December reads

This month’s reads are a little different. They’re not all books. Some are articles, some blogs, and some are audio sermon files. But all are words from other people that encouraged me to bravely look at grief. All of these words compelled me to learn to lament in a way that is hopeful and glorifying to God.

There’s also a few bonus fiction books at the bottom that got me through some plane rides and extended (and unexpected) stays at the airport.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a sorted and ranked list of ALL THE BOOKS I read this year, so stay tuned for that!

The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness.

Shauna Niequist

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, by Shauna Niequist: I’ve read Shauna before and have loved her poetic (but not annoyingly poetic) way of writing. She is able to write about deep topics, real pain, and honest struggles in a way that is relatable. The whole time I was reading this book I was thinking in my head “yes, me too,” “yes, that’s so true.” I was reminded of the beauty in the bitter and the hope in the dark. Her words were gently encouraging and convicting. Basically I want to reread this book every month. 

Our response to the wrongness of the world (and of ourselves) can often be an unhealthy escapism, and we can turn to the holidays as anesthesia from pain as much as anything else. We need collective space, as a society, to grieve — to look long and hard at what is cracked and fractured in our world and in our lives. Only then can celebration become deep, rich and resonant, not as a saccharine act of delusion but as a defiant act of hope.

Tish Harrison Warren

Want to Get Into the Spirit of Christmas? Face the Darkness, by Tish Warren: This article by Tish Warren was everything my hurting heart needed to hear. Tish acknowledges the aching and hurt of our broken world, and she encourages us to sit in it, to allow ourselves to truly see it and feel it, before moving on to the beautiful celebration that is Christmas. This is a short article, but it so so profound.

“Our grief won’t ever feel done, this side of heaven. But it will change, become part of us, even become part of how we worship. And our faith can surround our feelings, sometimes pushing up past them. We can believe by faith that ‘it is finished,’ while we walk through the ‘not done yet.’ One day sorrow will be done, my dear. Jesus will wipe away every tear. And until then, he’s storing them in his bottle.”

Mrya Dempsey

The Growth in Grief, by Myra Dempsey: I had the privilege of editing this short story for Myra, and I found myself having a hard time focusing on editing it because I was so caught up in the story. I was captivated by the characters and was brought to tears by their pain and their hope. Myra emphasized the importance and the beauty of grief, and what it looks like to lament with one another. Take a few minutes and read this short story! Then when you’re done, check out Myra’s other writings on her blog.

Tears aren’t juxtaposed to hope. They’re friends. Crying isn’t a wedge between me and the Lord, it’s a companion of an indescribable hope. A hope that builds bridges. A hope that sees the Lord.

Sarah Morrison

Theology of Tears, by Sarah Morrison: This brief article by Sarah on grief, shared by Fathom magazine, is poignant and beautiful. Sarah writes of how intimacy with God can be found most deeply in grief, how God is near and is eager to hear our laments, and how grief is not contrary to hope. Her words are beautiful and filled with much-needed truth that will meet you in your lament. Read her words, and be encouraged. 

I think the reason I’ve always loved Advent so much is because it seems like the changing season is calling us to sit in the darkness. To wrestle with fear and uncertainty and to rest in love so warm that we can feel it even when all the lights are out. There’s no reason to be afraid of the long nights. Instead, I urge us to remember that on that clear night so very long ago, our Savior moved from darkness to pain to the arms of the woman who carried Him into our weary world.

Kaeli Todd

The Advent Series: Preparation, by Kaeli Todd: These words are from the most recent newsletter of my friend, Kaeli Todd. Her words are always filled with such beauty and truth, but this recent newsletter especially hit home with me. Her words are powerful and true, and are a wonderful reminder to bravely face the dark nights with the hope of Christ. You can sign up for her newsletter here.

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, by Mark Vroegop: This eight-week sermon series has completely changed the way I look at grief, specifically how I see God in my grief. I haven’t yet listened to the entire sermon series, but I would already highly recommend that you give it a listen. Mark’s words helped me to understand that there isn’t a need to feel guilty for grieving. In fact, lament can be a tool that God uses to press us to deeper knowledge of and intimacy with Himself

Five Ways to Honor Grief this Holiday Season, by Stephanie Cochrane: If my words in this post, or any of the other words you’ve read here about grief have led you to see the need to work through some sadness, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to walk through this “grief guide” created by Stephanie. It includes some helpful encouragements and steps to face your grief and work through your lament in a healthy way.

A few fiction books and an interesting memior:

“I’ve left some clues for you.

If you want them, turn the page.

If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: This book was actually written by the two authors sending chapters back and forth to each other, adding to the story bit by bit, which I find to be the most beautiful thing! The characters were unique and the storyline kept me intrigued until the end. Also the setting of Christmastime in New York made it so fun to read during Christmas break! It wasn’t life-changing and wouldn’t make my list of favorite fiction books, but it was a great read!

We stood there, the weight of the last months between us. Both of us hurt, and the bruises and brokenness on the outside only the barest indication of the damage beneath.

Mary Watson

The Wren Hunt, by Mary Watson: This fantasy book was a fun read, and the modern setting made it unique and more interesting than other fantasy books I’ve read. I especially loved Watson’s writing style, and I loved the way she strung words together to make powerful and beautiful sentences. The storyline was intriguing and kept me captivated until the end as I tried to understand how everything would play out. Overall I’d recommend this book as a fun fantasy read!

If I am enchanted by staying out of sight, it is because such behavior seems so rare in our own species. In recent years, we have been more preoccupied than ever by the question of how to stay in view… It has become routine to assume that the rewards of life are public and that our lives can be measured by how we are seen rather than what we do.

Akiko Busch

How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency:  by Akiko Busch:  This book was interesting, but I felt that the most impacting words were all in the introduction. The rest of the book seemed to ramble on a bit. I wouldn’t read it again or highly recommend it, but the idea of “invisibility” promoted in these quotes is powerful and so well articulated. “The impulse to escape notice is…about maintaining identity, propriety, autonomy, and voice. It is not about retreating from the digital world but about finding some genuine alternative to a life of perpetual display.”

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