Shades of Light by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review

If you enjoyed Garlough’s Sensible Shoes series, you’ll love this book also.  It centers around Wren Crawford, a young woman suffering from anxiety, depression and panic attacks.  She lives in Kingsbury, about ten years after the events of Sensible Shoes.  You will once again meet Hannah, Mara, and Charissa and get some updates on their lives.  You will also learn the back story of their spiritual director, Katherine, who turns out to be Wren’s Aunt Kit.

If you or a loved one has suffered from mental illness, you will be able to emphasize with Wren and her family.  This is another story about surrendering to God — surrendering when life spirals out of control, or when we feel helpless to change the suffering and anguish experienced by someone else’s pain. How do we come alongside, yet still establish boundaries?  It’s also about unanswered questions and how to go forward in our lives when difficult circumstances lack closure.

Wren’s story is interwoven with excerpts from the letters, art and life of the artist, Vincent Van Gogh, as well as the biblical concept of Jesus as “the man of sorrows.”  It introduces the spiritual practice of visio divina –inviting God to speak to our heart as we contemplate an image.

I was disappointed that this book did not include any specific spiritual exercises or a study guide at the end.  There is a list of recommended resources with organizations that can help with mental illness as well as books on suicide, grief, the art of Vincent van Gogh and spiritual formation.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  This book spoke to me on so may levels.  I highly recommend it.

If you haven’t read the other books by Sharon Garlough Brown see these reviews:

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

A Book about Surrender

An Extra Mile by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review

 

 

 

Nothing is Wasted by Lore Cottone–Book Review

Lore Cottone’s story is a heartwrenching — the journey of a mother facing the complicated life of a child diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, bipolar disorder and depression. The many problems of her oldest son, Graham, eventually led to addiction and self-harming behavior.  He spent his eighteenth and nineteenth birthdays in jail, and his twentieth birthday in a mental hospital.  At times he was homeless.  Over the years, she and her family struggled to discover how to help Graham.  They tried homeschooling, counseling, medication, mentoring, rehab and more — hoping each time that the final piece of the puzzle would fall into place, solving his problems.

Finally, realizing that Graham and her other sons are grown, Lore discovers that as a Christian, the only way to find peace is to give her children into God’s care, to trust him fully.  As she puts it:

“They were all young men now.  We had done the job of raising them in the faith of our loving God.  Now they needed to make choices.  They needed to own their faith.  I was called to pray but not to worry over their decisions.”

All parents face this dilemma at some point, but how much harder it is when you see your child floundering.  Eventually Graham’s life settles down.  He moves to California and finds a church.  An older man offers to rent him a room in his house and they become friends.  He is accepted as an intern in the church’s ministry school and attends community college.  Finally, he is medication and drug free and functioning well.

Lore describes Graham’s story as a miracle.  Not all stories will end as well.  The lesson to take away is not that God will eventually fix all our problems — it is to trust Him and His purposes, even in the midst of our personal chaos.  His plan cannot be thwarted.  Nothing is wasted.

VERDICT:  3 STARS.  This is a very personal memoir that will appeal to parents facing similar issues.

For another book on special needs parenting, see this post:

eat, sleep, save the World by Jamie Sumner–Book Review

 

Joan’s Journey part 3

I thought my life was fine and wouldn’t change much until we retired.  I loved my church and could not imagine leaving it.  Looking back, I see that I loved my church so much I made it into an idol.  I would never have said we were perfect, but I was proud of my congregation and my place in it, and I did think we were really special.  And I had my own version of the prosperity gospel.  I didn’t expect God to make me rich, but I thought He would give me peaceful, harmonious relationships at church and at home.  Didn’t God owe me that … after all the work I put in being a good Christian?

 That is not the attitude God wants in His servants and I see that now. Eventually my self-satisfied life began to dissolve.(Here comes the death and rebirth part). Our oldest daughter hit adolescence and had a lot of problems. We tried all sorts of things, including counseling, but nothing seemed to work.  Years later Beth was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and by then we had all been through a great deal of pain.

At the same time things were going wrong at church.  Some friends were angry at the Pastor and the situation kept escalating.  Eventually they left. I was in anguish seeing the congregation I poured my life into torn apart.  To top it off, Terry decided he was called to the ministry.  I didn’t mind him being a pastor, because that would just be Terry’s job.  However I didn’t want to move to St. Louis and become the primary breadwinner so that he could go to seminary.  I told him this was just too much to ask, with one child in college and one with mental health issues.  He could move, but I would not.

 Terry thankfully, agreed we should stay together, and said if God wanted him to be a pastor He would make it happen.  And He did.  Terry found a Lutheran denomination that offered seminary courses via distance learning.  He kept his job and began the process.  When he came to the point where this denomination would have required him to go on a one year internship, he found another Lutheran group that agreed to ordain him immediately.  So Terry had his wish, or rather God’s wish.  Now what?

 The denomination that ordained him did not have an open pulpit, so Terry decided he would have to start a mission congregation, a daunting prospect. We knew from experience how much effort that took.  Then a friend asked Terry if he would fill in at his church. They were between pastors. We came to St. Paul’s where something clicked for us, and I believe, for the congregation very quickly.  They were small but lively and not afraid to keep the church running on their own.  They appreciated Terry’s gift for teaching and preaching.  They encouraged me, too, and allowed me to participate in the way I saw myself:  an active layperson, not just the Pastor’s wife.

 Terry and I have now been at St. Paul’s for more than ten years.  The church joined the AFLC and Terry is on their clergy roll.  I’ve written articles for the Lutheran Ambassador and a Bible study for the national women’s group.  I serve at church in many ways.  Since retiring, I am a part time caregiver for my granddaughter, Katelyn, and my mother with dementia. Now I’ve become a blogger! Many of these are things I would never have imagined doing.  Life with God is a continual surprise.  I’m humbler now and don’t pretend to know what my future holds.  John Wesley once said,                                                  

When I was young I was sure of everything.  In a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before.  At present, I am hardly sure of anything except what God has revealed to me.”

I don’t know what my future holds, but I know God has a plan and that He will continue to work it out in my life.