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Why Memoir Is My Favorite Genre

WHAT I'M LOVING: Spring EditionWhat I’m Loving… About Memoir

Memoir story-tellers quietly invite us to examine our own stories in light of the one they’re sharing. The unveiling of universal truth is the essence of memoir. Listening to someone else’s story helps us better understand a piece of ourselves.

This past year, my HER STORY series has both stretched and inspired me. As I’ve practiced story-listening, God has given me a better ear to hear the melody of my own.

I’ve learned this crucial truth: my story is not about me. 

Marion Roach Smith, author of The Memoir Project writes, “Most people think that memoir is a story about me—or in this case, you. Most people are wrong. Memoir is about something and you are the illustration.”

Back in January, God led me to ONE VERSE for 2017…

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

God has wasted no time defining gentleness and respect; He’s revealed how far I fall from true humility. I’ve struggled, though, with the word defense. Preparedness is an integral part of my faith, but defense seems so defense-ive.

A defense isn’t an argument I defend my way out of, but a story I choose to tell.

According to Marion Roach Smith, the three essentials parts of memoir are:

  1. The answer to the question: “What is this about?”
  2. Your argument
  3. The scenes from your life that will be deployed to prove that argument

God uses our stories to communicate His character. Does your story illustrate His love, kindness, forgiveness, protection, provision? Which scenes from your life defend that argument?

What defense does your story make?

Jesus is Master over our lives, and He is the Master of our stories. When He rode into Jerusalem as King, Jesus didn’t enter as a mighty king ready for war; He entered in humility and in peace. Though a significant element in Jesus’ first coming, the donkey wasn’t much on its own. The spotlight wasn’t on the donkey; it was on Jesus.

God used the donkey as a vehicle for His glory. Our stories, like that donkey, aren’t much on their own, because Jesus is the hero of every redemption story.

God can use our stories as vehicles of His truth.

He is Master over all. Supreme. And yet He whispers to our hearts, “Loosen your grip on this. Trust Me with it.” We have nothing to offer that He has not given us. Our stories belong to Him.

Let your story tell God’s story,

Kelly

 

Something else:

I set a goal to read ten memoirs over the course of this year. Though my favorite genre, it’s the one I read the least. I’m making my list of memoirs to read next, and I’d love your help. If you have a favorite memoir, please share the title in the comments below.

I’d love to hear about your own reading goals, too. As always, you can check out what I’m reading over on my Good Reads page, or the What I’m Reading posts I update every season.

0

Just a Bird

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

Together, we hung thin braches on her bedroom wall and arranged colorful birds framed in various sizes above her bed. I printed out Jesus’ words about the sparrows and placed them near her mirror where we brush her hair.

After scrubbing hot pink and lime green paint out from underneath my fingernails, I gave her wall one last look—stenciled outlines depicting birds on a line—and I prayed this whole bird thing wasn’t a fast phase.

When she turned six, we updated her bedroom from toddler to big girl, and she was super clear about what she wanted. Birds. Everywhere birds. Every kind of bird.

In the remaking of a little girl’s bedroom, I caught a peek at her heart’s kindness towards God’s smallest creatures.

But I glimpsed something else, too.

Adorable is her favorite word to describe the common blackbirds and jays that visit our trees in the backyard. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when her fascination with birds began. I didn’t pay much attention to it until last Christmas.

With unshakable confidence, she walked right up to Santa Claus and asked him to bring her a book that would help her learn more about birds. Santa’s face crinkled the same way mine did when she revealed her uncommon wish list. But with a wink, her wish was as good as granted.

To this day, she carries her prized gift, a North American Bird Guide, in her backpack to school, just in case she spots a bird on the way.

She’s learned how to identify them based on their size, color, and habits. She can tell you which birds hang around all year round and which ones are just migrating through.

I’ve always thought of a bird as just a bird.

The word that comes to mind is hardly adorable when I look out the window and see one perched on the fence out back. Everyday. Common. Ordinary sounds more like it.

But my bird-girl doesn’t see “just” birds. She recognizes each and every feature—from ruby red throats to the color of their bellies—and understands how these distinguish them as completely unique.

Swallows, jays, mallards, wood ducks, starlings, robins, egrets, hummingbirds, chickadee, hawks, mockingbirds, meadowlarks, kingfisher, doves, blackbirds, and sparrows.

We can’t go to the zoo without stopping at the corner where exotic parrots, long-legged flamingos, and peacocks strut their stuff. Eagles and vultures and even the tiniest feathered creatures captivate her heart in ways I’ll never understand.

She bought a bird feeder and wild bird seed with her tooth fairy money, and her daddy hung in from the oak in the backyard. Armed with her bird guide and a pair of binoculars, she sat and waited for them to come. She waited and waited. And waited.

The squirrels found the seed first, but my girl never gave up hope. For two long months, she waited.

Then one day, squeals of pure little girl delight broadcasted the arrival of a full flock of birds to our lawn out back. They rocked that feeder, two at time, with aggressive determination. Red-winged blackbirds and brown, speckled sparrows.

With a beautiful kind of wonder, I watched my girl watch those birds.

I’ve yet to shake the feeling.

They say that artists leave a piece of their heart behind in everything they create. God does the same, I think. I see a glimpse of His kindness right there in the heart of a six-year-old girl who loves the birds He made and cares for.

Jesus’ words refresh my heart today—the very ones we framed and hung in my bird-girl’s room so she’d never forget, the same words my heart needs especially today. Maybe you need them, too?

You are more valuable than many sparrows.

In our house, there is no such thing as “just a bird,” and in God’s kingdom, there is no such thing as just a wife, just a mom, just a daughter, just a (you fill in the blank.) You are so much more.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

2

Living Hidden

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

The Quiet Book, a board book from my youngest daughter’s bookshelf that meanders through all the different kinds of quiet in a child’s day, inspired me to count all the beautiful ways to live hidden in Christ.

In just two days, I recorded 150…

I haven’t written poetry in well over a decade, but my deepest emotions are often best expressed this way. I want to remember how to live hidden, how to return again and again to my true identity, tucked within Christ.

I’ll continue adding to the list I began in my spiral-bound notebook, but I couldn’t keep all of them to myself.

I hope these words inspire you to write your own expression of what it means to live hidden with Christ in God. Just sitting in His presence, listing each one, did my soul such good.

Hidden is beautiful because of Him.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

Living  H I D D E N

Mustard seed hidden

Remembering hidden

Lost then found hidden

Rescued with love hidden

Work in progress hidden

His joy my strength hidden

Strong in battle hidden

Peaceful hidden

Scared hidden

Collapsing hidden

Rising again hidden

Nothing to prove hidden

Embracing small hidden

Rebuilding ruins hidden

Reclaiming ground hidden

Fall in love hidden

Love remake me hidden

Content to be hidden

New perspective hidden

One with God hidden

Until Jesus returns hidden

My true self hidden

Carried by love hidden

Beautiful life hidden

Hard things redeemed hidden

Abandoning comfort hidden

Love conquering doubt hidden

Glory eclipsing fear hidden

Trials welcome hidden

Silence the lies hidden

Master leading hidden

My cup overflowing hidden

Dreams unraveling hidden

Struggling to trust hidden

Trusting Him still hidden

Father’s delight hidden

Stone rolled away hidden

Nothing can separate hidden

Heaven bound hidden

Face to face hidden

My whole life hidden

Just a vapor hidden

0

{GIVEAWAY} The Power of Story

I am over the moon excited to share this surprise with you… Remember Dream Weeper? If you didn’t read her story last week, then quick—go do that, then come right back here. I promise it will put that plump red cherry right on top of this sweet deal…

Every single time I hear someone tell their story, even just a small snippet, I learn something about God.

I see Jesus in a whole new light through the lens of her story. 

This week God taught me something about my story and our stories collectively. Revelation 12:10-11 breaks down the power of story:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

When we share our stories out loud, we can’t help but remember our need and God’s faithfulness to meet that need. Our accuser loses his momentum to convince us otherwise. After all, his primary goal is to get us to doubt that God is who He says He is.

Reminiscing strengthens our faith… and that is some powerful ammo in this spiritual war.

Our story—the intersection Jesus’ blood and our brokenness—is our testimony. The Greek word for testimony is martyria. Do you see it? Martyr. Our testimonies are characterized by a willingness not to shrink back from death.

It reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

Here’s the thing: sharing God’s story of redemption through our own personal testimonies will always highlight Jesus as the hero. And really, deep down, on my most selfish (and also my most honest day), I want to be the hero of my story. And I’m just not. I’ll never be.

Jesus is the only thing good and holy and perfect in me.

Jesus invites us to come and die to ourselves so that He might live in and through us. Without the cross and empty tomb, my story falls flat. My need for Him is what makes my story worth telling. Because God has met every single one of my needs—past, present, and future—through Jesus Christ.

Telling our story—our martyria—must be driven by a desire to die … to make Christ the hero of our stories, to tell His story through our brokenness and need.

When I tell my story, I pray I’m telling His.

That’s why I’m so excited about this Giveaway! Alix Carruth created this beautiful canvas to remind us that our stories extend so much farther than ourselves. It’s an 11 x 14 hand-lettered white canvas with gorgeous black letters and gold trim. I just love everything about it!


Already envisioning a spot in your home or workplace for this beauty? I’m going to tell you all about how you could win this amazing piece of art.

To check out more of Alix’s work, visit alixcarruth.com

The winner is . . .

Jeanne Youngblood

Congratulations, Jeanne! This Giveaway is now closed…

Thank you to all who entered!

 

6

HER STORY: Dream Weeper

Underneath a canopy of pines, God took scraps of our stories and ignited a connection.  I met Alix during our family’s very first adventure to Pine Cove. Her camp name, “Dream Weeper,” would soon take on a meaning of its own.

Two years later, I’d sit down and listen to her unfold all the layers of her story. I’d learn gobs about this Jesus-chasing girl, plenty about my own heart, and way more than I expected about the God who authors every inconceivable dream.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

This is her story. . .

Alix is a rare gem, full of faith and brimming with passion. She struggled, when she was younger, with the way God designed her heart. Her enlarged capacity to feel anything and everything was both overwhelming and frustrating at times. Is it ok to weep? she wondered. Is it ok to dream? Is there space for how God wired me?

Passion seemed more like a burden than a gift.

She tried to ease her pain by wearing the mask of a bully. But when a car wreck nearly took her life her senior year, Jesus became up-close and real. Though Alix has no recollection of ever not knowing Jesus, His protection, love, and complete control over all the details of her life became tangible to her that day as she sat surrounded by wreckage.

This is her story...

College provided a fresh start, a new beginning. I would have never known that during that hot, August week at Pine Cove’s Family Camp, Alix wished she was somewhere else.

Though she accepted a staff position as videographer, her dream position (and her heart) was down the road at a different camp site where campers were kids not families. But God had a plan for her that summer at the Woods. As she gathered images of family after family, her own view of family began to shift.

Alix never expected to fall in love. But she did. Hard. A new dream took shape. Marriage. Family. But the love she poured out over the following months wasn’t reciprocated. It made no sense.

Why would God invite her into something He knew would only break her heart?

God told her not to run away. Instead, He asked her to sit with the awful sting of rejection, because He knew what would happen next. He never allows a heart to shatter without purpose, without meaning, without lifting something more beautiful out of the debris.

Over the course of that summer, God shattered Alix’s dream of marriage, so that He could show her what marriage truly is: momentary. She discovered how she had put her life’s dream and identity into something completely fleeting.

Too invested to turn back, Alix began a crash course on the depth of God’s love from the very center of the painful wreckage of her broken heart. It was a turning point in her love affair with Jesus.

Through the pain of not being loved back, God showed her gospel love in the most intimate way.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Her Story: Dream Weeper

After graduating, Alix landed her dream job as a designer at Hallmark. When the “dream fluff,” (as she called it) quickly dissipated, God led her to a private tuition-free school for kids who live in poverty. Urban Christian Academy brought a new kind of tension to Alix’s heart.

Again, God asked Alix to surrender her dream. Again, He invited her to check what tethered her identity. Her heart broke once more under the weight of His love as He called her to something higher, something painfully beautiful, something more.

The path to complete surrender is always through the wake of obliterated dreams.

Alix quickly went from volunteering once a week to volunteering twice a week to realizing that she couldn’t go a single day without seeing the bright smiles at UCA.  As she struggled to put words to what was happening to her, she said, “My heart… in the way I relate and serve and love people… comes alive here.”

As an artist at Hallmark, she’s created breathtaking pieces of art, but as a volunteer at UCA, Alix creates something else entirely. She creates space for kids with big personalities. Alix validates those very same feelings she once navigated by just showing up and offering all she’s got.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Two weeks after we sat down to talk, Alix sent me a text letting me know she had quit her dream job at Hallmark and taken a full-time position as Operations Coordinator at UCA. “Oh the stories God writes,” she said.

She’s handed over her dream of design to the One who’s intricately designed her heart.

Her Story: Dream WeeperGod is refining her identity and her passion and using her creativity in ways she’d never dreamed He could use. Here, Alix gets to answer her own deepest question: Is passion a burden or a gift? Her deepest source of pain is now the art she offers every single day.

In Jeremiah 29:11, God spoke His dream over His people who’d been hauled off into exile:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

God told them to embrace both the truth that they were far from home and the promise that His dream for them involved a seven-decade-long captivity.

He explained why the suffering piece was so crucial in the verses that follow:

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:12-14.

God’s dream for His people encompassed that tension Alix knows so well. Every fracture He allows leads to discovery of the passion associated with surrendering our entire hearts to the One who promised us a brand, new heart in return.

God creates His dream home within human hearts, so that He is never far from any of us.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Until I interviewed Alix, I never noticed the same growing tension laced all throughout the book of Jeremiah. God’s dream, beautiful yet perplexing, juxtaposed with the dreams all of us desperately want to believe in.

Lying prophets tickled ears with abbreviated suffering and drive-thru-lane comfort. I probably would have been in that group chasing after these gently spoken dreams, mostly because they sound so much less harsh and so much more attainable.

But these dreams accomplished only one thing: God was completely forgotten. Jeremiah’s message spoke of something altogether different: Surrender.

Surrender sounds nothing like the fairy tales we clutch close.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

And really, that’s it, isn’t it? God’s dreams are impossible without Him, so we settle for dreams that exclude Him or box Him in or make Him secondary, just in case He decides not to come through for us. We struggle to fully trust Him without that back-up plan in our back pocket. What we resist more than anything is our own deep, dependent need for Him to show up.

And yet He has. God’s people—our spiritual ancestors—dreamt a mighty ruler would come free them and overturn every oppressor they’d ever known. No one expected a baby born to ordinary parents from an ordinary town. No one expected a man well-acquainted with suffering. They dreamt of a king who could keep them all from suffering. No one—not even those closest to Jesus—expected Him to die. Innocently. Unjustly. Willingly.  Humbly.

Yeah, He showed up alright.

Three days after He suffered the unthinkable, He showed up. And the dream He had spoken to them became alive. It was a far better dream than anyone there could have ever come up with . . . and it would require bold, blind faith to dream the dream, live the dream, and speak the dream aloud so others could dream, too.

When I asked Alix to define surrender in her own life, I fiercely scribbled every word: “My surrender to the Lord is an acknowledgement of His power, not an agreement for Him to proceed. He’s already writing the story,” she told me. “He’s not asking my permission to take control of things; He already has control.”

Her Story: Dream Weeper

Surrender is believing not relinquishing.

Alix’s story overflows with the deep soul-joy that accompanies true, unhindered surrender. Passion on every page dares us all to throw ourselves into a God-sized dream that will utterly jolt us to our core and fill us to our toes and leave us audaciously and forever changed.

What I love most about her story is how fully she trusts God as she sits patiently at the tip top of the story arc, high above that smoothed out ending. The conflict, the tension, the waiting for all of the things to come together—that is where she is soaking up all she can about the character of God, the beauty of surrender, and the reality of the gospel.

If you asked Alix what it is that’s captivated her heart, what it is she’s truly hooked on, I know she’d answer you in a heartbeat: it’s Him. Jesus. She’s hooked on Him. You will find Me, God says, when you surrender you heart. Jesus is worth every piece of our broken dreams we hand over. Every single piece.

Her Story: Dream Weeper

To connect with Alix and read more about her journey, visit alixcarruth.com.

1

ONE Verse for 2017

This week graciously allows us to linger and reflect before 2017 ushers in a new blank slate for us to begin again. But, can I be honest? Beginnings can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s why I love having something solid to hang onto as December fades into January.

For the last three years I’ve asked God to give me one word for the upcoming year. It’s a simple way to focus on what He’s already teaching me. This “One Word” practice has helped me sharpen my focus and align my priorities.

This year, I’m trying something new.

Instead of resolutions I know I’ll fail to keep, I’m choosing “One Verse” from scripture as my anchor for the entire year.  And I want to invite you to join me. It’s really pretty simple.

One Verse for 2017

Choose ONE verse. Just ONE.

First, pray. Choose something familiar, or choose something challenging, but let God guide your choosing. If you’re currently studying a particular book, go with a verse from that part of the Bible. Since I’ll be spending the Spring semester studying 1 Peter with a group of women from my church, my One Verse is from 1 Peter:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15

Learn each word, ONE by ONE.

Study each word in your One Verse. With the help of an English dictionary, record definitions and make a list of synonyms and antonyms.

Look up several different translations to see how they compare. This adds layer upon layer of meaning. Spend time examining the Greek or Hebrew meaning of key words. (Blue Letter Bible is a good place to start.)

Study the book and chapter that house your One Verse.

Understanding the time, audience, and culture is so vital to studying scripture, because it helps provide some much needed context. With an entire year to sink into these words of God, take a deep breath and take your time!

Record findings, questions, and pray throughout the entire process. Dig deep!

Make memorization an art project.

Create a piece of art centered around your One Verse. Display your One Verse in a spot that gets your daily attention.

1 Peter 3:15

1 Peter 3:15 artwork for iPhone 6

Whether it involves putting the words to a melody or painting them across a canvas, don’t limit yourself. I saved this graphic as my screen saver on my iPhone, because I know I’ll look at it multiple times a day.

If you want to create your own digital art, try using picmonkey.com. Upload a photo or use one of the free backgrounds or effects. If you need help on sizing for iPhone, click here. (Be sure to leave room for the time and date on the home screen.)

May 2017 be filled with fresh beginnings, heart-pounding adventures, and breathtaking moments alone with your Creator! Share your One Verse in the comments below. We’re in this thing together.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

 

 

5

How a Taxi Driver Influenced My View on Success

On the way to baggage claim, I listened to the message my doctor’s office had left while I was 36,000 feet in the air. I had just landed in North Carolina for a writer’s conference and happened to be four months pregnant.

The nurse’s words came at the worst possible time. My test results were in, and I needed a prescription filled immediately. My plan for a quiet evening was suddenly hijacked. Finding a ride to the pharmacy was not on my travel agenda.

Neither was the profound and unexpected conversation I had with a complete stranger.

How a Taxi Driver Influenced My View on Success

When my prescription was ready later that evening, I waited outside as the hotel shuttle pulled up to the curb. I needed a ride to the Walmart ten minutes away.  Other conference attendees requested rides to restaurants and the local mall. My stop was the last one since Walmart was the furthest.

The driver asked me questions about what I did. His name was Dale. He made hats for a living. A blue and gray driving cap adorned his head. Dale wasted no time revealing that he knew Jesus. I shared my inferiority in a sea brimming with talent and my initial hesitancy to even attend this writer’s conference. I felt like I didn’t quite belong.

As I listened to him speak, I caught hints of contentment laced all throughout his words.

At a stoplight, he slowed the van to a halt and turned to face me. He said, “You know, Miss Kelly, artists like us, we got to listen to the Spirit of God. God created us to create. If we get caught up in what the world calls success, then we really aren’t all that different from the rest of them, are we?”

I nodded in agreement. Maybe it was always God’s plan to fly me across the country for this one conversation with a hat-making-taxicab-driver named Dale.

I took lots of notes at that conference. I learned so much in those three days. Yet Dale’s words were the ones that played over and over in my head; they resonate even today, two and a half years later.

God knew I needed to hear those words in the worst way.

Dale didn’t need a microphone on a stage to deliver words of influence. The business card he handed me has long been misplaced. It had the shuttle service number at the bottom and a blank line across the middle. Underneath were the words WRITE DRIVER’S NAME HERE in tiny caps.

His name never appeared on a conference program or a screen with his credentials; he didn’t seem to need evidence that his art was successful. His name wasn’t even printed on the business cards he handed people. Maybe because He was in the business of making God’s name known.

Lately I’ve been reading this passage in Romans:

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Romans 11:36-12:2

What if God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will is for me to live small?

What if that’s His plan so that I can worship Him properly for the rest of my time here on earth?

Living small goes against the flow of this selfie-saturated world. I’ve been convicted lately that in many ways my life doesn’t look all that different. Sometimes I look, think, and act just like those who don’t know Jesus. His presence in my heart should make a vibrant difference.

There’s a power struggle going on in my heart, an all-out battle with myself.

Yeah, I want to be known. I’d love someone to view my words as publish-worthy, because it would serve as evidence that I’m a real writer. I compare myself, I’m way too self-aware, and quite honestly, entitlement infiltrates my thoughts on a daily basis.

Jesus looked and talked and thought so differently during His years here on earth. He found value in the least, the spiritually bankrupt, the foolish and unimportant. Jesus was so socially awkward.  But, never wavering, He knew why He had come.

Jesus talked about the narrow way and the small gate, and He was completely honest when He said few would find it. He taught that hearts set on earthly things that waste away would only inherit treasure that fades away as well. But hearts set on the things of heaven would find their treasure secure with Him.

Our devotion fuels our pursuit.

The world often recognizes eternal treasure as foolishness. Paul warns the Christians in Rome, “Do not conform.” Conform means to be in agreement with. Chasing big means agreeing with what the world labels success. It’s building myself up to make my name known.

A life of influence never depends on a microphone and a crowd. I want to chase the kind of success that can’t be measured here on earth.

Choosing small means letting the Spirit of God guide each step rather than the latest five-step plan for success. It means spending our lives to make His name known, and counting everything secondary to knowing Him.

Small has a way of clearing the space around us so that our souls can breathe in and out with ease.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

2

What I’m Reading and Gifting This Season

What I'm Reading and Gifting This Season

I accidentally left two paperbacks on the bedside table of the hotel room my husband and I stayed in after a recent gala downtown.

At home, after I discovered the books hadn’t made it to my bag, my husband called the hotel. An answering service picked up, then rerouted his call to the voice mailbox of a woman in charge of lost and found.

These weren’t just any couple of books. I had covered one of them in notes and asterisks and lots and lots of my own words, and I only had one more chapter left to read. Someone loaned me the other one, and she raved about it when she placed it in my hands. I planned to start that one next.

My loving husband, who does not share my obsession with books, tried (ever so politely) to convince me that my books sat in a trash pile somewhere collecting dust. He kept saying, “Kelly, they always toss things of little or no value.” I cringed with every repetition, while he shrugged his shoulders as if this news should not be devastating.

How did I end up married to a man who thinks paperback books hold no value?

He left a message, and to my relief, the woman called back the next day. She found the books and said she would hold them until we could come pick them up. During the time between the message he left and her call back, I thought about who might’ve found those books.

All this led me to reevaluate what makes books so valuable.

Nothing compares to opening a freshly printed, brand new book. The smell is invigorating, but the possibility of discovering something new is what drives my love of reading. There is something even more precious about receiving a book from a friend or loved one who tells you, “I knew you’d love this one.”

When it’s a book they’ve already read, marked up, and highlighted, it’s a whole new experience. For this reason, I’ve started to gift my books. Yes, books I’ve read. Books with notes in the margins. Books I’ve packed with me on a hotel excursion or trip to the beach. I wrap them with a simple strand of string and slip on a tag with a hand-written note.

What I'm Reading (and Gifting) This Season

Passing along a good read is gift-giving at its finest.

Gifting your books is the perfect way to spread some love this Christmas season, and it couldn’t be more simple. Scour your own shelves at home. Get creative on how you wrap those goodies—gift bags, boxes, or pretty ribbon you’ve got laying around. The possibilities are endless!

As always, here are seven good reads for winter…

{Christian Living}

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

I’ve been reading this as a devotional. Jen Wilkin takes ten attributes of God and beautifully disassembles each one in a way that draws us deeper into the heart of God.

{Creativity}

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

To dare greatly is to show up and let our whole selves be seen. This is a must read for all leaders, educators, parents, and everyone who wants to lead a courageous, whole-hearted life.

{Spiritual Growth}

The Listening Life by Adam McHugh

Listening is one of God’s greatest gifts because it provides the precious assurance that we are not alone. Adam McHugh carefully and eloquently describes how being a listener is being a servant, someone Jesus is to each of us.

{Discipleship / Spiritual Growth}

Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb

Larry Crabb presents an “invitation to taste and see that the Lord is good even when the bottom falls out of your life.” He implores readers to recognize how God uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for Him.

{Marriage}

What Did You Expect? By Paul David Tripp

I wish I had read this convicting and heart-wrenching book fourteen years ago when I was twenty-one and marrying my true love. The message in this book has helped change my perspective towards marriage and the many ways in which God wishes to redeem it.

{Historical Fiction}

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

When I finished the last page, I wanted to turn back to the first and start all over again. This story made me reevaluate what I call strong and what I call weak. I learned that true strength isn’t found in what others see, but in seeing what others don’t.

{Current Events / Middle East}

They Say We Are Infidels by Mindy Belz

This riveting collection of stories about those suffering persecution at the hands of ISIS realigned my view of the universal church. The church operates first as a family, and these stories demonstrate this in the most costly and sacrificial way.

What I'm Reading: Winter Edition

Thanks for showing up here every few months and proving that the stories that connect us together are priceless treasures waiting to be shared with those around us. Be sure to check out my new page, GOOD READS, for all my absolute favorites.  

Kelly

 

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The Best Invitation You’ll Ever Receive

We sit outside under a starry blanket, the evening breeze wafting the smell of burning persimmon wood through the air. After we fill our bellies and our glasses, four songwriters take the stage.

The crowd gathers to listen—some at round tables, others on bales of hay covered with blankets. The moon, just a sliver of light in the sky above, flashes a playful Cheshire cat grin.

Four ordinary cowboys, with nothing but pick and guitar, take turns singing songs they’ve written and sold to celebrity singers all over the country. Each tells the story of his song.

I’m amazed that every one of these songwriters can truly sing.

The Best Invitation You'll Ever Receive

One explains how the lyrics to a love song actually came from a game of hide-n-seek played by his kids playing in the next room.

Another talks about a writing technique I’m familiar with yet struggle to implement. He takes a common phrase and swaps the words to make it his own. I wasn’t expecting writing inspiration when I said yes to my husband’s invitation tonight.

For the rest of the evening, I listen with an attentive ear. I sense God wants to say something personal to me. The next songwriter shares that he cannot write a song unless it’s true. Every one of his songs resonate with me.

Each intriguing explanation invites curiosity.

Before the night concludes, the fourth cowboy sings a song meant to be funny. One of the lines of the chorus sounds like this: “I’ve got all this talent, but no one knows my name.”

It’s true that I know the words to many of the songs performed here tonight, but I don’t know the men who wrote them.

I start to realize I’ve been missing so much. I ask God to show me what He is trying to teach me. A few days later, I jot these words in my journal:

What happens when the story of a song is lost?

Years ago, I read a fabulous book by Emily Freeman called A Million Little Ways. In it, she talks about how we are God’s workmanship, His poem. Art can’t be separated from artist without losing something precious.

God—both Artist and Creator—writes His story all over our lives. How can we ever expect to understand what’s going on in our lives if we never stop to understand the One writing each word? God encourages us to listen to what grieves Him and what makes His heart leap.

God invites us to know Him.

Created cannot truly live apart from the Creator. There’s something inside that longs to know Him, whether we realize it or not.

Get to know the One who is writing your story. Ask Him about the lyrics He’s chosen. Listen to what inspires Him. It’s the best invitation you’ll ever receive.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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