I love reading and usually have a pile of books waiting to be read sitting beside my bed. I have a somewhat eclectic taste. I do enjoy a soothing book – a book that is easy to read when nothing terribly bad happens. Why? Sometimes I feel the weight of sadness in other people’s lives. This last week has been particularly hard – and I am only a bystander.
I have spent time with a woman who lost her eleven year old daughter last December, a woman who has just lost her much longed for baby who died in the womb at 19 weeks, a couple who were struggling to emotionally connect in their marriage and I listened to hurts expressed, a woman whose husband had just lost his job and this is not all. Sometimes life is hard and sad and sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed and swamped.
Reading light books sometimes helps me and gives me some space to collect my thoughts. I have just finished reading a series of three such books. I suspect I am not the only woman who craves to read a book that is pleasant company. I have a number of women who ask me for suggestions of books to read and they often say “I just want a nice book to read”. I am often lending my books to friends and lose track of them for months at a time and hope they will return.
The Elm Creek Quilt series by Jennifer Chiaverini is not demanding and utterly enjoyable. Each volume contains three stories. Recently, I was given the second series as a gift from my work colleagues – they loved the look of the cover and know that I am a mad quilter. These stories are based around a group of women who live in rural America who are friends and share a passion for creating quilts.
Mostly, the stories revolve around one particular woman and events that are happening in her life – the stuff of life is present – relationship issues, infertility, wild children and other issues, however, they are stories in which the women survive these events because of their friendship and they are prepared to face up to weaknesses in their own self that they can change. There is much detail about quilts, so if you have zero interest in quilting, you would probably hate this series.
I found one of the stories The Runaway Quilt particularly interesting, as it explores the family history of one the characters – Sylvia, in which she discovers that her ancestors were involved with smuggling slaves from the South up to the Canadian border to safety. A particular quilt would be hung on the washing line, indicating that the house was a safe house for slaves to take refuge. These events took place just before the American Civil War – it is a time in history that I find quite fascinating.
This week I took refuge in these stories. To be honest, this is not my only solution to escaping life when it becomes overwhelming. I have recently returned to the gym and regular walking exercise and this helped enormously.
I do also seek refuge in God’s word – particularly the Psalms. This last week I have been reading Psalm 77. The voice of the Psalmist expresses his distress – he feels rejected and abandoned.
“Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favour again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion”? vv 7-9
These are deep questions that we all have from time to time. Last week, I felt this, not so much for myself but for my friends. There was nothing I could do to fix any of the situations other than sit and listen. However, the Psalmist turns and remembers what he knows to be true about God and reminds himself of how God rescued His people – with His mighty arm, he redeemed the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. He remembers how the Red Sea parted so His people could walk safely through the waters.
“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” v19-20
God’s footprints are there – we just can’t see them. I find that immensely reassuring. This blog post is not just about a little light reading at all. It is about things that help me walk with friends during times of crises.