My Childlike Taste in Books

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

C. S. Lewis

My 2021 reading list may look like I got it mixed up with my youngest sister’s list. Because, once hooked, I never stopped reading fairy tale-ish adventures.

Books for the young are often the innocent entertainment, happy endings, and the clear sense of good and evil that we crave. Maybe it’s a way to return to the sweetness of childhood.

For another thing, don’t you love to absorb history through the eyes of children? Children’s historical fiction/nonfiction is more about the day-to-day burdens of growing up, rather than the complex ethical decisions behind the scenes. Children are often good at seeing the silver lining of the dark clouds, and they perceive the deepest details. Remember the first time you ventured out of country and how it engaged your five senses? This is how children observe their own cultures, with acute awareness of the sheer newness.

As I ponder the compilation of reasons for my childlike taste in books this past year, I hope you can relate to the love of wholesome literature!

A few of my favorite 2021 reads:

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

“Set against the backdrop of World War II, Anna, Edmund, and William are evacuated from London to live in the countryside, bouncing from home to home in search of a permanent family.” A friend gifted me this kindle book as a pleasant surprise. I absolutely loved reading every paragraph of this delightful novel. Don’t you love it when books reference books? The author gave the pages a touch of Narnia magic even though the genre is historical fiction. Such a satisfying ending, too. I bought this for my little sister’s birthday!

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

I enjoyed every chapter, because of the simplicity, beauty in word choice, and humor. As the family travels to escape the Nazis, we brush up against several different cultures. Another though-provoking WWII refugee book, this one is even partly autobiographical. I’m hoping to find and read the sequels.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

“The War that Saved My Life” is real and raw, allowing me to better understand children with traumatic childhoods. It isn’t as well written, in my opinion, as the first two I reviewed, and a bit slower paced, but still an enjoyable storyline and realistic characterization. Also set during WWII.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Wanda is a Polish girl and her classmates make fun of her for her differences. She takes solace in her “100 dresses” and in kindness. This is a brief read.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

What if a few lab rats escaped their cages and made their own civilization with their newfound knowledge? An interesting, quick read about the secret lives of mice and really smart rats.

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

By one of my favorite American authors, this story shares a young woman’s (Elnora’s) journey to funding her own college through catching moths, mending her torn relationship with her mother, and doing what she believes is right at all costs. It’s set in Indiana’s Limberlost Swamp in the early 20th century.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I recently found a lovely hardback copy of this story after listening to it in audiobook form (which is how I intake most of my books.) This story is just sweet, wholesome, transforming and humorous. Mary finds her health and character grow as she tends the secret garden. This story is gold.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“A Little Princess” is one of my favorite rags-to-riches stories! How the plot unfolds is just magically enchanting and oh so satisfying. A timeless must-read!

I also enjoyed reading Elizabeth Elliot, Corrie Ten Boom, and a couple vintage career-girl novels, but fell short of my goal of reading 30 books this year. Here’s to better reading success in 2022!

What are your favorite children’s chapter books? You know, in case I try to cram in the last few books to make my goal?

Or perhaps your favorite books for adults, but that still hold a wholesome wonder?

In Need of Practice and Grace

“Discipline, Winifred, Discipline!”

This line from one of my favorite Disney movies reminds me why I write tonight. Not because a torch of inspiration guides me or a clear way to say something old in a new way strikes me. At least, nothing I can pull together before my laptop battery dies!

But I need to write to practice, to stretch, to explore, and I may end up deleting all of it. But just how one workout is better than none, I’m here for the out-of-breath-ness of arranging words.

I’ve savored some beautiful writings recently, and they tasted good. They intrigued me, caused me to ponder, and stirred the familiar ache to create my own. If you are a writer, keep up the good work. We’re enjoying the sweet, salty, hot, cold, gritty, fresh, spiced or sizzling nature of your work of words. Keep delivering truth with the sweet aroma of Christ.

I must take my own advice and pick up the pen, with priority and purpose.

Discipline, Winifred.

But also grace.

If you could bundle the enchantment of Christmas, the scent of an oven warming Thanksgiving rolls, the adrenaline of a mountaintop view of jeweled lakes, the gift of a gold-pink massive sunset, a baby’s grin when he tastes carrots for his first food ever — we’d only glimpse the chasm of joy available when we begin to grasp the deepness of God’s grace.

“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

No longer slaves to sin, no longer attempting performance, but as adopted heirs in God’s family, we know mercies galore. Answered prayers, endless love, light piercing darkness, eternal life.

I hope our Father receives an abound-ment of thanks in this season we’re entering. He deserves it all. My weak thanks will join a chorus of the many people who have received grace upon grace. All for His glory!

Thank YOU for following my blog as I practice, moving forward in the discipline of writing, but also in the resting enjoyment of grace.

I’d love to know — what are you thanking God for right now?

How Beautiful is Church Camp

Our church camp almost didn’t happen this year … because it’s getting difficult to reserve entire campgrounds in our state.

Thankfully, camp still occurred in all its glory, even if we were prevented from certain traditions. First, there were no water sports due to some kind of weird algae bloom that could make you sick and allegedly made a dog die from drinking it. So we had to miss the usual staples of camp life like boating, swimming, tubing. Second, the state issued a fire ban so no open campfires allowed. Third, we set up camp in a new-to-us place. We had finally outgrown our beloved Huckleberry Campground where I personally have enjoyed each of my church camps for the last 10 years in a row.

However, the core of everything I love about this annual camping trip stayed true despite missing iconic water sports, campfire, and Huckleberry. It’s like that one time when someone stole the church trailer with the piano, cushions, chairs, pulpit, and sound equipment. We were still a church. Or when we had to watch the sermon virtually since our building was closed up because of covid. Still the Bride of Christ. So of course, a simple location change wouldn’t stop us from packing up our cars and coolers with bright attitudes to be together!

And it was a wonderful weekend.

I grow more impressed with the immeasurable means of grace in that God gifted us each other. Without a church family, a person could literally have no one to trust, no one to turn to. But I have layers and layers of saints who have proved they would drop everything if I needed anything. There are local churches all over the world who would pick up where one left off in ministering to a sheep like me. It’s overwhelming and humbling.

My top three highlights of camp this year were 1) sharing the tangible joys with my little family, 2) the baptisms, and 3) the spiritual gifts in action.

It was such an honor to introduce a small flannel-clad boy to a weekend of outdoor fellowship. Judah approved of it, and heartily participated in everything he could, which was mostly just making people’s days with his bear hugs.

Pine trees infused the air with the fresh woodsiness. Corn hole brought out our competition. The claps of dramatic thunder begged the question, “How did YOU sleep last night?” Without our Sunday best, but a sunburn instead, observing each other’s realness and coffee habits is easy. We talked about goldfish, about weddings, about the gospel and about this new corner of the lake. We were relaxed and had nowhere to be except dinner and worship.

Now, the baptisms. How good is God to give us a tangible picture of a new spiritual life? To see an outward representation of Christ’s rescue from sin?

It’s inevitable that I’ll cry. As someone in my family coined it, “Life and death will make me cry.” About ten testimonies ranged from someone saved by grace out of a generationally godly family to first generation Christians, to trusting at a young age to tasting what the world has to offer first — all a clear picture of sinful hearts washed with the blood of Christ. We all rejoiced deeply in each public announcement of faith in the Savior. What struck me listening to the testimonies was the inclusion of fervent prayers for these ones gone astray, and the evidence of plenty of seed planting by an older brother here, a sister there, a pastor, a friend, an acquaintance. God chooses to use us in Gospel work, as seen in the many familiar names brought up in the testimonies, but He brings the increase.

Finally, I enjoyed the extra goodness of the Lord to grant us spiritual gifts and hearts that long to serve one another. Not only did He save us from hell, make us His cherished bride, but He also equipped us uniquely so we could bless each other and thus bring glory to Him.

At camp I noticed we were served by someone sharing their special green avocado creamy sauce for taco night. A young man with a ton of energy willing to bring up the tube from the bottom of the slip n’ slide hill over and over. Hands that played guitar chords, emptied trash, held babies, acted as the hospitable camp hosts, provided a listening ear and mercy. On Sunday we were taught from the Word.

Those gifts in action are all for His glory wafting up like the campfire smoke we didn’t have because, remember–fire ban.

God didn’t have to give us each other to help in suffering or to laugh about slip n’ slide wipeouts. To serve each other hamburgers with caramelized onions, to share truth with, to worship Him on a wooded mountainside or in the suburbs back at home base. Isn’t His Body beautiful?

I can hear it. “But there isn’t a perfect church! She’s clearly wearing rose-colored glasses.”

It’s true. There is no perfect church. Of course, I have a little loyal partiality toward my family, but I still work to give grace for the failures I see and even for the ones I can’t see. Because there is masterpiece work going on. A bride is getting prepared for the marriage of the Lamb.

And gratefully, there aren’t any rose-colored glasses needed to appreciate God’s beautiful goodness in giving us the broken and beautiful Body of Christ. His plan is good. Even in hard, ugly times we can acknowledge His design is lovely, and He’s building His church, even though that won’t make the headlines. Whatever imperfections are now, we look toward the day of endless, perfect, better-than-church-camp worship. Even the righteous acts of the saints at camp are helping clothe us for that day.

“Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, because the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and His bride has prepared herself.

 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean;

for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’”

And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:7-9

It Must Be Hard to be An Artist

I think it must be hard to be an artist,

To guide each stroke and gentle brush,

Paint swaths of sky, the sea the largest,

Each drop of color shades loud or hush.

She must pour her heart on a canvas bright,

Displaying carefully curated inspiration,

Perhaps painting the scene here in her sight,

Or relying only on clear imagination.

But when her creation is done, delight or duty,

She gives or sells the loved artwork away,

To part with it to one who also sees the beauty,

And she’ll start with blank easels the next day.

I brought home with me a small blueish sailboat frame,

Now it lives above my desk, drawing me to the shoreline,

In the corner signed “Henle” is the artist’s name,

Somewhere she found the courage to surrender her design.

I can write dreamy sonnets or let my pen discover new pages,

But my own written words never truly venture out of my sight,

I wonder if Henle misses her watercolor etched in stages,

So I admire the artist’s goodbye to her gift taking flight.

by Abigail Rehmert

Sensing Summer

You’ve been a long time coming.


Lately, it seems like most times I poked my nose into the great outdoors, the wind whipped me back in. So much wind, it feels like it could take a baby’s breath away. It snowed on our Easter trip. Then spring downpoured on graduation Saturday. Every time I ventured to wear shorts, it was a mistake, and we wondered if our tiny plants would freeze that night. 


But last evening, while I drove home from a backyard baby shower, I remembered why you’re worth the wait. 


The window down, I smelled summer arriving. The cool desert breeze ushered out the day that had baked our cars. 


I rejoiced at the sacred scent of mint fields. Passing a neighborhood, I could pinpoint a BBQ party, which reminded me of smokey campfires. On the edge of town, I spied a full-fledged high school baseball game with whole families in the grand stands and the smell of popcorn wafted through my window. The air nearer home smelled awash with sprinkler water from the canals. 


I saw the summer coming, too, in the indigo mountains sketched against a broody blueish sky. I foresee summer for the shape it is, holding anticipated outdoor weddings and getaways to the crested lakes. Memories yet to be made in a cross-country road trip! And I bet you our skies will drip with fireworks on the 4th.

Creamy iced coffee captures the taste of summer. Or mint leaves floating in lemonade with a pin-striped straw. Soon we’ll be tempted to buy a watermelon each time we enter the grocery store. We’ll set to work on corn on the cob and tomatoes rinsed of garden dirt. I guarantee Luke and I will hear the hum of Braum’s air-conditioning as we order ice cream as a reprieve from the midwest heat. Dip my yogurt cone in chocolate, please!

 
I feel you, summer. Grass like cool carpet. Stiff, rosy skin from too many hours floating the stone-clear river. A textured picnic basket full of sparkling water and egg salad croissants. A smudged pair of flip flops. A book and a fishing pole, plus the hammock and Star River. Heartfelt fellowship underneath sparkly strings of Edison bulbs.  

Summer, we hear you, too. Cicadas and crickets. A snowy birch log breaking in the smoldering ashes. The thrill of hearing an outdoor musical underneath the stars and a quilt. The rush of melted mountain snow pushing through the ravines. Praises sung in a backyard for all the neighbors to hear. 


Little Judah, in the backseat, can you smell it? It’s summer, and you’ll be meeting it for the first time, just around the corner.