What I’m Reading – December 2014

The title should really be: What I’m reading – September, October, November, December… It’s been a while since I’ve shared the books I’ve been reading. These past few months haven’t been optimal for lots of reading. However, my podcast listening has increased, so I’ll share my favorites at the end of this post!


Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther

This wasn’t my favorite spiritual memoir (a genre I enjoy reading), but it was good. I wish I could add an audible description of my feelings for this book since saying it was decent doesn’t do it justice. So, imagine me saying, “It was decent!” with a positive, cheerful tone and that would give you a sense of my overall opinion.

Elizabeth Esther writes with heart about her experiences growing up in a well-known Fundamentalist cult. I was saddened by her spankings, angered by the dishonesty of her family, panicked by her flashbacks, and pleased by her healing. Esther is skilled at communicating her feelings, which are complicated throughout the book. I enjoyed getting a more casual sense of Esther’s opinions via the interview at the back of the book. There are other spiritual memoirs that had a more personal impact/effect on me (like When We Were On Fire), but Girl at the End of the World was worth reading.

A Modern Girl’s Guide To Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker

It’s easy to get into ruts and routines (at least it is for me!) when it comes to Bible study. This book has been true to its tagline – simply refreshing. It’s tough to beat Jen Hatmaker’s sense of humor + learning new ways to read God’s Word. Many thanks to whoever dropped this off at the thrift store and into my hands.

The Grace and Truth Paradox: Responding with Christlike Balance by Randy Alcorn

This was a departure from the Randy Alcorn I’ve read (Deadline and The Ishbane Conspiracy, both of which I highly recommend!). I thumbed through Grace and Truth at my parent’s house in October and had wished I had my own copy to underline. Alcorn clearly lays out the conflict between grace and truth and begins to make sense of how the two can coexist in Christ. It’s small size would make this an excellent stocking stuffer!

Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal

During college, my dream job was being a food writer or cookbook editor. It was fun to reenter that genre with this collection of essays arranged like a cookbook, starting with and invitation to the table and ending with pieces about dessert. Essays range from book excerpts that have food as the focal point to food history and recipes. I approached the book like a smorgasbord, picking and choosing what sounded good, but you could read your way straight through like a multi-course meal. Some pieces were much more tasty than others and maybe I’ve been out of the food writing circuit for too long but I found an oddly high number of pieces about homosexuality. (I received this title free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.)

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon

A delight. There’s no other way to describe it. Jan Karon has the ability to make everyday life so very interesting. The Mitford series is charming and real without being saccharine. I read the majority of the Mitford books in high school and was doubtful I would remember the characters or the plot lines in this recent addition to the series. Not a problem. Karon gently reminds readers of Esther’s fabled orange marmalade cake, Puny’s propensity for having twins, and the sweet relationship between Father Tim and Cynthia. It’s an easy book to pick up even if you only have a few spare moments to read.

Unwrapping The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

We are going through this beautifully illustrated Advent celebration as a family. James enjoys all the colors and Tim and I have enjoyed the purposeful time to reflect on this season.

Podcasts

I love listening to podcasts. They keep me company on runs, while I’m cleaning, and when I’m home alone because Tim’s at youth group. Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately. (They all kind of interconnect, as you will see…)

Around The Table Podcast with Jacey and Maggie

I’ve been reading Jacey’s blog, The Balanced Wife, for awhile and was really excited when she started a podcast with her buddy Maggie. Plus, the food/community undertones to their podcast is so fun. They chat about a range of topics from food, intentional living, hospitality, relationships. It’s like having friends come hangout in your living room.

The Influence Podcast

The aforementioned Jacey works for Naptime Diaries whose owner co-created The Influence Network. (I’m fairly positive that’s a run-on sentence…). Jacey shares hosting duties of The Influence Network’s podcast, so I started to listen along. The podcast has interviews with inspiring and encouraging women who are making their online life mean something. Topics range from faith, blogging, and creative businesses.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

One of the early episodes of The Influence Podcast was with Jamie Ivey. I learned that Jamie has her own podcast and quickly listened through her entire archives. She’s fun and I love her Southern accent. Every episode Jamie talks to a different guest, discussing “anything and everything” as she describes it. I love hearing what her and her guests are reading. A couple of my favorite episodes have been with Annie Downs and Gloria Furman. I even got a little shout out in episode 24.

Serial hosted by Sarah Koenig

Oh. My. Goodness. Jamie Ivey and a guest were talking about Serial last week and I was so intrigued. I listened to 10 episodes in three days. Serial follows a story – a true story – over the course of the whole season. The story happens to be that of Adnan Syed, a 17-year old convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. Adnan has now served 15 years in prison, but continues to claim his innocence. A family friend of Adnan’s reached out to Sarah Koenig, a journalist and public radio personality, to dig into his case. It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m both excited and bummed that this week wraps up the story.

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Waiting Q & A

As part of my 31 Days of Letter series last month, I wrote a letter to high school ladies about being patient while God orchestrates their love life.

However, the encouragement to wait for God’s timing isn’t limited to highschoolers and waiting doesn’t only apply to romantic relationships.

My romantic history taught me the importance of giving God control of my desires.  I’m still learning. I seek to be open-handed with my plans so that God can change them, replace them, or completely erase them at His will not mine.

I got an email from one of my favorite high school ladies with a great question that I wanted to answer here in case others had similar ponderings.

She wrote:

I was wondering – you said  “Waiting is hard, but don’t let the difficulty of waiting distract you from pursuing God whole heartedly.”

Sometimes when I am waiting for something I do get distracted on the thing I want.

Any sugestions as to how I might try to be more focused on God??

I definitely failed more than I succeeded in this department.  In hindsight, I do know what I wish I would have done more often to combat that antsy, agitated state of waiting.

Disclaimer: I have been the recipient of all of this advice.  I did my fair share of eye rolling because it seemed like I was getting a lecture straight out of Sunday School 101.  Sometimes I followed it; sometimes I poo-poo’d it.  If only I could take back every time I poo-poo’d it… 

The key is to distract yourself from being distracted.  Confusing?  Aren’t you trying to avoid distraction? Well, yes.  But, the effectiveness of this strategy is WHAT you distract yourself with.

Distract yourself with God and you’ll be well on your way to being more focused on Him.

Pray – Cry to God.  Yell at God.  Confess to God.  Ask questions of God.  Thank God.  Submit to God.  I found it very therapeutic to be honest with the One who knows my heart more intimately than I do.  Praying may not yield a change in your circumstances, but growing intimacy with God changes your attitude about your circumstances.  The best way to foster intimacy is to communicate.

If words escape you, start praying the Psalms.  David and the other Psalmists struggled with the same anxieties we face.  Let their words spark some dialogue between you and God. (Try these: Psalm 27, 37, 39, 130)

Listen – I always rebelled against this step in the process.  I listened – I just listened to the wrong voices.  My heart and mind were rowdy with hurt and frustration. Those voices weren’t helpful, but they were a way to justify my feelings.

Listening to God required silence, which is the antithesis of what I wanted to accompany my waiting.  Silence made the wait seem stark and never-ending. Learn to be still in order to hear the still small voice of God.  Quieting my heart and mind made space for me to accept God’s comfort and peace.

Serve – Pour into others.  Waiting can become really internally focused. Selfishness is one of the most destructive qualities in relationships.  It’s best to start weeding that out of your life ASAP.  Being active for God’s glory is a great way to start making selflessness a habit.

No matter how much you want to be in a relationship, the “single season” should not be wished away.  I missed out on deepening friendships and creating richer community because I was focused on what I didn’t have instead of the gifts God had already provided.

I also let my single status slip away without maximizing the time I had, for lack of a less cliche phrase, to better myself.  I could have given Tim the gift of a more patient, kind, selfless wife.

Bottom line: Get distracted by God, not the difficulty of waiting.  Enjoy the single season – you most likely won’t get it back.

How do you stay focused on God in the midst of waiting?