I’ll Tell You What’s So Amazing

What’s So Amazing About Graceyou ask? Sweet Moses! Got a year?

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There are some questions we humans don’t even realize we have percolating in our hearts. That is, until we are confronted with the monotony of day-to-day living and we begin to wonder what else there is out there.

Right?

Have you hit that wall yet?

Because, I remember that wall.

It hurt.

At the time I slammed into it, I wasn’t interested in answering The Big Questions. I was, however, interested in scaling those walls. For some reason, I never chose the easy way. Skinned knees and a bruised heart were what met my attempts to climb it.

And author Philip Yancey is genius at distilling answers to life’s biggest questions down to the studs. What’s important?

Love. Love is always the most important.

And once Love found me, I became consumed by the Grace that came with it; both taken in and given out. Considering myself a sinner, and chief among them, I couldn’t get enough of God’s undeserved but freely given grace.

Yancey was the author who famously penned,

“God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.”

Indeed!

If you haven’t heard that yet, I’ll give you a minute. Because, truth.

Nothing, and I mean not a thing this side of heaven, will be able to keep you from God’s love and grace, once you want it. It’s like discovering a devil dog dispensary. Once you know it’s there, you can’t help but go back again and again.

And, in this very year, where election politics and race politics and gender politics are tearing at peace like a dog after a bone, I find so much of what Yancey wrote in this book to be a comfort. And a reminder.

“Politics draws lines between people; in contrast, Jesus’ love cuts across those lines and dispenses grace.”

I want to keep cutting across lines, like Jesus did. And I want others to keep cutting across lines toward me, too. Despite writing this book fourteen years ago, the problems Yancey calls attention to – the human problems we all experience – remain the same.

“Religious faith—for all its problems, despite its maddening tendency to replicate ungrace—lives on because we sense the numinous beauty of a gift undeserved that comes at unexpected moments from Outside.”

Lots of us feel “outside” an issue, these days. Grace reaches the hand across and says, “Love,” instead. I’ll tell you what’s so amazing about grace, it’s the outstretched hand.

I like that very much.

I need that even more.

And I always will.

Yes indeedy.

Well well well, this is the last book. I missed yesterday as our sweetgirl came down with a nasty case of Strep. But, I appreciate the grace to finish. If you missed any of the other books I named in this Best Books Ever series that I wrote for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below and check them out. And thank you for hanging out with me (almost) each day in October. 

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Through the Trees

A singing waiter, a girl who loves to read (and who fights for her education), and a bad girl who only wants to be a mama were three of my favorite storylines in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

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Taking place in the beginning decades of the 20th century, Smith brilliantly captures the plight of over-comers. In this case, the Nolan women. From the deepest desire of motherhood in Katie’s sister to the deepest desire to rise above, in Francie, this book allowed me a birds-eye view through the trees. I felt like I was given an inside track on the themes that run through many women’s hearts, even now in 2016.

The main character, Francie Nolan encountered something that felt relatable to me. Mostly, the idea of being a girl in a boys world. That Neely was loved more because he was a boy made me mad. And that Katie had to work extra hard to overcome her husband’s weaknesses didn’t help either. This book was, I believe, an ode to feminism.

But above all it’s all about the books. The love of All The Books. Of Francie, Smith writes,

“The world was hers for the reading.”

Indeed it was.

So, of course, this was one of my favorites characters in a story. And this book, one of my favorites.

Catch up with all of the other books in my Best Books Ever series for the Write 31 Days Challenge. Click the button below to see what others were on my list.

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Rooting for the Underdog

I’m assuming that my heart for the underdog is why God gave me a quirky kid.

I’m also assuming my fervent desire for any underdog to succeed is rooted in my own underdog underpinnings.

That’s a lot of under.

I like to be out from under, though.

And Frodo Baggins, one of my favorite underdogs in all of book history (next to Zaccheus in the Bible), struggled mightily to come out from under his circumstances.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is quite possibly one of the best stories of all time. Any age can read it (or at least have it read to them). I can’t imagine a life circumstance that isn’t dealt with in the book. And there are any number of “giants” to be overcome.

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And more than all of that, it is the smallest among us, the ones we think will be least effective, both for change and against evil, who end up being most useful and helpful.

It was the character Galadriel who said,

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Indeed.

Who instilled hope in all of humanity?

A baby.

Who was most instrumental in winning the battle for The Ring?

Hobbits.

The smallest of All.

Oooh, I love me a good underdog story!

Adding to my love for this series? J.R.R. Tolkien was besties with C.S. Lewis. Oh yes they were!

It just doesn’t get better than that.

The movies were fantastic, but these books were rich in detail and painted a picture of good versus evil that I no reader can soon forget.  And it left me rooting for the underdog, once again.

Yes indeedy.

Click the little button to see other books I’m writing about in this Write 31 Days series.

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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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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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