I recently read Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker. It’s an interesting and unusual novel about a man coming to terms with his family, his past, and himself. It has drama, suspense, faith, and so much more! I rated it 4/5 stars on all the review sites, but since this is my blog and I can do as I please, I’m giving it a 4.7/5 stars here. (It was very nearly a 5 star book for me, but other sites don’t allow partial stars…)
For the sake of this blog, I nicked a book blurb. (Wot!? I’m super knackered tonight!):
“When Cohen Marah steps over his father’s body in the basement embalming room of the family’s funeral home, he has no idea that he is stepping into a labyrinth of memory. As the last one to see his father, Cohen is the primary suspect. “
For all my other posted reviews, no nicking involved…:
I received an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher and this is my honest review:
When I began reading this book, I was drawn into the idea of the character, his predicament, and how he would handle it. At first, I struggled with the pace of the story. It wasn’t slow, but I wanted it to unfold faster, match the chaotic pace of my life at the time of reading, and give me more answers – NOW! Yet, before I knew it, the methodical and rhythmic marching ever forward (even in his reflections into the past) had unfolded far more than I realised. I grew to appreciate the pace; I settled into it, and truly enjoyed the journey.
I love the author’s use of imagery. His language isn’t flowery, but it definitely has a poetic edge. There’s a realness to the characters’ relationships showing the harshness, love, misunderstandings, and even grace that so often happen in real life.
Cohen Marah’s story will be one I return to for a reread down the road.
So, do yourself a favour and get a copy. (Preferably from your favourite bookseller, Support your locals and indies! – just not A_azon, okay? Or at least not from them today! We can honour the strike for another few hours! Besides, B&N has the same paperback price as they do!)
It’s a practice, This every day Heart Beating Journey. It’s a practice to expel the air From your lungs In the hopes that, In the daring that, There will be air Graced to you To fill them up again
It’s a practice To let a word in, Let it reverberate within The shadows of you, To stir up something That may be scarier than When it stirs up nothing… Because what if The word has a will And you follow it Like a ravelled thread To a Truth That no one else can understand And even you aren’t ready for? It’s never guaranteed…
It’s a practice To trust To fling yourself into the Arms Of Love and Life, To dance and let the gravity of grief go And maybe be caught… And maybe not…
It is a practice to live Because nothing is perfect Except the chance…
This poem was written as part of Five Minute Friday. This week’s #fmfparty prompt was “Practice”.
We have many births in life As we cross thresholds of strange doors We could never fathom opening And we
Become A piece of ourselves We’ve always held…
I was born when I fell Into the mud, When I was pushed Beyond my balance And landed Into a foreign space Of laughter And jeering, Because I stood up… Bloodied And changed
I was born when I closed My eyes into a dream of Wings feathered with words That stretched to the horizons And let me shed the weight of reality With each turning page
I was born When I met you, When your smile Was my first breath Filling my lungs With a tomorrow I didn’t know I wouldn’t see
And I was born When I woke up to that day Without you
And I was born With tears and screaming And seven pounds of Why am I here? And how many bitter pills Until this ends?
And I was born In the clinging to one more day And one more chance And one more prayer To make this dance beautiful Despite my graceless feet And clumsy songs
And I was born Without a whisper As I knew that I was moving Beyond who I was And into who I could be And that any given moment Could be the next birth, The next life, The next incarnation of who I am And who I’ve always held Somewhere inside…
There’s a song I’ve loved for ages called “When I Reach the Place I’m Going”. It was recorded both by Wynonna (Judd) and by Patty Loveless. As the years progress, I find deeper and deeper meaning to each line. But, there is one line, “I was born without a whisper”, that seems to resonate anew with every new season in my life. I played the song the other night and that line brought up so many images from different times or rebirth and I had to sit down and write.
I take a deep breath,
Try to squint at the swirl of words
In my heart and
Pick out just one
That makes sense,
That resonates with the Truth
That I seek from You.
I’d anchored down the word I didn’t want to hear
Because I KNEW You wouldn’t say it;
And as long as it was an option,
It would fog my vision.
As I stared into the turbulence
That ebbed and flowed around
That seem unanswerable,
From the deep
Having loosed it’s chain
From the weight of all the pain
From all the hope deferred…
And it took my breath away…
But still I try
To accept the word
That I didn’t want to hear
As Your answer,
And still I try
To see its resonance
With the evidence
And trust that Your ways
Are higher than mine…
This poem was written as part of Five Minute Friday. This week’s #fmfparty prompt was “Try”. It’s interesting to me to see what happens with the half a thought that I can almost grasp when I set the timer for five minutes and try to write. When the timer beeps, I’m usually a little surprised. I know this piece is not what I intended it to be, but it may be exactly what it needed to be…
Sometimes we have to be brave. Sometimes we have to put ourselves so far outside of our comfort zone that it doesn’t even make sense. Sometimes we have to risk getting knocked on our ass, punched in the face, or even getting our heart broken by the very dreams that fueled its beating for so long. We may call it horrible or amazing. We may even call it both.
And it will hurt. And we will cry. And we will grow. Why? Because if we don’t, nothing will ever happen for us.
I’ve spent over 2 full weeks in London now and I don’t think I’ve felt brave very much of this trip. I’ve felt stupid, scared, lost, tired, sick, poor, and pitiful quite a bit of the time. I’ve also been blown away by the beauty and the history. I’ve been flattered by attention and overwhelmed by crowds and comforted by friendships. I’ve felt a lot of things that come with new territory in life, but it wasn’t until a few minutes ago when a friend said she was trying to be brave like me that it hit me… I’ve felt stupid, scared, lost, and all those other things because I was brave enough to try something new. I was brave enough to get on a plane with too much luggage and not enough money and an unplanned plan and hope that something beautiful would come from this trip, that I would find the pieces of my soul that have been trying to surface for a long time.
Parts of London have been amazing, but parts of it have broken my heart. It can seem so ruined and reconstructed and ignored. I found myself wishing it were a little less scarred by change and the lives that have hurt it over the centuries. Some have even hurt it by the very nature of surviving here. And yet, in our ruins, we are proved alive. In our scars, we prove the staying power to hold our ground and keep breathing, to shake our weary fist in the face of whatever tries to destroy us and say, “Sure, you took a pound of flesh and brick, but I live on.”
I walked past a sandstone engine block at the Royal Arsenal Riverside with a danger sign posted. I looked at this pieces of the past, this beautiful ruin, and I wondered if, perhaps, that is part of the point of living… To be ruined. Only when we are ruined can we be restored. And somewhere in that restoration lies so much beauty and value and love. Can there be redemption if there isn’t loss first? Can there be healing if we aren’t a bit broken? Can we have true beauty if we haven’t been burned to ash? Maybe some will see us and post their own mental “Danger” sign, but others will see the beauty of our lives well lived, or at least, lived.
So tonight, as I walked by the River Thames, so fully aware of the trash by the park bench and the grime on the barges and the aching changes of all the inevitable construction in every direction… I saw myself reflected back. I saw my scars and my fears and my less than sparkling aspects and I saw all of the “under construction” of my own life, not static and rotting, but fighting to grow and thrive. Bravely breathing and putting ourselves out there a little further, trying to be the best beauty that we can be, the truths of ourselves that dance forth from our depths as we remain inhabited by all of the variety of dreams and hopes and tears that we each hold, this city and I.
The tears may flow like a muddy river, yet the sun shines on us both and our textured ripples shimmer in its rays. Sometimes it spotlights our scars, sometimes it casts shadows over them. Our lives blossom forth, sometimes wild, sometimes cultivated. We have been knocked on our asses. We have been punched in our faces. We have had our hearts broken by some of the very dreams that fueled their beating. But, neither London nor I can say that nothing ever happened for us. Because we are brave enough to put ourselves out there and live and we have the ruins and the restoration to show for it…
The sun will come out And shine on the world When something I’ve dreamed of, Something I’ve clung to Through years of darkness, Begins Tomorrow…
Something I’ve worked for, Hoped for, Been scared of, And cried so many tears over, Will start Tomorrow…
I’m watching the hours count down until Tomorrow, But it has been unfolding for so long… Each and every today that has danced through my life
Has been a step along The journey, And tomorrow is merely another step.
I will leave my comfort zone. I will step beyond a line Of never again being able to say: “I’ve never” Or “I’ve always wanted”, And my foot will fall into the space of: “I am” And “I have”… When Tomorrow Becomes Today…
My name is Rhiannon. I’m a writer and have long dreamed of seeing England. When I say “long”, I mean I can’t recall a time in 39 years when a mention of anything British in a book or on tv didn’t stir up feelings of longing and trigger a million daydreams. I believe God calls us to things, nudges us with desires that may seem ridiculous to others, but they are pieces of our path in life, our destiny. I believe this trip is part of my calling. Obviously, money is an obstacle or I wouldn’t be here asking for your help.
Can you be a collaborator in my journey? Can you give (even small amounts help) to make this dream a reality? I promise that I will take you along with me, not just in spirit and in my prayers, though I certainly will do both, but via my blog and social media as well.
As a writer, I know I can ramble for ages about being brave, taking leaps of faith, and following dreams. I have done my share of those already but, they have mostly been confined to the realm of my small and predominately risk-free life. I need to put that philosophy into action and spread my wings. Writers need adventures to fuel their imaginations and world views, to grow and connect with people so that their words can reflect that growth and return that connection to others. If I only live in a bubble, I will only write within that same scope. I want to use my writing to glorify God and show the realness of faith. As my friend Ronne said, “Faith isn’t airy or nothingness. It’s got heft to it. It’s weighty. It’s more real than reality.” This journey is my faith in action, following the voice of God far beyond my comfort zone and surrendering to whatever He wants to reveal to me.
SUBMERGED IN THE CULTURE
I want to take you along with me as I blog about my experiences. I’m sure there will be cultural differences between my small town life in the semi-rural US and the big city of London in the UK.
I don’t want this to be just a quick tourist visit. I would love to live there someday, but for now, I am making the most of this one trip by spending two months there, submerging myself in London as much as I can, breathing in the architecture and the history of the churches and libraries and museums, witnessing the grit and grime and beauty and all the intermingling gravity of the lives there. I want to stroll through parks and play the guitar in the shade. I want to write poetry and articles in coffee shops or on park benches. I want to take walks by the River Thames and try to discover why it seems so special in my mind.
One of the first places I want to visit is 84 Charing Cross Road. After the book and movie, I need to know that I didn’t wait too long to follow my dreams. I want to see the plaque on the wall where the bookstore once stood and know that I really did it, I got to reach out and touch something that has eluded me for so many years. I need to know that this was finally real and not a forgotten wish-turned-regret when my life is over.
I’d love to take a pilgrimage to a tiny village in Somerset where a writer who greatly shaped my theology and my worldview is buried. I want to pay my respects and meditate on the impact that we make in the world just by being true to ourselves. I want to marvel with God that He uses every relationship to create ripples through time and generations that we may never witness.
Since I came out as gay nearly 2 years ago, I have longed for LGBT community. I live in a very rural and conservative part of Missouri where I am the only “out” LGBT I know, and definitely the only out gay Christian. That kind of community is nonexistent for me here. I will be there in time for Pride in London to be my first ever Pride event and will definitely be writing about that! (for perspective: Leicester Square alone, which will hold the women’s stage, has a capacity for 5,000 people. My entire town has a population of LESS THAN 3,000.)
NO RESERVES. NO RETREATS. NO REGRETS.
My flight is booked. My savings are nearly wiped out. My budget for the next couple months is incredibly tight. Can you help me to make this trip a really special experience? I don’t want anything fancy. Hostels and friends’ sofas will help. But there is still a deficit and I want to be able to follow where God is leading me.
My pastor recently spoke of a man named William Borden. He felt God calling him to be a missionary in Asia. When he died, found written in his Bible were the words:
“No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.”
To me, these have come to mean: that I reservenothing from God, I’m laying it all on the line to follow where He is calling; there is no turning back, no matter how difficult the journey gets; and I will not live a life of regretting the dreams I haven’t chased or the callings I’ve not heeded.
FAITH THAT GOD WILL PROVIDE
I am stepping out in faith that I will be taken care of along this journey. I know that God will provide my needs. It is possible that he will provide them through some of you.
I’ve never been good at asking for help, but I’ve noticed God often makes us rely on other people when we least want to. Even the apostle Paul had people giving money to support him as he travelled around to various churches to preach the Good News. As a Christian, I believe that all of our lives, every aspect of them, are part of our witness and ministry. As a writer, I know this adventure will have long-lasting effects on my career. As a girl who has wrestled with her faith and asked God to show her clearly the direction He is calling, I have come to this place where I lay my hopes, dreams, and needs out before you and trust that Yahweh Yireh (the God who Provides) will do as His name suggests.
Amanda Palmer, singer and writer, has a philosophy called “The Art of Asking” which illuminates the exchange between people when they undertake a partnership of seeing and being seen by one another, that one person giving money to fund another’s passion is a two-way exchange where both come away with something of value. As you give, you will be helping me reach me dream. As I live out that dream and write, I will be carrying you with me and reaching back to you with my words and my gratitude.
Seriously, thank you for taking the time to read about my dreams. Thank you for any prayers or positive thoughts you can spare me, including prayers for my safety and health during my travels. Thank you for any money you are able and willing to give. And, whether you can give or not, would you be willing to pass this on in case my story resonates with someone you know? If so, thank you for that, too. Perhaps some day I can return the favour and help you follow your dreams.
This is a song I wrote last year about following God. That is what this trip is about, but it is also what my life is about. (Apologies for the slightly rough recording quality and that it wasn’t memorized since I recorded it the day I wrote it!)
London is calling and I need help to get there! The following is from my gofundme campaign which you can find here: Rhiannon’s London Adventure
For those who don’t know me, my name is Rhiannon. I’m a writer (translation: poor) and have long dreamed of seeing England. When I say “long”, I mean that I can’t recall a time in my 39 years that a mention of anything British in a book or on tv didn’t stir up a feeling of longing and trigger a million daydreams. I believe God calls us to things, nudges us with desires that may seem ridiculous to others, but they are part of our path in life, part of our destiny. I believe this trip is part of my calling, even if I can’t explain exactly how yet. Obviously, money is an obstacle or I wouldn’t be here asking for your help, so let me explain my dreams:
I don’t want this to be just a quick tourist visit. I want to submerge myself in the city. I would love to live there someday, but for now, I would like to make the most of this one trip and spend about two months there. If I’m really careful with my budget, I can eat cheaply and stay in the most basic hostels (and, perhaps, occasionally on a friend’s couch); but, there is still a deficit between my savings and the ability to afford even the bare minimum. (The least expensive hostels are still more than my mortgage here in the states!) I’ll also need (occasional) food and laundry, random incidental expenses, plus travel around the city and a couple of side trips; for example, a pilgrimage to a writer’s gravesite in the southeast and a few days at the shore. I’ve seen the ocean just once in my life and only for one afternoon last autumn. I’d like to spend a little more time hearing the waves and smelling the briny air.
I was in Delaware in this pic and England is about 3,500 miles over my left shoulder. October 2016
Most of what I want to experience will not cost much. I want to stroll through parks and play the guitar in the shade. I want to write poetry and articles in coffee shops or on park benches. I want to see churches and libraries and a few museums, breathing in their architecture and their history. I want to take walks by the Thames because it feels like a really special place in my mind.
Probably the first place I want to visit in London (and maybe again as the last place when I have to say goodbye) will be 84 Charing Cross Road. After the book movie, I NEED to see that plaque on the wall where the bookstore once stood. I need to know that I didn’t leave my dreams too long, that I got to reach out and touch something that has eluded me for so many years. I need to know that this was finally real and not a forgotten wish-turned-regret when my life is over.
Since I came out as gay nearly 2 years ago, I have also wanted to go to a Pride event. I live in a very rural and conservative part of Missouri, so that hasn’t been a possibility yet. What if this year I could do both? What if this summer I’m in England by the 8th of July, in time for Pride in London to be my first pride event? I have only once been in a large gathering of LGBTQIA+ community. There were about 300 people at a Gay Christian conference a couple years ago, the vast majority of whom were LGBT+, the rest were allies. But where I live, there isn’t an LGBT+ community at all. To think of the community present at Pride when just Leicester square alone holds 5,000 people? That is nearly double the entire population of my town and only one part of Pride in London! That thought almost moves me to tears.
Due to extenuating circumstances, I’ve not been able to save as much as I need. I am hoping some of you would like to virtually take this journey with me. I will be blogging my trip and writing poetry as usual. You will get to see some of what I’m up to, knowing you helped me get there. If I don’t reach my goal, I will still be going, though perhaps not in time for Pride and perhaps for a shorter duration. If I surpass my goal, I will be able to include a few extras like tickets to the West End production of Annie with Miranda Hart as Ms. Hannigan. (I adore Miranda, but have you seen ticket prices? It barely ranks as a “maybe” now, but would become a definite with enough money.)
Click this link to read my poem “Love Letter to London“ in case you missed it here on my blog. I will put up a “London Summer” tab soon so you can follow along easily.
I’ve never been good at asking for help, but I’ve noticed God often makes us rely on other people when we least want to. Even the apostle Paul had people giving money to support him as he travelled around to various churches to preach the Good News. Amanda Palmer, the singer and writer, has a philosophy called “The Art of Asking” which illuminates the exchange between people when they undertake a partnership of seeing and being seen by one another, that one person giving money to fund another’s passion is a two-way exchange where both come away with something of value. As a Christian, I believe that all of our lives, every aspect of them, are part of our witness and ministry. As a writer, I know this adventure will have long-lasting effects on my career. As a girl who has wrestled with her faith and asked God to show her clearly the direction He is calling, I have come to this place where I lay my hopes, dreams, and needs out before you and trust that Yahweh Yireh (the God who Provides) will do as His name suggests. I have my passport, my laptop so I can write anywhere in the world, and a little savings. Can you help me make the rest of it happen? Can you be part of helping me realize this dream?
I am in a time crunch to get the plane ticket. I need some funds within the next week or two to get there in time! But if you can’t give right away, that’s alright! I will leave the gofundme campaign open through part of the summer for continued donations that will cover ongoing costs like room and board.
Every little bit helps and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Even if all you can offer is a prayer and a share… Maybe someone you know can donate and I can definitely use all the prayers I can get as I undertake this journey of a lifetime.
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