I met Alicia Yost through a mutual friend from ReNEW (Retreat for New England Writers and Speakers). When Alicia came to ReNEW this year, we connected right away. I enjoyed hearing her stories and her heart behind her writing. As I learned during that weekend, people don’t care about what your book is about; they care about your heart.
Based on that alone, I believe Alicia’s new book is a must-read for all, since she is such a joy to know! The full title of her book is Onward: A Funny, Heartbreaking and Insightful Collection of Faith Lessons. The book definitely goes along with the title. In the introduction, she explains the meaning behind the title of her book. I love the analogies and word pictures that Alicia uses, especially the dinner party in chapter 1 and God molding us like clay through prayer in chapter 3. She’s honest, real, and vulnerable, and there are good transitions. Her stories are emotionally compelling. Plus, she’s not kidding; some of them are funny!
It reminded me of Blue Like Jazz or Love Does, where the stories sort of tie together but they don’t follow a linear pattern. But I believe that’s Alicia’s point. Life isn’t meant to be a straight path that we all follow, but a journey full of twists and turns. We don’t all go through the same life experiences, even if we are Christian. Our only starting point is that God saved us, and we came to know Christ. With that being said, Alicia starts with her testimony in the first chapter, and everything beyond that is in no particular order. I believe a passage from the final paragraph summarizes it perfectly: “Life isn’t really about getting anywhere; it’s about going somewhere. Life is about motion. We must keep moving. And while we are on our journey, perhaps we see someone walking along the same road and we wave” (96).
Although I haven’t shared the same life experiences as her, I feel like I’m right there with her, reading the letter about her sponsor child or getting frustrated when her husband doesn’t bring her home flowers. She struggles with faith, wrestles with temptation, and submits to God’s will even when it doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t that sound like the rest of us? She says the words that none of us are comfortable saying out loud, but we all feel. As she writes, we’re new creations, not improved creations, so we have to let God do the work in our lives (chapter six).
Quote for chapter 1: “It was like my whole life, God and I had been at a dinner party and I was nervous to meet Him so I mingled with other people and gave Him uneasy side glances. Then I ran to the bathroom to hide and after emerging found everyone gone. It was just me and God, and I couldn’t avoid Him any longer. He smiled and looked deep into my eyes. I felt fully seen and expected to feel the weight of my shame, to see Him furrow His brow in disappointment. But instead, I felt fully loved” (8).
One of my favorite stories is the story about her son. “It was then I realized that this joy would not have been possible without the struggles. It was the struggles themselves that magnified the joy in ways that “normalcy” never could.” (chapter four). This book came at an opportune time for me for me to check my heart about how I feel about the church, how I feel about waiting, and how I feel about serving.
Alicia writes with emotionally-compelling words and analogies. Serving is messy. Parenting is messy. Marriage is messy. But each time, Alicia talks about the mess, but then brings glory to God through it. Her chapters each end with the phrase “Onward I go,” as a reminder that we may not know where we’re going, but we know that God is calling us to move forward. Put one foot in front of the other and keep going. You’ll get where you need to go eventually.
This book is perfect for women who are struggling in their faith, just like the rest of us. Alicia does talk about being a wife and raising kids, but even if you’re not married or don’t have kids, you can relate to being a daughter or having a step parent or even simply understanding how to be a Christian. You can purchase this book on Amazon today.
Photo taken from Amazon website.