Because Words Satisfy the Soul

by | Jul 13, 2012 | Uncategorized

Stacks of books lay on the edges of the coffee table around the X-box controllers and remotes. I’m sitting on my legs in front of the bookcase pulling books off the shelves, adding to the piles. My kids want to know what I’m doing. The last time I did something like this I gave away all their Donut Man videos and they’ve never forgiven me. They get nervous when they see me making piles.

Sarah Bessey’s lists inspire me last week. I spend an hour among the air-conditioned shelves of used paperbacks in a day of stifling heat. Walk out with a stack of five for the price of one and wonder why I haven’t been to this store in four years. I’m going back.

“I’m taking these to the used bookstore to get credit for more books, but I want you both to look through the ones I’m pulling out before I take them,” I assure their discontent.

Murielle thinks it’s ironic that I’m getting rid of books just when we’re re-arranging our family room, adding more bookshelves. I remind her about boxes of books in the attic we don’t have room for on the already full shelves. “Oh,” she remembers, “that makes sense.”

She’s reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for a school reading assignment, while Harrison turns the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird to complete his. And my heart beats faster knowing they hold the classics in their hands now. I know the way a well-written phrase can open a whole new landscape of perspective, transform rooms of tired thinking.

My first introduction to the classics came in a well-worn hardback of Jane Eyre I found at the small library in the town where we lived while H attended seminary. I lay that book on my lap during a road trip as newlyweds. The car remaining mostly silent as I give myself over to story.

That book gives me an appetite for words that lead me to the other Bronte sister and then Jane Austen. The special edition of Anne of Green Gables with a cover that looks like a piece of art I receive for my birthday that year, it’s my favorite gift. Smitten by the power of words.

And perhaps reading fulfills that part of me that hungers to know the attributes of God expressed in a way that makes me think beyond the grocery lists and doctor visits.

I haul the cardboard crate of books into the store lined with rows of well read paperbacks. The lady behind the counter with the messy ponytail and smudged eyeliner takes stacks in one hand while navigating the calculator with the other. “We don’t take self-help books,” she looks up at me. “They don’t sell very well.”

And I wonder why. Are Christian inspirational books irrelevant or do people keep them like found treasure re-visited? Maybe it’s because showing someone how to live through the power of story is more transformative than telling someone how to do it in five easy steps.

Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction. ~Proverbs 18:20

“You have twenty-seven dollars of credit,” she says with a smile. “Do you want to spend it now?”

“I’ll be back,” I tell her. “I forgot my Sarah Bessey  list lying on my desk.”

I pick up the box of “self-help” books, push the glass door open with my back and wonder if I can fill this box again from the shelves in the bedrooms.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for summer reading, I’ve updated my What I Read page, just click on the tab at the top of the page. And will you share what you’re reading this summer here in the comments? Perhaps a classic that you go back and re-read regularly?

If you haven’t already done so, will you like my Facebook page on the sidebar too?

I’m joining Michelle today for Graceful Summer, embracing the quiet, carefree summer days.


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  1. Jean Wise

    ahhh, I love books too.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Ooo, those both sound great Amy. Thanks for the link, I’ll pop over and take a read later today. Appreciate you adding your favorites, I like getting ideas for new reads. Especially from writers.

  2. Jillie

    Good day Shelly…My sweetheart of a groom, ‘The Millwright’, just bought me a Kobo eReader a couple of weeks ago, so I’m going a little mad here! This summer I’ve read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, and ‘Wuthering Heights’…thus far. Presently, I’m reading something lighter—‘Holly Springs’ by Jan Karon—one of the Father Tim series. I had forgotton what a delightful read Jan Karon’s books can be. (I even sent away, through Amazon, for the movie, ‘Wuthering Heights’…the version starring Timothy Dalton…saw it when I was 15 or so. All I remember about it, was that I cried my eyes out over the totally romantic love of ‘Heathcliff’ and ‘Catherine’. Can’t wait to receive it in the old mailbox!) 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You are reading some good ones Jillie. I read a few of Jan Karon’s series and it seemed too close to real life for me to enjoy, with my husband being an Anglican priest. Let me know if you like the movie. Sounds like your having a bit of fun reading and resting this summer.

  3. LuAnn

    Shelly, Why do your words, so often, make me cry? I love words and yours are some of my sweetest treasures.
    What I am reading/have read this summer-The Forgotten Garden (you gave me, thank you), I’m rereading Middlemarch, The Wind and The Willows (with John), The Hunger Games Trilogy (my daughters’ suggestion), Why Jesus by R. Zacharias and Amusing Ourselves To Death by N. Postman. Like you, I have been selling books to buy more books as well as growing my kindle library.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love the Wind and the the Willows and then the ones written later to continue the stories are good too. Toad Triumphant! My kids loved the Hunger Games books, but told me I wouldn’t like them. I gave one to the girl I mentor before school was out for summer reading. Anxious to see if she likes it.

  4. tara pohlkotte

    now we’re talking!! Oh, Shelly. Classics and i are the best of friends. i love their slow pacing, their no-frills but full of live perspective, unafraid of making characters that are not “perfect” or even funny, just people in all of their honest, flawed glory. Have you read any of Thomas Hardy’s books? There are passages of his that i read and well, i’m pretty darn sure i’ll never pick up a pen again because he’s done it all right there. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I love the way you describe the Classics Tara, so true. I haven’t read Hardy, I’ll have to check into him. Is there a favorite you would start with?

      • tara pohlkotte

        Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd. Both are super slow. but in there….oh, goodness. its like, watching real life unfold.

        • Redemption's Beauty

          Thanks Tara, I’m going to check into getting one of them at our used bookstore . . .since I have a credit and all. 🙂

  5. karenlessscripted

    I love the way you write. Thank you for introducing me to Sarah Bessey too!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Karen, thank you and so glad to have you joining the conversations here. Sarah is full of wisdom and beautiful writing, you’ll love her I’m sure.

  6. Heather Kopp at

    Ah, I saw your title today and thought, “We are in sync!” Words feed my soul too. I loved this post and I love knowing you, Shelly. You feel like such a fellow pilgrim. H

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Same here Heather, feel privileged that our paths have crossed. You are a kindred spirit. When I read you, I often feel like I read my own thoughts, said better and with more clarity.

  7. jodyo70

    Shelley, I see you have Walking on Water by Madeline L’Engle…powerful book. Oh, and ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’–my English teacher heart is pleased. That book just makes me smile.
    I just pulled out ‘Penguins and Golden Calves by L’Engle to re read (purchased in 1996.)
    I LOVE used book/trade in stores–went to Half Price books here in Seattle and found ‘Blue Like Jazz’ yesterday by Donald Miller…looks interesting.
    What am I reading? Gardening/food book by Barbara Kingsolver ‘Animal Vegetable Miracle’ and taking very small bites of a book on Song of Solomon–1916–by Cora MacIlravy. For fun and delight–The Scent of Water (D. Trautwein mentioned months ago) by Elizabeth Goudge–1962.
    Thanks for sharing and asking. I tend to stick with old books–the authors seem to be able to say more with the same words….if that makes sense.
    thanks for sharing and asking.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Jody, Blue Like Jazz is one of my favortie books. I gave lots of copies of that away when it first came out. And I haven’t ever heard of that L’Engle book, I’ll have to check it out.

  8. Gayle

    Such a kindred spirit, I adore books! Last night I downloaded Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay called Self Reliance. There are some good word treasures there, but the verdict is still out on if I would recommend this essay. I hope to pick up the book The Lost Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini for the weekend. But…if I start that I won’t get ANYTHING done, because I know I will hopelessly lost in another time and an enfolding story. I am sure the story will eventually win out over my to do list, especially on Sunday when I give myself permission to just read on the front porch all afternoon long!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love quiet Sunday’s to read all afternoon, one of my favorite things to do. It’s too hot to read on my porch right now and we are leaving to travel up north where the weather is more tolerable this week. Can’t wait. I haven’t heard of Chiaverini, or read any titles my her. Thanks for the recommendation.

  9. Laura Rath

    How fun! It seems like everyone is talking about books lately. Right now I’m reading Do You Know Who I Am? by Angela Thomas, The Heart of the Story by Randy Frazee, and You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’ve noticed it too, all the talking about books. It’s summer and with the freedom of the season comes books in hands for writers. It’s like going to a party every day and trying to decide which story to choose. You are a Writer by Goins is great. Read that on our trip through to Scotland and found it encouraging and helpful.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      And it makes me happy that you came by Sarah. Your books lists were so fun, inspiring and helpful. And I wanted to share the fun I was having with others.

  10. Deidra Riggs

    I laughed when the book store lady called the books “self-help” books. What a mess I make when I try to help myself.

    I’m reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s “An Altar In The World.”

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Isn’t that the truth. How do you like that book?

  11. Michelle DeRusha

    I love blog posts about books – they make me so happy! Right now I am reading “Still” by Lauren Winner {can I whisper here that I don’t love it…even though her “Girl Meets God” is among my very favorites}, and Circle of Quiet (a Sarah Bessey recommendation), by Madeline L’Engle. I’m also reading “Under the Tuscan Sun” (a favorite summer re-read), and (with my boys) the Gregor the Overlander series.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I read Still and thought she had a few profound things to say but I really just kind of felt like she was in a bad place throughout most of the book. And I want to read Circle of Quiet, have had more friends say they like that book. It’s on my short list. I need more hours in the day!

  12. lolitavalle

    Yes to “words satisfy the soul,” in fact I crave for them.

    God puts words in our dreams, visions….. in our hearts, in our minds.

    I love books, Shelly and I wish there are stores in my place like you have there….. where we can bring back those we want to pass on for credit.

    This was a good time to spend off summer heat….. book exchange.

  13. simplystriving

    I’ve made it through 14 books so far this summer (half I got from your list). Some Manning, Tozer, L’Engle, Nouwen, A.Lamott, Goins, among others. And I finally got around to reading “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers which was suggested by a dozen or more readers.
    Right now I’m reading Kisses from Katie, No Longer a Slumdog by Yohannan, Prayers from the Pews, and L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet –which I got from Sarah’s list! And I see some more of your list and Sarah’s list are waiting for me on the library’s hold shelf!

    All that to say, it’s been a good summer …

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Wow Nikki, your a reading machine, so impressed. Any favorites from that awesome list?

      • simplystriving

        I’ve added Walking on Water to my favorites list. And am certain A Circle of Quiet will be added, too. I’ve added “Messy Spirituality” by Yaconelli. Very quick read if you haven’t read it. I would add The Ragamuffin Gospel if I could let everyone know it just made me think…I don’t agree with everything.

        So far, in all my reading, C.S. Lewis is still the most common author I can read time and time again and never grow tired. I’ve gone through 4 copies of Mere Christianity alone.

        And I’m thinking of adding a favorite book list on my blog with one entire section dedicated to my favorite missionary biographies. They’re my favorite reads. Like you said, showing someone how to live through the power of story is more transformative than telling someone how to do it…

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