I closed my last book of 2021 just in time for the New Year. The Reading List, weaved its story around the lives of strangers connected through a mysterious list of books. The book was a touching display of the beauty of story and the effect fictional characters have in our own real-life worlds. Author, Sara Nisha Adams, displayed this by making the books come alive for her characters. They didn’t just read To Kill a Mockingbird, they heard Atticus Finch prodding them to speak boldly and rightly. They didn’t merely understand the story of Rebecca, they saw the grumpy housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers popping up to interact with their thoughts.
As I was transported through these characters’ interactions, I couldn’t help but find myself saying, “Yes! That’s what it’s like to read.” The good books we take in are not merely stagnant stories, but they intertwine with our lives. We turn that first page, and we welcome the characters into our own world. My own favorite books tell this tale.
Last week our family camped at a nearby state park to drink in the final dregs of summer. We returned to find the warmth had gone the way of the corn stalks surrounding our home. The chill of fall had come to stay. Now my body shivers as I grab my puppy’s leash to take him outside. Each time I reluctantly walk him out, I tiptoe past the shadow cast by my house towards the strip of light illuminating the grass farther out. I just need to feel the sunshine.
While my feet perch in the frosted grass, my brain refocuses and concentrates on the rays I feel against my body. I feel its shine penetrating the back of my neck, slowly soaking into me. I feel it heat the fabric on my shirt, and imagine it enveloping my frame. Though the temperature around me doesn’t change, I can feel the warmth filling me.
This is a routine I’ve perfected through the years. My husband will readily admit I don’t like to be cold. During early morning hikes, colder-than-normal boating trips, and those few winters we took to the beach, I would try my best to soak in the rays of the sun when I could find them. And it would help. In the midst of my discomfort, I’d lean towards the rays, focusing on the sliver of heat to hold on to.
I’ve been thinking lately about my adolescent days. This is mostly likely because I spent the last week reading Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. It’s a heavy book (you can check out my Goodreads review here), and while my own story is quite different, it prompted me to think on the longings that have consumed me throughout the years.
Like most girls my age, I struggled with my own body. The number on the tag of my pants seemed like the gateway to true happiness. I scanned the girls in my middle school and high school and concluded If only I looked like her… The end of that sentence was long. I’d be happier. More comfortable. More adventurous. Confident. Assertive. And obviously no longer single.
I believed reaching my dream would cure me, but every time I grasped that ideal, I realized it never satisfied. There was always a need for something new to change.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the words we take and pass along. I don’t want to negate the seriousness of plagiarizing in this post. It’s not only a copyright infringement to steal another’s words and parade them as your own, but it’s a ninth commandment violation. (This is a good site that lays out the details about what plagiarism entails).
Still, as I think about my own Christian life, I can’t help but think about all the words I’ve passed on through the years. I’m not talking about the words we create for work, sermons, articles, audiences, or followers. I’m thinking about the words shared between a friend on the phone or over a cup of coffee.
I can think of phrases from Sunday school teachers, mentors, and pastors that have repeatedly passed through my own lips. Explanations of theology that set off light bulbs in my brain have been shared time and again to another. Encouragements in the midst of suffering have bolstered my spirits, and I, in turn, have spoken the same words of life to another. I’ve grabbed the words of our pastors and rehashed them to give answers to our children’s confusion.
What colors do you see? Look around while you walk to the mailbox, or as you drive to the grocery store. What hues do you see sidled next to each other? What tones shape the landscape that you live in?
Our family just got back from a trip to western America. For four thousand miles we drove through multiple states, visited three national parks, and (hopefully) made some memories our kids will tuck away for later.
Our voyage directed us through the cornfields of Indiana and Illinois, followed by the flat prairies of Iowa and Nebraska. I watched the horizon stretch upward as we travelled west. Plains became hills. Hills became foothills. Foothills became mountains.
Yet what hit me the most as we took on each new landscape were the colors around me. I was used to large fields of green in my home state of Indiana, but as I gazed out the window I saw a completely different scene. Outside a sea of greens played before me that I had never seen.
I’ve been meal planning for the past several years. I find that without a plan, our budget (along with my sense of sanity) flies out the window every dinnertime. So every fortnight, I can be found driving home with a car full of groceries that will carry my family through the next two weeks. The simple act has become a ritual of sorts. The kids await shopping day to supply new batches of yogurt and replenished snacks. I look forward to fresh produce and all the ways to use up my lettuce.
And each day, as I watch my fridge go from empty to bursting, and see the cans and boxes crowd our pantry, my heart can’t help feel a sense of—safety. I have food for our family. Everything I’ll need to cook is right here already. The feeling is freeing, but also sobering. How is it that I can easily fill my storerooms to the brim? What if I wasn’t able to?
Why do I hope in Christ? The question presses upon me even more these days.
I log onto social media and find another Christian singer, podcaster, or friend deconstructing from Christianty. Real stories of abuse or poor teaching often permeate their stories that led them to leave the faith. My heart aches, and at times rages for what should never have been. Yet I just can’t follow in desertion either.
Deconstruction may be a hot topic now, but we’d be mistaken to think it a new phenomenon. Despite the many resources on the subject today, I’ve found one of the greatest discourses from the pen of a young woman named Charlotte in the year 1847.
It’s a book I’ve treasured through various stages of my life, and I believe gives one of the clearest pictures of how to walk the line between vital correction and complete deconstruction.
Our shovels thumped into the compacted dirt below us. My husband and I took turns as our tools danced their part. Scoop. Dump. Repeat.
With six trees left to plant, we raced against the fading sun, & more importantly the mosquitos buzzing around our necks. We grabbed the maple sapling and lowered it into the hole. As I scattered dirt around its base, I couldn’t help but think of its future. Someday it’s branches would stretch above our home. Would we be there to see it?
Once upon a time in a faraway land there was a grand kingdom. Its walls reached up and out to the vast countryside. The inhabitants of its villages soaked in the warmth of the sun that lit every stone around them. Their king was good, and his loyal subjects couldn’t stroll the streets without greeting another with, “Long live the king.”
Yes, long live the king. Live he did, and his rule increased. But reader, there was something sinister creeping nearby this kingdom, as it usually does. You see, the light that fell upon the stones of the king’s land did not continue far past the city walls. Instead it was swallowed up into a thick fog of black. For in the background of the majestic kingdom stood a solemn old forest. If it was only empty, that might have been bearable. But instead, it was very much filled. Haunting its grounds were the dreaded grillkens.
“When have I made you laugh?” My husband’s question hung between us. I smiled and quickly rummaged through ten years worth of experiences. I could imagine myself: doubled over from laughing, often at late hours in the night. I could feel the ache in my cheeks from smiling too much. I felt confident in the joy we’ve had through the years, but the isolated reasons wouldn’t come. What was it we were laughing about?
A handful of instances resurfaced but the rest remained irretrievable. Even though they were forgotten, their existence left their mark.
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