Jewish people in the Old Testament observed many festivals, three of which included a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. God established these special holidays for His people to interrupt their daily routines, reminding them of how God is at work in the lives of His people. They remembered His faithfulness in the past and were assured He'd always be faithful. It was a time of coming together with family and friends. It was a time of feasting.
I wasn't sure if I would write an individual post about the Festival of Faith and Writing this year. I told my readers before I left about my anxiety about the event. You can read that post here. It's a wonderful conference but this year I was going to be meeting a whole new group of people whose opinions matter to me a great deal. Being an introvert, that had me freaked out a little bit. But I felt many prayers on my behalf and I jumped in and did the thing. I had a great time! The moments when I did feel a little uncertain, I realized something about myself. The best way for me to overcome awkwardness is to stop thinking about myself as much as possible. I began to look for others to encourage instead. I found folks I could listen to, including two friends who shared about how they got their first-time book deals. Everyone's journey looks so different. I opened doors for people, literally. I complimented cute outfits. Essentially, I got over myself. It works wonders, I tell you.
So, I was proud of myself at the festival. I still snuck away a few times to read one of the books I'd purchased. No matter how much you stretch and grow, you have to be true to who you are! Speaking of books, I want to share them with you. Here's what I got either at the conference or ones I ordered while listening to the writers. In addition, I have a reading list of about 30 books I want to read but will purchase at a later date or check out from the library. That's not including the authors I'd already read (see this week's review, To Scott Cairns: A Confession) or the ones I have on my Kindle to review (I'm devouring "The Pug List: A Ridiculous Little Dog, a Family Who Lost Everything, And How They All Found Their Way Home" by Alison Hodgson). It was a literary feast, I can assure you! If you're local, you can borrow because I enjoy sharing very much.
Up the Hill - James Calvin Schaap. I've just discovered this author when I read a new Lenten devotional book, "God For Us." I am wild about his writing style. He's a small town guy from Wisconsin who's spent his adult years in Iowa. So he writes about a traditional, simpler way of life among neighbors, family and friends. My kind of writer! This is his newest book and he read one of the essays from it in the festival session. Each essay imagines conversations between interconnected people who are deceased. Very creative.
Fifty-Five And Counting - James Calvin Schaap. More essays about small town living. Really life in general as he looks back on the first 55 years of his life. I've also got a fictional work, Romey's Place, on order from this author. I'm excited to have discovered him!
Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters - Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith. This one gets points for creativity. I heard Jessica on a panel about memoirs and loved this book idea. These two gals met in graduate school and decided to keep in touch via letters as they moved on into establishing marriages and careers. The letters are raw and an expression of a true and lasting friendship.
The Spirituality of Wine - Gisela H. Kreglinger. I texted my friend at one point during the conference, "Is it a bad thing that my favorite sessions so far have been on Judaism and wine?" That's why I love this conference so much. It covers a wide range of topics and encourages explorers to expand their interests. Now, I grew up Southern Baptist and we didn't drink. That's not to say all Southern Baptists don't, but it was a taboo topic if you did or didn't. Then, I spent a few of my single years attending church with the Presbyterians. I couldn't believe their casual approach to meeting for a beer to discuss theology. Sharing a bottle of wine while you planned the next Bible study. Gisela grew up on a winery in Germany. Definitely a different cultural approach to wine. Further, she holds a PhD in historical theology. Her book, which I'm working my way through slowly and thoughtfully, could easily become a go-to reference for those deciphering what God intended for us to do with wine.
Babette's Feast - Directed by Gabriel Axel. Gisela referenced this movie in her festival session. I've read about it a handful of times before as well. You can't stream it on Netflix (I checked) so I decided it would be a good DVD for me to purchase. It's a Danish movie and since I haven't seen it yet, I'm going to offer you these few lines from an Amazon review of the movie: "Two pious Danish sisters hire a French maid, Babette, out of a sense of charity. Fourteen years later, Babette wins the lottery. Out of her winnings, she proposes to serve the sisters and their fellow religionists a meal." Cannot. Wait.
Devotion: A Memoir - Dani Shapiro. Much of the time, I wish I was Jewish. When I'm not wishing I was Anglican or Episcopalian or Greek Orthodox or Southern Baptist again. So I knew I'd appreciate author Dani Shapiro's session on growing up Jewish, wandering away and finding her way back to faith. Oh, I'm anxious to start in on this one! She also have several other books. All in good time.