By Laurel Pattenden
This is the time of year I begin my wandering quest for the perfect book to journey with through Advent.
I want that certain book that will stay by my side for the four weeks of introspection, learning and prayer. Getting me ready for opening myself up to the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child.
This year, without any angst of searching, the right book just happened to be downloaded on my iPad. It is not your typical Advent book. In fact, it isn’t an Advent book at all! But it is definitely the book for the season we are finding ourselves in. Advent or not!
Several years ago, I bought a book called “Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World” and started following a blog called the Sabbath Society. Now don’t ask me which came first to my attention. That would just be a chicken and egg question with my memory. The important thing is that I knew I had met a woman of incredible insight and honesty towards leading a Christian life.
Reading her blog every Friday led me to start companioning with Shelly. I started in the early summer, with the help of Zoom, meeting with Shelly as my coach. So as you know, one thing leads to the next; I was invited, along with her many other social media followers, to help with the launch of her new book “Searching for Certainty: Finding God in the Disruptions of Life”.
Now you are probably wondering after reading the title if this had been written because of the pandemic? It was actually sent to the editors in March 2020. It is about times of uncertainty in Shelly’s life, from her American birth and upbringing to her and her husband’s call to ministry in London, England.
Shelly takes us on the wandering journey of Moses, Aaron and Miriam. She also takes us on her personal wandering journey. Wandering and travelling as a “peregrini”. Peregrinatio is when one leaves their home and travels, wandering. Wandering for the love of God.
But if we are not wandering into the soul and seeking God first, then wandering into new things becomes an exploration into more lostness.*
Life is a sojourn not a conversation with self alone.*
As we wander along with Shelly, she also uses techniques of photography (yes, she is a gifted photographer) such as depth of field, still life, perspective, overexposure and chiaroscuro in her writing and suggested practices. We are refreshed, as we wander, by many incredible insights that speak to our very heart. Here are a few of my favourites:
Ultimately, a lack of gratitude is rooted in striving for your worth and value outside of God, motivated by the fear of being unloveable.*
Your true name isn’t embossed on your credit card but living within you.*
Stay attentive to Light shining through the unexpected.*
If we aren’t at peace internally, the externals are superfluous.*
Truth be known, I would love to quote the entire book to you!
Every chapter is dotted with questions and ends with practice exercises. This is where our work comes in. Unfortunately, we can not just read our faith but we have to practice our faith. Inside and out.
For me, Shelly’s questions in the book are absolutely amazing, asking me to go places I’m not so sure I want to go. If you are a journal writer, you will find endless writing opportunities with Shelly’s questions. If you like to sit and be still, these questions are openings for meditation and prayer.
What part of God are you unsure of?*
Where can we wander that the wonder of God’s love is not in our midst?*
What are you relying on to feel at peace in the world?* What does love sound like to you?*
What is captivating your attention from beholding God’s whereabouts in your world?*
These are great questions aren’t they! What will our answers be? Shelly is encouraging us to answer. God is waiting for our answers.
I highly recommend this book for every season in your life. In every season of uncertainty. (Psssst……..would be a good Advent read, too.) It will touch your heart and move you into new ways of thinking. You will set off wandering in search of new depths in your relationship with God.
As we live in this current uncertain time of the pandemic “certainty” can feel hidden and in short supply. Uncertainty, however, can be conquered but we have to search. We have to become a perigrini and answer the questions we wander upon.
Will you wander for the love of God?*
Thank you, Shelly Miller, for sharing your personal life experiences and sharing them for our own growth. You are a messenger, a prophet, a healer.
(* These are direct quotes from Searching for Certainty by Shelly Miller, Bethany House, Oct. 13, 2020.)
Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.