Book Review: Wild In the Hollow

My “For The Love” friends have been talking about Wild In the Hollow for several months, so when I had a gap in my schedule it was the first thing I grabbed off the bookshelf!

Amber C. Haines’ memoir about her life from childhood through marriage and children is written in a beautiful, poetic style.  I have to admit I was floored by Amber’s honesty.  To admit that she used drugs, had an abortion and even an affair after marriage was incredibly brave.  What made her story even more amazing was that not one excuse was presented for her choices outside of the fact that she is human and humans sin.

As Haines’ life journey is presented, it was easy to see me in the pages.  Growing up in a conservative church that loved rules, and wrestling with the balance of rules and ministry myself I could see the struggle to love people to Jesus well while loving Jesus well for self.

Haines writes of her sons’ births, marriage in the early years and life on and off a church staff.  I saw myself in many of the pages.  On other’s Haines writing made me laugh, others had me in tears.

As Haines writes about her wilderness seasons and her seasons filled with joy, I found myself anxious to hear how life turned out.  I found hope on these pages and a reminder that God pursues us all differently for the same purpose.

On Growth

East river view

October of this year was an interesting one, with four home football games and a bye week it was the first October in our entire marriage that we slept in our own beds every weekend. We also hosted guests almost every weekend. Part of hosting new people in our town is bringing them up to East River Outlook. When weather allows you can several rows of mountains for miles and miles. We live in a gorgeous part of the country. Each season the tree topped mountains astound me with their vibrant colors and ever changing features.  Autumn is by far the most amazing.  The trees turn from green to gold, orange, and bright red plus ever shade in between.

The peak weekend seemed to be the second weekend in October. I was absolutely thrilled to see such awesome trees. It seemed that each day leading up to the weekend a few more trees had leaves that changed and then overnight POP! Colors everywhere. We had a great time taking pictures, driving around and celebrating God’s creativity.  The colors seemed short lived though and by the next weekend things were looking brown.  I was a bit disappointed.  I had remembered the previous autumn’s colors lasting longer.

fall in Bluefield

The busyness of the days continued and my daily trips from home to campus were distracted and rushed at times.  As Saturday arrived the boys and I drove to campus for the homecoming festivities I was shocked to see that what had looked brown and dead just a day earlier was now a vibrant red.

I gleefully exclaimed to my sons to look at the beauty all around. I muttered to myself how surprised I was that the red was there and that the mountains looked even more beautiful than the prior weeks.  As I sat amazed I heard God whisper.  “Yes the most beautiful things always come after the ugly things.”

I couldn’t help but smile. I had recently seen this play out in several ways for our family.  The ugliness that had created stress and fear had been replaced with abundantly answered prayers in the months prior.  God’s glory had fallen on us mightily. The visual reminder of the beauty that can grow from what looks dead was delightful. Scripture reminds us that God makes things beautiful where there was only ashes.

Isaiah 61:1-4 (New International Version)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

As 2016 begins I’m eagerly anticipating seeing God reveal Himself by continuing to create beauty in ashes.  My One Word focus this year is “growth”.  This is a word that is filled with hope for me, it is the reminder God gave me a few years ago as I walked through a dark season.  His words to me were very clear in my times of healing.  God revealed to me over and over in scripture how He uses our wilderness seasons to grow something new.  I’m looking forward to sharing with you as I spend time studying wilderness as scripture presents it!

One Word 2016

photos courtesy of East River Outlook Facebook Page

The Road to Becoming

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Over the past few years I’ve had my ear attuned to the word Wilderness.  It’s been an interesting journey I continue to process and promise to share more about.  One of the things that has kept me moving in my hardest days has been the words of others.  Reading how God has taught others to push through their own desert times has given me the strength to continue to but one foot in front of the other when it seemed doing so would do nothing but cause pain.

In The Road to Becoming Jenny Simmons shares her life story surrounding the band Addison Road, her marriage and first year of her daughter Annie’s life. I’ve taken a picture of a page in this book to show you how drawn in by Jenny’s words I was.  I started reading a20150907_104013t 2:30pm on Sunday and finished at 10:15 that night.  I COULD.NOT.STOP reading the honest and hilarious words of this woman.  I found that as Jenny shared her emotions, frustrations, inner thoughts and fears I not only related but had said similar things in my own darkest days.

I had purposely not read much about Jenny’s story prior to reading this book and I’m glad I didn’t.  As the story of a year of tragedy unfolded I was hanging on each word.  As the group Addison Road had to choose to disband I understood why and ached right along with Jenny as she watched everyone else move on while she sat devastated as her dream slipped away.

For Jenny she has been able to break up her journey into categories.  The Dreaming and Destruction, The Burying, The Lostness, The Waiting and The Becoming.  As she writes of her journey, beautifully tying together her past and present I couldn’t help but smile and nod along. Although our stories are very different, I could relate to Jenny’s heart ache and desire to do life well while at the same time feeling lost as to what was next.

Jenny is so clear to show how others in her life carried her along in her journey, and she is also so honest in saying that things aren’t perfect just because she has a deeper understanding of God.  This raw honesty is what kept me engaged and wanting more.

I cannot tell you how comforting this book was for me.  Not because there is a 10 steps to freedom plan (there isn’t) but because Jenny does an amazing job showing how God carries us in our wilderness times and how our responses can look.