Scent of Water (Words of Comfort in Times of Grief) is a beautiful, moving, and honestly real devotional for those experiencing loss. Penelope has bravely written out of her own traumatic experience of witnessing her elderly mother’s life taken violently. And out of the subsequent deep grief response that left her numb and flailing.
The moment I read the blurb for Penelope Swithinbank’s new book Scent of Water, I knew that I wanted to read it. In her own words…
‘she found nothing that reached her dark night of the soul, nothing that let her know that God was still with her… she found it very difficult to pray or to read the bible… hugs rubbed her raw and consoling well meant cliches did not ring true… she wished there was a specific daily devotional to help her connect with God in and through the grief’
I was drawn to those words because I’ve been there. This book is a book for those who grieve, and grief comes in many forms and for many reasons. When I was at my lowest point, grieving the life I had once lived and loved, I longed for something easy to read, that would plug me into a God that I had known for years, but who at the time seemed so distant. A simple, non- demanding devotional, of maybe a single line from scripture and a word that spoke into my pain, was what I longed for. I was given books to read, great books on moving on, looking up, strengthening myself in the Lord; but they were too much, too soon. I wish now that I had had Scent of Water.
“For there is hope for a tree,
If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And that its tender shoots will not cease.
Though its root may grow old in the earth,
And its stump may die in the ground,
Yet at the scent of water it will bud …
Job 14 :7 – 9 NKJV*
The book takes it’s title from this scripture, and it is about hope, but maybe only flickering hope – the merest scent of water – not the deluge, not the soaking, just enough hope to keep you holding on, barely, by your fingertips. I get that.
Penelope is a woman of deep faith, with a lifetime of following and serving Jesus. But that did not make her immune to pain, doubt and despair. She wrote Scent of Water out of her own need to just hold on through the storm. And her words in it are real, the emotions expressed raw and totally relatable, and yet hope also sings from every page. Like the Psalmists of old she has not hidden how grief has made her feel: the frustration, anger, disbelief, hollowness, confusion, and sheer exhaustion. But alongside her heart cries are the gentle words of God, the reassurances, the moments of strength for the weary soul, the thankfulness. It is just so beautifully moving to read. And to return to, over and over again.
Scent of Water comes as a small, easy to hold hardback, designed to be given as a gift. It’s design and appearance are stunning, from the front cover to the lovely colour photograph plates that mark the start of each new devotional. There are 25 of these six day devotions, enough for six months. Each has it’s own theme, some based on an extract from a bible chapter or a Psalm, others following a thought through, using different scriptures, with titles such as ‘Punched in the stomach : shock and agony’ and ‘Learning to Lean : when I need to rest’. The daily scriptures and thoughts are brief and undemanding, and end with a heartfelt prayer each day.
Penelope has also added a section at the beginning of the book with devotionals for the difficult days e.g. the day of the funeral, first birthday, first anniversary, first Christmas, as well as some additional meditations at the end of the book for people to dip into as they feel able. This book is so sensitively thought out and put together. I, for one, am going to treasure my copy and am so pleased that this book is out there. I know I will be buying it and giving it as a gift for those who need help to get through their grief, gently and slowly, but in connection with a Father who knows and loves them.
Penelope Swithinbank is a chaplain at Bath Abbey, and a vicar with twenty years of experience, specialising in spiritual counselling and therapy. She also loves both undertaking and leading others on pilgrimage, both in the UK and in Europe. You can read more about her and purchase Scent of Water via her website at https://penelopeswithinbank.com/
Scent of Water was published by Sarah Grace Publishing on 7th July 2021 and is now widely available online and in bookstores.
*New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission, all rights reserved
Read more about my own writing here http://www.joymargetts.com