My 2021 To Be Read (TBR) list is looking rather festive, how about yours?
I’ve got fiction and nonfiction, personal development and biographies, and even a couple of books about writing. I realize that last one will seem exciting for some of you and extremely redundant for others, akin to metacognition – thinking about thinking. I purchased several with birthday/Christmas money at the end of last year, and have acquired several more via Audible and mommy-daughter dates to Barnes & Noble with my girl, our favorite!
I’ve wanted to incorporate some book reviews for my readers, just in case you wonder what I’m injecting into my brain lately, and also in the case that you’d like to do the same or avoid it.
Late in 2020, I read Heroes and Monsters by Josh James Riebock (2012, Baker Books) and absolutely devoured it, it was so delicious! Five stars, highly recommend.
Why? I’ll narrow it down to three reasons, though they are countless. (Pray forgive my writing today, I’ve been listening to Jane Austen, Dear Reader.)
Riebock’s depiction of Jesus, whom he calls Jack throughout the book. It’s not only the re-naming of Him, though I thought that brilliant, it was the way he described Jesus as a friend in the room. “Josh sat next to so-and-so” for example. And it really made me re-think how I talk to Him and treat Him. I’m reminded not to merely talk about Him, but directly TO Him, because … well, because I can. Do I need another reason?
Brutal vulnerability bordering on self-debasement. No holier-than-thou in this author’s tone to be found, he draws the reader to her own self-reflection and candor. If there’s one thing I love about a writer of memoirs, it’s the balance between character (as in personal, not fictional) development and transparency. And for memoirs to feel relatable and realistic, the author must master the telling of both.
Illustrations. I know, “how unexpected” you’re thinking, but it’s true. I truly admired and appreciated throughout the creativity and novelty of Derek Geer’s illustrations that helped to tell the story Reibock was weaving. Apparently, I’m not too old to enjoy an illustrated book!
As a brief summary, in case you’d like to check it out, Heroes and Monsters tells the life story of the author, from childhood, and how his faith was found, lost, rediscovered, and strengthened. It’s probably all of our stories, if we think hard enough about it. The ways in which Jesus makes Himself real to us, individually, uniquely, strangely, in curiosity and wonder and pain and healing, and it’s all so lovely, now isn’t it? Riebock explains his difficult childhood when he was exposed to alcoholism and hoarding, an even more difficult adolescence and still more troubled young adulthood, with instances of Jesus reaching through the trials to reveal His love and guidance in the form of imaginary monsters and apartment-invading cows.
Here’s one passage I truly enjoyed, a conversation with Jack:
“I want you to let me love you. I want you to give me every part of you, the good and the bad, the exciting parts and the shameful parts, the things that you can’t wait to wake up to and the things that keep you up at night. I want all of you.”
“Kind of demanding, don’t you think? All of me?”
“And you think I deserve less than that?”
… “Intimacy isn’t fair. … Intimacy is about what’s real. Sometimes the difference between intimacy and unfairness is simply a matter of perspective.”
“I guess so.”
– Heroes and Monsters by Josh James Riebock
So, now, I’d love to hear from you? What’s on your 2021 TBR list, and have you read Heroes and Monsters yet? If not, do you think you’d like to after reading my review?
And oh by the way, could you do me a quick favor? I promise it only takes 30 seconds. Would you please subscribe by putting your email into the box? That helps ME communicate well with my readers, as well as gain standing in the writing industry, and it helps YOU catch all of my fun words. Thanks!
“Abnormal glandular cells – favor dysplasia,” she said. Have fun Googling that one.
About a month ago I had an abnormal pap smear after not going to the GYN for several years. Don’t judge – it just didn’t seem important. The kids are important. The church is important. Putting food on the table and gas in the car – now those are important. But not a regular trip to put my feet in the cold, metal stirrups.
Until the results came back abnormal and I had to see a specialist to get some samples to biopsy.
And then the thing becomes important. REALLY important.
So I went for the procedure and I did not like it. I did not like the poking or scraping or clipping or the long straw-like thing that really hurt the worst. I did not like it, Sam I am. The doctor and nurse were patient and gentle, and as kind as could be in a painful and stressful time. They even said my anxiety-calming and relaxing oils smelled good when they walked in the room.
And then the week of waiting. Each day I build back up my faith and every day the fear crawls back down my spine. What if…
But I’ve never lived in what ifs – I live in even ifs, and so I began to prepare.
Even if it’s bad, I’ll get through it. I’ll fight.
And we don’t tell the kids (read, teenagers) until the night before the call, but they shake afraid with wide eyes at the table and then cry in the shower.
Yesterday I didn’t accomplish much. I bought groceries – healthy food without hormones or toxins or hormone disruptors – just in case. But my mind was distracted, wondering if I’d get the call. THAT call.
So when the nurse called today to say – No – your pathology came back normal and all of the samples were the same – benign … it WAS a relief. It was thankful joy and and huge weight off my shoulders. And I could think again and be productive again, and breathe again.
So, what did worry do? Nothing. Nothing good, that is.
It seems so silly now – just a false alarm. But I know the other side of that coin. It could have just as easily been the worst of news, and we could just have easily been crying tears of sorrow as tears of relief.
It really did seem like doom. Too many signs (four, to be exact) in my mind pointed toward the conclusion that SOMETHING would be malignant. And so the benign-ness of it all is actually today’s shock.
And what did prayer do? It brought peace. Heck, maybe it even brought healing. Maybe there WAS something abnormal but my body and my God and my oils fought it back. I suppose I’ll never know.
And one of the kids texts back, “I knew it would be okay” and the other texts back that she’s crying a little in relief, and I’m just proud and thankful for their faith and love. They’re teenagers and they’re rude sometimes, but they love me and they make me proud.
My Guy – he breathes deep and sighs hard and releases this tightness he’s been holding so he can hold it together and be strong for all of us even while his worst fear was looming.
I was clinging to a few things over the past week, and even though my news is good and the fear has stopped creeping down my spine for now, I think they’re things I need to keep clinging to. And so I’ll write them so I remember them and I’ll make sure never to forget.
1. He surrounds me closer than any threat. Surrounded is a popular worship song right now, and years later when I hear it, it will remind me of how the Spirit was closer than the fear – closer than death or life – closer than even my Breath and He was faithful. My battle is not against flesh or even in flesh – and it’s fought with praise and thanksgiving – my only and best weapons.
2. I am not promised tomorrow with anyone, so I need to look them in the eye, give them what I have, and love them with all I’ve got.
3. I will take care of my body as if my life depends on it – because, gosh darnit, it DOES! I’ve got all of the natural remedies I need and I CAN choose the best food, regular exercise, better sleep, and reduced toxins – so I WILL. Lower the risk by proactive self-care. And teach my kids the same.
4. Do all of the things. No, I don’t mean that. I just mean act in such a way that I’ll have no regrets at the end of this week, the end of this month, this year, and this life. Kiss my husband often, even in public. Hug my teenagers daily. Speak every encouragement and mute every slander. Thank God for every gift. Sing out every praise, never letting any rock do what I ought.
5. Believe. In God – that’s easy for me, if I’m honest. Faith and Belief are like my super-powers, and even through this scare, I never doubted God. There wasn’t a shred of a question whether He would hold me or work anything and everything for good. But – even more – in people. I want to and need to believe in humanity, in friends, in church family, and in my support system. I kept this to just a few people over the past month because I just didn’t trust anyone else with the weight of it, and I didn’t want anyone to be burdened with unnecessary worry. Through telling a few more people and now in telling all of you I’m realizing that worry wasn’t a burden I should have borne alone. That it maybe hurt you that you didn’t know I was facing this for the past month. And I’m sorry. This scare has taught me that I CAN believe in others more than I tend to. And I want to, so I’m committing to. Despite the disappointment I’ve faced in people who’ve let me down and betrayed my trust over the past several years, I know that if anything holds me back, it’s my lack of belief in people. Not just any people – people I need to trust deeply. I need more of them and I need to invest deeper trust.
I know so many others who haven’t gotten good news. I write this with sensitivity to your heart, Dear One. May the Lord heal you and comfort you and bring you and your loved ones peace like no one else offers.
And I could have just as easily been that one too.