January 31, 2013

The Process of Growing

Since November, my sweet man has been tackling some renovation projects around our home. The changes have made a big impact but the details have been imperceptible to others, a testimony to my husband's hard work and precise hand. He has the talent of making things fit in as if they were always there, rather than calling attention to them. In my opinion, that's the mark of a true craftsman.

He has been able to make the process appear effortless, so I sometimes believe it is effortless. I've forgotten that these changes are not as simple as they look. I've become frustrated. I envision the end result and I desperately want to see it come to fruition so we can relax and enjoy it. It's taking longer than I'd hoped.

My family and I are in the midst of another process, a spiritual renovation of sorts. This renovation precipitated the Year of Growing.  It is the reason I chose the books I'm studying. We've set aside three months, but I'm slowly realizing that will be just the preparation. Work will follow, and will take much longer. As with any renovation project, it started with a demolition. The reconstruction is painful, yet it is necessary for our growth.  If this process looks effortless, it's only because the Holy Spirit has given us peace that we are moving in the right direction. We know  - and we trust - that even though these coming months may be difficult, they will be for our ultimate good.

The Apostle Paul writes,
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
~Romans 8:26-28, ESV

And John Newton echoes,
Oh, the peace which flows from believing that all the events in which we are concerned, are under His immediate disposal; that the very hairs of our head are all numbered; that He delights in our prosperity; that there is a need-be, if we are in heaviness; and that all things shall surely work together for our good!
Hallelujah and Amen.

The spiritual renovation will continue long after our home renovations are complete. And so I look again to Paul for words of inspiration, and to my Lord for grace.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 3:7-14, ESV

January 25, 2013

Book Review: Puritan Portraits

I confess, I was never curious about the Puritans until recently. Quotes posted on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, piqued my interest. Friends' recommendations sealed the deal. Still, I was certain where to start. When I saw J.I. Packer's book, Puritan Portraits: J.I. Packer on selected Classic Pastors and Pastoral Classics, I immediately put it on my wishlist. I was thrilled when Christian Focus Publications offered me a copy of the e-book in exchange for my honest review.

Reading Puritan Portraits was a win-win for me, because I wasn't that familiar with Packer, either (though several of his books have been lingering in my "To Read" stack). I found the book to be a wonderful introduction to both Packer and the Puritans he admires.

Puritan Portraits is a series of introductions Packer wrote for books by various Puritan authors. These are no ordinary introductions; Packer not only encourages the reader to meditate upon the material, he exhorts them to put what they read into practice. From the introduction to Stephen Charnock:

Trusting, loving and following Jesus necessitates keeping the cross in view at all times. Our living Lord calls for what we may call cruciform discipleship, clear-headed, open-eyed, and whole-hearted. 'May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world' (Gal. 6:14). The cross must shape our faith and thereby reshape our entire lives. (661)

The Puritans felt that reading should encourage our spiritual growth. I believe Packer's work in this book does just that. After reading Puritan Portraits, I have resolved to read more from the Puritans and more from Packer as well.

You can read the other reviews at the Puritan Portraits Blog Tour.

January 8, 2013

2013: Books I'll be Listening To

I've shared the books I'll be reading for pleasure this year. 

A friend talked me into my first audio book a couple of years ago. Since that time, it's rare that I don't have a book on CD in my car. I've learned to be discerning in what books I listen to rather than read. I've also learned that the reader is just as important as the material itself. (Personally, I think Edward Herrmann should be the designated narrator for every audio book told from a male perspective.)

I've chosen to listen to these books in 2013:

~Sense and Sensibility because I can never have enough Jane, and the story of the Dashwood sisters is undeniably beautiful.

~The Story of Edgar Sawtelle because it's been on my list for a couple of years.

~Wuthering Heights because, believe it or not, I've never read it.

~I, Coriander because I think it will be enchanting.

~A Mad Desire to Dance because Night was hauntingly beautiful.

~Bleak House because I've got one Dickens on my fiction list and wanted to give him a little more attention.

~Anna Karenina because I've never read Tolstoy.

Or Hemingway...which is why I added The Sun Also Rises to the list.

~Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage because I think it will be amazing.

~The Hiding Place because I've read excerpts from it over the years, and really want to hear the whole story.

~The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes because it's been many years since I've read Sherlock.

~And Then There Were None because I love Agatha Christie.

~Defending Jacob because it sounds intriguing.

Next time, the books I'll be studying this year.

January 7, 2013

Growing in My Pleasure Reading

My prayer is that the Year of Growing will encompass all areas of my life. Two of my goals are to grow in my appreciation of beauty and in my willingness to do hard things. I hope my lengthy reading list will help me in accomplishing both. I've chosen most of these works because I think they will be beautiful, they will inspire me to do hard things, or they are beyond my normal reading fare (which makes the actual reading a hard thing).  I want my reading this year to stretch me, teach me about life, and captivate me so that I won't be tempted by lesser amusements.

In no particular order, here are the books I've chosen to read for pleasure in 2013.

~Ethan Frome because I've never read anything by Edith Wharton

~The Scarlet Pimpernel because I can't quite think of tackling Les Misérables and I'm hoping this will inspire me to try.

~The Pickwick Papers because a college professor gave it to me and it's well past time I read it!

~The Kitchen House because I've heard excellent things about this one.

~A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael because I want to know more about her story.

~Home because I loved Gilead and its characters.

~Agnes Grey because I've never read anything by Anne Bronte either.

~Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption because I've really wanted to read this one for a while now and haven't gotten to it yet.

~The Nine Day Queen of England: Lady Jane Grey because her story fascinates me.

~Desperate Sons: Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, and the Secret Bands of Radicals Who Led the Colonies to War because I love learning more about the American Revolution.

~A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy because Queen Victoria intrigues me.

~Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times because I want to read the book before I watch the miniseries.

~Ellen Foster because I keep hearing about this one.

~Cry, the Beloved Country because I've been meaning to for a while now.

~Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life because even though I don't always agree with her, I think Barbara Kingsolver writes beautifully. And this topic really interests me.

Next up, the books I'll be listening to this year.

January 1, 2013

2013: The Year of Growing

I've typed numerous versions of an opening sentence for this post - none quite right. I suppose the best way to begin is to do just that. And so I start typing, on the cusp of a new year. I wonder what it will bring. After 2012 - a year filled with joy and grief unspeakable - I'm hesitant to even venture a guess. I have a shadow of an idea floating in the recesses of my mind, a slight thought of what I want the coming months to look like. I close my eyes, breathe deep and put them in the hand of the One who holds time in His hands, praying for grace to accept the shape in which He chooses to mold them. The reluctance with which I do so brings conviction, and the knowledge of what I need most in 2013 - growth.

Growth in my understanding of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Growth in my relationships.
Growth in my appreciation of the beauty in this life.
Growth in my willingness to do hard things.

And so I have deemed 2013 the Year of Growing. Where it will take me, only God knows.