I have a folder in the lefthand drawer of my writing desk, and its contents have grown exponentially over the past few months. Every time I find a new quote, poem or article that inspires and encourages me, it goes in the folder. Some of these bits and pieces are selections I’ve had for years; others are brand-new. I thought I’d share a few of these with my readers, especially since a lot of us are either getting back to school or (in my case) getting ready for new projects, schedules, and stages of life as summer winds down.
My mom recently sent me an article that referenced Jeremiah 17:7-8, and it went so well with the purpose for this folder that I decided to include it on the front cover:
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes for its leaves shall stay green. In the year of drought it is not anxious, for it does not cease to bear fruit.
First of all, I have these two quotes from two of my greatest heroes (*wink*)…
…and a poster from World War II reminding me of the strength and perseverance of my foremothers.
As we’ve grown up, my parents have given all of us kids a copy of this reference sheet from Bill and Annabel Gillham’s ministry. When I’m assailed by thoughts of despair and self-loathing, I know I can always go back to these Scripture references. They remind me of who I truly am in Christ, and show me how those horrible thoughts of mine don’t reflect the way God feels about me at all! (You can find part of this list here, at the Gillhams’ son’s blog.)
(*cue horrified gasps from my fellow Protestants*)
I know, this is from someone with whom I don’t even share the same Christian tradition–and yet these words are packed full of truth, are they not? They stirred something deep within me when I first read them, and they reflect the strange and wonderful ways I’ve seen Christ working in my heart and wooing me over the past year. “Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide…Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.”
Wendell Berry’s defiance of our modern restlessness and insanity is always a breath of fresh air. I’m not sure where he stands spiritually, but his insights are marvelous–and this particular poem offers wise instructions for those who, even if the whole world is telling them to move, know it is their duty to plant themselves like a tree and say, “No, you move.”
(Snickerdoodles for everyone who understood that reference.)
As I delve deeper into the idea of the sacramental life–the idea that every area of life is a sacred gift of God and under Christ’s Lordship–I find myself with an intense awareness of the beauty God Himself infused into this world. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem Aurora Leigh contains this remarkable section about how, if we quiet our souls enough, we are equipped to perceive all the ways in which God reflects His glory and His design in the entirety of His creation.
My mom shared this article from Sarah Clarkson with me all the way back in 2012–long before I knew what an influence Sarah and her sister Joy would have on me in the coming years! I was just starting out on my own adventure into novel-writing back in 2012 (and those first adventures will remain my “trunked” novels, haha) and Sarah’s intensely relatable struggles and her bravery inspired me even then: “…[It] was beauty that made me choose to be a writer. The truth I knew in story and song, the wonder sparked by earth and art, the love I found when I least deserved it, the way my grief was met by hope I never expected. In my tiny way, I was witness to something sacred, something that could add to the healing of the world instead of its hurt.”
This article from N.D. Wilson is another one I’ve had in my arsenal since at least 2013. “We should want to raise children,” he writes, “with the ability to resist an author and a narrative, to laugh, criticize, and dismiss folly, no matter how hard a storyteller might be working to feed them falsehood. But the first step is to establish their tastes in truth with stories that will root their instincts and loyalties in goodness and beauty.” While I sometimes get irritated with his snark in some of his other writings, I think he’s particularly good in this piece. It has long-informed my own personal philosophy on Story.