Monday, January 11, 2016

4 Most Meaningful Mid-Winter Memoirs

Recent quiet weeks have offered me many hours of solitude, curled up in the corner of the sofa in our loft with some very fine books.  And while there's no fireplace burning warm and bright, our little evening haven is warm and cozy all the same.


By no master plan, I've found myself absorbed in 4 random real life stories that ended up connecting one with another in ways that were almost startling.

I love when God orchestrates our reading lists.

Here's 2 very personal mental health sagas penned by professionals in their fields that will most certainly enlarge your borders.  

And then there's 2 narratives that revolve around women's relationships with the church.  One woman leaves even as another returns ...

Fascinating.

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An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness ~ Kay Redfield Jamison
Brilliant.

Simply put, it's hard to put this renowned Johns Hopkins psychiatry professor's story down.  Her personal struggle with manic depressive illness even as she soared professionally is inspiring, unsettling, and captivating.  Jamison's compelling writing style pulls you into her vivid, fascinating, dangerous world and just won't let you go.

Absolute must reading if you or someone you care about lives with mental health challenges.


A Common Struggle: A Personal Through the Past of Mental Illness and Addiction ~ Patrick Kennedy
Tragically, the Kennedy family has been known for their unspoken generational struggles with mental illness and addiction ... and Patrick pulls no punches as he tells their story.  His honest, raw perseverance through his own grueling struggles with addiction and mental illness is one that many families will resonate with.

Intensely personal, this book serves as a wake-up call even as it provides an exhaustive, eye-opening view into the complex posturing and maneuvering that goes on behind closed doors as political legislation is designed, negotiated, and brought to a vote.

Thankfully, Kennedy's work to enlarge the awareness and availability of 'brain health' treatment continues to morph and blossom even as his personal life has become healthier and more balanced.


Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith ~ Barbara Taylor Brown
I've always been drawn to the stories of women in ministry ... the clear call to serve God in public ways, the brave pathways taken, the obstacles that discouraged yet didn't deter.  Although my own ministry journey has been quite different than that of this Episcopal priest's, I deeply resonate with much of her story.

Brown has a beautifully warm, personal style of expressing herself, sharing her reflections in such a way that draws the reader into her experience.  Her words are certainly captivating and thought-provoking.

I found myself reading a chapter at a time and then putting the book down to quietly reflect on what I had just experienced through her flowing pen.  When all was said and done, this book encompasses far more of her life experience than simply leaving church leadership.      


Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith ~ Sarah Bessey
You might remember that the Out of Sorts ~ Sarah's Synchroblog post ended up kicking off an important conversation, one of the best ever around here.

Even Sarah dropped in and liked what was happening.

Her conversational memoir gives the reader full permission to be in process and not to have arrived when it comes to issues of faith and the way we live out our love for Christ.  I especially appreciated the 'Evangelical Hero Complex' chapter where she shares the season of soul-deep wrestling that she and her husband Brian walked through as he left professional ministry.

Yet Sarah has returned to her roots, has embraced the church once again.  Her 9 page benediction is so personal, so powerful that it alone is worth the price of the book.  I plan on fervently praying that prayer again.  And yet again.

Pages of discussion questions could help you lead some substantial small group conversations.

*

What have you been paging through in recent days?





Connecting with
  Anne  *  Kelly  *  Holley  *  Lyli  *  Tina

63 comments:

  1. Although I've only read one of these (Leaving Church--and loved it!), I'm drawn to them all after reading your descriptions. Thanks for sharing these jewels, Linda. More books for my to-read list.

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    1. I think you'll like these, Lisa! We're usually in the same ballpark, yes?

      ;-}

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  2. Hi Linda! I saw an interview with Mr. Kennedy on television about this book. He seemed very sincere, and truly hoped that others would be encouraged to seek help if they could see themselves in his book. That is so generous and what a heart for encouragement!

    I haven't read any of the others, although I do like Barbara Taylor Brown. It's always a gift to find a good book that makes you think. Like it was made for you...
    No books in my hands theses days I'm afraid. My sister just left after spending a long weekend here. Another sister comes with her family on Friday, my brother and SIL on the following Wednesday. It's a family parade, and I love it! Just not a lot of time for sitting and thinking just now. But that's okay, it will come.
    Enjoy!
    Ceil

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    1. One of cool things about books is that they are faithful companions that can patiently wait for just the right time and place to be appreciated ... unless, of course, they're library books!

      Enjoy your family time, Ceil. Your cup runneth over with love ...

      ;-}

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  3. It's so nice to sit quietly by the fire reading a favourite book, or listening to quiet music.

    Those photos of an open fire suddenly reminded me of my childhood. We used to balance slices of bread on a fork and toast it by the open fire. We did have a toaster; but somehow, as children, toasting by the fire was better. Thank you for the memories.

    God bless.

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    1. So glad these cozy images sparked some warm memories for you, Victor ...

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  4. Linda, thanks for sharing what you're reading. You know I've heard people say you know a person by the books they read. I say, "You know a person by the books they "re-read." Will take your recommendations to heart. Copied the page to my notes. You are a blessing, Chris

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    1. Thanks for letting me know that these hit home for you, Christine. Please let me know what you think as you read ...

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  5. I always appreciate other reader's recommendations of books. I'm going to suggest to our ladies' Bible study/book club that we read the Out of Sorts book. It sounds like it would spark fantastic dialogue. Thanks Ms. Linda!

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    1. Cool! I'd love to hear about those discussions, friend!

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  6. What a great reading list, Linda. Cold days welcome me to snuggle under covers and open the pages of my latest read. That is just what I did yesterday afternoon as I finished "Oceans Apart" by Karen Kingsbury. My goal is to read more fiction this year, and this was the first. Great read but bring tissues for the final pages. Sweet blessings to you, friend. : )

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    1. Let's hear it for snuggling right about now, Crystal! I'm cozying up with Kate Morton's mystery, THE LAKE HOUSE this week. So far, so excellent!

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  7. I always appreciate not only your reading list, but your reviews. All you need is that warm fire---HOW I MISS MINE!
    Blessings, Friend!

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    1. Oh I hear ya', Lulu ... there's just nothing like a fireplace or a fire pit or a good old fashioned wood stove.

      Toasty, for sure ...

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  8. Hi Linda. Thanks for the recommendations. The first and last seem to be ones which interest me more. As a pastor I am having to deal with some of the former even though I don't understand it (not my immediate family). The latter seems to encompass my s-i-l. I'll have to look them up. My blog listed two I just finished: Messy Grace and Out of a Far Country (both involving the gay community). I'm in the process of reading Bethke's new one "It's Not What You Think." In my cue is #struggles by Groeschel and "Proof." My evenings at home are spent (right now) doing what I love to do for relaxation: building 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles.

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    1. I love a good jigsaw puzzle, too, Bill. Not too much extra room around here to leave one-in-process. Always fun to have one going when the extended family gathers 'round.

      ;-}

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  9. Not a huge fan of memoirs, but I would give one of those a try! Love your posts, as always dear! <3 - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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    1. And I'm always happy when you come to call, Gingi!

      ;-}

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  10. Ah, some good recommendations here. I was particularly interested in the Kennedy book as our Program Director is from Boston, a mental health professional in recovery who has a keen interest in his story. I'd forgotten about so I was very glad to see it mentioned here along with the others. The year has barely started and I feel overwhelmed with "should" reads! Thanks Linda. I've bookmarked this.

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    1. Yay ... let's hear it for bookmarks, Debby!

      The Kennedy book is not necessarily an easy read and goes quite in depth with the political and legislative end of things ... but I found his courage inspiring and the work that's being done on behalf of brain diseases to be super encouraging.

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  11. Thank you for sharing these reads. I am captivated by the last two on faith journey's as I am in a faith journey (as we all are suppose!) where questions are arising that other's stories may be God's way of speaking to me. Currently I have a fiction (Good to a Fault), and a couple of non-fiction (Decisive, and If You Want to Write) on the go, a devotional still to open (Help, Thanks, Wow) and a couple of holds at the library awaiting me. I may have to learn to balance my reading soon as it can get overwhelming!

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    1. Ah yes ... so many books, so little time.

      ;-}

      May you have fun choosing what's absolutely best for you right about now, Lynn!

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  12. I love that you have had those quiet moments to get lost in a book, in fact four books. What a treasure! I love memoirs and I am sure these four books are fabulous for different reasons. now to find the time to read. It seems that is the smallest amount of my time each day.

    Hope winter has not hit too hard and that you are finding your way in your new home, neighborhood and season of life!

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    1. Winter out here by the ocean tends to be warmer than inland and we've only had a dusting of snow. Things are very very quiet in this neck of the woods ... and I'm good with it all!

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  13. Ooh, resources!! Thanks so much Linda! I love the picture you chose this week. So comfy, cozy. Stay warm my friend:)

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    1. Enjoy! If any of these work for you, I'd love to hear about it, Meg! Hope this week's going well for you ...

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  14. An Unquiet Mind...yikes.

    The husband of my birth mother was bipolar, and I tried to help him, along with a phalanx of doctors. It was a waking nightmare.

    I don't regret that I did the duty, but it took a lot out of me. Just seeing the title brought back the horrible, horrible days. (And my birth mother, whom I also tried to help, was also a piece of work...a diagnosed sociopath. Anyone calling me to 'memories of childhood' should have a good dental plan.)

    Right now, reading Ian Toll's "PAcific Crucible". I'd describe it but have not the energy. You can find it on Amazon. Please do. Worth it.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/01/your-dying-spouse-104-courage-is-nothing.html

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    1. A good dental plan!!!!!!! That's funny, Andrew! {Or not so much, huh?}

      Unless the person is a danger to themselves or another, you just can't drag someone to get the help they so desperately need. They have to want to start on that journey to wholeness and good brain health and sane living.

      It's an excruciating road for those who care about them. Boundaries are desperately needed, yet so difficult to enforce over time. There's no snap answers.

      This is where it takes a village, for sure ... and a great deal of God's grace and discernment.

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  15. Hi Linda, all of these sound fascinating- especially the first 2! Sitting by a fire sounds so nice... We have been going through a horrendous heat wave in South Africa... So cooler weather would be welcomed here... As well as rain... Have a beautiful week!

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    1. Thanks for representing South Africa in our little community here, Jandi! I'm always happy to see you stop in!

      Hugs for your babies today ...

      ;-}

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  16. I remember a season when I had lots of time to devote to reading. It was a calm, comforting time. I'm working through one of Andrew's books, and the Yada Yada Prayer Group book with Deidra's club right now. Lighter reads (not that Andrew's is that!) seem to work better for me since I have to grab the time when I can :) Thanks for sharing your reviews!

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    1. June, for sure! Leisurely reading is a seasonal thing. I find that a busy schedule doesn't slow me down necessarily, but too much screen time does!

      ;-{

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  17. Linda,

    I smiled as I pictured you cozy and reading. Thanks for sharing your list. At a friend's recommendation, I began reading Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. And at our girl's recommendation, I'm reading another fantasy novel. Blessings and joy to you :-)

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    1. Thanks for more recommendations, Dolly! That's what I like most about these book posts is that a whole new slew of books come to light for us all. So cool!

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  18. Thank you for sharing these, Linda. I appreciate your book recommendations and reviews. I admire you for tackling these deep stories. They all look so insightful. At this time I am immersed in reading Amish fiction. Sometimes I have to take breaks from deep reading nonfiction and just go into another world of fiction - ones with happy endings. :)

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    1. My mom's found Amish fiction to be a wonderful comfort and consolation these days. I encourage her to keep on reading what's helping her walk through this season of grief and adjustment since the loss of my dad six months ago.

      Everything else can wait ...

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    2. I'm so glad they're helping your mom through her grief. I can't imagine the daily struggle she must go through without her husband. Praying Jesus will fill that empty ache in her heart. Also yours.

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    3. {tears}

      Thank you for praying for our family, Trudy ...

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  19. I love the crackling fire picture! We are experiencing our first real cold days in FL this week -- going down to 42 tonight!! Wish I were beside your cozy fire! I haven't read any of the books you mentioned but Barbara's and Sarah's both sound very thought-provoking -- I'll add them to my list! :)

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    1. The wind is HOWLING this morning! What a wild way to start the day.

      Hope yours is serene, Valerie!


      brrrr ...

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  20. "I love when God orchestrates our reading lists." I so get this, my friend! He really does it incredibly well. I absolutely loved An Unquiet Mind. I have manic depression as well so I'm always reading memoirs of fellow sufferers. This looks like a great list, Linda. I haven't read the other 3 but will definitely check them out. Thanks for the recommendations!

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    1. I love victory stories like Kay's, like yours, Candace! Thank you for transparency here, friend. I cradle your trust with humbleness ...

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  21. Hi Linda!
    The fire photo looks amazing! I am sitting right now in my favorite red leather chair in our family room and my sweet husband built a fire in our fireplace on this freezing night in OH. We have not yet taken the Christmas tree down so it is lovely here after a busy day working and reworking our 2016 budget. These books all sound excellent. I am a fan of Barbara Taylor Brown. Did you read Gospel Medicine of hers? I am working my way through Jon Meecham's bio of George H.W. Bush. He is a favorite author of mine and I am a history lover. (I have already gone through three of his other tomes.) I am on the launch team for Lisa Murray's book, Peace for a Lifetime, and am halfway through that one. Finally, I am also about halfway through Devo for the Rest of Us by Vince Antonucci which I am to review for Tyndale House Blogger Grid (a new venture for me). Always great to catch up with you!
    Love,
    Pam

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    1. The older I get, the more I'm enjoying bios. I guess I'm seeing the value and worth of our shared stories, our legacies.

      Thanks for all your recommendations, Pam. I'm scooping them up!

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  22. Great list, Linda! The last two sound interesting. I'll have to get them both. Thanks so much for sharing! GOD bless you, beautiful friend! :-)

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    1. Good to see you on this brisk winter morn', friend!

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  23. I've not picked up a book to read yet, this year. BUT, I will. My discipline is to read through the Bible, chronologically, this year and I just completed Job...so many lessons to learn from him. xo

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    1. You'll love it! I did the same thing in The Message version ... it was a blessed experience. I took my time, took a few detours along the way. It took me about 2 years. Would love to hear how this works for you, Susan!

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  24. Looks like my shoe tribute is in good company today! Love reading by the fireplace... just wish I still had one! And I second the chronological reading plan for the bible- I've done it twice and it totally changed my life! The way it brings everything together is well worth the journey-- whether it takes one year or two!

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    1. I'm with you friend ... let's savor God's love letter to us, one life-changing message at a time!

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  25. Cozy evenings with warm fires and a good book... sounds like a pretty marvelous combination! I enjoyed hearing your list of three books to read. I don't have a lot of time to read, but will keep these in mind should that ever change. I'm a new visitor to your blog today, and hope to get to know you better :)

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    1. The welcome mat is out! Thanks for coming by, for taking the time to say 'hi'... and yes, I look forward to getting to know you in the days ahead.

      Let's hear it for Idaho!

      ;-}

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  26. Thank-you for this interesting list of good reads. I already have Sarah Bessey's book on my list to read. She is going to be at the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing in April.

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    1. I'm glad you're here with us today, Carol!

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  27. Interesting collection...thanks for posting!

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    1. Thanks for commenting! It always means alot, Barbara ...

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  28. I LOVE memoirs, so I really appreciate the recommendations! I just discovered Sarah Bessey's blog a few months ago, so I've been wanting to check out her book as well. Happy reading!

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    1. Another memoir lover.

      I know we're not the only ones!

      ;-}

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  29. Confession -- I have never read anything by Barbara Taylor Brown, but I'd like to. xo

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    1. One truly worth a read ... and then another re-read later.

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  30. Those sound great! Right now I am reading MacArthur's Twelve Ordinary Men and Before Amen by Max Lucado. Last night I found out I won If by Mark Batterson! Yay! :)

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    1. Don't you just love winning a new book {or anything!} How fun ... congrats!

      I've got a wonderful giveaway coming up in a few weeks for the kiddos. I just can't wait!

      ;-}

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  31. God orchestrating our reading lists is one of my favorite little reminders of His love! Thanks so much for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda