I joined Redbud Writers Guild five years ago when I was in a profoundly lonely place. This group of women quickly became my community, speaking words of life and encouragement to my parched soul. They were also unrelentingly kind and patient as I made my way into the publishing world. No question was too basic. No need was too small. Though the industry tends to be highly competitive, these women routinely share trade secrets and help each another. In short, they are an exemplary group of women.
So it’s no surprise that this book, our first anthology, is equally exceptional.
The book is composed of poems, short stories, and non-fiction pieces from 41 women. To whet your appetite, I offer you four excerpts.
As the leaves changed and dropped from the trees in the fall of 2011, my life changed and dropped out from underneath me, too. My skin was burning with an outrageous case of poison ivy, we bought a car from a man who lied about its condition, my father became gravely ill with a rogue illness that could not be identified, a key relationship unraveled and tangled, and the dishwasher broke. With every dirty cup or spoon that accumulated in the sink, I could feel my blood pressure rise. I shook with anger and grief over all of the ways in which my life was untenable.
These negative circumstance were piled right on top of an already excruciating seven-year stretch of waiting. Waiting for an unanswered prayer, waiting for a child.
My Nuclear Waste, by Janna Northrup
Even the work of life is a gift. Being able to use the mind we have, the thoughts that we can share, the ways we can be of use for others, to others. All gift. This is holy too. I set and take it in, the goodness of all, the inhabitation of God in the ordinary; it is beautiful and overwhelming and good.
Yet sometimes (many, many times) I look within and see that I have a heart tied up in knots over the messes in my life: broken relationships, hurt feelings, betrayals of trust and the ever-present imagining of the worst.
This is my own personal nuclear waste.
I carry it al inside, king me feel wrong and wonky and upside-down. It also keeps me from seeing God’s gifts, plentiful as they are.
If I’m honest, I like to dip my toe in that toxic mess that I store in my soul and say to myself, It’s okay if I just stir it a little, make it less nuclear waste-y. So, I do, and I get deeply burdened and heavy and dark and sad and angry.
Where I’m From, by Nilwona Nowlin
I am from the machete that cut sheet cakes and chopped weeds.
I am from Alaga syrup,
lime green easy chairs
and fried Spam and eggs on toast.
I am from homemade jellies and jams,
Pineapple upside down cake,
Hot water cornbread
And “gov’ment” cheese.
The purple and gold Crown Royal bag filled with change
and the big gold covered Holy Bible that leads to change.
Hymns and Marvin Gaye.
House too full, house too loud.
Bittersweet, by Suzanne Burden
My whole body continues to register shock. “We are heartbroken,” I say. “Not only because of the baby but because we have come to care for you. Because we care for you now, and it will no longer work for us to have a relationship. That will be taken from us too.”
When she rises, I hug her. She is stiff as a board.
I tell her once again, “We still believe that you can do anything.” As she walks to the front door, tears leak out of her eyes. I close the door behind her.
The day hope died I went to bed and pounded my fists on the mattress, screaming at God, “How dare you do this to us? We didn’t even ask for the adoption! We felt we could never weather such a loss again. We’ve done nothing to deserve this!
“Ditto!” my husband moaned from the other side of the bed.
This was not time for carefully reasoned theology, for neat boxes and tiny categories. We were keyed up for lament and anger, for raw pain and shaking fists.
My piece is titled Finding Myself at Fenway.
The dedication to Everbloom: Stories of Living Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives reads, “Dedicated to all the women who have yet to find freedom in Christ. . . . We believe in you, and we pray this book will help you “walk right up to Him and get what He is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” (Heb. 4:16, the MSG) Forty-one of us offer you mercy and help in the form of our stories.
To read more of these unflinchingly honest, beautifully vulnerable stories, grab a copy of Everbloom. I will be giving away one book as well as a custom mug to a lucky reader. All you need to do is comment below or share the post (on FB or Twitter) and tag me. The book is available through the publisher, Paraclete Press, as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.