Beach Books 2018

I want to pause time!

Last week, this thought kept fluttering through my mind. We spent the week at a North Carolina beach house with family we don’t get to spend time with all that often. We spent many hours being sandy, jumping waves, and eating as much shrimp as possible. As I get older, and my kids seem to daily gain inches on me in height, I battle this ever-present awareness of the diminishing number of our long summer days together.

My son flew a kite for the first time, and while the ocean will always mesmerize and capture me, the sight of my boy pulling and tugging to keep this kite in the air caused me to turn my chair to watch with amazement at how he was figuring out this hard thing.

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Even though my heart grows nostalgic way to easily, I’m not going to disown the absolute delight I experienced in having opportunity to read uninterrupted for amazing long stretches at the beach. There are good things about moving into a season of life when everyone knows how to swim and get themselves a snack.

That blessed time to immerse in books means I have a few recommendations I need to share. Warning, there is no general theme. Just a representation of the diversity in my book selections!

“Love Well Be Well”

I’ll start with my favorite. “Love Big Be Well: letters to a small-town church,” by Winn Collier. As my church is going through a transition to find a new pastor, I’ve been thinking a lot about the local church. Honestly, I’ve battled feelings of disconnect with church for as long as I can remember. Yet I understand and try to keep at the front of my mind how Jesus loves the local church. When it functions the way He intends, I do believe the church is a beautiful representation of Jesus and his love for people.  

This book reminds me of what is beautiful about church. It follows a small-town church as it goes through the selection of a new pastor, Jonas. From his arrival to his settling into church life. It’s not gossipy or hypocritical, or cliquish. The new pastor writes heart-felt letters as he finds his place in the community and the church. He encourages the members in their growth in love and community and his description of the church struck me with how succinct it is while still conveying much meaning. He writes:

“As the church, we are the people (whenever we are true to ourselves) who will welcome you into this world, who will join you in marriage and in friendship, who will bless your coming and your going. We will pray for you to prosper and know love’s depths even if you think our prayers are foolish or offered in vain, and we will mourn you when you leave us. We will bless the land and the nations we share, and we will grieve together through tragedy and heartache. We will celebrate, with you, everything beautiful and good, everything that comes from the hand of mercy. And then, when your days conclude, we will bury you. We will return you to the earth and pray God’s kindness over you.”

I also love how Jonas, the pastor, learns to love the place where he is. He wasn’t looking for the grandest city where he could make a big name for himself, but a place to invest and live a local life that wouldn’t make sense if lived the same way somewhere else. He writes, “I want to preach sermons that would only fit in Granby. I want to live a life that wouldn’t make much sense anywhere else but Granby.” Yes! This is what sums up all my best efforts to buy local, eat local, and play local.

This may be one of my favorite books of the year.

“The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street.”

Switching gears, we listened to a great family story on the car ride to and from North Carolina. “The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street” kept us all in suspense until the end to find out if the family of seven plus pets would ultimately get to continue living in their beloved brownstone apartment In Harlem. With five siblings and their interesting personalities, we each became uniquely attached to different characters. We’re always looking for audio books that keep everyone’s attention, and this one did it.

“Can You See Anything Now?”

Finally, I want to mention the third book I read primarily because of its rarity. My experience has typically found Christian fiction to be full of Amish heroines and neat bows with people who ultimately find all their answers when they meet Jesus. I love that redemption and transformation as a storyline, but find it unrealistic and not even representative of what I experience with a faith that ebbs and flows.

It was a refreshing surprise to read “Can You See Anything Now?” by Katherine James because it is Christian fiction, but with characters that are unlike those typically found within the genre. There is language, there are drugs, there are doubts and questions and I can’t promise that everything gets fixed by the time the book ends.

But if you are interested in a Christian book that wrestles with real-life questions and problems, this book will take you there.

That’s it. The three books of my vacation. The fourth is still in progress and relates to the next book we are wriitng – which means crime. Yes, crime.