"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back from Women of Faith!

I'd like to start this post by saying how grateful I am to Thomas Nelson Publishing for sending me to Women of Faith. It was an absolutely amazing experience, one which I will keep in my pocket all the days of my life.

Friday Highlights:  I practically fell out of my seat laughing at Andy Andrews and his version of "Amazing Grace" set to the tune of the theme from "Gilligan's Island."  I marvel at this man because I've read his book The Final Summit (review here), and felt that its author was a truly inspirational person. Hearing his comedic side was a surprise of some magnitude, I can tell you! I was honored to hear him speak.

Brenda Warner was such a strong woman and a model of who we as women should strive to be. I felt humbled to be in her presence. This woman reminded me that God is always near through the rainbows and the rain.  Her testimony was exactly what I was hoping to get from Women of Faith. Instead of this fine woman constantly being introduced as "Kurt Warner's wife," people should be introducing Kurt Warner as "Brenda Warner's husband." Because that's how bright her ray of sunshine is.

Mandisa gave a concert that was not only inspirational but just. plain. fun. I'm heading over to iTunes after I finish this piece!

Saturday Highlights:  I've wanted to hear Amy Grant live since I was a child. I think I must have looked like a kid in a candy store during her set. Her guitarist amazed me as well. Amy Grant, Mandisa, and Sandi Patty closed the set together, inviting all women to sing with them. Dancing and singing along with these three women was one of the best times I've ever had. I felt so free, and so grateful to be alive.

Sandi Patty carried the day, without a doubt. I've rarely heard a performer sing so well during a live show. And the speech that she gave brought me to tears. She reminded us to just be still and listen, for God is near.

My one concern is that there was a dramatic piece given on Friday night that seemed to downplay the role that husbands play in our lives. Yes, we women are busy, and we lead lives that at times are overwhelming. But we can't ever forget the load that our husbands pull.

I don't know where I would be today if it were not for the kind and thoughtful efforts of my husband, and that's not an exaggeration. I had unidentified, untreated clinical depression for much of my life, and my husband has been an absolute rock through all of it.

I was saddened by that presentation because I realized how many women out there identified with it. I used to be one of those women, but through God's mercy, I have learned to step back from that kind of life.
If I were ever to speak to women, that is the topic I would choose. So many of us struggle, and so many of us have no idea how to deal with the pain.

If you are one of those women who identified with that presentation, I hope that you are able to step back, take a look at your life, sit down with your husband, and talk with him about how you can simplify your lives.You are not running a race. If you feel as though you are, something is wrong, and there are so many ways that you can address it if you can just ask for help.

"Be still, and know that I am God..... My grace is sufficient for you." If you have been to Women of Faith, or if you plan to go in the future, my prayer for you is that those verses are what you take from it. Because ultimately, that's all we need now or ever will need.

Soli Deo gloria

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Beneath a Southern Sky, by Deborah Raney

I highly recommend this book if you haven't read it yet. Deborah Raney's books were recommended to me by Goodreads, and I really wish that I had discovered her much earlier. Her writing style is nothing short of amazing, and this book latched onto my attention from page 1.

The basic premise is that the heroine and her husband are living a very happy marriage on mission in Columbia when the husband dies. The grieving widow returns to America, where she gives birth to their child, and attempts to put the pieces of her life back together. Two and a half years later, she is happily remarried to another man - until she receives word that her first husband has been found alive. She's put in the terrible position of having to choose between two men she loves.

This book deals in a very powerful way with the theme of sacrificing our own desires to meet God's plan for our lives. And, really, if you enjoy Christian fiction, this one is a must-read.

Five out of five stars

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cherished, by Kim Cash Tate

Cherished  is a novel that is ultimately about the choices we make in life and the consequences that follow. More importantly, it is a novel about forgiveness and redemption. It inspires the reader through several different story lines about a St. Louis family and their friends.
I think that what works best about this book is the strong connections that the characters have toward supporting each other in their spiritual growth. The Bible study group - really, a sisterhood - shared by the female characters is inspirational in and of itself. More women should have groups like that, and I hope that this book can serve as a model there.
The dialogue stands out in my mind as being realistic and enjoyable to read.
I did find, though, that the many characters and their storylines were difficult to follow, especially at first. There were moments in the book when I was truly moved by the events, but there are some pretty intense issues that are handled in this book. I felt that because there were so many different story lines, the book doesn't do justice to the deeper emotions that are evoked by some of the issues covered. I think I would have preferred to see this book split into two separate novels so that the two most serious issues could have been handled with greater intensity.
All in all, though, I think the author is talented, and I'd like to read more of her work.
Three out of Five Stars
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Special Props to Women of Faith

I've really got to hand it to the good folks who work in the Women of Faith registration department.  I was fortunate to be chosen as a blogger at this year's Anaheim event by Thomas Nelson Publishing.  I was truly grateful for this opportunity, and have been looking forward to it since I heard the news.

However, a week before the conference, my tickets still had not arrived.  After waiting and checking the mailbox much like a high school senior during college admissions season, I finally caved and decided to call them this morning. I spoke to just the nicest woman. She discovered that I hadn't been assigned seats due to a glitch in the computer system. Gosh, don't I understand what that's like!

To sum it up, her supervisor felt so badly about the mixup that they've given me seats on the conference floor, very close to the actual presentation. These seats are so difficult to come by that I'm absolutely overwhelmed by their generosity. 

But more important than that was the sense of kindness that I felt from the woman who took my call. This was a woman who seemed so full of love that I could feel her spirituality over the phone, half a continent away. I truly didn't want to hang up the phone, just so I could enjoy her sheer goodness for just a few minutes more. That's the kind of person I wish I were, the kind of person I'd like to teach my daughter to be.

And she was just one more reminder that we make an impact with even the smallest actions.

So, thank you to Women of Faith, and thank you for the kindness of one woman. You've reminded me that there are still people in this world who shine a light for the rest of us.