5. A Tale of Two Cities

I generally do not consider myself to be a fan of Charles Dickens. I’ve read a number of Dickens stories including Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations and can’t claim to have especially enjoyed any of them. For my twenty-first century taste, Dickens can be boring and longwinded. Still, A Tale of Two Cities is the book I’m encouraging my wife to use as the novel for her literature course.

A Tale of Two Cities takes the best of Charles Dickens—his ability to capture humanity—and makes it succinct. Even though the story spans decades, the plot moves fast, and because the story takes place during the French Revolution the narrative carries more weight and resonance than the typical Dickens story. Continue reading “5. A Tale of Two Cities”

The Albino Asian Cookbook Preview: Ginger Chicken

Ginger Chicken

Introduction: I rarely equate Thai chili and comfort food, but this dish has a rich, spicy chicken broth base and is loaded with onion, garlic, and ginger. Some people make chicken soup when they do not feel well, but I make ginger chicken instead. Serves 2-3. Continue reading “The Albino Asian Cookbook Preview: Ginger Chicken”

6. The Lord of the Rings

Virtually everyone with a literary palate knows that The Lord of the Rings is extraordinary. It’s impossible to deny its impact in both literature and cinema. Name a fantasy book or series that was written afterward and we can highlight a vast number of parallels or points of influence, direct or indirect.

Because The Lord of the Rings is so well known and frequently scrutinized, I’m reluctant to spend time analyzing the story. I’m not a scholar, and I don’t have anything new to add on that front. I’ll say simply that my father loves the books. Consequently, I was introduced to the story at a young age, and my appreciation has grown. What I would instead like to focus on is Tolkien’s writing process.

I have this reoccurring emotional response every time I get to the end of The Return of the King. I feel sadness and loss that the journey is over, but I am also incredibly disappointed that Tolkien didn’t write more books. I feel like the world missed out because The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are all we got of J. R. R. Tolkien. Continue reading “6. The Lord of the Rings”

Backed Against the Red Sea

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:13, 14

My senior year of college, I promised God that I would go wherever in the world He wanted me to go on whatever mission, only I didn’t want to raise support. As a missionary kid, I grew up around fund development; I was familiar with church visits and courting potential supporters and funding letters and support banquets. I despised the lifestyle. God lead me to intern with Campus Crusade for Christ at my university, the University of Kansas, which meant I would be staying put and would have to raise support. I knew that I needed to trust God and take a step of faith.

The stress began when I told my grandmother about my decision. We share the same verbal impulsiveness, the same introversion, and the same disdain for popular opinion. When she was a child, the neighborhood kids used to call my grandma “Red Hot Pepper,” a name she acquired by fighting the boys who bullied her older brother. As an adult, she endured despite battles with diabetes and cancer. I figured that if there was anyone who could encourage me in my upcoming struggle with fundraising, it would be my Grandmother. Maybe she would even offer some advice about people to contact. I was wrong.

Over dinner, I gauged her response while I spoke about the internship. Her response was veiled. Grandmother worried that I would lose sight of writing as I tasted a career dedicated to people rather than creativity, a concern which made sense because she loved to paint. Rather than encouraging me about fundraising, she informed me that her church didn’t have any money to spare. It was then that the doubts took seed. Continue reading “Backed Against the Red Sea”

My Provider

I was driving along a winding road, back home from work at an Ace Hardware in Asheville, North Carolina. The night was dark and cold, and there were still patches of ice skulking along the edges of the road. My mind was worn, my body was weary, my stomach growled from hunger. On the road I was filled with thoughts from the past and a melancholy longing.

It wasn’t so long ago that I was in college. Living in a house with other guys, boys learning to become men, and adult life seemed so distant. One year I slept every night on a mattress atop a wood floor—no bed frame, no box springs—but I barely noticed. I lived in a cycle of classes and college sports. There were late night parties in our house almost every week, though I was an introvert and slipped away from most of them, preferring the tranquility of my own thoughts and the posters on my bedroom wall to actual people.

I was intelligent, working smart more than I worked hard, always finding the easiest method that worked rather than drudging through old fashioned learning devices, catering to my strengths rather than polishing my flaws. I was able to attain a high GPA and work a part-time job my senior year, all while managing to play more video games than ever before. I ate and exercised and slept when I wanted. Most of all, I was carefree. My biggest concerns were walking to class in snow or ice and an Arabic teacher who berated her students. My only financial commitment was maintaining the old Nissan 200sx I drove; I didn’t worry about paying for the food I ate, the house I stayed in, or my college tuition—my parents were tending to my needs.

Then that sense of security ended as graduation loomed. Suddenly I was to be responsible, to pay for all my bills and figure out my healthcare. My future job, rather than my parents, was to be my source of income, my livelihood, and there was a weight that crashed onto my life. I was my own provider. I didn’t know how, but I learned, slowly, with the unsteadiness of a toddler learning walk. Continue reading “My Provider”