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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Sound Familiar?

Please forgive me. I’ve been at a swim meet with Sweetgirl all the live long day.

I. Are. Tired.

Because I am All The Tireds, I am sharing a quote from one of my all-time favorite people to ever set words down on paper: Maya Angelou. There are no less than 50 quotes I could have chosen from this particular work by Ms. Angelou. I am sad that she is no longer able to write to us. Her words are often a balm to my soul.

 

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This is from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

“She comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy.”

It surely is.

I pray you find the joy in the struggle. Yes indeedy.

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in my Write 31 Days challenge, click the button below.

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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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Magnificently Defeated

Forget about elections for a minute.

Today, I want to tell you about that time I was magnificently defeated by a little 144 page book by Frederick Buechner.

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Every ounce of my best reasoning collided with truth and a desperate faith in a beautiful reading of The Magnificent Defeat.

And my Identity was confirmed.

With this…

“If we are to believe he is really alive with all that that implies, then we have to believe without proof. And of course that is the only way it could be. If it could be somehow proved, then we would have no choice but to believe. We would lose our freedom not to believe. And in the very moment that we lost that freedom, we would cease to be human beings. Our love of God would have been forced upon us, and love that is forced is of course not love at all. Love must be freely given. Love must live in the freedom not to love; it must take risks.”

Oh God! Help my unbelief.

It is the prayer in my heart more often than not.

I know Love because Love lived in my freedom to not love.

To not believe.

And He didn’t force.

With the reading of this book, my heart cried out to Love and He answered.

Oh, He did indeed!

Psst… are you not sure? You are free to love. Or not. But Love is always waiting for you. Read for yourself.

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More wonderful topics are covered in my own Write 31 Days series (click the button above), or at the Write 31 Days website here.

Quilting Isn’t My Thing, But…

Longing pops up at the oddest times. And, depending upon the situation I find myself in, or the stage of life I’m maneuvering through, that longing takes different shapes.

In my late twenties, that shape looked a lot like a quilt.

The Nana quilts.

I, do not.

She never even attempted to teach me. I think she just knew it wasn’t for me. Quilting takes patience. I lack that. In spades. Arranging squares together into a recognizable pattern takes a spatial relations gene I just wasn’t given.

But, what I lack in quilting experience, I make up for in appreciation for those who do. And a large part of that is because I read a novel by Whitney Otto, back in the early nineties. How to Make an American Quilt was profoundly affecting. Maybe because Otto wrote of passion and purpose before I knew I was looking for passion and purpose.

More likely, it had to do with the fact that I was floating around this earth, footloose and fancy-free, waiting to make a dent somewhere. I longed to be heard and seen but I wasn’t sure how or why.

Looking inward is something I do anytime I find myself identifying with a character (or characters). Anyone else? 

And with each rite of passage that presented itself in the pages of this novel, I found more than a few personalities that I could relate to. It also provided plenty of soul-searing questions I knew I needed to answer for myself.

By myself.

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At the time that I read How to Make an American Quilt, I began to recognize some of the longings I read about as more common among women than I ever imagined. That felt reassuring as I continued to mature.

It’s for many of those reasons that I found the following quote potent in the shaping of my expectations for future relationships:

“The best men tell you the truth because they think you can take it; the worst men either try to preserve you in some innocent state with their false protection, or are ‘brutally honest.’ When someone lets you think for yourself, experience your own emotions, he is treating you as a true equal, a friend.”

I still long to be told the truth. Don’t we all?

Quilting isn’t my thing, but this book surely did help me see truth and it’s place in my world.

If you’ve missed the previous seven posts on the Best Books Ever, click the little button below. Tomorrow, I’ll highlight a book that moved me more firmly into my identity. I’m taking part in the Write 31 Days challenge. Click here to find out more.

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