By Meadow Rue Merrill

Need some encouragement? Me too. Each morning when I check the news, I’m more and more aghast at what I read. My constant prayer in this time of trouble is “God help us.” Not as a flippant aside, but as a persistent reminder of our unrelenting need for his Grace. One way I’ve found to combat the underlying stress of the day is to scatter faith inspiring books around my house. And so, here are three books, written by friends, that keep me going:

On my kitchen table – Teach Me Your Way, O Lord: 31 Devotionals (Tammy Blake, et al., 2022). This pocket-sized devotional, written by a dozen contributors (including at least three fellow Mainers), is full of easily relatable stories and brief scripture references to help navigate life’s challenges. In one entry, “May 3,” editor Elaine Starner writes about her recent experience of losing a dearly beloved friend. “… death is suddenly more real that it’s ever been before,” she writes, questioning what comes next.

Trust God. Trust Me,” she recalls Jesus’ voice of comfort, speaking to her. “I am the Way. I’m coming back for you, so that where I am, you can be too. And because I live, you will live too.” To this, Starner adds several Bible verses reassuring readers of Christ’s faithfulness, along with a prayer. Entries like this, and others in the Boundless devotional series, help quiet and calm my anxious soul.

In my work shed – As Fresh As Daisies: 40 Days of Nature Inspired Devotions (Emily M. Leonard, 2022). Also written by a fellow Mainer, this book by two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Emily Leonard, includes photos and writings from her hikes. In one selection, Leonard writes about the various signs intended to keep hikers from straying off the trail.

“The weathered, moss-covered wood tells a tale of time and perseverance,” Leonard says, reflecting on the struggles we encounter as we walk through life. “God’s signs keep His people on the right path for those who follow them. The best sign is the Bible. But there are other signs. Sometimes nature inspires us. Sometimes God sends a person. Sometimes God sends signs through art or music. These are just some of the ways God keeps us on the right path.” Each reflection is followed by a prayer, suggested scripture readings, and a prompt with space for journaling.

Beside my bed – The Courage to Write: 62 Devotions to Encourage Your Writing (Rachel Britton Ministries for ReNEW, 2022). Somehow this book migrated from my desk to my bed, but wherever you read it, if you happen to be a fellow word nerd, this book is full of hard-won wisdom and encouragement. Written by a consortium of writers who’ve participated in reNEW, a New England-based spiritual retreat for writers, this devotional features real-world experiences from fellow writers, such as this entry from Boston children’s author and poet Nancy Tupper Ling.

In an entry titled, “God Has Heard Your Cry,” Ling writes about her struggle to have a child, relating her experience to that of Hannah in the book of I Samuel. “Often I cried out to God: Aren’t children a blessing, Lord? How much longer must we wait?” In compensation for her struggle, Ling asked God to bless her words. Sometime later, she published her first book and later experienced the additional blessing of welcoming a child.

This experience, Ling writes, reminds her of how God walked with her through a difficult time. “If you are feeling unheard,” she writes, “remember that God knows the words you write.”

So, whether you are struggling to write, grieving a loss, or searching for the way, consider stashing a few devotional books as sign posts to keep you on the right path.

Meadow Rue Merrill, who was blessed to contribute to two of the above publications, writes and reads from a little house in the big woods of Mid-coast Maine. Her children’s picture book The Thanksgiving Blessing, celebrates the holiday in a way that builds children’s faith. For more about Meadow, please connect at: www.meadowrue.com