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Writing Within the Storm: On Leslie Bustard’s Selected Works

[Editor's Note: Théa Rosenburg has edited a new volume of the late Leslie Bustard's selected works. Pick it up at Square Halo.]



"I feel like I just got it—

I just got what it really meant to rest in Jesus.

Rest in Jesus. He really is trustworthy . . ."


In the weeks after Leslie Anne Bustard—my good friend, mentor, and collaborator—awoke on mercy’s shores, I opened a new document and pasted those words at the very top. Though they eventually became her book’s epigraph, at the time I didn’t know if they would stay or if those words were just there for me, to orient my thoughts as I read and reread her work, determining which pieces would become the pages of the book itself. And as I read, I revisited those words often.


He really is trustworthy.


Leslie only began to publish in earnest after she was diagnosed with two different forms of cancer, but her gift for hospitality immediately shone through in her writing. She invited readers into her journey the way she’d been inviting people into her home for years: she didn’t wait until things were perfect; she didn’t let fear of what readers might think keep her from sharing vulnerably about her life as a Christian, a mother, a wife. Instead, she shared the fears that rose up around her as she faced cancer, as well as the beauty she found even in the midst of suffering. Her path led to the shores and there, in the hospital, in her last weeks, she said, He really is trustworthy.


Recently another friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer, and when she shared with me which books had already blessed her as she prepared for the uncertainty that accompanies all the tests and treatments, I realized that many of them were written by cancer survivors—writers who had faced and then written eloquently about their experience with cancer, with the wisdom and distance of one who has emerged from the other side. 


But that is not Leslie’s story. She wrote about her experience as it was happening, and then left an abundance of beautiful writings behind her—so many that it quickly became clear that only a fraction of them would fit into this book. She did not write as one reflecting back upon her experience or as one able to edit and revise those raw thoughts before publication. No, Leslie wrote from within the storm, when the path out was still obscure. And even there, she could call the Lord trustworthy.


I write about her fight with cancer here because it is the reason you’re hearing from me as the book’s editor rather than from Leslie herself, but hear me say this: Tiny Thoughts That I’ve Been Thinking is not a book about cancer. It is a book about beauty and the Lord’s goodness, about art and hospitality and family life and marriage and poetry and grace and good food. Her essays on art and her poems invite us to look and look again and to praise the Lord for his beauty and goodness. Her personal essays and recipes invite us into the Bustard home, to savor and enjoy their traditions and to, perhaps, allow her stories to spark new traditions within our own homes. Her prayers reveal to us a heart that longed to please God even in the most wrenching circumstances. And the last half of the book—a selection of online journal entries written by both Leslie and her husband, Ned, throughout her cancer treatments—show us how to live our last days well, and how to walk our loved ones right up to those final shores.


That is the true power of Leslie Bustard’s writings: through her words, she doesn’t just tell us how to live—she shows us. How to love our people well, how to enfold them, how to pause and praise God for a bare branch backlit by the winter sky, how to say—up to the very end and beyond—Rest in Jesus. He really is trustworthy . . .


Tiny Thoughts That I’ve Been Thinking: The Selected Writings of Leslie Anne Bustard, from Square Halo Books, was released on February 27. To learn more about the book and about Leslie, please join us at the 2024 Square Halo Books conference, Return to Narnia—Creativity, Collaboration, and Community, on March 8–9, where—among a full schedule of excellent lectures and events—Théa Rosenburg will lead a panel discussion about Leslie’s life and work.


 

Théa Rosenburg lives with her husband and four daughters in the Pacific Northwest where, when the wind blows from the right direction, she can smell the ocean from her front yard. She served as co-editor for the book Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children, and her work has appeared on Story Warren, Risen Motherhood, and in Every Moment Holy, Vol. III. You can find her at Little Book, Big Story, where she reviews children’s books, or at her Substack, The Setting, where she writes about everything else.


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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


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