[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1612619339″ locale=”US” src=”https://englewoodreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/417hQYxOi2L.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”216″]Christian Faith Worth Imitating
A Review of
Stories of Deeply Rooted
and Transformed Lives
Redbud Writers’ Guild
Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2017
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Reviewed by Kathleen O’Malley.
A few weeks ago, I asked God to bring a mentor into my life. Whether that meant a new relationship or the deepening of one I already had, I didn’t know. The next day, I began reading Everbloom, and by the time I was twenty pages in, I realized that I held part of God’s answer in my hands.
Books can’t substitute for the intimacy of a friendship. But Spirit-filled stories can change and enrich my perspective—just like a mentor might. There is something about peoples’ life stories that is tough to ignore; their memoirs nestle into my memories until they become part of my worldview. That’s one reason that books like Everbloom are so powerful. Such books let me be touched by the lives of men, women, and children whom I won’t meet in person.
This gathering of stories and poems comes from more than forty women of Redbud Writers Guild. Their stories show them to be women who are looking for a sense of home, who have learned wisdom from the events that shaped their lives, and, ultimately, who seek to branch out and flourish.
Redbud is a community of Christ-following women from around the world, whose mission is to empower women to embrace their voices. When I visited Redbud’s website, I found that this is no spineless mission statement. Whether they are mothers, pastors, speakers, activists, or all of the above, the women of Redbud use their writing as a ministry. The list of books published by members of Redbut includes over seventy titles on the topics of leadership, marriage, fiction, Christian living, and more. As I scrolled through the bios of some of the members, I understood why Everbloom has such depth and breadth: it’s because the women behind it do. They are serious about supporting each other in their callings, and serious about encouraging others like themselves. Everbloom is only one of many signs of their strong community.
The theme of growing and blossoming is present not only in the stories in Everbloom but also in its structure. Its four sections are titled Roots, Trunk, Branches, and Blossoms. Prose pieces make up the majority of the selections, and the topics mirror the diversity that exists within Redbud. Adoption, broken relationships, infertility, trust, and anger are only a few of the matters addressed. Along with stories that center on crisis moments, there are also stories about day-to-day life, such as caring for aging parents, and struggling with fear. Many read like excerpts from an autobiography: they stand as complete narratives, but it is clear that there is much more the author could speak to.
The stories are gracefully told. There is little that is highbrow about them, nor are they raw or overly grim. As the editors say in the book’s introduction, “Honesty is the heart of every good and true story.” By writing their thoughts, emotions, and lessons learned, these Redbud women allow us to see the painful process of how they’ve grown in their faith. They invite us to learn with them.
As is fitting for women redeemed by God, their stories end in hope—even if hope means the author is still waiting for God to reveal the answers. Each piece contains a prayer and a prompt for further reflection. The book itself ends with brief bios on each of the writers. I found these to be a special last touch that allowed me to connect once more with the woman whose writing particularly encouraged me.
Reading these stories from Christian women (many of them older and wiser than me) increased my confidence in God. It lessened my fear of the future, because the fact of the matter is that I have gone through very little trauma in my life thus far. I’m not complaining, but sometimes this lack makes me afraid of what tomorrow might bring—maybe a phone call, an accident, or a dream suddenly razed. In my fear I wonder how I’ll respond, whether I’ll live to rejoice again.
Because of this, it was immensely comforting to read about women who have survived, persevered, and discovered the good that God has brought from the good and the bad in their lives. Instead of vaguely knowing that I am not alone, I now can say that Angie went through what I’m in the middle of, and that Mallory has survived that kind of pain. And beyond these women, I know Christ has gone before us all.
Everbloom is clearly written for women. Yet the men might find it worth reading, too—perhaps not as a balm for the soul but as a spur for them to tell their stories. In our community-starved, increasingly unholy culture, we need to know about other men and women who are witnesses of God’s goodness at all times, in all circumstances.
Everbloom has turned out to be a seed of something good in my life. It’s too soon to tell what it will lead to, but I think I am more ready for whatever God has for me. I am confident that many other women, too, will be blessed by reading it. It is full of grace-filled testimonies that fill a gap in literature today.
This book reminded me of Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” The women of Redbud Writers Guild have shared testimonies of the outcomes of their lives. Their stories are here for us to consider, and their faith in God is worth imitating.
The strongest, most encouraging testimony anyone can give is that God was, is, and will ever be faithful. That is the bedrock of the Christian faith. Not our own skills or talents or wisdom, but Christ. As Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Now that is an empowering message. May we embrace it and tell others of what God has done for us.
Kathleen O’Malley is a freelance writer and proofreader from southern Indiana. She has a particular love for grammar, anagrams, fairy tales, and biblical teaching. You can contact her by visiting her fledgling website at kathleenomalley.net.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
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