"I hope you know how much you are helping me. It was stories like these that I really needed to hear in order to see where people come from....and I don't know if books about "miracles" were going to help. You did, however, suggest some books, so feel free to pass those titles along whenever you get a chance. Happy New Year!"
I'm so glad to hear that our conversations have been more helpful than totally overwhelming :)
(Thank you to those of you who have shared your stories in comments and emails. That's a vulnerable thing to do, but I whole-heartedly believe that when we tell our own personal stories, the message of the beliefs within them become more valid. When we can speak from our hearts rather than talking in vague terms about religion, we learn more than we thought possible from each other.)
You asked if it would be okay to take a few days to ponder things. Absolutely not, hurry up!! (Kidding of course.) Take your time, lady. A lot has been said, so much to chew on. If I were you it would take me two weeks to respond.
You and I have also been talking about books that might help, so below are my recommendations. There are quite a few, but I thought if I gave you a bunch to check out, you could decide what interests you the most:
"What So Amazing About Grace?"
"Plan B: More Toughts on Faith"
"The Sacred Romance"
"Waking the Dead"
"Redeeming Love" (fiction)
You also asked about starting to read the Bible and wondered about recommendations for where to begin. Many people think the New Testament is the best place to start. I think it's difficult to just sit down and read the Bible at any point without some guidance, especially if it's new to you. I would encourage you to get a study to go along with what you choose to read. Some are cheesier than others, or maybe even just boring. So I'm hoping someone could give recommendations for good studies in the comments.
Any Bible study by Beth Moore is excellent in my opinion. I love how she so frequently teaches the definition of the words of the Bible from the original language. Learning the original definitions of the words has been one of the key things in having the Bible "come alive" for me. I am constantly saying, "OH, so that's what He meant." I'm moved and touched by how I can see LOVE in what He was saying when I truly understand it.
I'm pretty sure you could get Beth Moore studies on Amazon or something. There are books and workbooks that carry you through certain parts of the Bible. It might all sound kind of foreign at first (the studies) but I think if you're patient with it, you'll be surprised (in a good way) by God's intentions for you. He has the ability to make the Bible "come alive" for you too.
I also wanted to pass on two blog links for you.
Conversion Diary (a former atheist becomes a believer)
Bring the Rain (a Christian music artist's wife who lost a full-term baby girl shares her faith and her walk through grief)
(the links are going to take you directly to two posts I think might be of some help to you.)
I love it that you're interested in giving Bible reading a try, you brave woman! Be patient with yourself and open to it taking some time to grasp what's so great about it :) I know if you're taking this step of faith, God will speak to you. I just know He will. Cause He rocks.