Photo by Nikki Santerre 2019
When I was a little girl, I judged books by their cover. I still have a tendency to do this “proverbially warned” action all the time. You see, I love the covers of books. Give me a leather bound multi ribbed spine-d book, and I am gushing. If there are gold pages or a beautiful ribbon or maybe even a jewel, I’m a goner. Fore-edged books! With more contemporary books, the right or wrong font can make or break my day. I am critical of what I think is beautiful. I am attracted to a certain aesthetic that draws me in to the words. And then, most importantly, the words have to back up the invitation. Have you ever been so disappointed by a book, it felt like betrayal? Yea, me too. But, even more importantly, have you ever been so surprised by a book, that your old and ugly covered version is precious to you?
Do you remember book mobiles? What a remarkable concept! Books could come to me? A library on wheels! Man, I’m a nerd.
When I was in my elementary and middle school years, I would be thrilled every time the book fair came to my schools. If you had book fairs, do you remember that exciting feeling in the air? Something was different about the hall or the common area? Things had been moved around and space had been made for lots of books and clever book related accessories! Walking through the book fair with those beautiful shiny new books paraded on the temporary display shelves would delight me to no end. I would go back countless times thinking what books I would beg my mom to buy for me. I remember the shiny raised letters of the words goosebumps. I loved reading through the joke books, checking out the pictures in the fantasy books, and seeing what cool pencil erasers were there each year. I wonder if they still do these anymore?
Well, I remember, ultimately, there would come an evening where my mom would come and purchase some books for me. I would make a pretty long list, so I don’t blame her for not getting every book even though I secretly hoped somehow enough money would be provided for each book and extra item I CRAVED.
One such time, around fifth grade I believe, Mom did an unspeakable thing. She bought a set of five books that came in a prepackaged bag! AND THESE BOOKS WERE NOT ON MY LIST. And they had the ugliest art, in my not so humble opinion.
I was so mad, but after my initial outburst, I kept it together fearing I might lose my few selected purchased books. I was disappointed. Why did she think that was a good idea?
Well, let’s just say I threw those books in a place of no high honor and ignored them for a long time. I read all my shiny books and books I knew to be good until one day, I was bored. I mean, really bored. I was in a book adventure mood, but no new books were anywhere to be found. It was a hot long summer day, and I decided to give these ugly books a try. I mean, Mom might know something I didn’t, right? It’s possible.
So I picked up A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle and began reading about Meg and Charles Wallace and Calvin O’Keefe.
By the time Calvin is eating in their kitchen, my eyes were opened wide. I felt this strange kinship with these characters. I thought maybe it was possible that somebody else could imagine and think like me. Someone else craved adventures and MORE. And in no time, I had read the entire quintet.
These books came to me a very pivotal time in my life. I was processing my parents’ separation and divorce. I was processing being a preteen. I needed these characters more than I can ever have known.
I read through them once, just once, that summer. I didn’t remember every detail, but through the years, I remembered certain scenes and convictions of the characters. I remember imagining fantastical scenes that felt more real than anything I’d ever thought about it.
I had no idea there were little seeds of scripture planted throughout those books. All I knew was that I loved those ugly books with all my heart.
Last year, I listened to all of those books (and learned there were way more than five of them by the way) on audiobook. I teared up as I realized God had been drawing me near to Him through these stories. I just hadn’t realized it yet. I recognized parallels and phrases from the Bible that I only now know because the Lord has given me a hunger for his Word and intimacy with Him. Experiencing Meg’s doubts and emotions helped me process my own. Seeing Calvin receive acceptance and family helped me see what I was looking for in a church family years later. Imagining a universe that captured my wild imagination and that was more than I could think or imagine helped expand my mind to see the multitudinous ways that God’s love manifests. I didn’t know what love was, but I started to know what love felt like through books like these.
Y’all I could talk about books all day, but I will spare you for now. I think the thing that is coming to my mind more and more this week is that God was planting some sweet seeds in me as a child that have been sprouting and growing through out my life just when I need them.
I know myself fairly well at this point in life. I will probably laugh at that statement in ten years, but that’s okay. I remember in high school processing the idea of first impressions and how so bad I am at them. I have learned my own criticisms and biases. And I remember making a conscious choice to try to love every person and let time tell me their true character. Previously I had dismissed people that ended up being my best friends. I had pursued friendship with people who didn’t really know how to love me in healthy ways. I’m always humbled through this process how people surprise me with their awesomeness.
And I’m humbled that people give me a chance. They choose to love me too.
Two nights ago, I finished watching the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings with my sister and her husband before my sister’s hard year of residency starts. I’ve watched these movies countless times. Something always sticks out to me. This time, in Return of the King, there is a moment where Aragorn and co are planning to make a diversion so the evil Sauron’s eye will be on them instead of looking for Frodo and Sam who are making their way to Mount Doom to destroy the ring of power. Aragorn decides to confront Sauron through the Palantir, which is like the eye slash crystal ball of evil allowing him to communicate with the evil one. Sauron shows him a picture of a dead Arwen, Aragorn’s love of his life. Where the evil was meant, a resolve of relentless strength and courage and righteous anger is seen as he rallies himself and the armies to fight for all that is good. I understand this was a choice that was different than the book, but the visual image of his face from one scene to the next reminded me of Jesus. The metaphor breaks down as they always do, but it made my heart glad to see the Future King get mad at the image the liar showed him. He would do the impossible to fight for his future bride. What Sauron meant for evil, ended up being for good!
Last night at a service of lament at my church, I sang through a mask with a body of believers in the flesh praying through psalms that Jesus himself knows, in fact, authored through humans, would have prayed as a human.
One song reminded me of a season that I sang it years ago over and over through tears. I have come out of that season of lament and have seen God meet me in my pain. Not all of that grief is over by any means, but I have joy and I sense his nearness with me as I continue to live life amidst the effects of sin in this world. It reminded me that I am still so in need of the good news. I keep trying to make little Edens for myself, but nothing on earth will ever measure up to satisfy. There will always be more to lament on this side of eternity. I am waiting for His kingdom to come. Not passively, but a little more like that way of waiting tables. There are things to do with the time given to us aren’t there? So many, in fact. That’s where I get overwhelmed.
In the past couple of years, I’ve been allowing myself to dream bigger again, like when I was younger. I’ve been asking God to show me how to wait on Him, how to live this life. And one step at a time, I’m growing, I’m learning, sometimes the hard way, and I’m seeing my desires change to look more like Jesus’ desires. Truly, that is a miracle!
Last week, I had a dream. Bear with me.
I was with everyone. You know when you know everyone is there. But you don’t know each person but like friends and family were all there. I don’t remember everything except it felt like we were in a big special hotel at a theme park. Every room was a different theme. And each room was full of riddles. You had to figure out the fun of each room. I wildly ran about checking out all the rooms. I don’t remember all of them, just the feeling. I made it to someone’s room who was disappointed. She didn’t like her room. She couldn’t figure out what was so special. I looked at the painting on her wall and said, “You have a Julie Andrews painting on your wall! That’s awesome!” So naturally I started singing to Julie Andrews on the wall. And she started singing back, magically! We sang through a few lines from different songs from Mary Poppins and then started in on Do Re Mi from Sound of Music. Before I knew it, we had unlocked the riddle of the room! We were flying! It was incredible. Singing and flying in this magic room with everyone and Julie Andrews. And I woke up feeling a lightness and a child like wonder and joy.
I don’t know what the Kingdom will be like, but I know what it will feel like. A little bit like how I felt when I woke up from that dream.
I like to think God gives us our imaginations and dreams and friends and books to plant seeds of joy that will grow even when watered with tears.
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints.
You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old, the years long ago.
I said,[a] “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”[b]
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.
When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.[c]
You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
PS Listen to the podcast here.