It All Comes Full Circle
It all started with a little girl and a book.
It was called “Peppermint Fence.” She ran home clutching the book to her chest like gold, proudly showing it off to her parents and big sister. She was the first person in her first grade class to take home a real book. She was so excited she read the entire book in one night (only the first of thousands of times she would do this.)
Over the years, the little girl grew and she changed. She shot up several inches and glasses took over her face and braces her teeth. Nothing about this little girl from one day to the next was a constant. Nothing, that is, except her love of reading. She went from Peppermint Fence to Harold and the Purple Crayon to Pollyanna to Anne of Green Gables to the Baby-Sitters Club to Sweet Valley High. She traveled to Oz and Narnia and deep south Atlanta, where she lost her heart to Cap’n Rhett Butler. As she grew, her beloved characters grew with her. Though the cast was constantly changing…her love of the written word never wavered.
Life came in and made its mark. People came and went from her life. She fell in love for the first time. She can still remember how the poignancy of her feelings matched those of Heaven Casteel and Troy Tatterton in her favorite VC Andrews book series. The pages of those worn and tattered books to this day are stained with the tears from her first break-up.
At times through the years she would set aside her fictional friends and turn to other books to help her through the bumps and bruises of life. The self-help aisle in her favorite bookstore became worn with the tread of her heels, pacing back and forth to find the perfect book to match her not-so-perfect moments. She learned how to know if a boy was “just not that into her.” She embraced the Power of Positive Thinking. She even “Kissed Dating Goodbye” for a while based on the concept in a popular book…but after years of no dating (and subsequently, no kissing), she grew frustrated and kissed the book goodbye instead.
When she was 20…she met the love of her life. His name was Jesus. When her first love, a brave boy serving in the Marine Corps, heard about this, he promptly mailed to her what would become her favorite book, both for literary and sentimental purposes. “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis…the same author who had taught her about believing in magic when she was a little girl through a certain lion, witch, and wardrobe. The more the girl read this book, and other books like them, the more she fell in love with God. It made sense, you know. There is nothing this girl loved more than the written word, and as another of the girl’s favorite books taught her, Jesus was and is “the word made flesh.”
She fell away from God over the next several years, but always, always, the “word made flesh” drew her back to Him…with what else? The written word. She read about how “Twelve Ordinary Men” changed the course of history. She learned “What Jesus Meant.” She even followed him, weeping, to the cross as “He Chose the Nails.” He came alive to her in the pages of those books, reaching off the page to wipe her tears and mend her heart and comfort her troubled spirit.
After every trial the girl faced in life, she turned to a book. Sometimes it was for comfort. Sometimes it was for wisdom. Sometimes it was purely for escapism (That’s what she blames her addiction to the Left Behind and Twilight series’ on, anyway.) Sometimes it was to visit some place she’d never been…like when she ate and prayed and loved with Liz Gilbert all the way through Italy, India, and Indonesia and got Wild with Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Coast Trail. Books were her constant companion, her source of comfort, the very foundation of her creativity.
But then one day…after the girl had endured a particularly painful heartbreak…for the first time in her life, she didn’t turn to a book.
She picked up a pen instead.
With that pen, with her dozens of beloved characters and protagonists and antagonists and literary legends watching fondly from the corners of her heart, and armed with the power of a thousand stories she had gotten lost in over the years, she found herself. Right there in the midst of the words she had spent her entire life searching for her voice in…she finally found it.
It ended with a not-so-little girl and a book.
For you see, she walked by her favorite bookstore today, and there in the window was a great big display that read “Author Mandy Hale, Talk/Signing, July 13, 2013.”
Among the same shelves that house her helpers, her friends, her inspirations, her heroes…now stands her book. And it is in that moment that she can finally see how every word she read and step she has taken along the way gave her the courage to stand where she does today.
“No matter the deviation, all things come full circle. You begin and end your journey in the same place, but with a different set of eyes.”