3 inspirational reads that will become instant classics on your shelf

Pull up a cup of coffee .... it's time to read.

Few stories that have captured my heart quite like these. I have hunted them down in used book stores, dogeared their pages and put them in my family's stockings as Christmas gifts. Like old comforts, these books have stood by me when I felt weary of hope or love, and allowed me continue believing in truth when I doubted it most severely. I do not make mention of them lightly, knowing that you may take precious time out of your schedule to pick one up and read it.

My hope is that you will grasp some of the beauty I have found in each of these stories, and that they will journey with you through the hard and delightful places of life. They've been faithful companions through my own seasons of soaring hope, and even the times when I'm at war with cynicism or disappointment.

Take a moment in the morning to fit one of these reads in, if you haven't already. Warning: You may find yourself in tears, or whipping your pen out to underline an important phrase. At that moment, you will know why I have made the suggestion.

One Thousand Gifts—Ann Voskamp

"I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep." 

Theme: The present is the only place where real joy exists. 

Ann Voskamp has this insane gift of making real, every day moments poetic. She writes with a stream-of-consciousness style that admittedly, is not for everyone, but if is your style—it WILL change your world. You will never look at bubbles in the sink or a pile of laundry the same again. Boiling rice will become romantic.

She sets out to attempt to answer one simple question with this book: "How do we find joy in the mist of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties?" She answers this beautiful and slow, in the real moments of her everyday "farmer's wife/mom" life.

I'm not a mom, but this book is so dear to me. We all have mundane, relatable moments in common, we all have jobs to do and tasks that demand our attention, however uninspiring. Learning how to redeem that time to write a story we love is so crucial. Take it off the shelf or borrow from a friend. Heck, I will give you my copy. You just need to read this. 

A Severe Mercy—Sheldon Vanauken

"When we first fell in love in the dead of winter, we said, 'If we aren't more in love in lilactime, we shall be finished.' But we were more in love: for love must grow or die.” 

Theme: Love is the final reality, and some loves withstand the test of time—and even such dark places as the grave.  

For most books, one pass through is more than enough, but about once a year, I get a desperate craving for this book. It elicits wonder, awe, hope, joy and yes—many, many tears. 

There are some kinds of love God allows to thrive on this earth that almost defies explanation. It is so pure-hearted, so romantic and self-sacrificial, it leaves you questioning if it's really real. This is the story of Van and Davy's love.

 The author (Van) writes his autobiographical love story with such intensity that at first take, it's hard to believe that he is quite serious in the words he is recording.

Van and Davy are young lovers, traveling professors, and itinerant sailors whose quest for beauty and truth finds them at Oxford. They become determined from the outset of their relationship and eventual marriage, to commit wholeheartedly to their own "in-loveness" and to keep it at the very center of their shared existence.

A close friendship with C.S. Lewis is highlighted in the book as the young couple comes to grips with how faith in Christ will turn their paradigm of love upside down. Grief soon enters the picture, and in the most achingly, tender, romantic and tragic way, they will learn how some kinds of love transcends even death.

Before reading this book, I was content to believe that certain kinds of romantic love only existed in myth. I can't say that now. Reading this book has entirely transformed my belief on what love can be. This book plants the bedrock for lasting love on something more than romanticism, but upon a grievous season of the soul (a "severe" mercy).

The truth is plain as it is beautiful: Where suffering abounds, there love abounds more.

Swoon.

Fair word of warning: This book will make you emotional. I had to read it in the comfort of my own home so as to avoid the "ugly cry" in public.  If you're not looking for that right now, back away slowly. 

Hinds' Feed on High Places—Hannah Hurnard

"Then as she looked up in his face, he smiled most sweetly and said something he had never said before, "You have one real beauty, Much-Afraid, you have such trustful eyes. Trust is one of the most beautiful things in the world."

Theme: Perfect love casts out all fear, transforms, and gives us a new name.

Let me introduce you to the simplest book that just might change your life. In the category of Christian allegory, it is bar none.

Hannah Hurnard has the ability to write simultaneously to a youthful audience while engaging in the subplot, much more profound significance for an adult audience. The author brilliantly executes this allegory of faith through one character: Much Afraid.

The book's inspiration draws upon Psalm 18:33: "He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights."

Much Afraid's journey to the High Places is not met without a lot of resistance from her two companions: Sorrow and Suffering. And then there's Craven Fear, her bullying relative who demands that she never leave the valley to tread upon the heights. But a guide appears to affirm that she belongs there and that her feet were meant to tread on the mountains. He is The Good Shepherd. 

Want to read on yet?

Within the first few lines of this tale, I was hooked (and that's no small feat for a staunch, non-fiction reader like myself). The idea that resilience is only delivered through suffering, pain, and at times disappointment is delivered so poignantly. Through child-like eyes of pure faith, the author gently leads the reader through her journey of trusting the Good Shepherd. I promise that will leave you with a kind of hope you've desperately been searching for, and remind you of the goodness of pure-hearted faith. It's a beautiful thing friends. 

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With these three recommended readings, you have all you need to get your 'classics' collection started. Find a cozy spot in your corner coffee shop and settle in. I promise it will be good.