For some reason, lately I’ve found myself drawn to books on the topic of loving the life you have now, with all its bumps and dips and scratches and imperfections. I suppose it can be all too easy to wish our lives away for something easier, prettier, happier, healthier—the list goes on and on—that we never take the time to appreciate that which sits right before us, right this moment.
But that is not the way I want to live my life.
Instead, I want to take the humble life that God has given me and learn to see—and embrace and appreciate—the glittering gifts that lie in its folds.
So, that has been the guiding force behind the books I’ve been reading lately, and I wanted to share a couple of reviews on some of those books; one of which I was not impressed with (sadly, because, as a writer, I always hate doling out a bad review!) but another that I filled up with page markers and underlines. Here’s more about each of those books:
Grumble Hallelujah by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira
I have to say that I love a lot about this book, starting with the title itself. So much so that when I was working on a Sunday School lesson that I was teaching recently, I used this book and One Thousand Gifts (you know that’s a tip-top favorite of mine!) as prime fodder for material. Like One Thousand Gifts, Grumble Hallelujah looks at what we do when life doesn’t go the way that we planned and how we deal with this in terms of our faith. Of the two, I still would say that One Thousand Gifts is my hands-down favorite and preferred, but this book is another book in the same vein that is definitely worth reading. (You can read more of my review about One Thousand Gifts here.)
In it, author Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira talks from a place of knowing—she has walked her fair share of suffering in her finances, her marriage, her family life. And as she writes, none of it has disappeared or been tied up with a pretty little bow. No, she’s still in the midst of some of it, dealing with the fall-out. And yet, from that reality, she talks intimately about how she has slowly started the process of learning to love her life, no matter how dark or difficult it might look. And how do you learn to love your life? Well, that’s where the book’s title comes into play.
Loving the life we currently have is rooted in this idea of praising God—even if we have to grumble a Hallelujah. As she says, “I discovered that God welcomed my resigned, crabby, sigh-filled, grumbly hallelujahs. So I needed to learn to mumble it, grumble it, hiss it, or smirk it.”
Throughout the book (which I received, courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for this review), she spotlights what that looks like in a variety of situations where we need to learn to “let go”—whether it’s of expectations, control, jealousy, or the feeling that you have to have it all together—and how she’s had to walk through each of those issues. Without laying out all her dirty laundry, she is pretty raw and real about her story and the dark places she’s been and how God has walked her through those places. That kind of humility and honesty is one of the things that endeared me most to this book.
Judging from my page markings, it was the first portion of the book that I found most compelling and where I marked page after page, especially the parts in the first chapters where she looks at Biblical examples of folks who “grumble” their hallelujahs to God—not necessarily for their circumstances of suffering but for the simple fact of who God is—and how doing so impacts our faith. She wades into a few subjects that few authors seem to have touched on—such as being willing to grieve the life we don't have—that I felt made this a worthwhile read.
You can find Grumble Hallelujah by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira on Amazon.
Constantly Craving by Marilyn Meberg
I had high hopes for this book, having used the Amazon search feature to read through a bunch of random interior pages before I selected it from BookSneeze, who provided me with a copy to review. I really thought this was going to be one of my favorite books of the year. but when I actually started reading it, I was pretty disappointed. It’s not that it’s a bad book; I was just hoping for more.
In it, author Marilyn Meberg looks at about a dozen ways that people are often craving “more” from life, whether it’s craving a better romantic relationship, finding more time and respite from busyness, yearning for more meaning in life and a few other of life’s biggies. Of course it should come as no surprise that she reiterates the same thing that Jesus trumpeted here on life, which is that he is the only water that can quench our thirst so that we’re never thirsty again, he is the only Thing that fill us to satisfaction. But she goes deeper and looks at where many of these cravings come from—particularly from our childhood experiences—as well as some very brief insights for how to manage those cravings.
The book is a decent starting place for looking at finding contentment with life, but it seemed rushed and trite and overly simplistic in some parts. I was hoping it would be much more memoir-esque—since the author is in her seventies and has much wisdom to impart! There were many funny snippets from her life sprinkled throughout, but I was eager to see more of a here’s-how-I-walked-this-out aspect that I felt was missing from making this book a truly worthwhile and life-changing read.
You can find Constantly Craving by Marilyn Meberg on Amazon.
Carmen writes the blog, Life Blessons, which provides an intimate look into her life as a twentysomething woman as she details her experiences learning how to live out her faith, enjoy the simple things in life and be the woman God created to her to be. Along the way, she shares the blessings and lessons that are a part of this journey, the things she likes to call her "blessons."
Feel free to learn more at her blog, Life Blessons.