I’m intrigued when authors and artists post books they’re reading, musical/artistic inspirations, or just influences in their lives in general. It’s like a peek into someone’s psyche. Maybe it’s a writerly thing, this curiosity about a person or character and his or her back story? In any case, I thought I’d try something similar here and share what’s been inspiring or influencing me. The working title is Story Influencers: the who’s and what’s that are making impressions on my life story, otherwise know as what I’m reading, listening to, or watching. Here are three current “story influencers.”
Ellie Holcomb. I’ve been listening to Ellie’s music for a few years now (Magnolia and Rain for Roots, a children’s record, are probably my favorite albums) and recently caught her interview on the Listening In podcast. Although I am not a singer, I am drawn to the art of songwriting. Ellie calls herself a “recovering perfectionist”, a term which hits home for me. She also speaks of breaking the mold of a “good person”, defined by works and people-pleasing. She describes her music as “interlaced with Gods word” and I appreciate her vulnerability as she openly shares about her own brokenness. Vulnerability does not come naturally to me but it’s something I value as I like to move past the small talk and get right to someone’s heart. The above lines from “Only Hope I’ve Got” have become an important reminder as a Christian writer: as much as I love to write and share my story, I desire to be the vessel carrying words of a much bigger Story. Check out Ellie’s music if you haven’t already. You can listen on her website ellieholcomb.com.
Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller. I’ve always been a fan of Keller, who amazes me in his ability to approach Scripture and difficult topics with a unique blend of intellect, clarity of thought, and a soft heart. I often listen to the Redeemer podcast while at the gym and think what a gift he is to the people of NYC. This book has been perched on our bookshelf for a couple of years; a recent turn of life events had me pouring over the hard questions of suffering that Keller brings to light. As is his style, this is an extremely thorough book and Keller even grants “permission” in the introduction to skim the what is suffering and why suffering parts of the book to the practical how to chapters. These were my questions: how does one truly walk through grief as a believer and how does one suffer well? In a nutshell, Keller talks about the importance of not merely coping with or covering up emotion but diving in and wrestling with it. It’s refreshing to have a prominent Christian leader and author share this in black and white; he shares how the weeping, trusting, praying, thinking, thanking, loving, and hoping are all part of the process. Yes. Also check out his books on marriage, vocational purpose, and doubting God.
The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts. Recently, my husband and I watched the memorial service of Kara Tippetts. During the service, many spoke including pastors, her editor, and Focus on the Family President, John Daly. My friend, Kitty, mentioned Kara’s book on social media soon after we found out we had lost our second baby. I identified so much with Kara’s words and was struck by the way God’s grace was the hallmark of her life even in the midst of cancer. It was evident that she believed and lived out the gospel. I mentioned throughout the series of posts on miscarriage how God’s grace carried me and it was comforting and affirming to “meet” someone else — even if only through words — who found grace in tremendous pain and suffering. I’ll leave you with this game changing (for me, at least) quote from her book:
Miraculously, my story had the freedom to be changed. I was able to turn over the authorship of my story to the One who knew how to best write my life. I could trust again, knowing the story wasn’t promised to be easy, but I was no longer silent in it. I was a beautifully redeemed daughter of the King. I would walk in grace. But what about you? Are you avoiding your story, embracing your story, living out of the pain of your past, or looking to the horizon for Jesus to redeem your hurt and walk with you in faith” (34).
There you have it: three of my current Story Influencers. What are yours? Please share in the comments!