Where Your Treasure Is

Ah, Santiago… searching for the elusive “treasure”.

It’s always where we least expect it, isn’t it?

And, you know what the Bible says… “Your heart will be where your treasure is.” -Matthew 6:21

Yeah. Tis true.

Tonight, I leave you with a line from a book that will always be considered one of the Best Books Ever, The Alchemistby Paulo Coelho.

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Oh that humanity would strive for this:

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

Indeed.

To read other posts on the Best Books Ever series I’m writing for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below.

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For the Birds

Reading words that you’ve painstakingly written down on paper or typed out, can be exhilarating. And those same words can flow out of a mind like a waterfall. But also? They can dry up like a creek bed in a drought.

Sometimes, I think to myself, “Writing is for the birds!”

It turns out, it only takes one.

Bird, that is.

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Inspiration is hard to find when the words aren’t there. Or the discipline to just get in the chair and bleed onto the page up and walks out the door. One book I can return to again and again for the proper motivation is Bird by Bird Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott.

Alternating between the drill-sergeant mentality to just get your butt in the chair and write at the same time every day, and the empathetic friendly advice to ‘take it bird by bird’, Lamott inspires. And she expertly provides tools and examples for exactly how to do it.

She also provides laughter along the way. And, I think we all know by now I’m all about the humor in life.

Mostly, though, anyone with writerly thoughts is reminded to start with what is real to you and to keep it that way. Embellishments aside, reality is (if we’ve learned nothing else about modern television programming) vastly entertaining. Emphasis on vastly.

“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal.”

I’ve found that most feelings kept stuffed down inside are universal once they finally bubble to the surface.

And the universe is vast, so there is bound to be something to write about.

Yes indeedy.

 We are on Day 20 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. To read other posts in my series, Best Books Ever, click the button below.

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In the Gap

Some days I am exceedingly grateful I’m not a celebrity.

Today. Today is one of those days. If there had been cameras following my every move or reporters looking for a soundbite? Oh my sweet Moses, would they have gotten plenty.

I’m sharing a quote that hits where I sit, right this minute.

It is all I’ve got, today.

May it be enough.

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.” 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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To read other posts in my Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below.

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A Gift Indeed

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote Gift from the Sea back in 1955. Here’s what astounds me about good books written by good authors: they are timeless. The principles hold despite the changing tides of culture.

And it’s certainly true of Gift from the Sea.

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The fact that she names chapters after shells she finds during her weeklong vacation, alone, immediately drew me in.

Getting alone and digging in to the deep places that hurt or peeling back the layers of doubt is the only way I have ever found to alleviate the angst that doubt brings. Or maybe more importantly, to begin the healing of hurts.

“It is only in solitude that I ever find my own core.”

It surely is. Is that true for you, too?

I remember reading this book the summer I was to be married. It was the month before our wedding and I had a treasured handful of blissful days reading on the beach in my hometown before becoming Mrs. P.  I soaked in each sentence, with the sun, as the ocean waves lapped at my feet.

The day is burned in my memory. Literally. As I neglected to slather sunscreen on the tops of my feet that morning. I hobbled around for days full of the stirring words Lindbergh littered each chapter with.

One sentence in particular held deep significance to me. As a soon-to-be bride, I was buoyed by my relationship to this soon-to-be husband. He kept me afloat on many levels. His logic to my feeling. My adventure to his stability. His calm to my storm. When I read the following, I exhaled with a truthful knowing:

“The light shed by any good relationship illuminates all relationships.”

Jesus did this for me. My husband, as well.

Those good, healthy and loving relationships that provide a guidebook are vital. Lindbergh highlights the importance of taking care of self by replenishing, forgiving, and loving. And then, she provides beautiful imagery to spur on the pouring out of all of the filling up.

Love, once again. And I took it in and tucked it into my heart as I headed out on the grand adventure of marriage.

This book was a gift indeed.

 To read other posts in my Write 31 Days Challenge series of the Best Books Ever, click the button below.

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An Hour of One’s Own

Forget about A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf, I simply need an hour of my own. Truly, my brain could exhale all of the thoughts swirling around and I could sort them so much better if I had uninterrupted time.

Reading A Room of One’s Own shaped my feelings about writing. Although I knew, even in fourth grade when I attempted my first “chapter” that fiction wasn’t my jam, Ms. Woolf helped frame my need for creative space. And that, as a woman.

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As I’ve gotten older, it’s not money I need to be able to write, though. It’s time.

And not only time, but then, I need to be able to explain myself correctly. That can be difficult to do. Especially when I’m carving words out of my soul space. It takes an hour (or eleventy-hundred) of solitude to do justice to the feelings that are attempting to worm their way into words.

Woolf knew that truth finds its way into words (written or spoken) too. And she knew the power of it, as she shares here:

“Be truthful, one would say, and the result is bound to be amazingly interesting.”

In a world where so many are vying for room on the grand platform of social media, being truthful isn’t always exciting. Or newsworthy. Or sensational.

But, Woolf was able to see beyond the illusion of it all. Even back in 1929.

“Why, if it was an illusion, not praise the catastrophe, whatever it was, that destroyed illusion and put truth in its place?”

Heeding the call to write, no matter the subject, is easier to do after reading A Room of One’s Own. And, while I don’t claim all of the things that Virginia Woolf espouses in this book, it was an incredible encouragement to this woman to just write.

Even if only for an hour.

Yes indeedy.

To see other posts in the Best Books Ever series I’m writing for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below. 

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Passionate Fiction

After reading a fictional account of a woman so desperate to hide her beauty that she would pour Drano on her face to end it all, I realized that Lisa Samson’s characters would never bring me comfort.

I’ve now read every piece of fiction that Lisa Samson has ever written. Not one character or story left me comfortable. But, each character certainly did beckon me into their hearts. Every one has invited me to question my own motivations – spiritually and personally.

And the stories that Mrs. Samson concocts are riveting.

In the The Passion of Mary-Margaret, I was moved to tears. It wasn’t just the stunningly crafted sentences or the angst of longing for a life that isn’t meant for you. It wasn’t the harrowing way the main character, Mary-Margaret, and her precious Jude ultimately reunite. What could possibly go wrong when a nun and a man living in the red-light district come together?

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Tears fell as I saw my propensity to love only on my own terms. They fell again as I saw the enormity of shame’s shadow on a person’s soul. And they fell, yet again, as I could only imagine sacrifice on the level that Mary-Margaret was able to pour out.

The best books do that, don’t they? They transport you into a world where anything is possible. Even ultimate sacrifice. And it somehow makes perfect sense.

I will tell you that this book was not wrapped up in a nice neat bow of finality. That played with my mind for a good long while after I read the last word. But the end is just right for these characters.

Lisa Samson is a writer who is expert at pointing to the light refracted in the midst of dark lives. Our humanity, Samson constantly points out, is no match for God’s Divinity. And His mercy and grace take forms we can only begin to make out in the murk of ordinary living. In the very first pages of this, one of my favorite pieces of fiction, she writes:

“The mercy God gives us is our own  to receive, and while sometimes it overlaps with others’ like the gentle waves of the bay on which I now sit, for the most part, the sum and substance of it, the combination of graces, is as unique as we are.”

Truly. I have experienced this for myself time and again. Reading it only heightens my awareness of just how often Grace comes and mercy reigns.

And once again, I’m drawn to a book where Love wins. I probably always will be.

As I’m also continually drawn to Grace. And, I pray I always will be.

Yes indeedy.

If I could break out in song, I would totes start singing “Livin’ on a Prayer”, right now, because I’m halfway there! My participation in the Write 31 Days challenge was tentative at best, this year. But, I heeded the call to just write, and I’m so thankful. If you’ve missed any of my previous posts on the Best Books Ever, click the button below.

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Me and Mrs. Who

If you know what a tesseract is, then you know where I’m going with today’s book choice. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is one of those books I reread every few years. And, each time I crack open the book, I discover an entirely new perspective on the story.

When I was pregnant with Sweetboy, I was reminded that there are always helpers along the way. That truth was a mighty encouragement to this soon-to-be-mama’s heart.

Five years later, when Sweetgirl was newly brought home from the hospital, I was keenly aware of Mrs. Whatsit’s sacrifice. She was a star, for crying out loud! Nobility took on a new appeal as I looked at sacrifice from yet another point of view.

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Meg, the plucky protagonist of A Wrinkle in Time, has always resonated deeply with me. Her struggles, and the lessons she had to learn on her quest to find her father were familiar.The ideas that gave her head and heart the most trouble were ones I wrestled with: doubt, ambiguity, uniqueness, and creativity. Meg also must come to understand that something greater than words, saves…

Love.

And then, there are the parallels to the inner thought life of a writer. Writing is a labor, for me.  Of love, yes. But, attempting to put words to thought can be excruciating. There are more than a few references to difficulty expressing thoughts. I get that. Mrs. Who might be my favorite character in any story, ever. She simply finds it too difficult to put her thoughts into words so she resorts to speaking the quotes of others. Oh, Mrs. Who… I so get you.

Aunt Beast, the name alone is fantasticalwisely said:

“…it is not easy at all to put things the way your mind shapes them.”

Indeed.

While this book is geared toward YA (young adult), I think it is timeless and ageless. Have you read it? How old were you? Do you remember any characters? Do tell!

Click the button below to see other posts in my Best Books Ever series for the Write 31 Days challenge.

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Just One of the Misfits

Spiritual Misfit by Michelle DeRusha was a saving grace in my life. Going through a period of my life where my faith was floundering, I needed a reminder that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts. I needed to know I wasn’t alone in my fears and inability to figure out all the answers to All the Questions.

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I don’t remember how I first heard about this “occasional author”. It may have been through Deidra Riggs, as I know they both live under the big sky in Nebraska. All I do remember is reading the back cover of this book and thinking, “This. Is. Me. Right now, this very minute.”

And it was.

It still is, sometimes.

Believer, Follower, Christian…whatever you want to call people who are amazed by God’s grace, that’s me. And if you, like me, are just one of the misfits, you will find this book a mighty encouragement.

Every half-decade or so, I go through the spin cycle of my life and everything I believe gets hurled around in my head and heart and I’m fumbling around for my faith again. It unsettles me. Loving mentors always set me back on the right track through mature counsel; but sometimes, my floundering around lasts a heck of a lot longer than it needs to.

After reading this book, though, I’ve felt more at ease with the doubts. And, as DeRusha makes clear, I’m less alone in them, too. She is the master of gently pointing out that as we begin to drift toward that island of misfits that so many of us find ourselves on, God draws us just as gently nearer.

And always in the way we most need.

“Perhaps God knows this is true for us humans. Maybe he knows the whole enchilada would simply be too much, too overwhelming, too mind boggling. So instead he gives us just enough – the shaft of brilliant light in the murky green…”

Indeed He does.

We’re getting close to the halfway point of the Best Books Ever series. I hope you are enjoying these. If you’ve read any, please let me know in the comments. Have you read any that are similar or affected you similarly? I love a good book discussion!  Click the button below to see the other posts in this series.

Click here to visit the Write 31 Days Challenge website and see all of the other topics.

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He Hits My Funny Bone

I’m from Florida. The best state EVER! I didn’t always feel that way, but I long for that earthly home now more than ever.

Vitamin D, where for art thou?

Sprinkled among the books in Nana’s bookshelves were one or two by a columnist that wrote for the Miami Herald – one of our local newspapers. He was funny.

He still is funny.

At the beach this summer, my poor family was subjected to my snort-laughs on more than one occasion as I reread You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty. 

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But my favorite, and it is an especially humorous reprieve from all from all of this political election nastiness, is Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway. Take this quote, for instance, because, uh-huh:

“The Constitution of the United States of America, Article V, Section 1: ‘There shall be a National Anthem containing incomprehensible words and a high note that normal humans cannot hit without risk of hernia.’ “

Pretty much.

And, I don’t know about hitting below the beltway, but this humor writer hits my funny bone every time.

If you’d like a little break from all of the political Facebookery and election-itis on the Twitter, pick up any Dave Barry book and prepare to laugh.

You’re welcome.

Click the button below to see all of the posts in my Best Books Ever series.

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A Whale of a Tale

If you’ve read around here for any length of time, surely you guessed I’d be touching on the next book? Moby Dick, by Herman Melville is still one of my all-time favorite stories. We call my dad “Ahab” for a reason, you know. 

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Plumbing the depths- whether of the ocean, a whale, or the human psyche – is what this story was all about, for me. I can’t remember if I devoured this book in high school or college, but it had me hook, line, and sinker! And that opening line is iconic, “Call me Ishmael…” (Although, that line doesn’t come until after the first two “Introductory” chapters.)

The character names were fascinating. Upon moving to New England after college, I began learning the backstory on some of Melville’s name choices. The name of the boat, Pequod, for example, became a sad revelation to me.

This book also confirmed, in my mind, that there are limits to human knowledge. You can only see so far into the ocean. You can only understand what you can see and hear about a person, but never really the whole of their heart.

And then, we only know what we think we do.

One of my favorite quotes, though, is this:

“See how elastic our prejudices grow when once love comes to bend them.”

Indeed.

Having to share a room at an inn with a stranger, a foreign-stranger with tattoos every which way, no less, Ishmael’s initial prejudice towards Queequeg changes as he comes to know this loyal and generous man. Let’s just forget that he was a former cannibal, kay?

I live, though, as if I were second mate, Stubb, who said:

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”

That reminds me of a Proverb in the Bible:

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

May it ever be true of me!

As I neared the end of Moby Dick and Ahab’s pending death became obvious, I felt compassion for him. I identified with this man’s willingness to throw everything he was into what he deemed important. Unfortunately, that included the crew aboard his boat.

I know how that goes.

Crusty captain seeks vengeance on ever elusive white whale to the detriment of all that go with him.

Oh Ahab

He did as humans do: we make mistakes.

And we pick up the pieces as we move along from them.

Sometimes, in the form of others.

Yes indeedy.

I can honestly say I didn’t think I’d have all that much to say about each of these books. I’m going funny tomorrow. Click here to check out the Write 31 Days Challenge. Click the button below to see all of the posts in my Best Books Ever series.

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