In 1987 a small book was released by Abbey Press, called ‘Be-Good-to-yourself Therapy’. Written by Cherry Hartman and illustrated by R.W. Alley, this booklet included whimsical drawings of an elf with a candle in his hat going about his day, with thoughts and suggestions about being good to yourself. Over thirty years and multiple books later, these books have brought joy and support to millions of people around the world (including me!)
I adore these books. Their help is encapsulated in small bite-sized pieces, but don’t mistake them for fortune cookie philosophy. Their words are based in faith and the accompanying pictures are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always beautiful.
For example, from ‘Trust-in God therapy’, we learn:
“Trust is not just an attitude. Trust acts. Wait in trust, and you wait with hope. Act in trust, and you open yourself to divine action and abundance in your life”.
We can’t stand still and truly trust. It requires that leap of faith, without knowing where you’re going to land, but trusting that God won’t let you fall.
‘When you’re feeling spiritually empty’ tells us:
“Don’t despair. Every stage of your spiritual journey has purpose. Moving between periods of consolation and desolation is not an unusual experience”.
CS Lewis in “The Screwtape Letters” talks about spiritual troughs. This is where the rubber really hits the road for the person of faith, because God isn’t God only when you feel it, He’s still God when you feel all alone.
‘Christmas Therapy’ has the following suggestion:
“Relinquish superhuman efforts to produce Christmas-card-perfect holiday celebrations. Christmas is about God becoming human – not humans becoming gods.”
As someone who’s been frequently guilty of the search for so-called Christmas perfection, this is a timely reminder to me. It’s okay if your celebrations are messy, so long as they are full of love.
As well as the books for adults, there is also Elf-Help for children, including titles such as ‘Help is here for facing fear’, ‘Learning to be a good friend’, and ‘Mad isn’t bad’. They’re a fantastic teaching tool for parents to help their children grow up as beautiful and whole beings.
The artist RW Alley, has been working as a children’s book illustrator for nearly forty years, and his drawings are just beautiful. His original elf’s mood was often illustrated by the candle in his hat, that would glow brighter when he was happy, and flicker or even go out when things were not going well for him. There is also a girl elf with flowers in her hair, and a whole community (called Elf Hollow). I can’t praise his art enough. It’s just beautiful.
If you can find any of these books, give them a try. Abbey Press is no longer in business, but the books are still out there. They are guaranteed to put a smile on your face and the love of God in your heart.