12 March 2009

Enough

**Sorry for the repeat...Blogger published this out of order. No idea why.

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl who wanted to fly. For her whole life, or at least as much of it as she could remember, people had told her she should fly. It was her birthright, they said, and there was no good reason why she shouldn't fly if she just worked hard enough.

The little girl felt so excited when she talked to these people. Her dream seemed within her grasp--all she had to do was become good enough, smart enough, and strong enough, and she would fly away to soar with the birds through the sunset and into morning.

As she grew a little, the girl began to be troubled about her dream. Flying seemed so hard. The sky seemed so far away and she felt so heavy. She looked around her and saw other people, sometimes the same ones who told her she should fly. They had worked really hard, even harder than she was working, and they couldn't fly. How hard must it be, then, to actually rise above the earth?

It seemed too hard to do all on her own, and so the little girl hatched a plan. One night, she took the sheet off her bed and made it into her special flying sheet. Now, she had a real way to fly. Some day, when the wind was just right, when she'd perfected her running and jumping, she would grab all four corners of the sheet, run from one end of her yard to another, jump, and the wind would carry her away.

The girl became obsessed with her plan. During the day, she practiced running and jumping and she stared at the sky, waiting for just the right wind. At night, she dreamed of flying, practicing cartwheels and flips in her dreams.

Slowly, the girl got stronger. She ran faster and jumped higher. She learned to read the wind, so she'd know when hers was coming. Her heart pounded when she thought about how close the day must be, her flying day.

And then, the moment came. The girl felt the wind change and knew she had the strength to run and jump and take off to see the world. She ran inside to get her sheet.

When she came back out, she saw a man standing in her backyard. Though she'd never seen him before, he wasn't a stranger.

"Jesus," she said, "what are you doing here? Have you come to see me fly?"

She felt so excited. Jesus loved her enough to come and watch the thing happen that she'd worked so hard to achieve. He smiled at her, and she smiled back.

"Give me your sheet," he said, still smiling. He raised his hands to take it from her.

Her smile fell off her face.

"What?"

"Give me your sheet," he said again.

She looked at the sheet in her hands.

"But if I give you this, I can't fly! And I've dreamed of flying all my life. And I've worked so hard," she said.

"Give me your sheet," he said.

The girl didn't know quite what was going on, but she pulled her sheet and held it all in her arms.

"No," she said. "I want to fly."

Jesus let his hands drop and walked toward her. She smiled, sure she'd won. He reached out and touched her sheet. Somehow, she knew he wouldn't just take it, not like that, so she let him.

"Give me your sheet," he said.

"But how will I fly?" she asked.

"Maybe you won't," he said.

"But I've only ever wanted to fly."

"What if there's something better than flying?"

"What do you mean?"

"What if there's something better than flying?"

"There's nothing better than flying."

"Have you seen the world? Have you see what is above and beyond this world? How do you know there's nothing better than flying?"

She pondered for a minute.

"I don't know. But I've always wanted to fly," she said.

"Give me your sheet."

"If I give it to you, will I get one of these better things? Am I trading this sheet for something better?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Why not? I know I can fly, if I run and jump right now. Why would I give you this sheet?"

"Give me your sheet," he said.

The girl didn't know what to do. She loved Jesus, and she thought Jesus loved her. She certainly didn't want to fly away from him. But she wanted to fly.

"Will you fly with me?" she asked.

"Give me your sheet," he said.

His eyes somehow made her not angry, even though she wanted to hate him. She kept looking into them, like she couldn't stop. Slowly, the girl dropped the sheet, all but one little corner. Jesus gathered it up into his arms and moved to take the last bit. She clenched her fingers around it. He tugged, but she held on. Her fingers turned white and ached with the force of her holding, but she couldn't bring herself to let go.

"Give me your sheet," he said.

"But if I give you this, I have nothing. Do you hear me? Nothing!"

He gestured around him.

"What about this?" he asked.

"What about what?"

"All of this."

She looked around her. Everything looked the same as it always had--her house, the yard where she practiced and played, the fences with neighbors' houses on the other side.

She looked back at Jesus.

"I don't want this," she said. "I want to fly."

"But you have this," he said.

"But I want to fly."

"Why do you want to fly?"

"I want to go places and see things. I want to meet important people and talk to them. I want to do all those things that nobody else gets to do. I want to be somebody."

"Who are you here?"

"I'm nobody. I'm like everyone else, like my parents and my brothers and sisters and my friends."

"You're somebody here."

"What?"

"You're somebody here."

The girl looked around her. She wanted to believe him, but she still wasn't sure. To be somebody here, now, that would really be something. Almost nobody was somebody here. Jesus tugged at the sheet.

"I can't let it go," she said. "I want to fly."

"Do you want to let go?"

She looked at the ground and scrubbed her foot against a tuft of grass.

"Yes," she said. "If I am somebody here, I want to let go. Yes."

He began to pull, harder than he'd pulled before. She found herself pulling back, unable to do anything else and still not entirely willing to let go. He pulled harder and harder, tugging against her. Their tug-of-war felt like an all-out battle.

Finally, Jesus gave one long, last tug, harder than anything he'd done before. The girl felt her hands loosen, her grip suddenly and violently torn. She saw Jesus with the sheet, the whole sheet, and she felt her heart panic.

Before she could even begin to feel the panic, though, she saw Jesus unfurl the sheet. He held it in one hand and let its length whip in the breeze. Then, in a moment that forever after played through her mind in slow motion, he let the sheet go. The wind caught it and carried it up, over their heads, even over the houses.

The girl cried out, once. It felt like her heart was being ripped out. If only...if only she was attached to that sheet, she'd be flying like she always dreamed. Her heart swelled, then drained out in tears down her face.

Before she knew it, she realized Jesus was next to her. In the next second, she was in his arms, crying out her fury at him, to him. It shouldn't have made any sense except it did, and she was crying too hard to think very much.

After a long while, she finished crying. Oh, there might be more tears another day, but she'd cried all she could for that day. She looked up and saw Jesus gazing down at her. His eyes had never lost their gentleness, not even in the midst of that great tug-of-war.

"Why, Jesus," she asked. "Why did you take my sheet?"

"Could I hold you when you were holding that sheet?"

She scrunched up her nose and thought for a minute.

"I guess not," she said.

"That sheet came between you and me," he said, "and I can't ever let anything do that."

10 March 2009

Mary DeMuth's Daisy Chain


Daisy Chain is Mary DeMuth's new novel, and I've had the pleasure of reading it already. Since others have covered the plot, characters, etc. and done very well with those (and because I'm tired this week), I'm not going to get into them here except to say that Daisy Chain is about a little girl, Daisy Marie Chance, who disappears and her friend, Jed, who thinks it's his fault. Click some of the links below to find out more about the story. Anyway, I'm not sure it's quite right to call my thoughts here a "review," but here are some of my musings on the book.
  • Best: Daisy Chain is a great example of Christian fiction that gets outside the box. It's not easy, or nice, or happy, or any of the things that we've come to associate with Christian fiction. The lives Mary portrays here are messy . . . possibly even messier than our own, and in that mess, they are true. I loved that about the book.
  • Worst: Some of the symbolism is heavy-handed (like vultures, or Daisy's hair clips). When I encountered these images, I felt taken out of the story, like I remembered I was reading a book and was no longer transported into Defiance, TX. These symbols also made it seem like the book couldn't decide if it was for a literary audience or a popular one. Yes, I know it's possible to participate in both, but these images seemed like they were trying to make a popular book into a literary one and so felt jarring to the reader. Luckily, they popped up rarely and it was easy for me to get back into the story when I passed the image.
  • Writing: I loved Mary's writing. Her words made the reading seem effortless. In fact, I didn't feel like I read, for the most part, but like I walked alongside her characters. I read the book faster than I often do, and felt surprised when I looked down that first evening to find myself halfway through! I didn't read by flashlight like some had to, but I definitely wanted to finish!
  • Thoughtful: For me, this book brought up a lot of questions about what should and should not be portrayed in Christian fiction and what our responsibility is a Christian artists when we're portraying a hurt, broken world. There are parts of this book that were incredibly difficult to read because of the pain they portrayed. Were these parts necessary to the story? I think so (the novel is the first of a three-part series, so it's a little hard to tell what's necessary and what isn't at this point). Does that make them acceptable? I struggle with that. I don't have any answers, but the book definitely made me think.
  • Deep: Mary definitely has a grasp on the fact that no one is perfectly good or perfectly bad, but we're all these eclectic mixes of right, wrong, good, bad, and everything in between. I hated admitting that Jed's dad, Hap, could be right, but it was so clearly true. Again, a place where this book is true.
  • Annoying: I realize that, in the practical word of publishing, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to publish all three parts of this trilogy at once. However, it really bugged me that we didn't get to finish the story (partially because of reasons I list in my disclaimer below--it would have been easier for me to sleep after finishing had I known the end).
  • Disclaimer: I feel like I should say, for the purpose of transparency and objectivity about this review, that one part of the book hit me in a particularly vulnerable place. Several years ago, I had an intense experience of God. Over the two nights following, I felt like I fought evil in my sleep. Mostly, I had horrible half-waking dreams where I couldn't stop awful things from happening and couldn't get anyone to help me. After one dream, I woke fully and, though I faced the wall, I felt sure that an evil man was standing over my bed. I couldn't see his face; he was all shadows. I prayed, and then I turned around and no one was there, but I felt sure someone, something, had been. This ties to Daisy Chain because there's a creepy man who we only ever see standing, just standing, nothing else. As soon as I read about him, I felt transported back to my bed that night. It felt so intense that I had trouble falling to sleep while I was reading and for a couple of nights after. Honestly, it was hard to keep reading, even though I wanted to know what happened, and all of this probably made the book seem darker to me than it might to others.
Overall, I highly suggest this book, but don't jump into it thinking it's going to be easy or make you smile. It might make you truly happy, though...

For more on Daisy Chain, check out:
5 Minutes for Books
A Peek at My Bookshelf
A Spacious Place
Actual Unretouched Photo
Along the Way
Amy Storms
Ashley Weis
Aspire2 Blog
Awesome God . . . Ordinary Girl
blah-blah-blog
Blame it on the Loud Mouth Gene
Blog Tour Spot
Bluebonnet in the Snow
Book Nook Club
BookingIt
Bookworm’s Nook
Bound to His Heart
Callapidder Days
Camy’s Loft
Canadian Prairie Writer
Carla’s Writing Cafe
CommuniKate
Cyndy Salzmann
Declaring His Marvelous Work
dreamers of the day
Edgewise
Faith Fuel
Faith of a Single Mom
Fictionary
Five Bazillion and One
Giving Up on Perfect
Heading Home
Healthy Spirituality
Home-Steeped Hope
i don’t believe in grammar
it wasn’t me

Janell Rardon’s Blog
Just Pure Lovely
J’s Spot
Kindred Heart Writers
Krellfish
Leap of Faith
Life is one daily adventure
Lift My Noise
Lighthouse Academy
Literary Discoveries
Literary Fangirl
L’Chaim
Margaret Daley
Mari’s Morning Room
My Life Message
Paper Bridges
Partners in Prayer for Our Prodigal
Pix-N-Pens
Positive Moms
Prayerfully Penned
Rachel Hauck
Refresh My Soul
Reviews by Donna
Sarah Winfrey
Scraps and Snippets
See Ya On the Net
Simplifying Motherhood
Sips ‘n Cups Cafe
Sky-High View
The Gospel Writer
The Journey of Writer Danica Favorite
The March to Freedom
The Serial Writings of Robin Shope
The View From Here
The Writing Road
Whosoever Will Outreach Ministry
Wild Words . . . Photos and Fine Art
Wisdom Walk
Word Vessel
Write by Faith

05 March 2009

An Offering

For LL Barkat's poetry invitation this week: part poem, part essay, part vignette. It's very much confused and only about half what I wanted it to be, but I love it. It's like a baby: not nearly fully grown but beautiful nonetheless.

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I went searching for grace among sea grass and dunes. Polished glass pebbles called me forward until I could see my face in placid water's stillness. Gulls called, waves ripped, and I waved to sea-turtles swimming by. If only I could come back, I could grasp grace here.

I went searching for grace among pine trees and flowers. Meadows beckoned and I followed twisty path to their heights. Peaceful wind ruffled my hair: a father's hand; great trees surrounded and kept safe: giant arms to encircle and protect. If I could live in this place, I could grip grace here.

I went searching for grace in high alpine places, beyond the trees near the sky. I climbed. Little grasses poked their way through the soil to stand, inch-high and proud. Tiny, tiny flowers showed their faces on impossible-to-pick short stems. If I could reach high enough, I could grab grace here.

I returned home without grace, so almost-but-not-quite that tears crept out when I thought of it. Grace wasn't mine, to grasp, grip, or grab. It taunted me, calling me forward, then elusive; I was left with if-only and long, lonely tears through the night.

Morning came. With it came light-joy, pouring over distant mountains and feeding night-chilled sand beneath my feet. I opened my arms and it fed me, too. Grace here. Grace unexpected. Grace near.