Strung Like Ghosts

Monday, February 15, 2016

 A long, long time ago before kids and even before homeschool my nose was buried in a book. This is still true of me today. I have always had a love affair with books. I didn't always know how much of an introvert I was. Books were always a welcome refuge for me. Stories always brought me to new places or a greater understanding of myself and others. Growing up I read a lot too, but I'm not sure I always knew how to pick a great book. As I got older I started finding myself even more in these stories. As I add books to our school shelves I find myself reading them...catching up on the stories I didn't read as a kid, or those that are new to the shelves in children's libraries.

The kids redeemed one of our homeschool coupons the other day to watch a movie. We rented Bridge to Terebithia. I hadn't yet read the book. If you haven't seen the movie it's definitely worth a watch (I hate spoilers, so I won't ruin what happens.) I will tell you that you might need a full box of Kleenex. Then we also rented Because of Winn Dixie (which has the same young actress as Bridge to Terebithia). I remembered that I had Because of Winn-Dixie on the shelf as well. I actually had read this book a while ago, but after watching the movie I wanted to pick it up again.

In homeschool, or in reading bedtime stories or picture books do you also find yourself learning life lessons too? This was the case for me as I picked this book back up. I don't know why, but it touched me very deeply the second time around. I've always been one to love a broken story because my life story has had many broken seasons. I know heartache, disappointment, and loss far more than I wish I did. My story is also a story that hasn't ended, and one where redemption and forgiveness will shine brighter than any of the valleys I have walked through - only because of Jesus, and because he was always there to walk me through it. He always makes use of pain, always.

Because of Winn Dixie is the story of a preacher's kid who has also experienced more loss than her little life should ever have sustained. Her mom "never liked being a preacher's wife." It made her feel like a bug under a microscope (I know exactly how this feels.) So one day, she just walked away. We walk through life with this young girl as she encounters all the misfits of life and finds a way to bring redemption not only to her story, but to those around her simply by loving them despite all flaws and despite all mistakes.

There are so many wonderful characters in this book:

India Opal - This is the narrator of the book. We watch her as she struggles to find her place in a new town. We watch how she beautifully battles loneliness and loss with her dog as her sidekick.

Winn Dixie - The book's namesake - This dog is adopted by
Opal when she finds him in the grocery store. She thinks she has a lot in common with this orphan dog. He smiles with his teeth. I had a dog like that once.

The Preacher - This man is a wonderful father who struggles to raise his daughter after his wife walks away. Opal calls him the preacher because sometimes he feels more like that to her than her daddy. I know a few PKs who would have said the same of their dads too.

Miss Franny Block - The local librarian who Opal visits often to hear her stories. You'll have to look out for her story of the Litmus Lozenge. Absolutely beautiful.

Otis - A clerk at the pet store (and also a wonderful musician) where Opal works to pay off a collar and leash for Winn Dixie. He spent a little time in jail. Opal discovers that there is always more to a story because of this.

Gloria Dump - The local witch, or so the kids say. Opal makes friends with this sweet lady and finds not all things are as they first appear.

Amanda Wilkinson - This girl always has a pinched up face. Opal finds that there how to have grace for those whose stories you may not always know right at the beginning.

Sweetie Pie Thomas - A sweet 5 year old girl, one of Opal's first friends since no one else in town will talk much to her. Sweetie Pie very much wants a dog, and loves Winn Dixie very much.

Dunlap and Stevie Dewberry - The town bullies who we learn are not as tough as they seem.

India Opal's Mom - While Opal's mom isn't in the story, she is still very central to the story. We learn more about her brokenness, but there is much healing in her absence.

Photo Credit

Because of Winn Dixie is a very small book. There are very few words on the page, but to me they were so, very powerful. This is one case where the movie is almost as good as the book because so much of the dialogue is actually represented in the movie. Of course, books should always, always be read first in my opinion.

There are so many breathtakingly beautiful scenes in the book. I feel like I could write so much about this one little book. One of my favorite parts is when Opal finds out that her friend Otis had been in jail. All she had ever experienced of this man was kindness. Every day he would let the animals out of their cages and serenade them because he knew how it felt to be behind a locked door.

One day Opal tells Gloria Dump what she knows about Otis and asks, "Do you think I should be afraid of him?" Gloria gets up "real slow" and walks Opal to her back yard where the find themselves standing under a great, old tree. "Look at this tree," Gloria instructs Opal. The tree has hundreds of bottles strung from its branches. All kinds of bottles were strung - whiskey, beer and wine bottles of all shapes and sizes. "What do you think about this tree?" Gloria asks. Opal doesn't know what to think. She asks why all those bottles are hanging there. Gloria tells her it's to keep the ghosts away, the ghosts of all she had done wrong. Opal asks, "You did that many things wrong?" Gloria says yes. "But you're the nicest person I know" says Opal confused by the realization that someone so kind could have also made so many mistakes. Opal's mom drank too, and she asks Gloria if those bottles made her do the bad things she did. Gloria says she would have done many of them even without all those bottles "before she learned the most important thing." She doesn't tell Opal what the most important thing was because she says it is different for everyone. I think all of us have a life lesson that is unique to us. It's the one that most often helps someone you may encounter further along in life who is walking in similar shoes.

Then she says one of the most beautiful things in the book. "But in the meantime, you got to remember, you can't always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now. You judge Otis by the pretty music he plays and how kind he is to them animals, because that's all you know about him right now. All right?"


How many of us have a Mistake Tree? All of us. If you don't think you have one then you are kidding yourself. Isn't that why Jesus stooped down and wrote in the sand all those years ago when the Pharisees were prepared to stone the adulterous woman? They had all sinned. All of them, and all of us have done "that many things wrong." In reading this book I realized I had forgotten about my own Mistake Tree. I realized that God had taken down all those mistakes and cast them farther than I could ever run to get them all back. I realized also that I might be strung like a ghost on someone else's tree, and that I had forgotten to view them in my heart like they are now and not in their past. I know what it's like to be treated differently because of things I have done, or even worse, to be treated differently because of the things that were done to me by others. Even so - Forgive.

There are no throw away people. There are no lost causes, and no person unworthy of love and forgiveness, at least that is how the Jesus I know sees it. If you are hanging like a ghost on someone else's Mistake Tree, why don't you just climb right back on down and release them. All right? That's what I'm going to try and do too. Isn't that what Jesus did for us on that tree so long ago?

Here's to learning more right along side those beautiful kids of ours. Blessings to you <3


  1. I used Because of Winn Dixie with my homeschoolers book club last year. It is a great book and a sweet movie. It is not, however, by the same author as Bridge to Terabithia, which was written by Katherine Paterson.

    1. Thank you Christine :) I corrected my post. Woops! I think I confused that the same actress was in both movies. Bridge has the same feel - A story that also deals with loss and less of a tidied up story as we often find in children's books. I loved both <3

  2. We watched Bridge to Terebthia last week. It's such a good movie, sad but really good. You should link this up to my Junior High Junction Link Up (and any other Junior high related posts)!!

  3. Because of Winn Dixie was Daughter E's all time favorite movie. She asked to watched it daily and sometimes several times each day. I need to read the book aloud.

    1. It's really such a beautiful story :) There are so many lessons in this book!


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