there even though I can see the beauty there. 
Other communities I am really drawn too. I love peeking into different worlds and maybe even stepping into them for a bit but they aren’t me. I don’t belong there and like the cowboy boots if I try to make a place there I pretty much can’t even walk a straight line because I am starring at my own feet.
And then there is the community that does fit. Where I do belong. Only it’s not that slide your foot into the shoe and it’s like walking on a cloud perfect fit. Because, let’s be honest, that doesn’t happen all the time. That kind of fit is rare and should be treasured. It’s the fit between a husband and wife or that very best friend that is as close to you as it is possible for a friend to be. 
I’m talking about the kind of community that you look around and see it’s good. Solid and well made. Sturdy and ready to help you climb the mountains of life with sure footedness, slog through the mud in the valleys, and dance in the meadows. But there’s that slight stiffness up front. Not the kind that comes from an ill fit, but more the kind that comes from being new. It’s the give and take as your foot finds it’s place and the shoe conforms to it’s shape. It takes a little wear to smooth it out and make it the comfortable place that it can be.
It’s the kind of community where on the surface there may not be much in common…different walks of life, different stages of life, etc. But there is just good stuff happening. There’s love and fellowship that goes deep despite those differences. It’s the kind of community that makes you a better person because it encourages and it confronts. It forgives and it nurtures.
It’s the kind of community that’s worth the work of fitting in.

Titus 2 Tuesday

Day Five ~ DPP

A friend quietly suffered a loss.

Another said goodbye to her mother.

Parents lost a child over the weekend and two days ago two children lost their mother.

That’s just in the last week of my life, no one else’s stories…just mine. Just my immediate world and not around the globe or down the street or across town.

And I am reminded why the Light needed to come. How darkness wants to reign and how the great deceiver wants to make us believe that the darkness does rule.

But the Light that came has conquered darkness and the deceived one and it only seems the opposite when we look at the darkness instead of the Light.

A friend gives thanks for medicine and doctors who successfully performed open heart surgery on her three month old last week.

A long awaited end to a work project is finally on the horizon and a family rejoices.

Still others share stories of grace and blessing from a trip to Haiti.

The Light is there. Spilling across our lives, dispelling the darkness…exposing it’s emptiness and lies.

So this week we light the candle of Hope. Not because we’re waiting for it to arrive. But because it has.

A New Thing

Remember my post about the lady whose family went to Haiti? Well she has a lovely new blog and a weekly feature that is pretty awesome. It’s called Tell His Story and after she shares a chapter from her story that He is telling she invites us to share a chapter of our own.

Beautiful hearts…beautiful words…grab a cup of tea or coffee and take a moment. Read how the story…His story is being written across the lives of other believers…and be blessed.

You can find an earlier post that I shared at Tell His Story here.