When the twin towers fell on September 11, I was an ocean away in England. I was spending most of every waking hour studying and reading medieval literature, but now my thoughts felt jumbled, and I wondered: did my academic work mean anything when terrorists attacked my homeland? Wasn’t studying — reading, really — superfluous, privileged, esoteric? Does reading matter when the world feels like it’s falling apart?
Reading fiction gives us a ticket to step outside the world of the marketplace where meaning is derived from economic transactions. When we immerse ourselves in good writing, we stake a claim that beauty matters. Instead of buying something online with a click of a button or turning the television on and off, I must engage my mind and heart in a book. A book becomes more than simply an escape or a pretty object to put on your shelf that makes you appear learned. It is more than a product. When we engage with the world of the novel, we place worth in beauty, grace, and the promise of transformation. When we read, we say that meaning is more than money and that money can be used in service to good art.Read the rest here. I'd love to hear your thoughts. How has reading changed you? What are your own practices of reading? Do you read more fiction or non-fiction?
Once I began reading these stories I couldn’t stop. Each writer is a strong woman who has learned much from life and God. Gritty, funny, painful, affirming. No punches are pulled, but grace abounds.” —Luci Shaw, poet, author of The Thumbprint in the Clay “Everbloom contains a smorgasbord of personal stories and reflections that put the strong writing of women and the reality of women’s lives on display. I suspect every reader will find themselves in one or more of these chapters." —Carolyn Custis James, author of Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women and Maelstrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World
(Kellie, make sure you contact me with your address and I'll mail a copy!)
It was dismembered in a morning. Before I had returned from driving my children to school, the crew had assembled. They were severing limbs with alacrity when I arrived. Weeks earlier, when a city arborist had knocked on the front door, conveying they’d “need to take her down to the stump,” I had nodded and feigned sadness. But the truth was: I had no attachment to the diseased tree. Three years in our Toronto rental home was not adequate time for loyalty or grief, not when the future would uproot our expatriate life. Indifference was one luxury of our impermanence. But when the chainsaws were loosed unexpectedly on a gray October morning, my detachment was felled like timber. I was angry that no one had informed us of the scheduled surgery, saddened that no one had insisted on good-byes. When the hard-hatted men broke the tree’s brittle skeleton, I thought in alarm of the picture my youngest daughter had hoped to take. “I want to remember what it looked like.” Before we could devise proper burial rites, the tree was mulched. ... Sometimes we moved for career; sometimes for the dim sense of a call. Usually it had felt right. Always it had seemed necessary. But now that we’ve lived in Toronto for five years and our bureaucratic paperwork has been renewed twice, I’ve begun to grieve the roots we have failed to plant. The children have grown tall and lean. And still— we have no permanent address. I find it immensely hopeful that Abraham, the hero of our faith, might also have been called a wanderer. He was called by God, quite insistently, to leave Haran: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house” (Gen. 12:1 esv). Despite God’s simultaneous promise of a new home, Abraham spent the remainder of his years wandering. His life replayed the same song, like a narrative needle catching a groove. Abraham pitched tents and pulled up stakes. At the time of his death, the only land Abraham owned was the cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased as Sarah’s burial site. Even Abraham’s nephew, Lot, managed more stability than he (that is, before brimstone and fire hailed on Sodom). While Abraham was a man of tents, the author of Genesis notes that Lot’s house—a more permanent structure—had a roof beam (Gen. 19:8). Genesis 12 records God’s sure promise of land and family to Abraham. I’ll give you roots, God said. But if we’re honest, throughout the course of his life, Abraham endured constant threat of instability. ...
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Oh, honey, you are much too yellowcomplected for red, plus red draws attention to your teeth. I always tell my customers to work with what they’ve got. For you Orientals, I always say stick with your eyes, they’re so . . . exotic.” She purses her lips at me, her fuchsia lipstick bleeding into the tiny wrinkles along her mouth. She tells me which parts are worthy of being seen and which parts aren’t. I leave the makeup counter with mascara. I spend my twenties wearing colorless ChapStick and lip balm because my teeth don’t line up white and brilliant. I don’t line up white and brilliant. I learn to smile with my mouth pressed shut. When I was a girl, I had never seen an Asian American model. There were no shows featuring prominent Asian American actors. There were hardly any books about Asian American characters. Our leaders were white, our television shows were white, our neighborhood was white. To be white was to belong, to be beautiful, to be someone who could smile with her whole mouth and open it and be heard. But I was just a girl. I hadn’t yet learned that I could own my story, that it could help me become someone. ... These days I don’t listen to the women at the makeup counter. I choose my color. MAC makes my favorite red lipstick. I twist it from the bullet, and it rises up in brazen scarlet and smears across my lips. Lady Danger on my lips is holy rebellion. I smack them together and lean into the mirror. I see all of me. I am a biracial Asian American woman, and I am beautiful; I am worthy of being seen. The strength to believe it is something I fight for every day. These lips were created to speak truth. I’ve got fire on my lips, blazing red. This holy rebellion says, I will be seen. I’m learning to harness my voice even when it strangles in my throat, because these things need saying. ...You will want to read the rest!!