From the Bookshelf

Do you remember back in high school when you dreamed about being someone else? That movie star with a perfect smile and all the right proportions? Or you flipped through teen magazines and wanted hair like that, or lip gloss that shined just like that? Fine, maybe I am dating myself reminiscing about Seventeen Magazine, but I think every girl dreams of “fixing” a flaw they see in themselves. I am happy to report that I have grown out of those superficial desires and have gradually learned to love myself… just the way I am. Am I perfect? Far from it. Am I still learning and growing and moving forward in the journey for joy? You betcha. Which brings me to this week’s muse: A couple of words on two books I’ve recently finished up.

The first is “The Powerful Purpose of Introverts” by Holley Gerth, (in)Courage member, best selling author and fellow introvert. When I first got my hands on this one, I was secretly excited, hoping that Gerth would impart great wisdom on how to upgrade my A game in a world of crazy extroverts (I’m married to one, too, so that throws a glitch in the system). The book does do this, to some extent, but is a much broader look at the idea of what an introvert is and how to function well as one.

Very similar to other personality type studies, Holley looks at brain function, responses to stimuli and coping mechanisms. Anecdotal stories are punctuated throughout the book, helping illustrate the power behind “introvert-ism”. Designed as a small group study (there are chapter questions at the back for discussion), I’m thinking this would be perfect for a young mom’s club. The author gently encourages (as all good introverts do- insert wink here- ) that no matter where you think you are, God’s plans and purposes for you are always perfect, and that all of us, introvert or extrovert, have roles to play in His plan!

I was thankful for some of the reminders Gerth highlights as “needs” for my half of the population: things like dedicated quiet (strategic solitude), special connections and silent empathy. These are strengths that we hold dear. The strengths that help us live out our purpose in God’s plan! Even if you write a weekly blog about your seemingly boring life and dream of going viral someday.

Which brings us around to the second book: “Joyful Surrender: 7 Disciplines for the Believer’s Life” by Elizabeth Elliot. This pillar of the faith (she died in 2015) is known for a variety of writing, but most notably by her husband’s story. Jim Elliot was one of theĀ five young missionaries who were savagely killed while trying to establish communication with the Auca Indians of Ecuador. She tells his story (and consequently her own) in her book “Through the Gates of Splendor”. She is one of those people you want to be like — Brave and able to trust fully in God’s plan, even in the midst of unspeakable grief.

Our church’s ladies group just completed this book as our winter study. Our crazy Zoom discussions were sparked by topics such as the discipline of the Body, of the Mind, our feelings and how we spend our time. We found Elliot to be a no-nonsense kind of woman who tells it like it is, and lays out her discussions of discipline with all the confidence of a well seasoned Christian. We appreciated her biblical insights and wisdom, obviously gained through her own daily walk with Jesus, and years of service. Interestingly, her choice of title (“joyful surrender”) is indication that even seasoned missionaries have to choose joy in the journey sometimes! Yes, grace is sufficient, but practical faith takes some work! I think I can speak for the rest of my “spiritual sisters” in saying that Elliot’s book was challenging and insightful.

So, there you have it, my friends, a couple of new books for you to sink your teeth into during lockdown. They won’t be like Seventeen magazine … but they just might encourage you to take a second glance at your own self… and go beyond lip-gloss and banana hair clips, and take a good, introspective look at who God made you to be… and how He made you to fit just perfectly for His plan for your future!

Set the Stars Alight

Art made from old pocket watch parts

I recently discovered an artist who makes tiny sculptures out of the tiny moving parts of ancient clocks. (Check out my Pinterest boards for more pictures). Fascinating. So many miniscule workings all blended together, each with their own purpose, yet fully connected to the whole. Much like that of the crew of a tall ship, each proud of their position, allowing for individual roles to work with the other so there is always smooth sailing as they say. Or the great, vast universe. We, mere humans, can only see a tiny glimpse of the stars. And we imagine their roles in something much, much bigger. I tell my kindergarteners that different groups of people tell different stories about the “pictures in the stars”. It’s our attempt to make sense of the world. The Big Dipper. The Great Bear. The Twins. Can you picture the constellations?

So why do I bring up these subjects? They are each uniquely a part of Amanda Dykes’ novel, “Set the Stars Alight”, a delightful book that I just finished reading this past week. Technically, it’s classified as “a romance”… but it is subtle enough to be tolerable (ya’ll know how much I love sappy romances….not!) True, it’s a boy meets girl story, but their relationship is based on friendship, respect, and the ultimate quest for knowledge… not how cute the other looks. I found the novel started a bit slow, but as the story moves between its contemporary setting in modern England, and the early nineteenth century, the twists and turns beautifully align by the end of the book in a unique blending of belonging and hope.

The tale begins with Lucy, the watchmaker’s daughter. Her fascination with the legendary lost ship, The Jubilee, and it’s unlikely crew, sends her searching for answers. Her grown up adventure has her reconnected (and not by accident) to Dashel Green, the little lost neighbour who adopts himself into the watchmaker’s family. Drawn in by the watchmaker’s fable-stories, Dash grows up exploring the stars in search of unknown mysteries. Together they eventually find that hope and sacrifice (and a little love) end up healing many a wound.

The novel jumps between Lucy and Dashel’s story to the story of Frederick Handford, the son of an admiral who ends up in a series of his own adventures, leading us to follow his tales of good, bad and ugly. He learns kindness and sacrifice through hardship and tragedy. I tried to discover if the Jubilee and Handford were based on a true legend, but I didn’t find any information, so I assume they were figments of Dykes’ imagination, but please correct me if I am wrong…English history is not my forte.

Yet, I found by the end of my read, I had discovered more than just some romance with some history thrown in. Dykes blends her own version of Hope and Light into her story. She describes it in her author’s note:

“….this world can be a dark place. I don’t need to expound. We all know it. We see it every day. We feel the heaviness of it descend when we turn on the news. But there is something else in this world, too. And it is light. Hope. Truth. Wonder.”

Amanda Dykes about “Set the Stars Alight”
What do You see in the stars?? (Photo by Adrian Lang on Pexels.com)

Like I tell my students, there is something bigger in the stars, or in the tiny workings of microscopic creatures, there is a story to tell of a Designer who created all the interconnections.

” ‘We keep the stories.’ He said we pass them on — it is our duty…and our honour. In a world as dark as this, people forget how to see the light, so we need to remind them by telling the truth. Paying attention… setting the stars alight.”

Lucy, said of her watchmaker father’s stories, in “Set the Stars Alight”, pg. 332-333

So true. So true. Especially in this 2020 year where Corona has set our entire world on end. How much more do we need to see that every good and perfect gift is from above? Oh friends, whether you are interested in this book or not, I wish you its story of hope, sacrifice and a little love thrown in. Be Blessed.

Summer Reading

This week’s post is going to be a little short and sweet — just like our summer has been! After many weeks off due to Covid-19, these last few weeks of “official” summer seem to be going quickly! As usual, we always have bigger plans that never get accomplished… but hey, that’s life, right?! One of the goals was to do more casual reading… which didn’t really happen to the extent that I hoped for, but I thought I would share an update this week anyway! Maybe it will wet my appetite to buckle down for the last few weeks and escape with a good book!

The eldest Mitton is a devote reader and has already devoured the new Hunger Games book, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and has others on the go. I am currently finishing A Single Spark (look for my review coming soon!) But now, thanks to Graf-Martin, I have a whackload to explore! Here’s a sneak peak for you:

(Did I mention I have another goal to learn to make better videos? That will be a big process! I am certainly learning in that department! ) What about you, my friends? Have you been devouring literature and setting goals for renewing your minds? Books are a good way to supplement our Bible knowledge, and often seeing or reading about someone else’s perspective helps to enrich our own! In today’s world, I sometimes find it difficult to enrich my mind without contaminating it. There are so many less-than-holy media options these days, it’s hard for one to keep it both entertaining and enriching!

Philippians 4 reminds us to meditate on things that are pure, lovely and praiseworthy! It’s my thought for you this week! It’s a challenging task, for sure. Shall we help each other out? Share your favourite read or video in the comments below or on our socials — we’d love to hear from you!!