Forever Faithful.

Forever

The whole bible is a testament of God’s faithfulness, a faithfulness that comes to fruition in the life of Jesus Christ. From Genesis 3:15, God promises offspring of the woman to come and bruise the head of the serpent—that being Jesus. The whole of the bible, every letter, every word, every story, every event is about one thing and that is the coming and death of a savior, Christ Jesus who came to do just that, save his people.

And he did.

That is the truth that we can dwell upon, the truth that we are to guard our hearts with, the reason that we can continue on in the face of persecution, pain, and suffering. That he did. That Jesus did come, he did live, he did die, he did take every bit of our pain, he did take every bit of suffering, he did take every bit of our sin upon himself, and he did die for us. He did all of these things because we have a faithful God. We have a God who promised us in the third chapter of the bible that he would send him, and kept reminding us of this promise through the whole of the Old Testament and made it come to fruition in the New, and he keeps on in this same faithfulness each and every moment of everyday, now and forever.

Faithful

Anxiety has ripped me apart at the seams. The past month has been a torment.

I returned from a weekend of rest, restoration, realizations, and the Redeemer with RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) at their Fall Conference in Montezuma, NM, only to get a bad case of bronchitis or the flu or something of the sort; all I know is I was miserable for more than a week and a half.

Prior to the trip and prior to my illness, I had been feeling better than I had in five years. I was happy again, I was interested in things again, and I was sleeping well again. I felt like a new woman. Then, the illness hit and along came a crippling bout of anxiety.

I am still not sure of the origin of this anxiety, I have my suspicions that it had to do with how miserable I was while I was so sick, that I was scared that it was going to continue or get worse, but even after I overcame those thoughts, the anxiety remained.

The last few weeks have been nothing but an inner battle with myself, trying to convince myself that everything is okay day in and day out. I’ve been trying to find anything that could comfort me and make me feel good again.

But let me tell you, this stuff is consuming. It’s like every moment is a fight to keep going, to keep breath in my lungs, to keep tears from my eyes, to keep my heart from racing, to keep myself out of bed (where I would no doubt remain all day if I could), to keep myself from panicking, to keep from blaming myself for anything and everything happening around me.

With all of this inner turmoil, I am sure one can deduce just how hard it has been to keep faith. All I can do is ask God why this is happening to me? Why it has to be that every night I have a series of panic attacks that make me worry if I will be able to sleep or not? Why I can’t just go back to the progress I was making a month ago—to the feelings of wholeness and that I was finally overcoming this silent beast?

But even as I type out these questions that have been the real life things I have been proposing to God, I see the error in them. I have been begging God for all the wrong things.

In Philippians, Paul writes from his Roman prison cell, where he has been imprisoned for spreading the gospel. When looking Paul’s circumstance, one would think his first response would be to ask God why; why if he is serving him, would he let this happen to him? However, when I look at Paul’s actual response to his imprisonment, my own hardened heart that is prone to ask “why” questions of God is challenged and changed. Paul says,

“I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known among the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

Philippians 1:12-13

As Paul sits in prison he looks at it not as a burden or a reason to ask God the “why” questions, but rather an opportunity to spread the gospel to the guards that watch over him and give vigor to those who still remain out in the world seeking to share the truth of Jesus. Paul even manages throughout the whole book to rejoice, to rejoice in the fact that still in his suffering, he is allowed the privilege to serve Christ and is still be able to call on others to rejoice in doing the same.

This God of ours is a faithful one. One who can take the things that seem to be holding us captive and make them good. He is a faithful God that despite our shortcomings and selfish requests of Him still calls us back to the reality of Christ, his faithfulness incarnate. He was faithful to Paul in contenting him in the revelation of the truth and purpose of his imprisonment, and so He will be faithful to us.

While I examine my own prayers and thoughts against Paul’s, I can do little else but be convicted. As I sit in my situation with this anxiety that has created a sort of prison for me, I recognize that I should be praying that God would use this pain to ultimately propel me to press on to serve Christ. While this circumstance hurts and is confusing this is where I am supposed to be.

He will be faithful to me and to you to the very end, because His faithfulness is never ending.

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Coming to Terms with Time

I have taken to this blog as a place where I can do what I do best, writing. When I write, it serves the chief purpose as to gather my own thoughts in one singular place and to look over them in hopes of reaping from them some particular insight or epiphany and hopefully help someone else along the way. Sometimes though, my writing isn’t always in that fashion, it doesn’t always afford me the opportunity of a great epiphany or understanding. Sometimes it is just ramblings in hopes of getting them out of my head, and that is a bit like what I seem to be doing here with the concept of time.

On August 30th I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I decided to leave behind the only sure thing I have known in the last fifteen years—school. I decided to take a semester off of college, a hiatus if you will, in hopes of making some attempts at getting well.

In this time off there have been marked improvements.  There have been improvements like the fact that anxiety is not gripping everyday of my life, or that I am not dealing with horrible side effects of former medications, or that I don’t feel like there is a dark cloud above my head in every moment preventing me from living. I have had time to come closer to God and to contemplate his truths. I have had the opportunity to make a platform for myself to share these things and because of this I feel like this is the place to contemplate the following thing that I have been too scared to admit to myself, that this whole thing is going to take time.

I have no good explanation for you as to what I thought was going to happen when I decided to take a semester off of school. I remember going in to it considering it a time of healing, to give myself time to repair, to heal not only physically and mentally, but also spiritually. My words, however, seem to have rung hollow to myself, I seem to have just been justifying my hiatus with this concept of allowing myself time, and leaving it as just that, a concept. Though I have made strides in these places of healing mentioned above, there seems to be a part of me that thought it would all be over by now.

But this is not the case. While I have come to this place before and explained great things God has revealed to me through this pain and have had the excitement of coming to know him better, I have also come to realize that there is a difference between knowing God is in control and accepting that he is in control. That may seem fairly obvious to some, but it’s a hard pill to swallow, a painful realization when you thought you were being accepting of such a thing, then having it proven by yourself, to yourself that you have been trying to hold fast to your own schedule and your own plan. It seems to be that He has decided that his plan for my life, for my healing, will take time, the very concept I justified my hiatus with, and it will take longer than human me wants.

Time is cruel, but yet again, I am left here in awe of the revelations of himself that God has presented me through this pain. Again I am left with the recognition that He is in control, and it is now my turn to relinquish my own attempts at having said control. I am still hurting. I am still broken. But it is time that I not only allow God to do what he will, to align my desires with his will, but also to start to be truthful with myself about where I am and what I need which is his good and perect time, not what I want in my human schedule.

 

The Journey of Composing Lace

Hi there, and welcome to the new and improved Composing Lace! I have been working on (thinking about over and over, and finally doing so in the last week) transferring to WordPress for about a month now. While I am so thankful that my posts transferred from my previous site and there are some introductions to me that can be found in those, I would like to introduce myself on this platform officially.

I am Laci, a young woman, who loves coffee and sometimes unhealthy quantities of PG Tips Black Tea (it’s the best, and I am so wanna-be English at heart), the mountains, trees (particularly of the evergreen variety), writing, reading, and music. However, most importantly in this short description, I am a receiver of undeserved grace, who was bought by the blood of a man named Jesus who triumphed over death, and because of this have been adopted into the Kingdom of God as His daughter.

Now that we are friends, I would like to direct your attention to the resources of this new blog. Not only is it simpler to find—it is just ComposingLace.com now—but it is also more user friendly than my former platform. The blog is now easier to read and follow. All you have to do in order to keep up with this blog is hit the follow button to the right of or at the bottom of this post. You will then choose to either create a WordPress account or just opt for email notifications. Either way you choose, you will be immediately notified when I publish!

Another thing that I would like to address while welcoming you to this new blog, are my goals for it as well as some background.

I started this blog over a year and a half a go, which I did thinking I wanted to be a fashion and lifestyle blogger. I created the name Composing Lace, and wrote a post that explained what this name meant. In that post I wrote,

“I have found that each and every day, I am composing myself, morphing myself into something different than what I was yesterday, designing myself.”

Since this blog’s beginning, between sporadic posts and a whole lot of life, the title “Composing Lace” has taken on a new meaning. The base idea of the title has changed from being a completely self-serving concept to something much larger. It is no longer a declaration that I would use this blog to design myself, to publish what I wanted the world to see, who I wanted myself to be. The title, “Composing Lace,” now has absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. This title now declares the truth of my life—that I have died to my former self and will allow God to “compose” Lace. He has always been the author of this story, my story, but I now give it over to Him to express the full reign He has always possessed. I no longer think I am placing the words of this story.

This means that the content of this blog will forever be different than its original purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to include the things I love to read on blogs myself like lifestyle, books, writing, storytelling, etc; however, now it will always be for His glory, and if it isn’t for His glory, it will not be posted. My life is His and I will allow Him to work through these things He has placed on my heart to love, the things I mentioned above, to serve Him. This also means that the writing and content style won’t be that of my original intent: the pristine, look at me, look at my perfect life that isn’t so perfect I just want people to think it is. No, the writing and content will be raw and real. It will be the hurts and the happiness, the pain and the triumphs, the thoughts and the musings, all in hopes of remaining true to God’s desire for me to glorify Him in all I do.

So, I desperately hope you will come along side me in this, to enjoy it and be blessed by it.

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The Greatest Gardener

 

Consider the wildflowers, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

Luke 12: 27-28 

A few days ago, I was outside talking to my grandma on the phone.  I like to make my phone calls outside, one because when there is a chance someone will see me whilst driving by, I stop my relentless pacing that takes place when I am indoors (gee, thanks social anxiety) and two because I like to be out in the fresh air, and have company whilst doing so.  Often times, however, I find myself doing things while I am talking.  Either I am going through Instagram, forsaking the beauty before me in conversation and in the outdoors, or I am staring at the lawn sitting in front of me and the dandelions creep into my head and are relentless in their calling me to remove them from the green grass.  The other day the latter transpired.
My grandma and I were talking about some pretty heavy things, she was giving me encouragement regarding some major life decisions I have made in the last week, extending her willing hand to help me however I needed, reminding me of God’s sovereignty through it all.  Though the conversation was compelling, I still felt the urge to pull all of the weeds which resided in every crack and crevice of the driveway and on every square inch of the yard.  I saw them all and saw how even in the midst of this conversation they took away from the beauty of the front of our cute little house and distracted me from the things at hand.
I worked tirelessly then, even after I hung up from my grandma, to make sure all the weeds I could find were pulled up from the roots and thrown in the garbage that was to be taken the next day, never to be seen again.
Let me tell you, it looked great when I was finished.  Weeds that had been growing in the cracks of the cement in our drive were now lying as waste and it looked smooth and clean just as something that a car drives over daily should look.  I was so proud, that everyone who drove by could see that our driveway was clear and clean—someone obviously cares at that house, right?
While I was clearing these weeds though, I had a thought about the way I was pulling these weeds with my two pronged weeding tool that digs deep, sitting on both sides of the root to pull the weed completely out, in hopes of making the lawn and driveway look clear and pristine. The thought was of how this process is so akin to the way Jesus works in our hearts.
Jesus works tirelessly to remove weeds from our heart to make us clean and pristine— the weeds of unbelief, distrust, unforgiving ways, unkindness, anxieties, burdens—the list goes on and on.  When we trust in him as our Lord and Savior, we allow him to come into our hearts to weed.  His tool however, is not like the two pronged one I used to pull the weeds in the front of my house, but his love, the freedom we gain from the blood he shed on the cross, the price he paid to the Father in our place so that we could come to Him and be clean and pristine as Jesus was.
Later that day after weeding, I came upon a quote that read, “The prettier the garden, the dirtier the hands of the gardener.”
My breath was taken after reading this, after contemplating the way Jesus weeds our hearts like a gardener earlier in the day.
Jesus has the dirtiest hands—they have worked the hardest, paid the ultimate price.  The cleanest gardener went from white as snow, to covered in blood, with a crown of thorns on his head and nails in his palms, all so he could have the prettiest garden in us.  We just have to give him the opportunity to do his work in the garden, because it has already been done, he has already made us clear and pristine.  He has already determined it is our place to have the passerby admire the way our soul is clear and pristine, so they can see his glory, and because of that, we don’t worry about the weeds. All we have to do is let the truth that he has and is taking care of the weeds, reside in our hearts.

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Caregiver: Having a Soft Heart in a Hard World

My entire life, I have been the “mom” friend. You know, the one friend in the group who is the voice of caution, the advice giver, the “wise” one. This has always meant I am placed in the position of caregiver, whether I like it or not.  I am relied upon to be there when friends and others fall, and to be the one who they can come to when times are rough. These are duties I have always been happy to attend to. However, this title has also often meant lots of hurt in relationships, acting as what I felt was a weakness in my personality. I have found myself in relationships where I am considered the “mom” reach a point it becomes a one way relationship—me taking care of them, constantly, with hardly anything in return.
When my relationships seem to morph into these sorts, is when I always disdain being a caregiver by nature. I begin to resent these relationships because I feel like I am giving so much care, pouring my entire heart into this human connection, and receiving little to nothing in return. I ache because I want so badly for these people I love, to love me the way I love them in return. I love so deeply and completely I want to feel the same from them. I can’t even count the number of sleepless nights crying, feeling weak for loving like I do, sobbing to my mom, asking underneath tears why I love too much.
As a disclaimer, I said before I have always loved these duties I am given in these relationships, so some of this is brought on by myself. But there has always been a part of me that questions myself, asking why, just why do I have to care so much, pour so much in, love so much when I am not guaranteed that these people I am giving my heart to will love or care for me the same way in return, and in reality often don’t.
These questions have often been the reason I have known ended friendships. I start to hurt so bad that these people aren’t loving me like I expect them to or care for me like I expect them to, so I push them away and claim I can’t do it anymore.
However, I have been lead to the realization that this is not my duty. It is not my duty to determine how others are supposed to care for me or how they are supposed to love me. We are sinful beings incapable of delivering to one another the type of love and care we need. In fact, my desire to make these people “love the way I love” is a kind of greediness.
As I contemplated this topic this week, I began reading Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst.  It was here where it was reveled to me the true nature of these desires of wanting people to love me the way I “needed” in return. TerKeurst tackles the topic with these self-examining words,

“We must respect ourselves enough to break the pattern of placing unrealistic expectations on others.  After all, people will not respect us more than we respect ourselves,” and continues, “No, it’s not wrong to need people.  But some of our biggest disappointments in life are the result of expectations we have of others that they can’t ever possibly meet.  That’s when the desire to connect becomes an unrealistic need.  Unrealistic neediness is actually greediness in disguise.” (page 45 of Uninvited)

I love to paraphrase that, but I don’t think it could possibly fit the topic at hand better. I have come to the following realization: It is merely my duty to care and love to the best of my ability all those around me. To remember that I sin and they sin, and that breeds hurt no matter how complete your human love or care might be it is not enough. But this heart that I possess is not a weakness, it was created by God and given to me to be a caregiver and a deep, deep lover. So that is what I will do.
But then, I am still left with the inherent desire for human love and care.
Don’t get me wrong. I have several relationships where I am cared for and loved beyond measure. But regarding those relationships where I would question if that is the case or not—I can release my unrealistic expectations of others and rest soundly. I can be contented with a peace in my heart that can only be known by understanding that I am loved for and cared for by the ultimate caregiver, by the ultimate lover, Jesus.
So as I sit here and contemplate my heart’s varying feelings and desires I can find a comfort in knowing that the God of the Universe, who is love, sent His son, to show His love for me, to show His care for me, to make me clean. All in a fashion that I could never even attempt to wrap my mind around, because the nature of Jesus’ care and love is beyond human comprehension. All I can do is accept this gift of grace humbly and learn from it how to love others.
His love and care reaches so far beyond that of human beings’ capability, including mercy and grace that no human can deliver, that only his love and care can present.
With this I challenge you to examine your life and find the areas where you feel that you are being let down and recognize that God is using that in your life to help you realize something bigger in His plan and recognize His deep, deep care, love, and provision for you, that will never fall short, that will never fail. 
 
The LORD your God is in your midst, 
  a mighty one who will save; 
he will rejoice over you with gladness; 
  he will quiet you by his love; 
he will exult over you with loud singing. 
                                                      Zephaniah 3:17
                                                     (emphasis added)

A Jealousy to Rest In 

When I was in seventh grade I fell in love for the first time and adversely learned what unrequited love was for the first time.

I was crazy about a guy who I sat next to in my math class. He made me laugh, and he had beautiful green eyes that lit up when his wide smile was shown. Everything a thirteen-year-old girl could want. I thought this guy was the one, just as one does when in middle school and thinking they know the whole of the world. I was so set on this guy, I talked about him nonstop to anyone and everyone: my mom, my friends, the poor person I sat next to in English class, anyone who would listen—I wanted them to know how wonderful I thought this thirteen-year-old boy was and how he was going to be my boyfriend someday.

However, there was only one problem with this boy—he was a flirt. He would flirt with every little middle school girl that gave him a chance and thus I was one of many for him, so for the first time I also learned what soul crushing relational jealousy felt like. I say soul crushing, because that’s what it was. I was jealous of any other girl he made laugh, or any other girl he showed that bright smile to, and it consumed me. It took me over. I wanted to be the only one. I wanted to be his only one like he was mine.

That boy and I never worked out. I was perpetually put into his group of many and he was forever placed as my one and only, at least until middle school ended.

This narrative about my middle school romantic life has a purpose other than to make myself cringe at the memory, I promise.

I would like to wager that any number of you reading this has known this feeling. Whether as a blossoming teenage girl with a teenage boy like me or vice-versa, or perhaps in a friendship, or even in seeking a job that you thought was the perfect fit for you but those hiring seemed to think otherwise. A feeling of jealousy has washed over you, at the many other girls, or the friend spending time with other people, or the person who got the job instead of you.

I would like you to draw up that experience. It may be uncomfortable, looking back on it you may recall how bad the feeling was or how you wished you hadn’t had to feel that way, or that you had been smarter than to allow someone into your life who would make you feel that way. Now, I would like you to consider the following scripture,

“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

Deuteronomy 4:24

Remember that feeling of jealousy, remember its affect on you, remember the magnitude of it, that feeling of thinking you deserve this thing, and multiply that by infinity and more. That is how Jesus feels for us.

When we live in this world and trust in this world, we are no better than that flirtatious boy who had many teenage girls at his beck and call, we are him. We have someone namely a man who died so that we may live, who counts us as His one and only. He wants to tell everyone about us and wants us to be his forever. He is jealous for us. He wants our heart. He wants our requited love. He wants our communication. He wants our life. He wants our trust. He wants our entire being. He took on our sin as a blameless man and died “the greatest sinner of all time” according to Luther, all because he was so jealous for our life.

Now I ask you to revisit those feelings of jealousy again, how you so desperately wanted to prevail, to be the one the boy, the friend, the job turned to and accepted. So does Jesus desire of us. His desire is that we might turn to him and that he might be our one and only as we are His; that we might want to talk endlessly of him and to him and be his for eternity.

When we stop turning to the many things of this world, acting like that boy who broke my heart, we receive that which we so desperately seek—prevailing as the one and only of Jesus. And the beauty of it all is that unlike my placing this boy as my one and only until middle school ended, we won’t stop being his one and only. If we give him the trust he desires in earnest and stop communing with this world more than him, it won’t just be until the “end of middle school” that this is true, it will be for eternity. He is jealous for us, and that is the most beautiful truth of this world.

CH Spurgeon in his devotional Morning and Evening says,

“To abide in him only, this is true love; but to commune with the world, to find sufficient solace in our carnal comforts, to prefer even the society of our fellow Christians to secret intercourse with him, this is grievous to our jealous Lord. He would fain have us abide in him, and enjoy constant fellowship with himself; and many of the trials which he sends us are for the purpose of weaning our hearts from the creature, and fixing them more closely upon himself.”

 CH Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, September 12th

Spurgeon calls on us to give in to this jealous Lord who wants us. That we might enjoy constant fellowship with him, in order that we stop relying on the things of this world that will ultimately disappoint, and turn to him for truth, hope, and comfort.

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From Darkness Comes Beauty: Living with Hope through Pain

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

Beauty comes from darkness.

Some of the world’s greatest works of art were born out of the pain of the artist. Pick up any good poetry book and read a few lines. They will move you to your very core and manage to make you question how something so dark could be so beautiful.

With this idea in mind we look to some of the greats: Michelangelo’s work was defined by its melancholy themes, and yet he is considered one of the greatest artists of all time. Vincent van Gogh was in so much pain he cut off his ear, but still managed to create some of the most inventive and beautiful paintings the world has ever seen. T.S. Eliot battled severe depression and still produced pieces of poetry that defined the Modernist period (have you read The Waste Land? I keep a copy in the stack of books by my bed). Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath, both had such ways with words they are now set apart as some of the most influential writers of all time, but the works they produced were ridden with the hopelessness they felt that was their ultimate demise.

These artists all knew pain and darkness, but have gone down in history as having made some of the most beautiful works of art the world has ever known. Thus affirming in part the theory that beauty comes of darkness.

However, there is a greater explanation of this idea beyond these great artists.

The God of the Universe made beauty out of nothing (Gen. 1:2). He took the dark and made light shine. He created the most beautiful works of art ever, namely the mountains, the oceans, the land, the sky, the moon, the stars, plants, animals, humans, and every thing that inhabits the earth, all beautiful works of art that were brought to fruition out of darkness that only He had power over.

When we look to this, we can do little but be affirmed in the fact that He has power over darkness, not excluding the darkness that human’s feel. If human’s can create such beauty in their times of suffering, it has to be proof that He has reign over what will be allowed out of such pain, because He alone has power over darkness; just as He did at the beginning of time. After all, we are created in His image (Gen. 1:26) and this is not lost on the way that we produce works.

We can look from God as the artist behind all things and move through God’s word. We can look to some of the stalwarts of the faith, people like Abraham, Jonah, Job, Elijah, Jeremiah, and David all who experienced such depths that they questioned God’s power. I mean for heaven’s sake Elijah asked God to end his life (1 Kings 19). But God sustained him in his darkest time, giving him strength to continue on to bring to fruition God’s beautiful and perfect plans.

Then we can look beyond these biblical figures and to great men of the faith like Luther, Cowper, and CH Spurgeon, all men who made contributions to Christianity that are still blessing us today. These men all dealt with severe depression, though through it all looked to God and trusted that God would deliver them, and He did.

Every morning and night I read Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. I cannot possibly express the number of times I have been laying in my bed either with the light streaming in calling me to the day I don’t think I can face, or closing a day I am just happy to have made it through, reading Spurgeon’s words and sobbing into my forest green pillow at the realization that I am not the only one. That I am not the only person who has had such faith in Jesus, but experienced the agony of a day in which each moment brings the thought that it could not get worse.

I am sad to say I have lain out with Elijah, asking God to end it all. I have cried out with David, asking why God has forsaken me. I have sat with Spurgeon and suffered silently while putting forth the desire to show God’s glory through my life though it seems nearly impossible, only able to attempt at grabbing every truth I possibly could and hope that would sustain me.

I am broken. I am in pain. I see a therapist every week. I take an anti-depressant every night. I left college because I was too overwhelmed to continue. I am struggling through each and every day. I am full of dread when six o’clock rolls around because that seems to be when my biological clock’s alarm reminds the sadness to kick in.

But from this darkness beauty is prevailing. I am allowed to dig deeper into God’s word, to draw nearer to Him. I am allowed to have quiet time with Jesus every morning when I wake and every night when I close my eyes. I am allowed to feel in full force all of the emotions that He has called me to experience. I am allowed to write to my heart’s content, the only thing I have wanted to do since the age of seven. I am allowed to see how I require His strength in each moment of everyday. I am allowed to heal. I am allowed to give my life to Jesus—the truest beauty any person can experience on this side of eternity.

Out of darkness comes beauty and that fact comes from a sovereign God. A God who is not the author of sin, but who uses all things, including the sin, the darkness, the pain of this world, to work together for good (Romans 8:28). His son has died for us that this pain and this suffering is assured to be temporary. As we wait for eternity—you and I alike—can rest in comfort, knowing that through darkness, the beauty of the cross will prevail.

“My witness is, that those who are honoured of their Lord in public, have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil.”

–CH Spurgeon

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

John 9:3

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The 21st Century Mind: Review of the Essay Collection,”The Word Pretty” by Elisa Gabbert

The Word Pretty by Elisa Gabbert (Black Ocean, 2018)

☆☆☆☆☆/ 5 stars

“The essay needn’t be faithful to the path of the thinking, but the form can reveal how thinking happens, like when a song gets stuck in your head and only later do you realize why you thought of it, that you had read or heard a word from the third verse. There’s magic there—the mind doesn’t always show its work. Why should prose?” -Elisa Gabbert, “The Art of the Paragraph,” The Word Pretty

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Elisa Gabbert’s work first appeared to me in the form of her first poetry collection, The French Exit (Birds, LLC., 2010) which I had to purchase as one of three collections for a poetry class earlier this semester. In the second week of classes we were asked to go home and read all three collections and bring back our favorites to read for the class the following week. I perused the pages of the other two required collections, relatively unmoved, but when I opened Gabbert’s collection I was taken aback; a storm of pages turning and pen marks flying ensued. The collection is filled with self-deprecating humor regarding sadness and life, a language I speak fluently and resonated with me. So, when I learned that Gabbert would be visiting my university in February, but for her creative nonfiction work in the essays of The Word Pretty, I immediately headed to the web to order one of the last two available on Amazon.

The Word Pretty is a brilliant collection, the style of which I can’t help but compare to my favorite book of essays ever, Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew Bose. Gabbert, like Bose, has written essays for the modern world. She muses on the linguistic significance of the emoji, the variations on the catharsis of crying, the definition of poetry, why one reads novels, the word pretty, and more. Gabbert, though presenting essays full of research, fact and opinion alike, offers-up essays full literary mastery, images, and ideas that will resonate with the modern woman or man.

Gabbert’s structuring of her essays and the book as a whole is masterful. I must now then contend that Gabbert’s true brilliance is revealed in something in the collection which at first I was unsure of: her recycling of ideas and specific references in separate essays, highlighted by the chosen structure of the collection. For example, there are a several successive essays in the collection that reference the variations on translations of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, or toward the end of the collection she quotes John Berger’s Ways of Seeing two separate times. On a surface level I have to acknowledge that to some this may appear lazy, a recycling of ideas with little effort; however, I think this is where the genius lies. Gabbert has mimicked what it is like to think and learn—one gathers information and continuously returns to it, musing on it in different ways, seeing how it applies to the world around them. She revealed how thinking happens. She muses on the same ideas, but in fresh ways each time.

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Gabbert and hearing her read from The Word Pretty(as well as The French Exit, and L’Heure Bleue Or The Judy Poemswhen she came to speak to my poetry class that has been studying her work). I must say hearing her read from the collection and explain some of it, only solidified my appreciation for what she does in this collection. Gabbert has revealed herself as a modern writer for a modern audience, musing on what it means to live and think in the 21stcentury.

 

A Voice for You: A Review of “I Am Yours: A Shared Memoir” by Reema Zaman

(This book was sent to me courtesy of Amberjack Publishing…thank you!)

I Am Yours by Reema Zaman (Amberjack, 2019)

☆☆☆☆☆/ 5 stars

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“I Am Yours: A Shared Memoir” Reema Zaman, Amberjack, 2019; Photo by: Laci Durham

I Am Yours: A Shared Memoir follows Reema Zaman on her journey through the first thirty years of her life. Her journey begins in Bangladesh, but is then sent abroad to Hawaii, on to Thailand, and finally to the continental US. As the reader moves through the book, they are confronted with what it means to be a woman as the writer finds her voice quieted by societal expectations of women time and time again. She recognizes herself as an object of sexual prize in Thailand and the US and as a mere background character in her native country of Bangladesh. Zaman leads the reader through her trials with emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of others, and destructive behaviors bread from these circumstances at the hands of herself.

This, though, is a story of triumph as Zaman comes to find the powerful voice within herself and the courage to share it.

From the first line of this book I was hooked, eager to turn each new page which I found to be filled with both heartbreak and triumph. I found myself tearing up on more than one occasion, filled with amazement that someone could put into words what it feels like to be without them. Zaman poured herself into each piece of this memoir and it shows. Each word is masterfully selected, intentional, and moving. The structure is intelligent: told in four acts, with a guiding word for each chapter.

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“I Am Yours: A Shared Memoir” Reema Zaman, Amberjack, 2019; Photo by: Laci Durham

There is a line from the book that reads: “Language births art, literature, dance, theater, and bedtime stories.” This simple line I found to be a metaphor for what Zaman does in this book: she crafts a narrative that is deeply personal like bedtime stories, but universal like the art language breeds. This is Zaman’s greatest accomplishment: she has made a memoir of herself for others; she has poured out her soul and dedicated it to those who cannot do the same.

This is a book that deserves to be read if only for Zaman’s masterful literary technique, but if you choose to peruse its pages and go on one woman’s journey to find her voice, you will find something far larger and more powerful than you could ever expect.

Mermen, Sappho, & Diabetic Dogs: A Review of “The Pisces” by Melissa Broder

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REVIEW: The Pisces by Melissa Broder (Hogarth, 2018)

☆☆☆☆/5 stars

In Melissa Broder’s first work of fiction, we are introduced to Lucy, a PhD student from Phoenix, AZ writing about the gaps in Sappho, who finds herself at the end of her

long-term relationship with Jamie, a scientist who has transformed from chiseled jaw to neck fat before her eyes over the years. After Lucy ends it with Jamie, she finds herself in a deep depression that much like Jamie’s body changes seems to appear without her realizing, but culminates in a depressive episode of disembodied stupor, sleeping pills, and jelly donuts. After an outburst of emotion in a moment of lucidity involving her ex, she finds herself between being arrested and therapy for love addiction. Lucy chooses therapy and ends up in Venice Beach, taking care of her yogi sister’s diabetic dog Dominic in a beach side mansion. Early in her stay she wanders out to rocks on the shore in the middle of the night where she meets a strange swimmer who refuses to exit the water. The reader is taken through Lucy’s attempts to come to terms with her reliance on men and her desire to be autonomous despite them. Enter merman infatuation, Sappho, and the universe.

I found this book daring. Broder does something in this novel unlike anything I’ve seen before. She somehow manages to develop an erotic psychoanalytical, almost mythical, story of a late-thirties woman into a work of modern literary fiction that leaves the reader questioning if it is the most brilliant thing they’ve ever read, the craziest thing they’ve ever read, or perhaps both.

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Despite its achievements, there were a few places I found this book falling short—or perhaps, doing too much. I found the psychoanalytical portions of the novel brilliant, as well as the contemplation of Sappho in the process of Lucy analyzing her own feelings; however, when it came to other characters it was as if they were just dumped there and left underdeveloped and ridiculous for no apparent reason. I also found the eroticism too much. I think had the moments been better developed it would have been more excusable, but a few of the moments seemed unnecessary.

Though it lacks in areas, what Broder does in this book, is an achievement. The author seems to be shepherding the world into a new kind of literary fiction filled with feminine desire and myth that belongs in the modern world.