Category Archives: Inspiration
Two weeks ago, my mother and sister visited Ireland. Before they left, they asked what type of souvenirs I’d like them to bring back for me. I didn’t have to think about it long before I decided exactly what I wanted. I’m sure you may even be able to guess . . .
I asked for them to bring me books. Used books from a little Irish book store tucked away somewhere. On further thought I asked my mom to stop alongside a beautiful country road in Ireland and pick wild flowers, and to press them into the pages of the book she got for me. Not an expensive gift. Not a difficult gift to get. But I was ecstatic at the mere thought of it.
I’m sure most of you read the rambling and rather passionate thoughts in my last blog post about why I love paperbacks (and hardbacks, of course!) so very much. As my mom and sister handed me my gifts, it hit me once again just why I love physical books as I do.
From a library sale in Carlow, Ireland, to secondhand bookstores in Newry, Cahir and Dublin, my dear little Irish books are full of worn pages, penciled-in notes, unglued binding, age spots, wildflowers, a yellowed bus pass that someone must once have used for a bookmark, and, in short, more history and food for imagination than you could get into an infinite number of eBooks.
Are you ready for some serious book-love pictures?! Meet my new-old books:
All my books have history. Some of that history I’ll never know about – I can only imagine where the many books I own have been, what shelf they have rested on, whose eyes have smiled or cried or even drowsed while reading them.
These books from Ireland are no different, really. They sat on a shelf somewhere, or maybe amid a stack of other books, perhaps in a household, perhaps in a bookstore or library. They passed from hand to hand, home to home, heart to heart, just as many books do.
It’s a connection between myself and someone far away. It’s a cord woven between me and a stranger whom I’ll never meet. What a mysterious, lovely thing. My fingers touch where their fingers have touched. I’ll read the very words that someone far away once read. Perhaps I’ll even be touched by those words in the same manner as the one who read them before me.
What history, real or imagined, do your own hand-me-down books have?
A few weeks ago I was in line at Nebraska Furniture Mart, preparing to purchase a book.
The man behind me in line laughed and said, “You don’t see people doing that much anymore.”
I said, “What? You mean buying a book at a furniture store? I know – kinda strange, huh?”
“No,” he said. “I mean buying a book . . . at all. People just don’t do it.”
I just smiled. “Well, I certainly do.”
“So you don’t read eBooks?”
“Not much. I’m rather stubbornly rebelling against the eBook world. I’ll always stick to my paperbacks first and foremost.”
The man just grinned at me and shook his head . . . then kept smiling and shaking his head until I had checked out and walked away. That’s what he did. I’m not exaggerating.
Now, maybe people who live in Nebraska just don’t read as much as people from my State of Missouri, but I doubt it. It could be that this man just has a skewed idea of the bookish world and readers in general . . . I sure hope so!
Whatever the case, it made me ask myself – why do I cling so desperately to my paper-and-ink books? After all, it’s not nearly as convenient to tote around books like Middlemarch or Mansfield Park than it is to simply click it on my tablet and start reading. And let’s not even talk about the difference between having 3,000 books uploaded to your e-reader . . . versus owning 3,000 paper and hardback books that are slowly pushing you out of your own home . . . ahem, not that I have that problem.
Why do I put up with it? What is the superhuman pull of paper and ink and, let’s face it, possibly even spine glue and dust jackets? Because really for me, it is a superhuman pull.
MEMORIES . . .
Nothing has such an insistent tug as childhood memories. At least, not for me. The stories I experienced, the places I journeyed to through them, the places I sat while reading them, the walks home from the library with arms-to-chin piles of books, the feel of my childish hands on a book’s hard spine . . . those memories will be with me for most of my life, I imagine. And they’re incredibly strong, deeply happy memories. Maybe the coming generation will have those memories with their Kindles, too . . . but somehow I just can’t imagine the dearness of those memories ever being quite the same.
SENSES . . .
Ok, this is a big one for me.
A few days ago I finished a chapter of the book I’m currently reading and my husband looked at me and said, “Why do you look at your book like that every time you stop reading?”
“Umm . . . what do you mean? All I did was shut it and put it down.”
“Nope. Every time you get done reading you close your book and give it a strange look. Every single time. It’s kinda weird.”
“I do?” And then I believe I blushed. This is a man I’ve been married to for 12 years. I can’t remember ever blushing in front of him for, well, anything. But this felt . . . strangely personal. Because the moment he pointed it out, I realized it was true, although I’d never given it a moment’s thought before then.
Apparently I get a little doe-eyed with my books. So what? I bet lots of people do. Right . . .?
That beautiful sound paper makes when I flip pages all at once, or the sound when I let a single page slide through my fingers. The fresh scent of new paper, the sharp smell of ink, even the nose-tickling mustiness of an old, dusty book from my Grandma’s shelf. The very sight of a book or, better yet, a whole shelf of books, their motley, mismatched spines like a beacon to something deep within me. The feel of a book’s squared edges against my palm, its heaviness in my hands as I take it from a shelf.
You know, when I first read The Chronicles of Narnia, the whole box set of them that I owned had a distinct scent to the pages. Who knows what caused it – I imagine something as simple as the combination of ink and paper the publisher used. But whatever it was – to this day when I smell the pages of another book with that same scent, I am instantly transported straight back to my childhood bedroom, with Narnia swirling all around me. I even sometimes feel the ghostly twinge of the crick I got in my neck from burying myself in those books for such long periods of time.
“O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come.” – Richard Llewellyn
SLOWING DOWN . . .
Those first two reasons are good enough, for me, that a third one wouldn’t even be necessary. But I’ve noticed that, as I get older, I’ve dug my heels in and become quite old-fashionedly stubborn about my books. After some thought, I believe it has to do with my need for control in a world that moves too quickly and demands too much.
A book in my hand represents a slowing down of life, a focusing of my attention to what is in front of me. By picking up a book I feel as if I’m pulling myself out of the tumult of the e-world (or even, sometimes, the world in general) and giving it an emphatic “no.”
STORIES ARE STORIES
Yet in the end, a book’s truest pleasure comes from the words that are written – not the object from which you read them. Stories – good stories – will always be important in their own right, whether told by mouth, written on papyrus, scrawled with crayons on construction paper (those are the ones my son writes for me!), printed with ink on paper, or published on an electronic device.
There is no right or wrong here. Stories are stories and I will always, always love a well-told one.
It’s just that I’ll enjoy it much more if it’s on paper 🙂
Tell me, do you have strong feelings about the particular form a book takes?
It’s a term you can’t avoid hearing in our culture: self-esteem. Think better of yourself. You deserve the best. Be confident in your abilities. If you believe you can do it, you can.
For years I bought into it, too. Finding myself. Finding my worth. Loving myself despite my faults and the “ugly” things about me, inside and out.
That’s what the world tells us to do, right?
But then God nudged me awake. And instead of slapping me on the face with the horrible truth as He could have done, He gently and gradually showed me the lie I was holding so dear. You see, the problem with self-esteem, and even self-confidence, is that, well, it’s all about … you guessed it…
As a Christian who was searching genuinely for the heart of God, truly wishing to make His desires my own, I couldn’t help but see it.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)
What place does self-confidence have if we are to become weaker, so that God is able to become stronger within us? Shouldn’t it rather be called God-confidence?
What place does self-esteem have for someone who delights in weaknesses and insults? Wouldn’t it better be named God-esteem?
The world takes admirable virtues such as esteem and confidence and even love, and turns them inside out, makes them things of selfishness, small and warped, casting shadows into our souls. We let the world feed us these lies because we so ache to believe them.
But then, the best and most believable lies are always laced with a bit of truth, aren’t they? Because, in fact, we are of worth, we do deserve love and esteem. … But not in and of ourselves. Not because of anything we’ve done or ever will do or ever can do.
No, we deserve these things solely because of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ blood. God’s grace and overwhelming mercy.
Some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known have had no great physical beauty. God’s spirit filled them so completely that they shone with it. Their kindness was a glittering mantle. Their humility was a peaceful balm. The love that came from their eyes dazzled those around them with the undeniable awareness of God’s goodness.
When I think of it that way, my physical attributes seem so remote. My self-esteem and my self-worth fade to insignificance.
I won’t deceive you, it’s hard to do. But don’t ever think that it’s impossible, because it’s not. Just like any journey of the feet, a journey of the heart takes time. It’s painful and wearying … but oh so worth it in the end. Because it leads us closer to God, closer to who He intends us to become.
Self-esteem? I have no use for it. Not in the way the world wants me to, anyway. With my eyes firmly on God’s plan for me, with my desire for His will alone, my self slips into the place it was created to be…
Well, I suppose it’s not too late (yet!) to wish you a Merry Christmas! My plan was to write a Christmas post full of depth and meaning … But the truth of it is that I haven’t had a spare moment to sit down and write a post of any kind in a shamefully long time! I have been up to my eyeballs in revisions, which are taking soo much longer than I anticipated *sigh*. But mostly, I am just attempting to find joy in this Christmas season with friends and family.
Caroling with my son’s school, leading my poor family on a merciless quest for the “perfect” Christmas tree, taking my son to his first play (A Christmas Carol, of course!), and lots of hot chocolate, story-reading, game-playing and snuggling have been uppermost on our family agenda of late!
So since I have not had the time to conjure some inspiring words about Christmas myself, I’ll borrow some instead! Hope your Christmas is blessed and bright, friends!
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” (Dr. Seuss)
“Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white’.” (Bing Crosby)
“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!” (Benjamin Franklin)
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” (Charles Dickens)
“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” (Norman Vincent Peale)
“We consider Christmas as the encounter, the great encounter, the historical encounter, the decisive encounter, between God and mankind. He who has faith knows this truly; let him rejoice.” (Pope Paul VI)
“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” (Roy L. Smith)
“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.” (Alexander Smith)
“Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.” (Lucinda Franks)
“Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace.” (Pope Francis)
“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and moves upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” (Sigrid Undset)
“And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!'” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
I have been making lists and checking them twice, readying myself for both giving and receiving for Christmas this year (although giving is much more fun, as we all know!). I thought it would be amusing to look up gifts strictly in the fairy tale realm. I don’t know many people whom I’d be able to actually buy these gifts for … but how whimsical and wonderful they are, all the same!
FOR THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE
A prince frog ring? Why yes, please 🙂 And he’s so cute, who wouldn’t want to kiss him??
A castle necklace for your prince (or princess!) charming.
FOR BOOK LOVERS
This version features enhanced illustrations (150 of them!), as well as annotations that explore the historical origins, cultural context, and psychological effects of the tales (wow!). It also has a biographical essay on the lives of the two brothers Grimm.
As if E.E. Cummings isn’t awesome enough without having written a fairy tale book for his daughter … and wait till you see some of the amazingly unique illustrations in it! Eek.
I’ve been meaning to create a crochet pattern of my own for a cute and cuddly dragon for some time now. But in the meantime, this felt one is pretty adorable (not to mention organic and … ahem … a bit pricey!).
I can just imagine making these fairy tale shadow puppets dance on my wall in the light of the Christmas tree …
This tea is supposed to “induce quiet creativity.” Um, bring it on!
In anticipation of spring, a whimsical garden stepping stone.
Which is your favorite? Who would you give it to?
“The soul without imagination is what an observatory would be without a telescope.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
I suppose there are people who believe imagination isn’t essential. People who think the visible realm is the important one, facts are what matter, not theories or dreams.
I’m not among those people.
I believe imagination is important. I’d even go so far as to say imagination is vital to our well-being as humans and as Christians.
Imagination helps us empathize with others.
Romans 12:15 tell us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Then of course there’s the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12: “treat people how you want them to treat you.” Have you ever considered how difficult this would be if you had no imagination? How can we weep with the brokenhearted if our hearts don’t break a little with them? How can we truly rejoice with the joyful if we don’t feel some of their happiness as if it were our own?
Imagination is the bridge that takes us from the world we live in, the world that has “me” at center, to the world of others’ hopes and tears and joys. It broadens our feelings, our views and our ideas. It forces us to treat others not as something separate, but as a part of ourselves. Which is exactly as God intended, isn’t it?
Imagination helps us picture the future, and prepare for it.
Pretty straightforward, right? You have to imagine what your future will be like, sometimes tomorrow or next week, sometimes in a year or ten years. It doesn’t matter if you’re grocery shopping for the week, or budgeting for the month, or planning a marriage, or raising a child … you have to picture the future in order to make smart choices now. Say what you will, that takes imagination.
Imagination helps us know God better.
Imagination is at the heart of God, really. As the Creator of the universe, imagination was crucial to Him. His very nature is a creative one. And when we feel His nature speak through us in the form of our imaginations, we know Him better. Yes, our attempts at creating things are pathetic and second-rate compared to His. But they bring us closer to Him, still; they forge a strong link between ours hearts and His. We are like children emulating our Dad, and finding joy in it. When I create things I understand my own inadequacy, but in the light of my Father’s greatness, that doesn’t seem to matter … I just find joy in the act of creating, and in my creations, however flawed. Like He does.
Imagination gives us hope.
Try for a second to stop thinking about what will happen to you in a minute – an hour – a day – a week – a year – a lifetime. The dreams you have always had? Nowhere to be seen. The hope you have for a husband and family of your own? Gone. Becoming a stronger Christian tomorrow than you were yesterday? Don’t even think about it. In fact, you can’t think about it … because you have no imagination … remember?
What a dismal picture.
My efforts for myself and my family and my son and my career would flag and die if I couldn’t conjure an image of a hopeful future. Why discipline or love my son if I can’t picture his future as a man after God’s own heart? Why live a life for God at all if I can’t imagine the hope of heaven, if I can’t picture being there myself?
“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:7
Imagination makes us stronger Christians.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not certain I’d be a Christian if I didn’t have an imagination. It always seemed to me that you could take every fact in the world to prove something – Christianity included – but in the end it still comes down to a matter of leaping. A matter of faith.
Yes, the facts are lined up for me. Yes, the evidence of God’s works are before me. His Word is written on the pages beneath my fingers. … But perhaps my heart is wary still. What will such a leap mean for me? When I believe, what will be required of me? I imagine looking into the face of God, for that’s what such a leap will mean, surely … I can imagine being in His presence, accepting Him not as a fact, but as all-consuming, beyond facts, Alpha and Omega, Creator of the world and of my soul.
So the leap must be made. And to make it, imagination is vital. And what do I imagine? Arms that hold me, a voice that whispers truths unseen. I see God’s face in my imagination. And not only do I have to believe He is God … I want to believe.
Some of the most important things in life have a basis in imagination. Foresight. Hope. Wisdom. Faith. Even love. Can you picture life without even one of these things? No? Then you are like the rest of us. You are like me. You have an imagination. Personally, I think it’s one of God’s greatest gifts.
Books can be bliss. Books can be a wonderful escape. Books can be deadly dangerous.
I’m not sure about you, but I’m addicted to books. I know of many people who are afflicted by this madness as well. It’s not really curable, and I’ve never been quite clear on whether that’s because it’s impossible, or just the fact that people simply don’t want to be cured of it.
Books have blessed me with countless hours of laughter, happiness, heart-thumping excitement and soul-wrenching sorrow. They have given me what I consider to be some of the richest times of enjoyment in my life.
So why are they so dangerous?
For someone like me who is immersed in books, it is easy to lose your way. The characters within them can become more real than the people in your life. The adventures in them can make your own life dull in comparison. The satisfaction of happy endings can distort your real-life expectations.
Don’t get me wrong. Books offer us much. New worlds, ideas, emotions and thoughts. The epic romance, the love at first sight, the evil that is always punished, the bad guy who is always caught, the ending that is always happy. I don’t blame you for wanting that. I want that. And it’s not something we’ll find very often, if at all, outside the covers of a book.
And this is where the danger lies.
Books teach us to expect these things. Books teach us not to settle, not to give in, until we have found these things. They promise that things like true love and happy endings are always attainable, if we could only find the right person, if we were only in the right circumstance, if we were only …. If only …. If ….
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5)
If I get annoyed with my husband because he doesn’t give me the deep and mysterious affection that Mr. Rochester gave Jane Eyre, or because he doesn’t change for me as Mr. Darcy did for Elizabeth, that’s no one’s fault but my own. It’s wrong for me to have those thoughts, the thoughts that books put into my head, the ones that I allow to control my expectations of real-life people.
Admit it, it’s a little bit funny, isn’t it? To know that a book can change the invisible pathways of my mind? To know that I want my husband to be just a bit more like Mr. Rochester? To admit that my life frustrates me and makes me want to cry like a child who hasn’t got her way when things don’t go right?
I think Satan must think it’s funny, too, watching as I’m separated from God’s plan for me. Watching as I grow bitter with life and friends and the people I’m supposed to be showing God’s love, all because I want someone to sweep me off my feet, or because my life is not the adventure I’d like it to be, or because I must watch as someone I’m close to suffers an ending that is anything but happy.
Books. Are they right or wrong to teach us these things? Right or wrong to make us long for … more?
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Books. Dangerous or not? Do they lead us to neglect the springs of life from our own hearts, and make us instead focus our eyes on the imaginary, the unattainable?
Books, when all is said and done, don’t control your mind. Media doesn’t control you mind. Your mother, your father, your spouse, your friends—they don’t control it either. Only you, and only God. And even God will not force His way in unless you invite Him. So it’s your choice, then. Just as God intended.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
Trust in the Lord … that’s the key, isn’t it? Keep your eyes on Him. Read books, enjoy books, love books … but keep your eyes on God and His Kingdom.
This world isn’t likely to offer you the epic romances you read about. It’s certainly not going to solve every crime and punish every criminal. And ask anyone … happily-ever-afters are but a myth.
We live in a world of sin and darkness.
But God is not vanquished by sin, and His light is not to be put out. What we look for in books and fail to find in real life—we may find in Him.
God gives us the fullest, most all-consuming love. He pursues us with relentless passion and gentle steadfastness. Isn’t that just what any true romantic longs for in the end?
God is the ultimate judge. Bad guys go free on earth too many times. But don’t believe for a moment that means their sins will go unpunished.
God is the creator of mystery, and therefore the solver of it. We should revel in His creation, even the mysteries of it, and look forward to one day having Him explain them to us.
Lastly, God is the maker of happy endings. Some of them do happen here on earth—some of them even rival the best books we’ve ever read. But nothing compares to the Final Happy Ending that we as Christians have to look forward to. Not a single book on earth can hold a candle to that.
All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before. (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)
This world is not our home. It is not where we belong. Books tell us of other worlds—let us not forget the one we are in, nor the one we are going to. Books give us happiness—let us not forget where our eternal happiness lies. Books tell us of adventures and heroes—let us not forget that the life God gave us is the greatest adventure of all, and that the only hero we need is our Savior, the maker of the truest Happy Ending.
A couple of weeks ago I went to my local library and saw, for the first time ever, my own book on the library shelf! And not just one copy … two! I was pretty excited, as you can well imagine!
When I visited my alumni college (later that same day, as it happens), an old friend I was speaking with there informed me that he had seen my book for sale in the college bookstore … on display, on the front counter! I’m only a little ashamed to say that I squealed and immediately drug my husband and son to the bookstore to see it. Wouldn’t you have?!
Having my book for sale in a book store is exciting, but I’ve got to say that seeing my book on the shelf of a library, with the potential to go through the hands of dozens, possibly hundreds of readers … now that’s really a dream come true. Libraries have always meant so much to me, the scent of papers and ink, the whisper of pages being turned, the hum of silence, the solid walls of books all around. Paradise, really. What a privilege for my book to now have a home in one of my favorite places on the planet!
Many of you have read The Word Changers already, and a lot of you who haven’t have said you’d like to one day. If you haven’t had the chance yet, have you considered submitting a request to your own local library to purchase a copy? I’ve done that many times in the past for books that I’ve considered reading, but was on the fence about forking my own money out to buy. And 9 times out of 10, my library goes on to purchase the requested copy.
Most of the time you only need the requested book’s title, author, and year published (my library usually won’t purchase something that has a publish date of more than a year ago). But if you decide to put in a request for The Word Changers, and your library requires more information, click here 🙂
I can’t tell you the pleasure and honor I’d feel knowing my book was on the shelves of libraries across the United States, or even in other countries! What a thrill!
And just for fun, here are some great library quotes:
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!!