Book Review: on fear and waiting

On first glance you might not think these books have much in common. I didn’t plan on reading them at the same time and while I was reading them the connection between the two didn’t really occur to me either. But as I was laying down last night for bed (because don’t all great thoughts hit you right when you are about to go to sleep?) I realized how much they did have in common.

Shiloh is a fictional story written by Helena Sorensen. It is part of a trilogy and without spoiling too much, it is in many ways a creation story.  As in the true Creation story, evil enters in and in the land of Shiloh that evil takes the form of the Shadow. The land is cast in darkness and it is the hope of the people that shines out into the darkness. As their hope fades or grows, the light that shines out from them fades and grows. A cast of characters rises up against (and falls into) the Shadow and this is their story.

Still Waiting is true story, I’d almost call it a memoir in many ways, about one woman’s struggle to maintain hope in the midst of a continually difficult condition. Ann Swindell correlates her story with the story of the bleeding woman from the Gospels. It is a book that describes waiting and is filled with reminders of where our hope should lie.

Throughout the story of Shiloh, the characters wake up daily in a world shrouded with darkness. This darkness is all they have ever known and they have the choice to believe and continue to hope in the stories that they’ve been told through generations or give into the darkness and live with it until their time is done. I love that it’s not an easy story. We don’t live in an easy world and this parallel world is no different. We give into the darkness and we let our light of hope dim and even at times we let that light be completely smothered. This story of the land of Shiloh was tender because of the darkness that I found myself in a few seasons ago. Like Amos in the story, it was easier to give into the Shadow and ignore all the pain. But in the end, I knew I couldn’t keep drinking the water of darkness, but I had to find my way out into the light. I’ve rarely read a story where the ending sticks so clearly in my mind. The quartet of characters has a choice, to give into the fear literally racing at them or face the absolute unknown. Both options were incredibly frightening – yet one led to life and one led to death. The longer you live in a place of shadow the more we are faced with this same option. To remain in darkness is scary and crushing. But to step out away from the darkness is full of fear also. Ultimately, restoration only comes when we move out of the darkness.

This is where hope and waiting come in. In Still Waiting, Ann relates her struggle with a psychological condition that is enhanced by anxiety and fear. She can’t control it, yet she can control her hope in restoration. Each chapter is focused on an aspect of waiting – how waiting breaks us, weakens us, claims our identity, makes us angry, brings us shame, feels like suffering and is risky, yet in the end waiting is filled with grace. Waiting teaches us hope. In our weakness, in our darkest moments in the shadows, we can learn that our “weakness is a bridge to Jesus.”

One of the overarching themes in Shiloh was the idea of Identity. It is only in remembering who they are, who they belong to and who created them that they are able to reignite the light within them and free themselves and others from the darkness. Amos cries out to his sister that she has to remember and yet he struggles to identify what she should remember. Their lives had been fraught with so many memories that were so crushing;  yet even in sorrow there is hope living there. He reminds her of her gifts and he reaches out to her. It’s only in the remembering and the reaching out that the light begins to break through. The same goes for us as we struggle with hope and waiting. Ann reminds us that God has claimed us, he has renamed us and he is in the process of restoring us. It may not be a restoration that we want or in the time that we want, but it is still a promise that He keeps. We might eve be freed from one shadow only to be eclipsed by an even stronger one. That is where we have to decide whether we will give into the anger that will surely rise up or give into obedience and believe the promises.

Simoen and Amos are truly dark and light in the story of Shiloh. One gives into anger and the other obedience. Both of them have to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and both of them are needy. It is out of our need that Jesus comes for us and that the Light reaches them. But on the opposite side, it is out of that need that the darkness comes too. We cannot respond in obedience without knowing who we are and believing in the hope. And oh the risk. Ann reminds us through her story of that risk.

“Our desires and our dreams so often dissolve before us. Life is hard. Our hearts grow weary. Hoping feels too tender, too raw. Waiting for the fullness of our promised restoration threatens to usurp our hope.”

So it’s a question of where our hope lies. If it’s in us and our ability to push through or just ignore the darkness, we will fail. But be warned, we will fail when our hope is centered in Christ too.  The difference is where we fall. When I am grounded in the promises of the light; I will be injured, sorrow will come and I may continue to sit in this place of waiting for restoration. The difference is I am sitting in the light.

 

**note: I received the book still waiting from the author in compensation for a review.**
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Reading: February 2017

One of my goals this year is to journal more regularly regarding what I’ve been reading. Here are my notes from February.

Currently

The Nightingale by K. Hannah
I have heard this book talked about so much and I finally reserved it from the library last week. It’s a WWII book (one of so many in the last few years) and I am about half way through it as I type this. While I’m truly compelled by the story I have to admit I’m honestly not liking the characters very much. The two man characters are sisters who are at odds with each other, amplified by their differing responses to the war and the occupation of France by the Nazis. The narration goes back and forth between the two and I’ve rarely read a book where honestly I’m sort of annoyed with both of them. I’m not sure what it is. I keep hoping that redemption will come in the end.

War Horse by M. Morpurgo
My daughter and I are listening to this on Overdrive and so far it’s honestly been pretty depressing! It’s a strange book in that the narrator is the horse. The time period is World War One, which we’ve constantly had to talk about as we’ve moved into studying about WWII with our school work. We have about 5 chapters left and finally I feel like there might be a happy ending – which for most of the book I didn’t think was going to happen. The audio book is narrated by John Keating who is phenomenal with his accents and voices.

Love Walked Among Us by P. Miller
I started this one as my spriritual focus this month. I love Paul Miller and his writing style and this one does not disappoint. It is the first book he wrote so it does feel a little bit like reading backwards because his other two books I’ve read were newer. I’ve just gotten a few chapters in and I’m trying to read and journal my way through it so I’m not reading so quickly.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by J. Trafton
This is our bedtime read aloud between my daughter and I and it’s another book I had heard so much about. Trafton is one of the Rabbit Room writers I read so much about and this also was a book club pick for the younger group in our book club; they raved about it. It’s total fantasy and so far it’s been pretty cute and somewhat funny. The characters are pretty farcical so as an adult reading it you kind of roll your eyes a little bit, but my daughter likes it so far and it is a great read aloud.

Still Waiting by Ann Swindoll
I’m actually on the book launch tour for this book so I received a copy in compensation for my review. I’m about half way through it and it’s taken the place of my morning reading right now and I’m honestly still trying to figure out what to say about it!

Finished

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by H. Anderson
I really loved this book. While I do feel like I read it slowly, I wish that I had read it even slower and journaled more as I was reading. She approaches the study of humility and pride through nature and I feel like for me it was the most refreshing (if reading about how sinfully prideful we are) book I’ve read in a while. She weaved stories of her life, but ultimately I felt more like it was truly a study of what humility really is and isn’t. I highly recommend it.

The Signature of All Things by E. Gilbert
I started out listening to this on audio and gave up because I knew I would never finish it in time. But I was already invested in the story so I reserved the actual book from the library. I have to say I like this book much more actually reading it than listening to it. There are some parts that honestly made me uncomfortable and I was happy to be able to just skip over them versus having to figure out how to fast forward the audio. It was a very compelling story and Gilbert is excellent at her character development. It’s a sweeping story that covers gobs of time, but she does such a great job of linking it all together. I will say that Alma’s time in Tahiti was just weird; just plain weird. It kind of reminded me a little bit of Life of Pi and the whole weird island thing. But over all it was a good read.

Emma by J. Austen
I finally finished it an ah! this is totally one of my favorite books. I swear it’s one that I would totally challenge myself to read maybe once ever year or so. There is so much that I miss in the language that I know I would pick up more if I reread it. I love Emma though and when she and Mr. Knightly finally realize they love each other in the end…goodness. I’m excited to attend a lecture at the University of Tennessee about Emma during their AustenFest in early April. Check out more details about the festival here.

The Curated Closet
I’m not sure that this actually qualifies as reading, but I did finally get my hands on this book. It was on my original list of books I wanted to read this year and I was on the waiting list forever at the library. The book is basically all about how to create a wardrobe; not necessarily a capsule wardrobe per se, but sort of. There was a lot in there that really didn’t interest me and much I had already gone through with Colette’s Wardrobe Architect series. There were a few pages of questions to ask yourself when purchasing or figuring out what to purchase that I felt like were really helpful. It’s a super book to get from the library and look through if you are like me and trying to figure out what to wear as I creep further into my forties and my style and life changes.

What’s Next?

I started to read Shiloh by Helena Sorenson (another Rabbit Room recommended book), but put it down to finish Signature and then I got wrapped up in the Nightingale. I’m sure I’ll pick it back up again. I really need to pick up Hillbilly Elegy again and I’m hoping to finally finish reading On Being a Writer in March also.  I want to finish Upstream by Mary Oliver, but I had to return it to the library because someone had reserved it. I’m back in the queue to get it again hopefully soon.

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