the grace of stories from Aslan.

In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy finds herself in an unknown and frightening room belonging to the Magician. While there, she is given the gift of a story, a story that renews and refreshes her heart. The story is from Aslan himself, and as soon as it ends, Lucy is ready for it to be told over again.

I’ve found in my own life that the Lord has often used stories to refresh and renew me, to encourage me in a deeply personal way. This past month that felt especially true. I felt as though so many of the books I read were straight from Jesus into my hands and my heart.

4994596The Passion of Mary-Margaret

So rarely do I find that I get to know Jesus better through a work of fiction. That isn’t to say that I don’t find truth frequently in a story, but I wouldn’t say that I typically come away with a deeper love and closeness to Jesus himself. Although there is an array of Christian fiction to be found, I don’t often find that an author breaks past cliches and niceties to engaging with the character of Jesus in a meaningful way through their story. This book was a rare and beautiful exception. It came at the perfect time, and I found myself celebrating not just a well told story and honest, real characters, but delighting in the love Jesus has for me. I don’t want to say much more, because I want you to fully enjoy and discover the richness of this novel for yourself. Beautiful, redemptive and a gift for my soul. A+ for me.  Highly recommend.

51p6hgfm2qlChief Inspector Gamache Series (Books 3-12, as Books 1 & 2 were read in October)

So rarely do I find character development that is so artfully prioritized above the plot unfolding; yet these books seem to value BOTH so well. Each story is so exceptionally researched, which only adds to the deepening and developing of the characters in these mysteries. I was not expecting to be so HOOKED, but after I reached book 4, I put holds on the next six books at the library. It is so beautiful that in contrast to the murders being investigated, kindness and redemption shines brighter. Inspector Gamache is not without his flaws, but he is humble and kind; smart and brave. His marriage is one of respect and friendship and love. He is quick to apologize, quick to listen, slow to anger even when provoked. It is easy to cheer for this man and stay wholeheartedly with him for twelve books, as he looks for murderers, and also fights to bring wholeness to those around him.

As a small side note, I enjoy reading author’s dedications and acknowledgments. Louise Penny’s show a depth to her own life that matches the depth to be found in her characters. She can portray such deep joy, deep grief, deep love because she has lived it. Her acknowledgments in book 12 brought me to tears.

These books are not Christian per se, but I have found great redemption in them that I would consider to only be reflective of the gospel. Additionally, I could scarely put these down. They elicited the full range of human emotion, from laughter to tears, joy to sorrow as I was fully engaged in these people that I have come to love. Each book was an A+ for me. Highly recommend. 

51pkwdx4vql-_sx326_bo1204203200_Guarded by Christ

I gained so much from Heather Holleman’s book, Seated With Christ, (you can read more of my thoughts here if you’re interested) that I was tremendously eager to read her newest release. I was not disappointed. Heather’s honest, brave writing facilitates a conversation of what it looks like to transfer head knowledge of believing Jesus loves and cares for me all the way to my heart. Using the image of being guarded, both in Scripture and in stories, Heather truly goes beyond just talk to what it means to incorporate Scripture into daily life. Already in the few short weeks since opening the first pages, I’ve seen my thinking shift, seeing my eyes and heart open to the ways Jesus is with me, guarding and protecting me in what truly matters. This book has helped me practically fight anxiety and despair on hard days, pointing me straight to Jesus. I love Heather’s writing that is vulnerable and kind, direct yet engaging, as one beggar is pointing another to the King. I’m amazed and grateful for the timing of this book ending up in my hands; it feels like pure grace as I find myself feeling weak and empty, gripping a book that reminds me of the truth that I have the Holy Spirit’s power beyond anything my own efforts could ever do. A+ for me. 

*Moody Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51byzzttmdlThe Beautiful Daughters

While tremendously intriguing, I came away having a hard time loving this book. I realized that the two main characters, while developed and interesting, are devoid of hope for much of the book. Only in the final pages does resolution come, and it feel insufficient for the amount of time we’ve put into these people. It might sounds funny, but I actually appreciated the fact that this book wasn’t my favorite. It was well-written, and made me realize how important hope and redemption are for a story, even a fictional one. B- for me. 

 

106610Amazing Grace

I knew a little bit of William Wilberforce’s impact in ending slavery prior to reading this book. But I traded the few facts I knew about this man for a deep appreciation for the courage and kindness, the humility and tremendous redemption in William Wilberforce’s story. Rarely do I find biographies that are well-researched, well-told stories and that help the reader to get past our own cultural bias, while simultaneously being funny, deep and a call to action. Eric Metaxas achieves all of these in this powerful book. I’m grateful to have shared this read with my mommy, as we celebrated and marvelled at the grace and providence in William’s story together, as part of our own private “book club.” I came away desiring to serve Jesus in the places he has called me, just as William did, desiring justice and kindness for all.  A+ for me. Highly recommend. 

51jyby4cgll-_sx326_bo1204203200_A Mile Wide

Having read some of  Jen Hatmaker’s books, I was eager to read her husband’s side of their story. Brandon calls the reader beyond church attendance and activities to a wider, deeper, redemptive way of living. I appreciated that he didn’t crouch in mystery what he was talking about. He’s upfront about how and he and his family live out the concepts he’s talking about, to the point of sharing exactly what it looks like to connect with other believers and friends outside of church walls. He is humble and funny and a good story teller. He offers a much needed challenge to the comfortable faith many of us find ourselves in, at least from time to time. I loved his words here:

“There’s something unique about how we first encounter Jesus. That form, whatever it may be, tends to hold a special place in our lives. It seems pure, and rightfully so. It’s the place in which we first experienced hope. This space, however, can quicly become the thing we are most likely to start defending, even if there comes a time when we need to reevlauate its effectiveness..The way we first encountered Jesus will most naturally seem like the purest form of the gospel. It’s the lens through which we will likely view the gospel most clearly. This is the lane in which we’ll most intuitively continue. But it’s a beginner’s lane. While God uses our experience to shape us into who we’re becoming, it’s not until we see how our story intersects with others that our gospel will begin to grow. That lane is supposed to widen.” (pg. 29-30)

I came away challenged to ask the hard questions of the ways in which I limit the gospel in how I define it. I came away challenged to think about how I try to control the gospel, making it about me and what I want, creating good news that is only for me, not others. A- for me. 

*Booklook Bloggers and Nelson provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51y0eamt1xl-_sx311_bo1204203200_The Rosie Project

It is rare that a book that feels this fun is also simultaneously deep and endearing. The story follows a tremendously intelligent, yet socially challenged man on his quest to find a wife. His discoveries of what makes someone “compatable” and what love is through his logical mind was a beautiful read. It made me laugh often, yet also reminded my heart of the grace it is to be loved. It isn’t a formula or something that makes sense on paper. It isn’t only about sexual attraction or what we can get from someone else. It is such grace to be loved for who we are. (In full disclosure, this is a secular novel with some swearing and a general acceptance of sex before marriage. It was not explicit and I found it easy to enjoy the good of this story.) A for me. 

51khyhjmxil-_sx355_bo1204203200_Remember and Return: A Devotional

I was looking forward to reading this book for the month, feeling ready to remember and return to Jesus more. This book was not what I expected. The feel of the book was much less of a devotional that I have typically experienced. It felt far more theologically heavy than I would have thought for a daily reading, almost feeling like mini-sermons. Once I got past that this wasn’t the devotional I expected, I could appreciate the truth to be found in each day. This book didn’t have the emotional connection that I expected from its title. But it did deliver with a greater understanding of who the Lord is and what he has done for us. This book is ideal for the Christian who connects with the Lord more typically on an intellectual level, like the Thinkers (of Myers-Briggs). As a Feeler, this book wasn’t everything I hoped for myself personally, but I still found it to be a good reminder of truth. B for me. 

*Baker Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51nejrvu7l-_sx335_bo1204203200_Intended for Evil

I knew nothing of the Cambodian Holocaust prior to this book, and honestly picked it to read for the title. I was humbled to discover the horrors for this country that spanned years, that never made it to my American history books. Yet in the midst of learning of atrocities that were tragically similar to the Jewish Holocaust, I saw the Lord sparing and caring for one man. This true story was an emotionally difficult one, although it is told with tact and not unnecessary gore; yet in the depths of this darkness, there is redemption. In the midst of unthinkable cruelty and depravity, there is unthinkable redemption. This is a powerful story and I’m grateful for the courage it took to tell it. B+ for me. 

*Baker Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

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Beyond books, I felt like Jesus gave me more reminders of his care for me in recent days. In light of how small my plate feels these days, I’m especially grateful for these “small” things that remind me that all of life is a grace.

  • Almond Joy cookies. These are not healthy in the slightest, but they only have four ingredients and were delicious.
  • This body pillow has made sleeping lovely again. Sharing your body with another person makes sleeping hard and I’m grateful for the grace of this “caterpillar” (as I call this long creature) to help me get rest while pregnant.
  • Egg nog in coffee. This never ceases to make me happy. A Christmas party in my mouth.
  • Emails and Google chat and phone calls that include me in the celebrating of birthdays and holidays this month with my family. It is hard to be apart but I’m so grateful to get to be “with” them and connect from a distance.
  • Voting. Although the election (and all the months before & the aftermath) felt so incredibly messy, it was my first time voting in person. Whether from recent moves or availability, I’ve always voted by absentee ballot prior to this year. It felt significant to walk the half mile to our fire station and vote in a booth. We celebrated the privilege of voting by going home to eat cookies and milk on our porch, arguably the best part of the process.
  • Beauty & the Beast trailer. Belle has been my favorite for quite a while, and this was pretty magical to watch. And bonus, it comes out right around the due date for our little boy.
  • Rediscovering our Myers Briggs profiles. My husband (“the Logician”-INTP) and I (“the Defender”-ISFJ) laughed our way through the truth of our personality profiles yet again the other night. Having words and understanding for each other is a powerful thing. While it didn’t provide many surprises, it always feels helpful to revisit reminders of how we function. I came away with renewed grace for him and myself.
  • Cheesecake brownies. They lasted a day. Need I say more? 🙂
  • Jesus answering my prayers for every day things. I’ve been asking him for what I would have dismissed as too trivial in the past. But whether it was plans for Thanksgiving or the timing of a phone call or a moment to catch my breath, I was always amazed at his care for my heart, even when he gives me”no” answers. I can’t help but come away believing I am deeply loved and seen.

 

*I joined up with Emily Freeman and  What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer’s blog as they share what they’re learning and invite others to do the same. What a gift to reflect and learn together!

*affiliate links used

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Erin Roberts says:

    I love so much of this!! I think we would be friends outside of the internet 🙂 Your reference to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader made me so excited to read the rest of your post. I talked about the part where Eustace turns into the dragon and has to let Aslan fix him again in one of my recent posts too. I added some of the books you mentioned to my ever-growing to-read list!! Also, I’m pretty sure I pinned a recipe to those Almond Joy cookies too. I’m glad to hear they’re a hit. AND I love Myer-Briggs too (ISTP here). Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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