Monday, 22 September 2014

What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days - Book Review

September rolls round and I sway between whether this is still my favourite month of the year, or whether it is a series of hard days. Earlier this month I wrote a post about Going for Gold.  September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and that is something close to my heart, but not what my heart needs.

I was drawn to this book simply for it's title.  And of course the cute polka dot cup on the cover didn't hurt either.  I have a matching one I made a hot cup of tea in, then opened up for a read.

I began a little skeptically.  There are books out there that promise us nuggets of wisdom, cliched slogans and are packed with all kinds of positive mantras to recite to build oneself up and I really didn't need another of those. Because what I really wanted was something to help me on the days when I didn't want to read the slogans, or recite some positive message to myself in the mirror.  Those are the really hard days.

Right from the opening page though, I knew this book was going to be different and speak differently to my heart.   Gerth's opening sentence is a hook to every woman I know.  "She stands at the edge of the room and stares at the floor.  All around her conversations flow and laughter pours out, yet she feels alone."  I have been there and I think most women I know have sometimes felt this way, that everyone else has their friends and is having a great time.  Everyone but me while I stand awkwardly at the edge of the room, on the edge of the school grounds or the church entrance way before service.

Gerth can identify with our insecurities, our fears, our temptations and our grief.  She describes it.  She reaches in and says, Yes - you, I know how that feels.  She knows the hard days.   But she doesn't leave it there.  She goes on to show us another way, and the great thing is, it isn't a "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" way.  It's reassuring and gentle, but strong and can empower us with courage and strength to not only get through the hard days, but live them and live them well.

How does she do this?  She writes 52 chapters, walking us through the Bible's book of psalms, and replaces darkness with truth and light, that is both believable and dependable.  Whether Christian or not, I would wager this is a book appealing to any woman who has ever had a hard day and needs to hear a friendly voice.  The chapter titles tempt us in with such gems as "God Wants to Update your Wardrobe," God does not expect you to be "Fine," and "God calls you His Own."

Gerth addresses difficult topics head on and manages to deliver a fresh perspective without being contrived.  She speaks frankly and honestly about some of her own hard days and how she was able to come to a different understanding about pain, sadness and grief.  In one chapter she speaks of grief being the positive process that helps us move forward over time.  In another how God is present during our darkness, that we are in the shadow of His wing.  I found Gerth able to give me an opportunity to shift the way I perceived the pain and hard days, that though they were real and I could give credence to them,  I could also begin to recognise and understand something else in them. It was also a refreshing way to see how the psalms, though written thousands of years ago are as appropriate today as they were then as each chapter is linked to part of a psalm and can be applied to modern day topics and circumstances.  It is the very essence of our humanness that they speak to, and Gerth illustrates this beautifully throughout the book.

The book can be enjoyed as a devotional, or can be dipped in to selecting a chapter whose title speaks to you.  Most chapters are 2 to 3 pages long, and as this is a pocket sized book it is great to pack along with you and read when you have a few minutes to spare.  I read it daily first thing in the morning and I found myself set up well for the day.  There is a space at the end of each chapter to record "what my heart is saying"  and "what my heart is hearing"  I sometimes wished I had a little more space to write here, but as this is a pocket sized book, if treating as a devotional study it might be a good idea to have a separate place to record notes.  I liked that it was a smaller book though as could take it with me wherever I went.  When I've gone through exceptionally hard times in my life, having this book with me would have been like carrying a hug in my pocket.  It's tag line is "52 encouraging truths to hold on to" and I found that this is exactly what it delivered.

In short, if you've ever found yourself having a hard day, read it!  If you've never had a bad day read it anyway!  

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