Thursday, December 2, 2010

If November Had 32 Days...

...I wouldn't feel quite as behind as I do now.

Actually, when I remember where I was a year ago and how behind I felt going into that Christmas season, I realize that this year, I'm actually way ahead of the game!  To give just one example, last year I wrapped all the Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve--and by "wrapped," I mean, "shoved into gift bags and threw some tissue paper on top"!   Not my most favorite way to spend that special evening.  This year, I've already had two sessions of wrapping gifts (one was made possible by the kindness of Sally, who generously gave of her time to come over with her kids and watch my kids one afternoon so that I could have some free time to do whatever I wanted--what a friend!), and it's delightful to look under the Christmas tree and already see some pretty packages under there. :)

But here is the area that I am blatantly behind in:
Yikes!  November rolled around, and it was my grand intention to post something about this theme every day.  I even had a list of ideas jotted down in one of my drafts:  ideas about memorable encounters that changed the course of my life or taught me a valuable lesson, stories that I wanted to reflect upon and share.  But I didn't get very far into the month before events of life crowded out my intentions to write those stories; and then when I got caught up in the mother-in-law series...well, it was all over for Encounters after that!

But now that December is here, does that mean I can't go back and finish (or add to, even if I don't finish) the 30 Days Thankful series?  Of course not!  Gratitude is good and right any time of the year.  And besides, I didn't finish last year's 30 Days Thankful theme until the very last day of the year.  Compared to that, I'm astonishingly early.  ;-)

Encounters #8, 9, 10, 11, 12
I want to group these encounters together because they all involve books.  Let me tell you about five books that have significantly impacted me.  As fellow readers can imagine, limiting myself to five is quite difficult; but I'll try to contain myself and not go over that number.  :)  Additionally, I will try to keep my natural wordiness in check so that I can give a brief summary of each encounter and then zoom ahead to the next one.  Each of these almost deserve their own blog post, but I'll do my best to lump them together so that I can catch up a little.  :)

When I was in college, I went through a period of questioning my faith and trying to determine whether the spiritual path of my parents was the one I wanted to travel.  In hindsight, I realize that was completely normal; but at the time, it made my whole world feel a little shaky.  During a conversation with one of my professors, Dr. Terry Brensinger, he recommended that I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  I complied; and as I started reading it, it was like water to a desert wanderer who is dying of thirst.  That book gave strong bones and mighty muscles to my weak-at-the-time faith, and I realized that it is not only right to believe, it is also reasonable.  That was a life-changing revelation, to say the least.  (And I am trying to say the least.  But oh, I'd love to say more about this!)

On to the next one...

During my senior year of college, my roommates threw a surprise bridal shower for me--and, oh, I'd love to say more about this, too!  One of the gifts I received that night (I believe it was from my friend Susan Monserrate) was The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.  At the time, I had not heard of love languages...or Dr. Gary Chapman.  I thought he was Amy Grant's (now ex-)husband.  Nope, different Gary Chapman.  Anyway, what a blessing that Susan gave me that book and that I was able to read it (and Jeff read it, too) at the beginning of marriage and establish healthy love-language usage from the start of our married life!  I love reading marriage books and had done so before marriage and continued to do so after marriage (I still do, as a matter of fact), so I've read lots of good ones; but The Five Love Languages wins the title of Most Helpful, as far as simple, practical, down-to-earth help for marriages (and other relationships, too, since we all benefit from understanding the concept of love languages).  When Jeff and I weren't feeling close or when we were hitting bumps in the road, it was incredibly useful to think of the love languages, discern which ones we were or were not speaking, and then be able to change quickly to fill up each other's love tanks.  The other wonderful thing that book did for us was open the door to communication about our own needs.  For example, I could say to Jeff, "I need some words of affirmation," and he would, without hesitation, pour forth meaningful, loving words.  This course of action is vastly preferable to using the silent treatment...or the loud treatment (yelling at each other)...or the completely senseless game of let's-see-if-he-can-read-my-mind-and-figure-out-what's-wrong treatment.  

Gotta stay focused, so I can move on...

As newlyweds, we knew we wanted to find a good church to become involved in; but the process of discovering one that seemed like a good fit for both of us seemed almost insurmountable at times.  Everything changed one day, however, when a man in his 30s named Bob Ricker walked into the barbershop where Jeff worked, sat down in Jeff's chair for a haircut, shared deeply from his heart about his cancer and his young family and his church and his zeal for God's work, then walked out, having left a copy of Discipling by Gordon Ferguson for Jeff to read.  Read it, he did--pen in hand, ready to criticize, marking furiously in the margins, arguing points about the Greek text and legalism and all those "one-another" scriptures Gordon had dug out of the Bible and grouped in this book.  From Jeff's initial harsh hours and hours of conversation with Bob, his wife Jayne, and many of their eventual membership in that church:  all prompted by Discipling.  In actuality, it led to much more than membership in a specific church; it actually redefined for us what church was.  And for two people who had been through as much religious stuff as Jeff and I, that redefinition was life-altering.  We're still feeling the effects of it.  :)

Three down, two more to go...

When we returned to the States after having lived in the Middle East for two and a half years, we once again found ourselves somewhat in a state of spiritual bewilderment.  After having witnessed a wide range of religious experiences (and that's just within the Christian tradition!)--everything from participating in very charismatic worship services with Messianic Jews to watching an Orthodox woman weep as she anointed a stone slab in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre--I was wondering things like, "What kind of worship is right?  What kind is wrong?  And what kind do we now involve ourselves in?"  The typical American Sunday morning church service left us feeling empty.  What should fill us?  Then I read Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster and was reminded again of the vastness of God's character compared to ours and the value of various expressions of worship.  Foster talks about six traditions:  contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational.  He did it in such an uplifting way that, rather than feeling like the spiritual mutts that Jeff and I really are with our varied church experiences, I was left grateful for the way these six traditions had already touched my life, humble in my attitude towards fellow believers who excel in one tradition or another (perhaps different ones than I do), and eager to learn more and grow in each of the six.  I should probably read this book again!

OK, last one...

This is the easy one.  Why?  Because I've written about it before!  It's Small Beginnings by Barbara Curtis, and I'm just going to link to the post in which I wrote about it way back in February of 2008, when Tobin was just a month old.  I love this book!

Whew, I did it.  Encounters 8-12 are complete.  That's five more I get to check off my list.  Will I make it to 30?  ;-)


Melani said...

Hi Davene! I found your blog off of a link from Heather Cooper Baker's blog. It's great reading about your life and how grounded your family is in your faith. It was nice seeing pictures of Dave and his family too! Blessings to your family this Advent. Melani Guengerich Novinger

Christie said...


I've spent the better part of the last hour catching up on all of your posts. I don't know how to express how warm and fuzzy your blog makes me feel! Your sense of family and your love for others, and most importantly, the Lord, is just contagious!

Thank you for sharing from the heart!


Davene said...

Oh, thank you, Christie! Your encouragement means SO much to me!

And Melani - it's great to be back in touch with you! Thanks for dropping by. :)