I believe that not much in my life has influenced me as much as the books that I read as a child and adolescent. I don't know if this is true for most people, but it most definitely is for me.
I wonder what shapes children who don't read. Oh my gosh, I bet it's television. Help it.
Anyways, maybe it's just the types of books that I was drawn to based on my predispositions, or maybe my Mom was being sly and surrounding me with books that were in line with her convictions and personality, so I was made the way that I am by her as much as the books.
Of course, there are so many things that affect how a person turns out. Peers, family, major life events, culture. I am a product of so many things. I'm not sure how much of me is really me, as opposed to just lots of little pieces of everyone and everything I've experienced, combined in a unique way to make up the person that I am. Ah yes, the old "nature vs nurture" debate.
At any rate, what got me thinking about this was watching a movie with Izzy. We are very into the "American Girl" movies, and I prefer the historical characters, the ones that are based on the dolls and books that were out when I was a little girl. This particular movie was about Felicity, a ten year old girl growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia during the Revolutionary War. I read those books as a child. The ones that I read over and over were the Kirsten books, though. I truly believe that my fascination with homesteading came from reading about Kirsten, the swedish immigrant, and her pioneer family in Kansas.
I also read Anne of Green Gables multiple times as a child, and the description of the farm she lived on, and the simple life she lived were also influential. I also grew up thinking that I should never drink raspberry cordial, and if you've read the books or seen the movies, you'll know what I'm talking about.
As a teenager, and read a lot of autobiographies of missionaries. Well, not simply missionaries, but all kinds of heroes of our faith. Three that stand out in my mind are The Hiding Place, God's Smuggler, and The Cross and the Switchblade.
The first, The Hiding Place, is the story of a young woman by the name of Corrie Ten Boom whose father was hiding Jews in his home during the Holocaust. The entire family was thrown into a concentration camp, and she was the only one to survive. Her story, somehow, is not one of suffering or bitterness, but of God's faithfulness, even in the most difficult of times. There are a few passages in this book that I refer to frequently when teaching or mentoring others. They are about trusting God to provide, and being thankful in all circumstances.
God's Smuggler is by a missionary named Andrew Murray who was called by God to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union. What impacted me about this book is how God chose to protect this man as he drove across borders over the years with thousands of Bibles. When God wants something done, he makes it possible. I also remember a specific passage where Brother Murray ran out of deodorant and toothpaste and had no money, but instead of feeling sorry for himself, or stealing any, he chose to ask God for it. Within days, someone donated a box of toothpaste and deodorant to him. God is specific in the way he provides for us, and I often think of this story when I have a need that I'm not sure is going to be met.
The Cross and the Switchblade is the story of David Wilkerson, the founder of teen challenge. This man is a fascinating example of what God can do with someone who is willing to do foolish things in obedience to the Holy Spirit. He was a little country preacher who felt called to a specific group gang members and drug dealers in New York, that he had seen on trial in the news. God opened doors for that man, who probably would have been shot on the street without the Lord's protection, and he was able to see many lives changed, and now there is a nationwide ministry for troubled youth, so his influence has lived on much longer than his days here on earth.
Now that I'm an adult, I still love to read stories of heroes of the faith and be inspired by them. I've also learned, though, that a lot of heroes never write books and never get famous. Most of the people that I meet become my heroes for one reason or another, once I get to know them.