An Abstraction on a Book and A Study of Chains

If you’re like me, you’re surrounded by books like their being there might keep you safe from harm or boredom or from just being dumb-looking, but hopefully you’re really not like me at all. I hope you actually read the books sprinkled throughout your home. One of my special gifts is to read the first 35 pages of about 200 books a year. This alone should explain my love for poetry, how I can drink it all down in one swig. I’ve only got time for sips, not so much in a guzzling stage of life with four sons at my table.

A few weeks ago, I was in a nervous airplane, and I bent a brand new paperback, Anne Lammott’s Grace (Eventually), as much as I could, like you would to the bill of a cap to make it frame the face. A new book is better than a new car, smells better even. I read everything before I start the prelude, the back and inside the cover where a friend wrote a lovely note. After much adoration, I began, and my heart raced with thoughts at first. I interrupted myself thinking how great it is to be still and also that I may even finish a book, and before I knew it, the wheels were skidding across the runway, and two hours had disappeared, and I had read half the book.

As I shut it I realize I had had my hand in my crazy hair, and I felt wild eyed, knew I had been laughing uncontrollably, and at one point I had cried and used my sleeve for my dripping nose. I had completely loss self awareness. It was just me and Anne, my very best girlfriend by now, and we’d been on a trip together. When I flew back to Arkansas, it happened again, and I did finish the entire book. If you want to borrow it, you must give it back. I’ll need it sitting right here next to me with all these other books, right by my planner and Bible as a reminder.

The concrete things in our lives are what gives our stories weight. What separates my story from yours is the difference between our experiences and memories made around these objects. The same books may be sitting right next you. What book doesn’t invoke certain connotations?

Like the Bible. Does it make you shiver like a cut-throat side laser-beam from your mother’s eyeballs during church? Does it fill you with such dull dread that even the thought of wiping dust from it wears you out? If you were to let it slip open, where would it land from that last time you had bent the spine back and held it open on itself, front touching back? Was there ever a circumstance that made you hold the pages up over your mouth and try to wring it out, pour it in?

Right now mine is newish with paper that sounds like tin tissue. The entire scene is rote, tame, with its coffee. The pages are stark, missing the ink and desperate underlining of my young twenties.

Today is Day 2 of A Study on Chains, and my first challenge is my overwhelming self-awareness, my habit of self-judgement, wondering what I look like or if I’m being disruptive. Part of this is maturity, but a great deal of it is my withholding affection toward God and not accepting Grace. A great deal of it is unbelief.

This is a heavy one, so I’ll spend some time slipping out from under it, the chain that holds me far in worship: self-awareness.

On Mondays I write on writing, which means that mostly I’ll write out spirit by practicing a little with the concrete things in my life and maybe in a fictional life. We’ll see. If you want to mess around with these little prompts, send your readers this way, and link up below. At any point this week, link below to any concrete post you’ve written about a book. Practice writing, the craft; share it with us. Next week’s topic is on A BOY. Make sure to use #concretewords on twitter. Thank you always for coming here.


About me


Where Healing Begins: a Wild in the Hollow Guest Post from Sarah Jo Burch
November 23, 2015
When Home Is Within: a Wild in the Hollow Guest Post from Mandy Mianecki
November 02, 2015
Dear Seth: A Marriage Letter on Your Sobriety and What it Looks Like to Come Clean
October 27, 2015
Learning to Bend: A Wild in the Hollow Guest Post from Diana Trautwein
September 14, 2015
Who are you, really?
January 27, 2014
It is My Passion That You Know This
January 08, 2014
At the Crux
September 02, 2013
Poor and Powerless: My First Time to Speak
April 17, 2013
Let the Game Changer Change the Game: Part 1
April 10, 2013


Kelly Sauer
Reply October 2, 2012

Oh. My. Word. Wow.

Reply October 2, 2012

In all honesty, my Bible reminds me of times I hurt just to breathe. It's scary to go back there, & I know it's not His will, but the air is thin & my lungs are frail & it's just hard.

    Reply October 2, 2012

    Mandie, I know this feeling I think?

    And then when I muster through, the words they put me in order, God magnifies, and somehow the crazy is dissolved a little. It's good to know what is the will of God and to have your mind transformed. I need to be transformed so desperately.

Reply October 2, 2012

Was on a plane Sunday with Ann's Traveling Mercies and I was the person laughing out loud. I am almost too old to care how annoying I was. But I want to get in that thing like a child zips up in a sleeping bag, like a pea in a pod and just stay till page last. Wanted to do the second most annoying thing, read aloud to my BFF and husband, flying with me. Didn't. That's one good decision I've made.

Robin T
Reply October 2, 2012

But what will people think of me, if I worship without self-awareness? My constant struggle.

Reply October 2, 2012

Wow, Amber. This is so honestly beautiful. What an important 31 Days. I so respect how you enter into what you do with such authenticity -- for the way you will navigate this space, the struggles you may have, the gentle belief that value will come in the God breath through you, to us. Thank you. (And I relate to the poetry vs. books with lots of pages thing, too. I've got stacks.)

Reply October 2, 2012

Reading is where I find I am least self-aware. Even if I sit before a beavy of my students - fast at work on some project and I sneak a second in the pages of a beloved friend, I laugh full, cry without thought to choke. So, these two ideas are quite related for me... a starting place to let freedom ring and reign in me. So glad to be along. I will journal my way through these ideas and my idiocy as well.

Reply October 2, 2012

Something we all battle, especially as women—being too loud, too emotional, too messy, too independent, too worried...until self-awareness is just being constantly aware of how often we don't measure up, fit in, have it together enough. Affection lavished and grace like water...then we become less aware of self and more dependent on Christ's sufficiency. So good. Looking forward to these 31 days too :)

Lynn Morrissey
Reply October 2, 2012

Ah...self-awareness. Now that's a weighty chain. I have been shackled by it time and again.....or maybe for me, it's more like self-consciousness--wanting to be noticed or NOT! All in all, too much emphasis on me. Maybe awareness of others can help me break that chain in my life. I think this is a critical topic, Amber, and I just posted over at your first "chain entry." Ah.... books. I truly get that, and get totally absorbed. I have forty-million books in my basement (pre-Nook, but I still buy them). And my husband swares the basement is sinking as a result. Books are wonderful (I read and write them), but can books (for me!) become chains when I allow reading them to rob me of time, fellowship, etc.? Just thinking aloud to myself and am not making commentary on anyone but moi. But just wanted to thank you and to let you know that your posts provoke thinking! And THAT is a good thing, which sets free! =]

Reply October 2, 2012

When I read this, I want to ask so many questions, wring out all the goodness of what you're saying. I see my Bible, sitting perched nearby with Common Prayer & Pilgrimage of a Soul (that one, I've been slowly pressing past page 35 for months now...) I feel this decade long tension of the abiding in the presence and relinquishing the shoulds, all juxtaposed to an awareness of my need, firm belief that there's good living water that's waiting there - and I fall all over that spectrum depending on the day. So self-aware, yes, I guess so. And I wonder how I get less so, if it happens with growing and age or if it can be encouraged by being more God-aware or others-aware.

Reply October 3, 2012

"Not so much in a guzzling stage of life..."
I love that. This is transforming, as always. :)

Reply October 3, 2012

I had the self-awareness chain keeping me from worship too, until tragedy ripped it away. I didn't care anymore. And then slowly, like a creeper, it crept back into my heart. And now it didn't find a home in the worship-numbing, but in other areas. Like my art...self-awareness invigorates and snuffs out my art all at the same time.

Danielle May
Reply October 4, 2012

Love this and thank you from the bottom of my heart for concrete evidence to provide my husband...I am NOT the only crazy out there that has zillions of books which only a few lucky chosen few are read past page 100 and I have at least 5 going at the same time. I think it must be some sort of spiritual gift...that's what I'm claiming:)

Tanya Marlow
Reply October 10, 2012

I'm very late to the party, and too late for the link up, but your post inspired me. I hope what I have written is all the better for the fermenting. :-)

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