Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Finding Peace in Books

It has been a hard week. The most difficult I've had in a very long time.  Partly due to a situation in my life that I cannot share to protect the person's privacy (don't you just hate it when bloggers do that?) although I can tell you my kids are fine.  The possible outcome of this particular trial could have life changing ramifications so I do appreciate prayer.

I was already sad after hearing from Rosie that our much beloved friend Jewels (Eyes of Wonder) passed away.  She was a blogger I counted as a dear friend. If you are reading this on Sunday, today is the funeral so my prayers are with the family in this time of unexpected grief.

There was one morning this week before the heat and humidity arrived that I spent an hour or so on my front porch, rocking and reading and watching the neighbor's cat who apparently has taken up residence there.  I had pulled a book from the area on my desk where it resides, reading it brings peace.

That book is the volume of Puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision.  Except for the Bible, it is the most peace giving book I own.  I run to those prayers when under great stress.  The prayers, the books, the sermons from those who have gone before us are beautiful and deep and amazing.  The Valley of Vision now resides with my Bible on the coffee table.

I wrote last week about having a play list of music already set up for those times we walk through trials, not realizing what the next week would bring.  I would also say that for those of us who love books, it is wise to have a few special old friends to read for comfort.

I have bookish friends who prefer losing themselves in a big book when they need to "get away from it all".  I probably return to easier books most of the time.  However, everyone I have communicated with about the subject agrees that the books we have read and loved already, those books whose characters seem like real life friends... those are the books we need in trials.

It is the bibliophile equivalent of popping in a favorite British costume flick or Hallmark movie DVD to watch when we need an escape... and there is no sin in needing an escape.  I can read the Psalms for hours and find peace but to really get away from the trial for awhile, I need somewhere else for my mind to settle.

I expect my favorite books to return to are both the same and different than yours.  The first novel I can think of is Pilgrim's Inn.  Even though it is the second in the Eliot trilogy, it was the first Goudge book I read and one I know many people read over and over.  Especially those of us who love descriptions of how houses and gardens help to heal people emotionally.

There are authors whose writing seems made for those times we need an emotional vacation.  Every book I have read by Elizabeth Goudge and D. E. Stevenson fits that category.  So do Miss Read, Jan Karon, Rosamunde Pilcher (although I have only read Winter Solstice and The Shell Seekers so far),  James Herriot, C. S. Lewis, Tolkien... just to name a few.

Although to be truthful, I started reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy and had to set it aside.  I hope to read the whole thing this summer when I can give it the attention it deserves.

Sometimes my thoughts have a hard time landing long enough for fiction, even a good reread.  So I will grab off the shelf (another reason for a home library) one of my favorite nonfiction books to peruse, sometimes from the beginning but more often jumping from one favorite spot to another.

I especially love books about houses and gardens and decorating on a budget and those who spark my creativity.  Two authors who have been long time favorites are Alexandra Stoddard and Tracey McBride.  Tracey became an online friend.  Both authors have provided hours of enjoyable reading.

Tracey's original book called Frugal Luxuries has been reread more times than I can count.  It would go in my Top 100 list, higher if we were just counting nonfiction.  The ideas are simple, it is an enjoyable read, and she is a lovely person.  There is also a follow up book that follows the seasons.

Stoddard has many books I like a lot and some I do not care for quite as much.  Her books on decorating and creativity are my favorites.  I can't tell you how many times I pulled Open Your Eyes and Living a Beautiful Life off the shelves for ideas or when I need a mental escape.  I would also include a newer book called Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy in this genre, even though I have only read it once because I gave my copy away. I do plan to purchase another copy.

Two books that reside on my desk which you may not have even heard of are Holy Habits by Mimi Wilson & Shelly Cook Volkhardt and Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints by John Piper & Justin Taylor.  I don't remember how I came to read Holy Habits originally but Stand was a gift to another family member by my daughter and I borrowed swiped it and never gave it back.  They both have been reread so often their covers are worn.

Nonfiction authors whose writings I run to are books by my friend Sally Clarkson, Edith Schaeffer, Gladys Taber, Ann Morrow Lindberg, Madeleine L'Engle, W. Phillip Keller, and Elizabeth George (the nonfiction writer, not the novelist).

I'm sure many favorite writers, fiction and nonfiction, are missing but these are off the top of my head.  You may notice a variety of faith beliefs among the writers, some are on the liberal side and others quite conservative in beliefs. There are a few that may not be people of faith at all. However, all of them write inspiring books.

Which reminds me, I was asked in a Comment last week how I knew John Denver was not a Christian.  Only from the interviews he gave not too long before his death when he shared his beliefs.  I'd say they were closer to Buddhism.  We obviously do not know what decisions a person makes later.

So this is an off the cuff list of books I run to when going through a trial.  Not all of them, of course, although most are residing on shelves in various places in my home. I like to have options.  (I haven't even mentioned lovely cookbooks I peruse or favorite children's books I return to just to read.)

The Bible is the first and always the most important since it is the Word of God and "sharper than any two edge sword".  While God can speak Truth to us anywhere, I find it easier to hear that Truth when reading the Word... and sometimes a very good devotional.

I hope this list is just a beginning, one to inspire you to start your own shelf of books you run to in times of trial.  Most likely, you already have such a stack on your shelves.  Like music, it has helped to have old books that are friends waiting when I need them.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
Stand... here.
Holy Habits... here.
Open Your Eyes... here.
Living a Beautiful Life... here 
Roots & Sky... here.
Frugal Luxuries... here (third party).
Lord of the Rings... here.
The Shell Seekers... here.
Winter Solstice... here.
Pilgrim's Inn... here.
The Valley of Vision... here.

Note:  A couple links are to Mass Market paperback versions of a book where the font tends to be very small these days.  If your eyesight is not the best like mine, you may want to opt for a used hardback copy or even a Kindle edition.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.
Image:  From Brambly Hedge


Anonymous said...

Praying for you Brenda, and your family. I'm sorry you are facing trials and hope for a quick and peaceful resolution. You've brought me a great deal of joy with your hopeful writing when I was going through my dark night of the soul, I've come out on the other side in no small part to your blog. Take care, and God bless and keep you.


Chrissy said...

I was beyond sad to hear about Jewels. When she closed her blog, I began to follow Rosie and that's how I heard the news. Such a loss! I know she will be sorely missed by many. I find comfort in knowing she's most certainly dining now at the table of the King.

Melissa said...

Aww, praying for you and your situation.

Terra said...

I am praying for good things for you and loved ones in need. The women's Bible study I attended just completed Armor of God, by Priscilla Shirer on Ephesians 6, which is helpful as I envision putting on and holding all the elements of protection, and then using prayer. We like many of the same authors, especially in hard times they bring comfort and/or escapism from difficulty.

Anonymous said...

Prayers for you and your family. Hope everything turns out O.K.
I always especially liked Gladys Taber and Jan Karon.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

Pilgrim's Inn was the first Goudge book I read, years ago. It was my mother's copy and I think I was in high school. D.E. Stevenson is the main author I turn to in difficulties. I found Jewel's obituary online, but still do not understand what happened. It sounded unexpected and I think that makes everything more difficult. They are in my prayers and so are you and your family, Brenda. Be well!

Anonymous said...

Praying for God’s strength, grace, wisdom and peace for you and your situation! He is right there with you!
Laura C. (WA)

Vee said...

Yes! I am frustrated by bloggers who do not tell all. 😏 Course, as I am one of those, I understand there are circumstances where the particulars must be kept secret in order to protect the innocent or the guilty as the case may be. I am praying for equilibrium in your corner to be restored.

I have heard Jewels’ name many times through the years; sadly, I did not read her blog. I do extend my sincere sympathies to you and all those in Blogdom who are experiencing this huge loss. Her influence was wide and good.

Yes, like you, I can not read anything that requires too much attention or thought when I am in the tall grass. I find essays or blogs perfect for that. I read Pilgrim’s Inn first as well. Hmmm...your influence perhaps!

(If this posts twice, please discard...)

Cheryl said...

I, too, will lift you and your situation to our loving Father! The fact is, even when you know the Lord and His beautiful gifts, life is hard. Praying for you in the hard places . . .

ann said...

thinking of you and hope all ends up well.xx

Jenny of Elefantz said...

((praying))... xx

Karla said...

First - I'm praying for you and your loved ones sincerely. Praying that this current valley will bring greater wisdom, a closer sense of being in His arms and endurance for the upward climb to the next mountain.

Second - thank you for this list. I'm always looking for new-to-me books especially for moments when I need peace and comfort. Some of the ones you enjoy are also my favorites but many are ones I've not read before.

Rebecca said...

I have read along similar lines and find much solace, pleasure and calm in their company. Currently I'm in the middle of Warriors of God by Walter Niggs. What a great read at several levels....

Praying for your stability and protection during your passage through your current valley. ❤️

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

Oh Brenda, I came to your blog today for just the type of comfort you described in your lose myself during a hard trial of life.
Sadly, this has been a hard week for me as well beloved father passed away after a brief, unexpected illness and my heart is broken at the loss. The fact that you mentioned my books so kindly was a surprise and a gift...a reassuring comfort perhaps from above? Thank you my kind and generous friend, as always, for offering this comforting respite. I pray your trials have resolved in a perfect way for you and all concerned.
Much Love and friendship,
Tracey xox