The Book Maker – Buy it Now!

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The Book Maker is a short story about a traveler who is invited to a library in the woods. This endearing, family-friendly tale may leave you just as transformed as the traveler.

Nothing is as it seems in the library.

It’s better than you hoped.

Believe it or not, the Book Maker was originally written as a gift for a white elephant exchange a few years ago. I was blessed to be a part of a small group in Northern California where everyone in the group had a creative bent, and so rather than buying knick knacks for our annual white elephant exchange, we decide to create a gift – without knowing who would receive it.

I love writing stories as gifts for people, but I’d never written one without knowing the recipient. When the gifts were opened, a sweet friend received this story, it found its perfect home. I read the story aloud to the group and we enjoyed the fellowship and family of the moment.

A few days later, I read a copy of the story to a group of third and fourth graders and their eyes widened as the journey unfolded.

It became a favorite tale and a gift I hoped would bless time and again.

The past few years I’ve had it in my heart to complete a writing project in time for Christmas, but life was full this year, and the project I had in mind outgrew my timeline. I shrugged my shoulders, sighed, and trusted God’s timing.

During worship one Sunday in November, Papa began to speak to me about this story and the notion of giving it a voice. I had no idea how to do it, but He began to talk me through each step. I listened. I followed. I learned. And so, because He knows how much I delight in sharing stories this time of year, here is The Book Maker.

I highly recommend listening with a hot cup of cider.

Fatherly Advice

This was a devotional I originally wrote for the Daily Fast Fuel. It was likely written at the 11th hour for a deadline, as per usual, and remains one of my favorite pieces to this day. Tis the season.

 

My Son,

You are my greatest gift. You are my highest honor. I have tried my best to memorize your life – all your expressions, your laugh, the wonderful things that come out of your mouth, the simple moments working together, building. It is a blessing for a Father to build with his child.

I confess, I did not know if I would be a good father – if I would be enough – if I would know what to do to protect and raise you. I have not been a perfect father, I know, but I was given a perfect son. And I love you – more each day as I discover more of who you are.

I wish perhaps I could give you some fatherly wisdom or advice, but what more could I offer that you do not know? So perhaps instead, I will share a simple thought – My bride found favor from the Lord, and I found favor when I found her. There is nothing that compares to finding your bride, and loving her well. My greatest decision was not leaving my bride, when though she was broken in the world’s eyes, she carried a great promise. Some day, son you will have a bride. She may not seem perfect, but you might be surprised by the promise she may be carrying. You will value her, I know – you’ll think her worthy of your very life, even. I believe, Son, the love you have for your bride, and the love she has for you could change the world. I trust mine did.

Yours for always,
Joseph

Reconstructive Gratitude

It’s been about a year since I packed up my life to move back in with my parents.

I think it’s interesting the power we have to tell our own stories, and the power we give our stories simply by how we tell them.

For example, I could share with you that my journey to pack up my life, drive across a good section of the country, and chase a crazy dream went something a little like this:

Adventure awaits. I wrote this at the top of my classroom white board my first year of teaching. It was a reminder to me and my students that it was okay that life was unscripted – and the journey itself would be our great education. After four years of championing tiny dreamers, and writing on the side, my little dreamers began to champion me to pursue being a writer. I knew that for me to really take a chance on this dream, I would have to leave the classroom. That decision was not an easy one. I had invested a lot of time and a ton of finances into the decision to be a teacher – and I had fallen head over heels for the kids. But with uncanny faith, I took a risk, jumped off a cliff, and embarked on the journey to an impossible dream. <dramatic music> And oh, what a dream. <Morgan Freeman voiceover of inspiring phrases> There were challenges. <cue gospel choir> There were triumphs. <montage of old baby photos> And at last, there was great victory. Adventure awaited, indeed. <applause and whistles>

OR… I could tell my story like this:

I quit my job and wondered if I ruined my life. With my savings quickly depleting, I shoved a lifetime of memories into a 2006 Honda Civic and prayed it’d make it over 4,000 to a bed I could rest my head on. I woke up in a daze, 35, living with my parents again, and wondering if I had in fact forsaken security, and possibly sanity, to become a writer? For the next six months I routinely broke down sobbing. <cue the violins> Mostly in my car, or in my room on my birthday, or while I tried to teach myself how to build a website or when cat photos got more likes than the post about that book I took 7 years to finish. <cue Sarah Mclachlan and images of slowmo animals> And then I went broke and began to believe I was a failure at all things –teaching, writing, love, adulting. <it begins to rain> I had a Master’s Degree and couldn’t find a job to save my life. <thunder> I began to eat worms.

How easily we play the hero or the victim. How often our stories follow the attitude we wear. The truth is, both stories are on point. Except maybe the worm thing. Life is an interesting mix of major and minor chords. Do you feel me?

For many months, it was a rough road. My inner journey was really the instigator and back bone to the Restlands series. And the series was my way of processing both the pain and the pricelessness of this season. But throughout this readjustment to life anew – there were moments. Really quiet ones that would run off and hide if I was too loud or too fast or too distracted to take notice of them. Each was laid before me like a tool to begin to build my life again and to awaken my heart.

Moments of joking with my nephews or drinking tea before bed with my mom.

Moments of laughing with my sister or catching a movie with my brother.

Moments of slow mornings enjoying coffee and rain.

Moments of new found family and friends, choosing love and community.

Moments of writing and encouraging others to dream.

And as I began to fall in love with the little moments, I fell in love with the bigger moments, and then the season as a whole became a dream come true – even with the occasional tears.

Moment by moment, gratitude has reconstructed my story.

I am not the hero nor the victim – I am simply a willing participant through it all. In every moment, looking for joy, looking for hope, finding reasons to smile and breathe deep and be abundantly grateful to be alive.

I’ve noticed in this last year that as gratitude became my new song, I found Papa waiting in all of my moments, revealing to me I wasn’t crazy. That He was trustworthy and I hadn’t ruined my life. He was fighting for my dreams more than I was. And I think no matter where I go or what I do, gratitude will tell me the same story: that He is good, he is present, and that with Papa, adventure is always waiting.

Re-Vision

Someday I will recount to eager ears
the adventure of this season.
And I will tell with fervor of the love I stumbled upon,
while I was stumbling to catch my wayward tears.
Because this was the season when everything changed
and all my old tricks proved ineffective.
On purpose.
So I would let go of all my old tricks.
And draw near to simplicity,
Like the warmth and safety of a campfire.
This was where vision was no longer a timeline,
Or a plot of points on a map.
But the sight of Your face,
and the study of how the lines creased around Your eyes
when You smiled
at me.

Part Twelve – The Epilogue

I sat against the drum watching the sunrise. The dewdrops on top of the railing sparkled, decorating a new day. I stroked the pages in my journal as I looked back through our journey and breathed deeply as my pencil tapped the next blank page.

Papa stood by the railing, like a ship’s captain. I wondered what He thought of in the mornings. Did He consider the day ahead and all that must get done? Did He pause to look mindfully on the scenery? Or was He too remembering with fondness all the steps of our great trek? The Captain of Rest revealed no secrets, at least not in this moment.

My pencil awoke to the page. Rest. Had I at last found it? Was rest something that could be found? Or was it something that had found me? Maybe rest was a land – hard to define and intended to explore. Perhaps rest was a journey of its own, made of moments that draw you deeper and deeper into calling the land ‘home’. Maybe rest was Him. The One presiding over it now in His early morning mystery. ‘Rest is a person’ sounds as simplistic as ’Love is a person’. And yet there is nothing simple about such a definition. For who has ever known another fully – into the depths of their majesty and mystery. I may not ever come to the end of rest. But perhaps I had at last befriended it.

Joy was sleeping in, curled up by my feet with her head gently laying on my leg. A rarity, for sure. I set my journal down and attempted to slip out from under her. She paid little attention, rolled over and began to snore. I gently picked up my drumsticks, momentarily held them to my heart, and then slipped them into my back pocket.

Papa welcomed my hug. For a moment we stood quietly watching the Restlands awaken.

“What’s out there?” I broke our silence.

“What do you mean?” Papa rubbed my arms, warming me in the morning chill.

“Beyond the road? Where does the Restlands end?”

“End?” He asked, as if unfamiliar with the word.

“Does it end, Papa?

His only response was a smile. One I’d seen a thousands times on this trip. One that seemed a simple reply, but I knew inherently it was not. Some questions were meant to be answered by more than words.

Joy stretched by my feet, finally joining the day. I picked her up. She admired the view briefly before falling asleep again in my arms.

“Oh, Joy,” I laughed scratching behind her ears, “it’s been quite a trip.”

Papa patted Joy’s head, “Such a good girl.” He looked at me, the kindness on His face always refreshing, “this is where dreams live, Scribe.”

I wondered if any dream could be as satisfying as this moment. But there was something about Papa reminding me about dreams that felt hopeful. I think He delighted in them and I think He wanted me to know it was okay to delight in them as well. I knew it was time. Time to find the dreams. But this time by foot. Maybe the journey would be what I was dreaming for all along.

Papa kissed my forehead and walked back towards the hiking pack. I looked across the land, planning my next route, “Are you ready for a great adventure, Joy?” I whispered. I turned around to join Papa.

But He wasn’t there.

My journal was placed on top of the pack, ready for the journey. Maybe I was ready too. I held Joy tightly as I walked to the pack. She opened her eyes, squirmed and jumped down from my arms. She sniffed the perimeter of the railing until she found her way back to my foot and sat happily waiting for our departure. I picked up the journal and found a note tucked inside. His words were simple. They were all I needed to quickly place my journal away and pick up the pack. It seemed so much lighter than the first time.

“Are you ready, Joy?”

She wagged her tail and barked her allegiance. I smiled. A simple smile infused with anticipation. I felt deeply I had finally learned to smile like Papa. Now it was time to hike.

“Come on, Joy,” I called, snapping my fingers as I began down the trail, “Sometimes what seems like the end, is only the beginning.”

A photo by Tyssul Patel. unsplash.com/photos/o-zOatT4kQw

It’s coming.

Epilogue coming soon.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sometimes life happens and Delta cancels flights

and you’re on full-on nephew duty

and need to prep for job interviews.

But come visit by Friday.

It’ll be worth it.

Love you all.

Part Eleven – The Lookout

Joy shook the drops of her mad dash across the lake all over me. I looked back to our campsite from the previous night and marveled at the impossibility that had become our dance floor.

“Shall we?” Papa motioned to the trail.

Joy kicked the sand and shot up the path, her tail wagging like a motor. Papa and I followed, carefully placing our feet on the rocks and exposed tree roots. It was more of a climb than a hike today and with each step we rose higher above the Restlands. I felt like the land was watching me. The trees and streams, the waterfalls and wildlife all watching like proud grandparents, gabbing to one another about how quickly I’d grown. I half expected the trees to pull out polaroids to share and laugh about my days in the Restlands.

trail to lookout

“What is it, Sara?” Papa asked.

“I feel like I’m being watched.”

“You are.” Papa whistled calling for Joy, she always liked to go before us. “Good girl, stay with us.” He knelt down and scratched her ears.

“I am?”

“All of creation is watching you. Waiting.”

“Waiting for what?” I knelt beside Him while Joy watched our conversation like a tennis match.

“For you to remember who you are.” He smiled.

In this moment His smile was my sweet confidence. I stared at Him until a knowing resided in my heart, an assurance that remembering who I am was something I could not miss, something I could not fail. Staring at Papa was like remembering a childhood I had forgotten. I was sure, if I kept looking at Him, I would remember me. The real me. The free me.

The wild me.

I nodded and we rose for the final ascension up the trail, each step a declaration that I was here – walking with Him, making the Restlands my own.

The wind resounded like a standing ovation as we stepped out onto the lookout, and then quieted as if it awaited an acceptance speech. The lookout was larger than I expected, a round wooden deck with railing all around. In the middle stood a curious round pillar. Papa placed the hiking pack beside it and took my hand, leading me to the  railing.

Lookout -railing

The Restlands. All of it, stretching in every direction like a quilt of landscapes, each patch telling its own story. I wanted to hear them all. I spotted the highway. I traced it trying to find my car, thinking back to that day when Papa’s interruption had changed everything. I followed the distant line of the road as I walked around the lookout, expecting it to trail off into the horizon, pointing to all my dreams. But it didn’t trail off. It followed me all the way around the lookout until I met Papa again and looked at Him with my mouth agape, “It’s a circle?”

The smile lines around His eyes crinkled, “The highway?”

“Yes.”

He leaned his elbows on the railing and looked out, “Round and around it goes.”

“I was never going anywhere? Just driving around in a circle?” I felt swindled. How could the road have been so cruel, so misleading? Had I been chasing after dreams that were never going to happen?

“Do you remember what I said to you – at the beginning, Sara?”

“I wouldn’t find what I was looking for on the road.”

He turned to me and gently held my face, “The road is just a way to get around. Eventually everyone turns off the road. Because this is where dreams live. The Restlands. This is your home,” He winked, “and your great adventure.”

lookout-restlands

I placed my hands on His and closed my eyes. I saw myself back on the road and realized His love had hedged me in from the beginning. But I had never seen it this way. I had always seen life on the road a trail of second-guesses and probable missed opportunities. A place where you won or you lost. Where you were behind or you were ahead. Where hopefully I’d find Him in the end – and then at last rest. But it wasn’t true. The road was really just 101 ways to discover His love. Just one more way of exploring the land. I felt Papa’s forehead against mine as the sweetest words dropped deep inside me. You will not miss out.

And like a hot air balloon releasing each rope to take to the air, I felt a breaking inside. Things that had been anchored for years began to lose their grip and rise. Fear and rejection and confusion and every dark thing that had ever tried to give me a false sense of the land traveled up through my heart until I gripped Papa’s hands like a woman in labor and screamed.

Ferociously. Not in sadness or anger, but in acceptance. Acceptance of truth, like someone had given me a new mind and I was audibly releasing the old one. Papa never drew away. Even as I screamed, His words continued to flow deep. You are loved. You are Mine. You are free.

And suddenly, His words were louder inside me than the scream coming out of me, and I felt His tears wash my cheeks. I gasped for air and opened my eyes. I looked around, stunned, like I had somehow forgotten where I was, and then I looked in His eyes.

He smiled. “You’re louder than you think,” He whispered.

I shook my head and smiled back.

“Feeling better, Wild One?”

I nodded. Wild One? I did feel wild. I felt free. I felt alive. I felt like I could have wrestled the old me – and felt my shoulder ache in response.

“I have something for you.” Papa turned and headed for the backpack.

I followed him and stood beside the pillar, which I noticed now was more of a barrel with leather pulled across the top. Papa stooped down and unzipped a pocket. He pulled out a pair of pristinely carved sticks, thicker on one end than the other. Along the sides were etches of places we’d seen along the trail. My fingers found the laughing bird and Joy running with her tongue out. If I looked even closer I could see words swirling amongst the pictures, the inside jokes and revelations of our time together.

“For you, Wild One.” He turned towards the leather-covered barrel and beat it twice with His hands.

Lookout -drum

My eyes widened as I looked down at the whittled wood, “Drumsticks,” I realized.

“Find your rhythm, kiddo.” He held His hands out towards the drum as an invitation.

The sun set to an uproar of celebration on the lookout. Papa had carved our story and placed it in my hands. This was my instrument. This was my worship. Our story – this is what satisfied.

Joy howled, Papa sang, and I found my rhythm, arms blazing at the top of the lookout.

It was the sound of one who is loved.

The sound of one who is free.

The sound of one who lives in the Restlands.

lookout -sunset

Join Papa, Scribe, and Joy for the Epilogue on Monday.

Part Ten – The Impossible Task

Joy came to me in the morning. I woke to her licking my face. This had become her ritual, the rising sun her cue to kiss me awake. And I would always respond by tickling her belly until her leg shook and her little tongue rolled out of her mouth. When she couldn’t take anymore she’d run up and down the length of the hammock until we’d tumble out onto the ground – well, at least I would. Joy would always make this graceful leap towards the campfire. I can still see her cheeky little grin turning to watch me fall onto the ground. It repeats in slow motion in my mind when I need a laugh.

Papa was serving breakfast as I made my way to a happy log next to the fire. Joy, ever the morning pup, pranced near the water and proceeded to do a series of stretches, jumps, and sprints.

“How’s the shoulder?” Papa asked handing me a steaming plate.

“A little sore, to be honest. Will it always be sore?”

“Could be.” He smiled, stirring some fresh coffee.

coffee

The Restlands was full of could bes, that’s for sure. We talked for a while that morning. I asked Him all kinds of crazy questions about theology and life. Three of which made Him spit out His coffee. What I loved the most about asking Papa questions was He never seemed to think they were stupid. There was no condescension, no how could you ask that, the answer is so obvious, no you should know that by now. Every question was fair game with Him. His eyes would light up and He’d lean in with His fingers trilling the sides of His coffee mug with the enthusiasm of a Dad teaching his kid about the family business. Even with all the mystery of the Restlands, truth remained a topic of great passion for Papa. I think He could have sat there all day shooting the breeze, but when I asked Him where we were headed next, He jumped into action packing up the camp.

He hoisted the backpack once again onto his back and picked up Joy. “Today we make our way to the lookout.”

“The Lookout?”

Papa nodded then pointed to a mountain that stood proudly in the middle of the lake. How did I not notice that?

lookout

“Best view in the land. Can’t wait for you to see it.” He patted Joy and then turned to walk straight into the water.

Oh, God. Oh, God. He can’t be serious. But He was. He had already made His way about twenty feet out in the water.

“Not a bad day, either. Water’s pretty calm.” His feet tapped the surface of the lake.

I tilted my head wondering if maybe, just maybe, the lake happened to be very, very shallow. I picked up a stone to test my theory and threw it out near Papa.

He watched it fall beneath the water, “Wow, it gets deep pretty quick.”

“Not helping, Papa.” I stared at the scene, the water lapping up on my toes on the beach.

beach

“Sara, I really want you to see the look out.” Papa held Joy as she bobbed up and down in His arms, ready to run.

I wanted to see the look out. It’s just that stepping forward would require breaking away from the rules of the world, namely gravity at this moment, and I wasn’t convinced she would let me go. What if she gripped me like a jealous love and held me underwater?

“Sara,” His eyes steadied me. “I have overcome the world.”

I stood there, shaking in my Chacos, thinking of how Peter was the man and I was a wimp. Papa sees impossible moments like new playground equipment, always excited to try them out. Why was I so scared?

I could hear Him like He was right beside me, soft and strong, “Live with me.”

My great desire. To live. To truly and abundantly live. And somehow I knew this was a part of it. Living meant knowing Him, experiencing Him. But I had to know Him in the impossible. I had to know His goodness and kindness were not limited by solid ground. His goodness would not change depending on my next step. His goodness would be there. Ready. Waiting. For me to rest on. I had to believe it.

So I closed my eyes, and began to sing.

I sang like a five-year-old making up her own Disney ballad. Clumsy and heartfelt words of who I knew Him to be. I stepped into the water and felt it cover my feet. Then up to my ankles, and my calves. But my song would not desist. I sang like I was reminding the water who it belonged to. Long billowing notes of His kindness and beauty. My knees felt the water’s cool embrace. Even if it consumed me, there was no other direction than to move towards Him. But that is precisely when gravity took its final bow and my shoe found sure footing on top of the lake.

water

I rose up on both feet still singing broken, wayward notes of deeply known love. He spoke softly in my ear, “Impossibility suits you, beloved.”

I opened my eyes just as Joy laid a wet one on my cheek and giggled. “This. Is. Awesome.”

Then we began to walk together. Papa and me on top of the water. Joy fidgeting and fussing, anxious to be let down.

“Can Joy walk on water, Papa?”

“I’ve never seen her walk on water.” He fought to hold her down.

Joy yipped and pushed, trying to break free from Papa’s arms until she finally succeeded. Off she leapt, looking at me with that same sneaky grin I’d seen all those mornings she exited the hammock. Papa was right. Joy didn’t walk on water. She ran. Like a bullet. And as she ran back and forth, the waves began to form. Papa shook his head smiling, “Oh, Joy.”

I felt like I was standing in a boat on the rocking sea, minus the boat, leaning back and forth trying to keep my balance.

Papa offered me His hand, “Joy loves impossibility, and it’s a good thing too.”

“Why’s that, Papa?” I grabbed hold tightly.

“Because when Joy plays in the water, you get to dance in the waves.” He put His other hand behind my back and began to twirl me around the lake. We danced all the way across to the bottom of the lookout mountain.

At that point, I think that was the loudest I’d laughed in the Restlands.