Summer Life Lessons, as told by my reading list and playlist.

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     This glorious though way too short summer of 2011 was a season of major growth for me. I could try explaining every little detail of it, but, being a spontaneous thinker-dreamer, I thought it would be fun to trust what I fed myself with all summer to tell you the results. I’m an avid reader and music-listener, and those things filled the past three months of my life, besides God and my friends, of course. Think about the crazy difference between the life I have now and the life I would have had without being led to these things. Thank you Jesus, for all the different ways you talk to me! I love you!

BOOKS:

  1. The Bible (NIV). I’ve always lived with maybe a dozen Bibles(my parents were Bible college students and have kept seemingly every single book they read in that time period!), but I didn’t actually just pick up a copy and read until a few years ago. It was hard to start, but now it’s impossible to end! I use the reading plan in the Pursue Journal by Pastor Poncho Lowder. There’s no shame in needing a little push to start reading; it really is puzzling to try starting in “the right place”. I encourage you to try different reading plans until you find the one that suits you. And once you have it, you aren’t bound by the list. You can read more than it tells you if you want to! Honestly, God doesn’t care how much you read as long as you spend time with Him. You could read the entire book of Psalms in one sitting, but unless you did it with Him, you just wasted a lot of time. One verse with Him is better than an entire book without Him. Don’t read just to get it done; the whole point of reading the Bible is spending time with God. He wants to be in communication with you! The books of the Bible that my reading plan took me through, entire or tidbits, in June, July, and August were: Isaiah, Titus, Psalms, Jude, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, 2 Kings, Hosea, Hebrews, Micah, James, 2 Chronicles, 1 & 2 Peter, John, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Matthew, Zechariah, Revelation, Ezra, Nehemiah,  Esther, Job, Mark, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Judges, and Luke.
  2. “The Appomattox Saga” by Gilbert Morris, books 1-4. I am a huge Gilbert Morris junkie; I have more than a rack on my bookshelf dedicated to his works. For my birthday last year I received from my parents a 3-in-1 book containing the first 3 books in the Appomattox Saga. I was so excited about reading it, but didn’t get around to it until summertime. My birthday is in October– thank you, school? Anyway, I found the 4th book in a rummage sale, so I was able to read almost half of the series. The stories are fantastic, set in Civil-War America in the perspective of a family separated by the north and south. I love the characters, as Mr. Morris always knows how to make them well-rounded. I fell in love with Clay Rocklin and Jake Hardin. Haha! In all seriousness, Raimey Reed (of “Gate of His Enemies”, book 2) was a very influential character for me, because she was a God-fearing young woman who was blind. I’ve always been curious about the blind, and sometimes wish I was blind myself so I wouldn’t judge by appearances. But I am very grateful to have my sight! It was just fun for me to read about a blind girl of faith; she was obedient when God put something on her heart and she was able to shine a light of love on a man who wanted to die because of the ugly war-scars on his previously handsome face. Raimey was the big inspiration for me in these books.
  3. “Even God Rested” by Kim Thomas. I did not expect to like it as much as I did! I kind of frowned on it as self-help book and read the first few chapters in disdain, but I finished the book with conviction to live it out! It is not a self-help book; it’s a like Bible study. Instead of pushing doing nothing and laziness, Mrs. Thomas spoke of Sabbath rest. Each chapter discusses “ceasing and feasting”, like “ceasing from noise, feasting on silence”. One observation I loved was that God didn’t HAVE to rest. He’s God, awesome in power, and never tires or wears out. He rested to show us that it’s okay. He was leading by example. Isn’t that cool?! It’s like when my mom took Spanish with me for two years! She showed me it was okay to struggle and how to study hard, because she did herself. I really benefitted from the truths and “rest ideas” in this book. One more quote she included that I have on my wall now: “Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer has become impossible and your heart has turned to stone.” -Thomas Merton.
  4. “Jacob’s Way” by Gilbert Morris. I’m telling you– Gilbert Morris! “Jacob’s Way” takes place soon after the Civil War, where a Jewish pair of grandfather-and-granddaughter have recently immigrated from Russia to escape religious persecution. The grandfather, Jacob, has been wrestling inside himself for many years about the Messiah: was He truly Jesus? I was both warmed and excited by the evidence he finds! This book showcases the influence of others, especially the influence that people with Jesus can have. Plus, it’s a fun story with lovable characters, especially their huge but loving friend, Dov!
  5. “The Shack” by William P. Young. I recommend “The Shack” to everyone! It starts out in gloom and depression, but ends in joy and triumph! The main character, Mack, is a man who can’t recover from the abduction/murder of his little girl, and still carries the pain of his past mistakes in his heart. When he receives a note, supposedly from God, to visit the place of his daughter’s murder, at first he thinks it’s crazy(wouldn’t you?). But he just can’t shake it; he accepts the invitation! What he finds there, you would ever expect. I can’t give too much away, because I encourage you: READ IT! God changed so much of my attitude through it, and told me a lot that I needed to hear. You’ll find that you and Mack ask the same questions, and most likely find some answers! If you enjoy it, you can find more at Mr. Young’s blog, http://www.windrumors.com/ . Aside from the Bible, “The Shack” was my most influential read of the summer! I can see God as Father now!!!
  6. “Lady In Waiting” by Susan Meissner. This book contains two intertwined stories spread across centuries but teeming with similarities. In our day, Jane Lindsay is perfectly content with her life until her husband tells her they “need a break” to “see if anything’s left” in their marriage. She crumbles, and the blunt words of her family don’t help at all. Meanwhile, in 16th-century England, Lady Jane Grey is a young noble whose life is dictated by the political ideas of her parents. From who she’ll be betrothed to, to what she wears, all of it is based on what her parents want to do to gain wealth and status. But she wants to marry her own love! The lives of both Janes include a special ring, first owned by Jane Grey and later discovered by Jane Lindsay. As we(and Jane Lindsay) see how Jane Grey’s life turns out, our modern Jane decides that her life will NOT turn out the same. Complex but fantastic story, and two important morals. 1: You are who you choose to be, and 2: Love is a choice you make every day. It was a great book to finish off my summer with. I read many more than I listed here, but these were the ones I connected to and learned the most from.

MUSIC:

  1. Out of the Grey, the “See Inside” album. It’s amazing what you can find in a box of free items! I’d heard and enjoyed a few songs from Out of the Grey, so when I found the old(as in 1997) cd, I decided to try it out. Their style is a comfortable mix of praise/worship and bluesy-rock. My favorite song from the album is “No Leaving”, which expresses the amazing truth that, no matter where you run, you can’t leave God. He’s always with you! Where would I go?/ What would I do?/ Who would I be apart from You?/ I should have known/ what’s always been true/ There’s no leaving/ You/ It’s a great comfort when you feel like you’re far from God, reminding you that it’s not possible! Other songs I enjoyed include “Winter Sun”, “Joy”, and “Constant”. It’s easy to sing along with the album and mean what you’re singing. Very worshipful.
  2. Brandon Heath, the “Leaving Eden” album.  Brandon Heath is one of my favorite musicians; I own all his albums and forever had a crush on him! One of my best friends got the latest cd for me at a concert (thank you again, Miranda!), and it’s full of beauty and truth. I connect differently to each song, so I can’t get myself to choose a favorite. “Your Love” holds a special meaning to me, that when I’m having a hard time, the only thing that matters is/ Your love/ Your love/ is all I have to give/ Your love/ is enough/ to light up the darkness, it’s/ Your love/ Your love/ All I ever needed is Your love/. I’ve heard this song many a hard day, and it always lifts me up. All I ever needed is Your love! “Now More Than Ever” is also special to me because it was my prayer all summer. I was(and am) so desperate to go deeper in my relationship with Jesus, and this song was an excellent way to put a little of that hunger into words. It also has a great sound, so no matter how I feel, I can listen to it.  Other wonderful songs include “Leaving Eden”, “The Light in Me”, “Only Water”, “Stolen”, and “It’s No Good To Be Alone”. You can see what Mr. Heath says about many of these songs on his YouTube channel, brandonheath. Just look for “The Leaving Eden Sessions.”
  3. Relient K, the “Forget and Not Slow Down” album. Relient K is a fun and artistic band with deep as well as sometimes silly songs. I was excited to find a cd of theirs on clearance! I’m honestly not sure how to describe it, because they’re always so unique! Lead singer and main songwriter Matthew Thiessen has a vast vocabulary and is talented in using it. The overall theme of the album is letting God change you and help you move forward, and that’s especially clear in the title track. I could spend my life just trying to shift through what I could have done better, but what good do what-if’s do?/I’d rather forget and not slow down/ than gather regret from the things I can’t change now/ if I become what I can’t accept,/ resurrect the saint from within the wretch/ pour over me and wash my hands of it/. The song I connected to the most was “Over It”. Along with joyfully contagious sound, it’s full of looking ahead to a bright, God-written future, letting Him define you, and forgetting what tied you down. There’s much truth in it, and I always have to sing along when I hear it. I also love “Savannah”. It’s a love song, but I have the tendency to sing them to Jesus even if they weren’t written about Him. I love singing it to Him: Our backs supported by a hammock,/ we sum up perfection like a handbook/. I’m listening to nothing but this cd right now! Other songs I love on it include “Candlelight”, and “Part of It.”
  4. Additional songs of my summer: “I’m With You” by Nichole Nordeman and Amy Grant, which comforted me when I felt alone. “Closer” by Shawn McDonald, another prayer of mine. “You Are My Joy” by David Crowder Band, my anthem. “5:19”, “Everything’s Right”, and “I Just Realized” by Matt Wertz, a song I felt Jesus singing to me, a song that reminds me of youth group trips, and another love song I sing to Jesus. “Suitcases” by Dara MacLean, a fun and declarative song of mercy. “Someone Worth Dying For” by MIKESCHAIR, a God-send I heard on the radio right when I needed the reminder. And “This Is The Stuff” by Francesca Battistelli, because me and a few Bible study sisters sang it quite a few times!

What fed YOU this summer? What were the effects? Keep taking in what Jesus sends you, my friend. He gives the best gifts, and I thank Him so much!

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