Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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Monday, December 31, 2012

Who Do You Write For?

It's a question I've been struggling with a lot lately. Who am I writing for? Why do I write? How do I write to the glory of God and not just to tell a good story with some Scripture thrown in?

Ever since I've started writing, I knew I'd be writing Christian fiction. However, just *deciding* that isn't sufficient. It's easy enough to have someone confess salvation and toss in a few words about God and a couple Bible verses and have your characters go to church. Writing a clean, decent story is good and honorable and there's nothing at all the matter with it.

It's just not what I want to do.

Writing is my passion. It's what I love to do. But if I don't use this passion for the utmost glory of God, then I might as well never write another word.

As you are probably aware of, I've always admired Francine Rivers. She's one of the two or three writers whom I most long to emulate. I would encourage anyone who loves to write and who longs to do it for the glory of God to read this interview with her here.

If you don't want to go through all the material, then here are the key questions and answers I want to bring up. {None of the italicized material belongs to me. It's all the work of Sonoma Christian Home}

Q&A 1

SCH – Can you explain the difference between a “Christian writer” and a Christian who writes?

FH - There are many fine and successful writers who are Christians.  They write whatever they want to write and sometimes weave in a Christian world view.  These writers are knowledgeable about the market, what sells and what doesn’t.  Faith and Christ are not overtly presented.  Christians write in every genre.A Christian writer keeps Christ at the very center of the story.  The sole reason for writing has to do with faith and Christ and what it means to live as a follower of Jesus.  I am a Christian writer.  Without Jesus, there is no story for me to tell.  He is at the center of every part of my work.

I decided long ago that I want to be a Christian writer. At least, that's what I tell myself I want to be. When I look under the surface of my holy ambitions, I find a lot of motives that I don't exactly like to face.

I find that deep, deep down, in the nitty-gritty of my soul, I don't want to write stories to glorify God or help others find the truth of Christ. It's too hard. It takes commitment, it takes passion for the Lord, it takes time in His presence, learning from Him. To put Jesus at the center of your writing means that it revolves around Him. And I, for one, find that incredibly difficult to do.

I have these plots, I have these characters, I have these ideas and words. I don't want them messed with or messed up, but that's what God asks me to do. I struggle with God because I want to write for Him, but I can't give up the need to control the story. I want to write for the praise I get from others. I want to write what I like. I want to do what I want.

I want to write for me.

I found this bit of the interview incredibly helpful in view of what I just said.

Q&A 2
SCH - What advice would you give a new writer?

FH - Commit your work to the Lord.  Write what you need to read.  Write from the passion of your heart and soul.  Write for an audience of One – Jesus. 
I have committed my work to the Lord. Over and over, in fact. I do write what I need to read. Through puzzling with my characters, God has shown me many truths of Scripture. I do write from the passion inside me. Even if someone told me I'd never be published, I'd still put down the words the jam-cram my brain. But the last point... Ouch. I do not write for an audience of One.

I do not write for Jesus.

When I sit down to write, I focus on what will bring praise from the group who reads the pages I churn {more or less} out. My passion is to use the most vivid descriptions, the most fitting words, the keenest, rawest emotions. That's my goal when I sit down. I never even think to ask God what will please Him or what He wants me to say.

Do I write for men?

Yes. Definitely yes.

And that hurts. To see my high aspirations, my promises to God, the goal I tell Him over and over that I strive for demolished by one confession hurts. But it also helps. Admitting the problem is the first step to overcoming it. God deserves better than what I find easy.

I know it's been gloom-and-doom so far, so I will veer away from that and offer some encouragement that God has given me as I've struggled with these questions.

1. James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

If you don't know how to put God in the center of your story {key struggle for me right there!}, if you don't think you know enough about the heart of God to even begin such a monumental task, if you have doubts at all about anything {writing related or not}, ask God for wisdom. He won't fault you for even the simplest questions. He won't say "I can't believe you don't understand that; it's so easy!". If you truly seek it, He will give you the wisdom you ask for.

2. This isn't going to happen overnight.

Let's face it. Most of us {don't know about any anonymous followers} are pretty young and just getting our feet wet in the whole writing thing. Most Christian authors who get published are much older than we are and much more mature in their faith. They've had years of seeking God, many more than we have. But starting now, at our age, in striving to glorify Him and to gain His wisdom and to do the very best we can will only be a blessing as we get older and wiser ourselves.

3. Don't give up.

I know that's pretty cliche. Everyone says that so much it's lost its wisdom. But truly: don't give up. There are highs and lows in everything and God doesn't get on you for the lows. There will be times when He doesn't seem to be anywhere in your story, let alone the center. There will be times {many of them, in my experience} when you wonder why you even bother. Mainstream Christian fiction sells - why not write it? There will be times when committing your work to God seems synonymous with never writing again. Satan is very, very much interested in keeping glory from God. When you put God at the center of anything, you're up against the powers and evil forces that Ephesians 6:12 talks about. Writing is no different. Thank God that He is faithful and a help in times of trouble! Run to Him when you feel overwhelmed, listen to His wisdom and let Him quiet your heart and put your frustrations and worries to rest.

And lastly

4. Use your writing as an extension of your worship of God.

It's a gift. Same as playing an instrument or having a voice for singing, a passion and ability to teach teach, serve, anything.
Writing is a gift.
God has given it to you, use it as a way to thank Him. Write to praise Him, to exalt Him, to lift His name up.
Words are powerful. Don't use them for anything less than His glory. 

Until next time,

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: The Wednesday Letters

Since I've missed a Christmas post, a pre-Christmas post and a post-Christmas post, I feel as if it would be a step backwards to try and make up for that neglect. Instead, I shall dig into the backlog of books needing reviews and work on that instead.

I'm also trying out a new, less intense form of book reviews. Like it or lump it, I guess.

2 out of 5
Recommended for: I would not personally recommend this book
Categories: Christian fiction, one-time reads, book club selection

Their story begins with one letter on their wedding night, a letter from the groom, promising to write his bride every week—for as long they both shall live. Thirty-nine years later, Jack and Laurel Cooper die in each other’s arms. And when their grown children return to the family B&B to arrange the funeral, they discover thousands of letters.The letters they read tell of surprising joys and sorrows. They also hint at a shocking family secret—and ultimately force the children to confront a life-changing moment of truth… {From amazon}

Although and intriguing premise {made all the more intriguing by an actual letter {in an envelope!} on the inside of the back cover}, I felt that this book didn't live up to its synopsis. Giving a plot with as much potential as this one inherently possessed to an author like Jason Wright is like giving me a royal flush in poker and expecting me, who understands nothing of the game, to know what to do with it.

I'm not saying that Jason Wright is a bad writer. He's actually quite witty and funny. The actual letters that Jack wrote to Laurel were the best part of the book. Jack's sense of humor was delightful. But the remaining plot was packed with twists and turns and surprises that were just mishandled. 

The characters weren't fully developed and their emotions weren't fully understood. The book was just too short and far too ambitious suspense-wise to allow the reader to connect with anyone. Not only that, but the twists and turns themselves weren't very clear or believable. I didn't understand how a smart girl like Raine couldn't understand the things that were right under her nose and why she was determined to marry a man that she herself knew she didn't really care for. It just didn't add up. 
The jumbled explanations as to Malcolm's past also came off as rather vague and unrealistic along with the other events that led up to the awkwardly handled graveside confrontation. 
The tell-all conversation at the end of the book was Nancy Drew-esque and the letter on the back cover was the finishing disappointment, being neither what you expected nor what you wanted.

Till next time!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Runway

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It's a crying shame, really it is, that I have such a pretty blog now and no time to post on it.

Anyway, my Christmas shopping is done, Done, DONE and now all I have to do is wrap the carefully chosen items and cross my fingers that they'll be received with favor.

Good feeling is officially gone again...

In other news, after nearly two hours (or maybe it was more than two...) I finally stumbled across my Christmas top at

They have some of the cutest clothing ever and I find their fashion selections varied and unique. (I know you're probably banging your head against the wall and saying "this isn't supposed to be a fashion blog!!!"). I always go there for my Christmas outfit and this year's selection is pictured below.


In the interests of modesty, of course, I will wear a t-shirt beneath it instead of a black cami. Membership in Group #2 must be preserved! 

Merry six days before Christmas!


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Empty Me {Part 2)

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The greatest part of the simple truth God graciously hit me over the head with was that I need to be empty when I came before Him.

Before, I’d been caught up trying to mold the time into what I thought it should be, directing the minutes, struggling to understand, to find the wisdom on my own, all the while leaving God out, my mind overcrowded with three hundred ninety-eight other things I needed to do or wanted to learn and never realizing this very simple truth:

Only when we’re empty can we be filled.

Think about a cup.

If we bring it to the pitcher full, where is the new liquid going to go?

Likewise, when we come before God full of our own expectations and ideas of what we need to learn, what He needs to fill us with, what we think will prosper us best, there is no room for Him to pour His wisdom into our proud and domineering hearts.

Accordingly, if we bring a cup to the pitcher half-full, we will only come away with half of what we could have received.

God is so faithful and so loving! He will still pour Himself into our half-filled cups, but His wisdom will be diluted with our ideas and mingled with our expectations and we will receive, by our own faults, a watered down version of what we could have gotten.

But if we bring a cup empty, if we bring our hearts empty, with no demands, no clamoring, no proud, self-sufficient wisdom, admitting that we know absolutely nothing when compared with Him, then we will come away full to the brim with His purest wisdom. If we leave the space open and come to listen and be filled, He will not disappoint and our cups will overflow.

This is what He taught. To Martha, whose cup was overflowing with the things she felt needed to be done. To Mary, who chose the one thing that was needful. And to all of us, who struggle and long to know His heart.

God wants us to be empty when we come to Him. In humility, we must acknowledge that we, with our broken, battered, empty hearts, can bring nothing to measure up to to Him. We can contribute nothing. The foolishness of God is wiser than our wisdom, and the weakness of God is greater than our strength. {1 Corinthians 1:25 {slightly revised}} We must come to learn of Him, to have our empty, worldly, foolish wisdom overcome with His truth, because, as Peter put it, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” {John 6:68}

So come before the Lord with an empty heart and ask only for it to be filled. Don’t tell Him what you expect to hear; don’t outline His territory. You are the student, not the teacher, so let Him teach! He knows all things; trust that He will give you what you need when and only when you need it. Put aside your “wisdom” and your “agenda” and let Him show you the truths you’ve been missing. He is omniscient. What are you? Just let Him speak through His word. God doesn’t need you to try and figure it all out by yourself. He doesn’t need you to teach yourself. He knows it all backward and forward, so why avoid His wisdom? He doesn’t need you to explain it.

That’s His job.

All He asks is that we give Him the time to speak to our hearts. The time to fill us with all the knowledge and wisdom and grace that He longs to shower upon us. And you may not come away with an earth-shattering, mind-blowing truth every day. Don’t feel as if the time was worthless or less fulfilling because of that. Sometimes it’s just in the sitting and reading where you are encouraged, blessed and uplifted. God knows what you need to hear each day. Even if you think you needed something else, trust that what He gives you will be sufficient. 
He will tell you everything you need to know if you will sit and listen.

Empty and willing to hear.

And after you hear, willing to apply and obey.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Empty Me {Part 1}

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I know many of you are under the impression that I didn’t post much at all during November due to NaNoWriMo and the 50,000 words I committed to getting down on paper.

Actually, that’s not true at all.

Though Nano did play a very tiny role in my lack of postage, I had plenty of time to spare. The real reason why I didn’t post in November was because I was really, really struggling in my relationship with God.

My quiet times, to put it bluntly, were complete jokes.

I am not a morning person, so when the alarm goes off it’s not my friend. My conscience would niggle at me that I should get up for once and spend more than ten minutes with God, but I would end up juggling my Bible around my cereal bowl {again} and trying not to get the pages splattered with milk. Does it work? All I can say is: do not try this at home {or anywhere else, for that matter}.

I knew I was off on the wrong track, but I couldn’t seem to get back on the right one. I couldn’t muster the interest to get up for another session with my Bible where I would read the same things I’d already read over and over and over again and try to get something new out of the verses I had practically memorized. There was nothing there, I told myself. I just couldn’t find the wisdom I needed and the answers I longed for and the earth-shattering meanings that I felt surely everyone else was getting.

You see, I’ve always approached a quiet time from the absolute wrong direction.

I would come with expectations that every day I needed to find a new inspiration, a hidden meaning, a deep truth that I had never before realized existed between Genesis and Revelations. I struggled to find a meaningful way to study the Bible. I tried books and devotionals and reading through the entire sixty-six books in a year.
I simply couldn’t find the right way to study. I couldn’t find the best way to learn. I didn’t know how to dig for wisdom and knowledge and understanding.

Needless to say, after almost nineteen years of trying, I was beginning to feel that it was hopeless. I just wasn’t good at reading the Bible.

On Sunday, I was talking with a wonderful friend on the phone for two hours and during that time we both unburdened a lot of what had been on our minds. We discussed our frustrations and our problems and shared each other’s burdens. I told her about my struggle to find meaning in God’s word and how I no longer even felt like getting up to read it. She offered some advice and we prayed together and then hung up.

Here I will make a confession: I’m the kind of person who doesn’t stop worrying at a problem until I’ve either got the answer or something that will suffice as an answer for the time being. Consequently, I kept turning over and over in my mind what I had been doing with my quiet time and what wasn’t working. And suddenly God opened up my eyes and I received from Him a very simple truth.

Now bear with me here, because this is going to sound very, very “duh”. It’s one of those things about God that you struggle and struggle with and then finally the answer comes out a clear blue sky and you sit back and think “why have I never thought of this before?!”

I said to God “if I give You time in the morning, if I get up at a certain time and give You this certain amount of time, will You promise to show me the things I want to know?”

Right then, I saw for the first time what I had been missing in my quiet times for nineteen years {okay, it’s more like fourteen or fifteen. I couldn’t read until I was four or five}.

All these years I’ve been bringing my expectations to the table, telling God “okay, we’re going to try this and see if it opens up my eyes to the amazing things in Your Word”.

All these years I’ve been telling Him how the quiet time will be run, how much time we have, what needs to get done {ie, this much time to read these chapters, then I’ve got to review this chapter I memorized and then I’ve got to memorize a new verse from over here in this chapter} so that I will be sure to have a fulfilled, well-rounded time with Him.

 I obsessed over finding the meanings to verses and was always disappointed when they meant exactly what I thought they did and that I already knew what I had just discovered.

I’d get frustrated, saying “God! I’m giving you this time in the mornings, will You step up to the plate and give me the wisdom I need?”

I’ve been running my quiet times like a person who asks a really important question and then cuts off the reply before it starts.

I’ve strangled God’s voice by rushing to get everything I think will help me grow into my time allowance before I have to move on to other things. I wanted God’s wisdom, but I wasn’t willing to give Him the time to give it to me!

I’ve been like Martha. Too busy thinking about the chicken in the pot and the unswept floor, the problems of the world, the problems with me and the need for everything to be perfect instead of settling down at the feet of my Savior {who knows all things} and simply listening to Him tell me what I need to do.

I realized that it’s not about what I bring to the quiet time. I can bring nothing of value, nothing of wisdom, nothing that will contribute anything worthwhile except a heart ready to be taught. And God doesn’t want me to come prepared with all the answers. He doesn’t want me to come with an agenda. He doesn’t want me to come with anything but a willingness to learn. God wants me to just come as I am; lost and imperfect and very greatly in need of wisdom.

He wants me to come empty, humbly admitting that I know nothing, and ready to be filled.

To be continued…

'Til next time!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


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I've been contemplating this for a while now and have finally decided that I need to tell you all a rather big secret. 

I am not really named JocelynRose and there's no one named Jamie in my family.

I'm actually one person in and of myself and, for several reasons I have decided that it's for the best that all of you, my dear followers, know me for who I really am.

My name is Elizabeth and I'm 19 and though Jamie and JocelynRose played their parts admirably as the dual sides of my personality, it's become too difficult to split their posts and decide who gets what. It's been fun - awesome really - and the idea is good, but the main reason I'm doing this is because I fully intend to be published someday and it's best not to have more than one personality out in the internet world, blogwise. 

It makes me sad to lose the fun of Jamie's hyperactive nature and JR's more staid personality, but really, I'm not losing them at all. It's who I am and I hope that you can have as much fun with me as you had with JocelynRose and Jamie. 

I resolve with this change to blog more and I sincerely hope that you will all continue in the adventure with me!

Until next time!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


The magic number has been reached (albeit through highly improbable means), though the Nano counter and my Microsoft Word counter seem to have differing opinions as to the base amount of words I wrote. I'm not altogether sure where Nano got the extra 318 words. They must have filled in all the ones I accidentally skipped in my rush.  

And yes, for those of you with inquiring minds, I did bring the story to an end within those 50,709 words. I tied up so many loose ends in three pages that my brain feels like a rope-climber's fingers (a rope climber who wasn't wearing gloves, that is. If they exist...or are they so foolish as to forgo the gloves? Do they wear gloves? I don't even know.)

At the moment, my brain is the chemical concoction of whatever it is they put in jell-o and I am very, very glad to be finished. (Erk, I can't even write "glad" without automatically tacking an "e" on the end. Glade was the name of my hero, in case you're wondering why this is something worth noting.)

So, umm, that's all I had to say (surprisingly, since I'm so used to boosting my word count that I'll throw a walrus into the mix just to get a few extra sentences to my credit). 

Yay for finishing! 

I shall think of a new ending for that mess presently. 

But not now.

No sir, not now.

P.S. Stay tuned for the next post. I'm planning something which will probably be rather interesting to most of you. Many secrets will be revealed!

P.S.2 Also, many apologies for falling off the face of the earth for eighteen days. Aside from the slight gravitational shift, most of you probably didn't notice it at all. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 10: Glorious-ness

I guess spell-check doesn't accept "gloriousness" without a hyphen, so my title is somewhat split up. 

Oh well.

It's day 10, ladies! Well, actually Day 7 on my newest attempt at NaNo-ing and I am absolutely having a BALL over here! 

Sounds eerily like what I just wrote today - a sort of carefree celebration of a certain personage's welcome to a neighboring country and all that good stuff. In fact, I got through the whole thing and realized that my heroine had spent one-half of the merriment greeting people and the other half dancing her feet off and absolutely no-half eating any of the delicacies I had been intending to describe as sitting on the table against the northern wall. 

Ah well. There's more to life than food. But the violet-tinted, whipped syllabubs and sparkling, ruby-hued punch and the glittering sugared fruits did sound tempting to the palate.

And I am consuming large amounts of early grey tea with honey and milk as I type away. At least I was until I ran out. 


Here are a few bits of useless information on things that I've been doing to keep my energy up. 

- Consuming much loose-leaf tea - with hot water, of course, and the leaves are properly confined in a tea ball. Well, the bigger pieces are anyway. I've experienced a lot of dregs floating around because someone lost our fine-screen tea ball. 

Oh most despicable creature...

- Listening to the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack over and over and OVER again. No idea why, since it has no bearing or similarity WHATEVER to what I am writing. But it is fun to hop around the kitchen to the barroom song while I take my tea-replenishing breaks and such. 

- Frequent bathroom breaks. (This has absolutely nothing to do with keeping up my creative output, but is merely an unfortunate result of consuming the aforementioned quantities of loose-leaf tea)

- Traveling down to Valparaiso University in Indiana to see my best cousin and make up a member of the audience for the play she had a hand in writing and a foot in acting. (I realize that this is not something that's going to help everyone)

- Keeping a good thought regarding the continuation of this most interesting plot. Unfortunately, when the end is what you're most looking forward to writing, it does have a sort of rushing effect on what you're currently working on. 

And that's all I have for today, folks! 

See you when I next come up for air.

P.S. Is it just me or as JocelynRose dropped off the face of the earth? I shall have to poke her and tell her that you all told me to do it. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 4 - Crises Encountered (hopefully averted)

I have often wondered, truly wondered, if I ever struck anyone as sheerly crazy. 

I know I tend to be capricious - often detrimentally so - but I generally am a very cautious person when it comes to absolutely life-changing decisions.

Well, sort of.

I was solidly set today on my Nano word count. I finished day four on a solid 7284 - slated to finish on November 27th and all that good stuff. 

Until I finished my allotted words for the day and realized that I was absolutely sick and tired of Nano already and really, really dreading the entry tomorrow. 

All my planning and careful character design and every bit of work I put into my novel before November 1st came around was tying me up, tangling me in and throwing me off. I was so sick of these characters and the plot and all the mess that I wasn't enjoying.

At all.

The plot I had wasn't conducive to writing a novel in a month. It was character-driven and the characters needed more time to open up their emotions and their lives than I could give in a word-count rush. 

I felt like I was wasting a perfectly good idea. I felt like I was butchering the lives of people who were - before this began - very, very dear to me. I felt as if I would reach the end of the month, fully ahead in everything, not even winded, and realized that I didn't care to keep 40,000 of the 50,000 words I had written. 

And since I hate editing and knew that I would only rewrite the story again at some point, basically ditching a month's worth of work, I decided that the effort was a senseless waste of time. 

To whit, I needed to either give up NaNo entirely or approach it in a different fashion.

I've currently decided that I'm going to start over armed only with a vague idea that I thought up in the car on the way to the mall. Basically a hazy and uninformed sentence about a perfectly ordinary girl stepping into a forest. 

At this point, I'm not sure if I'll succeed. I'm not a writer who plunges in madly without a clear idea of where I'm headed. And yet, here I go. I must write at least 1900 words a day to safely meet my goal and I intend to make full use of my curse for maundering and just write what I like and not care what happens tomorrow. 

Free at last - just glad this occurred on day 4 and not day 24.  

I may need that chocolate and caffeine now.

And maybe some key covers...

I hope to be able to see the letters on them when I'm finished with this venture. 

Until next time - if I survive this craziness,

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo - Day 2

Hello all, Jamie here!

I meant to post yesterday, but ran into other things that occupied my time most dreadfully (like opening a surprise NaNo box from a dear friend and watching The Avengers). I tell you, I was completely overwhelmed by highly important duties. 

At any rate, the name of the game on Day 1 was over preparation. 

I had four scenes planned out that I intended to cover, but soon found that I was maxing out the 1700 words I made my goal to reach each day on the first scene. 


New plan of attack! At least I've got my subjects plotted out for the week instead of three days...

Day 2:
I just finished poking out my words for the day. I'm really frustrated watching the words come and not strictly controlling quality over quantity. I am very much annoyed with seeing how unoriginal my paragraph openings are when I don't give myself much time for reflection. However, my inner editor's bark is much worse than his bite and so long as I keep up a constant stream of words and strictly keep my eyes away from what's above the line I'm typing, he is kept at bay.

But I keep reminding myself that everything can be fixed later (at least, I hope it can without rewriting the entire, blasted thing) and plow on ahead. 

Here's a quote I found to be eerily appropriate for this venture into the unknown to share with you fellow writers:

"Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down."

Kobi Yamada

Oh! And I figured out how to center that word-count widget too! I don't know if anyone is really interested in following my progress, but it's there if you want to toss a glance now and then. 

Until I post again (and if my fingers or keys aren't worn off)!

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Treasure?

"My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God."
Proverbs 2:1-5

It always astonishes me how many times I can read a verse and never really take in what it means. I've been thinking of this particular one for a while. 

I know you've all heard this verse as many times as I have. It's one of those that makes it on cards and bookmarks and pictures and bags and Bible covers and mugs and pens and suchlike. 
And I've found that the more I hear a verse, the less I actually think about it and feel its impact. 

I have to ask myself some uncomfortable questions when I take this verse seriously. And, frankly, I'm not too keen on answering them. 

Of course, I can say "well, I've actually never searched for hidden treasure all that much, so I guess I'm searching Scripture more than that!" 

Haha, I'm sure. 

But in reality, do I store up God's word in my mind as eagerly as I do quotes from movies or lines from books or the other useless paraphernalia that whirls around in my brain?

Do I turn my ear to wisdom with the swiftness with which I listen to music or the other selections on my iPod? 

Do I apply myself to understanding the word of God (ie: giving the verses in my Bible more than a passing glance and a "well, perhaps someday I'll look that up and find out what it really means") with the diligence I muster for figuring out where I'm going in my writing or working out a tricky plot twist?

Do I consistently pray for wisdom, insight, and understanding or when I come up against a problem do I worry at it and struggle to figure it out myself without asking for help from the One who can Himself give me peace?

Do I search the Scriptures and pray and seek God's face with the eagerness that I feel to pursue my favorite hobbies and pastimes? Do I look forward to the time I spend in the Word or do I push it off to sleep for an extra half hour? 

What is my treasure? What is it in my life that I value so much that giving it up would hurt more than anything?

Is it worth the cost?

And turn it around:

Do I really, honestly long to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God?

The answer, of course, is yes. 

Who wouldn't? 

But the question is: am I really, honestly willing to do everything it takes (accept, store up, turn, apply, call and search) to understand the fear of and knowledge of God?

Am I?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: The Woman In White

This is going to just be a brief review because, let's face it, the book is 645 pages long and most of it can't be discussed for fear of letting the proverbial cat out of the bag. 

4 out of 5
Recommended for: anyone who's up for 600+ pages of any book, likes mysteries and either adores or can at least tolerate classics
Categories: classics, benchmark reads

Generally considered the first English sensation novel, The Woman in White features the remarkable heroine Marian Halcombe and her sleuthing partner, drawing master Walter Hartright, pitted against the diabolical team of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. A gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, Collins’s psychological thriller has never been out of print in the 140 years since its publication. 

The Woman in White is as remarkable as Marian Halcombe herself. It's written in Collins' signature "narrative of" form and this switching from viewpoint to viewpoint keeps the story from dragging due to the variety of writing styles. 
Most particularly I enjoyed the narratives of Marian, Count Fosco and Edward Fairlie (who are, incidentally, also my favorite characters). 

The plot is fascinating - Collins is a master of suspense and withheld information - but I would argue that it doesn't move quickly at all and is slightly bogged down by over-detailing. 

Marian and the Count overshadow every other character (I don't know if that was intentional or not, but I am (alas!) unable to apply to the author for particulars) which is slightly unfortunate for those who are more attached to the other populace of this novel. Laura and Walter especially are rather weak.

Additionally, as in The Moonstone, the writing here is not your typical "classic" language. It flows more easily than a (for example) Dickens novel. He doesn't run his sentences on interminably and he uses words and descriptions that are more modern in style. It's easier to read than a typical old-fashioned classic.

Would I urge any stranger on the street to read this book? Most likely not. But I definitely feel the better for having slapped it on the "read" shelf. 

Till next time, 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Nano Buddies?

Just wondering if anyone around here wants to share their Nano name for buddies? You can find me as AlixJamie and I'd love to chum up with anyone who's interested! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On Ogres

So I signed up for NaNoWriMo yesterday. 

I survived - doing fine! - but as I was reading about the procedures and what I'm getting myself into and as it fully dawned on me that I am committing myself to write about 1,700 words a day (a good day for me is generally somewhere between 500-900 words) on an everchanging plot which I alternately love and hate my inner editor kicked up its heels and howled.

Now most of you are probably not acquainted with my inner editor (consider yourselves blessed) and I am, unfortunately, chained to it.

It demands - no more than that - it expects perfection and settles for nothing less.

I don't know how I'm going to get through thirty days of ignoring that beast and always going forward without looking backward. 

This is going to be tough. 

Very, very tough.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What It Means...

Living in a family of eleven - where two members are parents and the rest of us give it our best shot - is a pretty foreign concept to a lot of people we meet outside the house. {We're homeschooled too, so this doesn't happen much [Sorry, homeschool joke... :-D]}

I'd like to give a small dissertation on what it's really like around here, because I know from only limited observation that we're nothing like the Duggars.

Living in a family of eleven means... the bathrooms is a once-a-day job {though it only really happens once a week - and that's if we get lucky}.

...privacy is only available if there's a shower involved - or a bathroom door that can be locked from the inside {this really only works if there's actually a key for the lock and not one of those knobs that you can pick with a toothpick or screwdriver}.

...laundry comes in half-ton allotments where the only things that are right side out are the clean clothes someone found on the floor and tossed back in.'re forced to play the I-pick-a-number-between-one-and-one-hundred game whenever there's only one of something left {it used to be ten, but more than half the numbers were taken and siblings figured out how to block their lesser-liked siblings out}.

...the personal food in the fridge or pantry {i.e. chai concentrates, melty chocolate, fruit snacks} that isn't marked with the initials of the owner is fair game for anyone to dig into - and often is.

...doubling recipes is automatic and tripling is rarely questioned. 

...the only leftovers in the icebox are the ones no one liked

...if a recipe calls for the dough to be chilled, it is considered debatable that these cookies will ever make it to the 350 degree stage cannot walk through the front door without tripping over at least twenty shoes, which are generally missing their mates.

...being left home alone isn't a frightening prospect.'ve never seen a grocery receipt that's less than two feet long.'ve learned how to evade the laundry hamper, dresser, wardrobe door and bunk bed ladder in the six-person room without a light, but still manage to kick the metal garbage can every time you heed the call of nature at one in the morning. haven't slept in a non-bunk bed since you were four years old. brace your hand on the sliding bathroom door when you sit down because you're lucky if only one person walks in on you during the two minutes of your residence. participate in the briefing every night to decide what order the cars get pulled into the driveway.

...first come, first served is sometimes the thin line between satisfaction and starvation {or at least whether or not you get the leftover chinese takeout}

...there's no guarantee that the page you left your book on when you went out of the room is the page it will be on when you return - if the book still happens to be where you left it anyway.

...your mother made a rule that you could only read biographies while utilizing the facilities. Result: drastic cut-down in bathroom lines.'ve been asked so many times if you're like the Duggars that you're considering legally changing your name and cutting in on some of the profits. can study in a room where two people are practicing, one person is playing and three others are talking and still get something out of the text. councils are called, but nothing is ever resolved before everyone leaves. open up a jar of peanut butter to eat a spoonful and look for it the next day only to find the empty container in the garbage. deliberately stir the jam with a knife only because it irks a certain family member and not because you really prefer it stirred. actually think about stirring jam. lists are an all-family effort and generally contain but are not limited to fifty items.

...seating in the car is mapped out before long trips and rearranged throughout the day to reflect changes in sibling compatibility. 

...English is your second language - sarcasm is first. He who stings last missed the argument by half an hour. for a family of four is a challenge.

...babysitting for non-family members is difficult because you can't spank the kids.

...bedtimes are ambiguous - and mom and dad are usually the first ones in.

...entering a restaurant generally involves dismantling the interior to make enough space to seat you.

...transferring car seats is a way of life.

...younger siblings will sacrifice their time to watch your screensaver when you leave for a minute. can't do anything without three people looking over your shoulder.

...random acts of joy are met with questions like "how many coffee beans have you eaten today?"

...the things you do are always observed - and never forgotten.

...what you choose to watch, click on or listen to will eventually affect the entire family. have great responsibility to be a role model - either good or bad. are a part of one of the most misunderstood factions in the United States. Your image is monitored, critiqued and questioned. You're praised by some and mocked by others. You're a symbol of success and a symbol of failure. You're never going to be "normal".

And that's ok.

Because, according to you, there's no better way to live. 

Till next time!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

In All Things...

Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. 
Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others and we consider this lament to be pious. 
We pray for the big things, and forget to give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is not great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer -

Monday, October 1, 2012

Home Alone

There are dangers, my friends, in being home alone. 


You can lock the doors, fasten the windows, block the cracks, strap the phone to your side with "911" on speedial 5 (I've had a session with our phone keypad and found that it's the button my finger will go to with the most reliability in response to an emergency. I'd advise a similar session with your handiest calling device), even sit in the bathroom with the door locked on the inside, but the danger is still present. 

It's not always a man in a mask or a convict in stripes (though I think we've updated to orange now...). It's not always a raging beast clawing at the door. Sometimes, the danger is much, much closer to home. 

And sometimes it's much, much more disguised.

And then, of course, sometimes it's in a mustard yellow, microwave safe bowl with sprays of white flowers on the side, guarded only by a singularly defenseless strip of plastic wrap that's already been tampered with.


Ladies, it's puppy chow. 

Muddy buddies. 

Whatever you call them - I've heard differing interpretations - they're rice Chex coated in peanut butter and chocolate and shaken in a bag with powdered sugar. And...they're...delicious. 

I think you now understand - if you didn't before - my desperate plight. 

I've already eaten the ones obviously endowed with extra chocolate. I've already had several samples of the crumbles at the bottom, complete with extra sugar that didn't adhere to the mixture, and the plastic wrap's defenses are starting to wear down.

I can feel its presence in the other room, though I have wisely removed myself from the near premises. 

But I know it will only be a matter of time.

A matter of time before I am the person who managed to finish off a third of a bowl of muddy buddies singlehandedly. 

I will hold out as long as I can, but reinforcements must come.

Preferably someone who will share them with me or eat the rest.

Or I am, and forever will be (until tomorrow, at least), sunk. 

Completely and totally sunk.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review: Unbroken

o_O What an absolutely amazing book. O_o
(Yes, I do synchronize my pop-eyed awe faces, thank you very much!)

It's been on my to-read list for a...while and finally got around to reading it due to book club.

5 out of 5
Recommended for: Readers 16+ (intense brutality, some mature incidents, language)
Categories: biography, highly recommended literature, couldn't-put-it-down

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

This is a biography, so I'm not going to go all out for a review. I will say, however, that Laura Hillenbrand has written an excellent narrative.

I am not generally a lover of reality when it comes to books. Reality as in the sense that what I'm reading really happened. I don't know - it usually bores me and I can't stand all those little numbers scattered around that tell you to go to the back so that they can credit a source or give more information or what have you. 

But I almost felt as if I was reading a novel here. I found myself irritated at the author for not giving her characters a little more help until I remembered that they weren't hers - they were real - and she could do nothing but tell the story the way it happened. It's so intense that when I brought it with me to a five-hour work period and read it almost the entire time, I had to take a break and walk around to get my head back into the present. 

Unbroken is brilliantly written. It's a narrative. It's captivating. The story is intensely brutal (to the point where you become unable to absorb the cruelty and just read it because it's there) but there's also so much humor and hope. The uncrushable, indomitable strength of the human spirit. 

You have to read it to understand. 

And, good mercy, can she use adjectives and verbs!

Till next time, 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Modest as a...What?

A dress should be tight enough to show you're a 
woman and loose enough to prove you're a lady

~ Edith Head ~

I ran into this quote while reading an article about Kate Middleton's fashion choices in a waiting room magazine. (No, I am not a follower in any form of the royal couple. My interest generally extends no further than the headlines on the racks by the check-out lanes at the grocery store).

The quote caught my attention because it so aptly put something I've been committed to all my life.


What is it? 

From what I've heard, it comes to this: Modesty is a delicate power possessed by women to dress and to act in a manner that draws attention not to their bodies but to their personalities and to the things about them that really matter.

I know there are many different interpretations out there of how to gain this delicate power. Being homeschooled and raised in a conservative household with conservative viewpoints, I am definitely familiar with many varieties of modesty. 

Group #1: This is the if-you-dare-show-a-snitch-of-figure-you're-a-shameless-hussy brand of modesty. In this group, you swathe yourself in excess yards of fabric in the form of skirts, shirts and anything else you might happen to put on. Everything you own is long, high, and usually oversized. 

Group #2: This is the I'll-push-the-boundaries-and-be-semi-normal type. Generally speaking, this is the middle ground. They raise the eyebrows of the previous group and still somehow manage to get the odd looks from strangers on the street. Their wardrobes generally contain a mix of the modern fashions (which are worn when your plans call for a trip outside) and the more "modest" choices which are worn when certain friends (or fathers) are in the picture. 

Group #3: This is the group that doesn't really care anymore. They won't go all out but they're not really hiding it either. They give it a sort of half-way point and err on the side of the edgily modest. 

So what should we really strive for? In fact, why are we trying at all? 

When you think about it, it's a lot of effort to go through so that guys can protect their eyes. I've been known to say (in frustration) that guys could make a little more effort not to look, seeing as we're going through all the trouble of denying ourselves the things we'd really like to wear and we could sort of break even on a don't look/make an effort kind of basis.

But the truth is that modesty isn't just about guys or just about us at all. Though caring enough about them that we don't want to force them into total self-control mode is an excellent reason to cover up, the real point of modesty - and the reason we should keep our bodies to ourselves - is obedience to the call of the One who called us. 

When we look in the mirror with frustration because we're so tired of not being able to sport the latest fashions, instead of giving up and going on a shopping-binge, we need to remember whose image we are actually presenting (God's), who really asked us to value ourselves through modesty and what the meaning of that value is.

Value is a sense that God gives us (and which I, at least, consistently fail to utilize) that informs us that we don't need that skin-tight shirt that leaves only skin to the imagination to get the attention we want. Value is the sure confidence that we have so much more to offer than just an eyeful which enables us to wear the skirt that covers our knees even if it's not as cute. Value is the knowledge that, even though the jeans don't cut off your circulation and show what you've got, you don't need to show what you've got to receive the admiration of those around you. It's a question of value that we ought to ask when we try on that oh-so-cute top that just pushes it too far or the perfect jeans that are just a bit too tight or the adorable skirt that is just too short.

It's also the point that we are representatives of Christ and how we dress and act carries great weight with the way others view us and ultimately through us, Christ.

Yes, I know it's hard when people stare at you (or don't stare at you), and when everything in the store seems to be things you can't wear, and when you've tried on so many clothes your dressing room starts looking like a Hollywood costume storage unit only to find that the only cute things are the things out on the racks that you know you can't wear. 

Modesty is tough.

Value is tough.

Representing Christ is...really tough.

I will freely admit that I have (and still sometimes do) give up and decide it's easier to rub out the line than to make it stronger. There are things in my closet that I still wear that I know push the boundaries. Because my value of myself slips too - and it's hard to stand firm the when the girls around you who are getting the attention are the ones who aren't like you.

Sometimes, it just doesn't seem worth it.

Sometimes, it seems that if you keep going on with this cover-it-all-up-and-don't-show-it-off rule, you're going to end up an old maid, knitting voluminous sweaters to drape yourself in. 

Sometimes, it seems that screaming "does anyone really care what I wear?!" and then going around with polling sheets would be easier than silently hoping that someone appreciates your modesty and is just too shy to tell you. 

In fact, I've often wondered, in a world where the guys go after the girl who shows the most, why value is even important. 

Value, I sometimes feel, is what will land me in the spinster circle at twenty-six.

So why do I try? Why do I make an effort to keep up this ever-unpopular trend? Why do I grasp what, at times, seems to be an old-fashioned pretense?  

Aside from the fact that my father keeps an eye on me, it's because (and I feel weird saying this after talking about how a sense of value and obedience to God and care for how we treat His image should be the reason why we dress with care) I still believe that there are guys out there who will value us because we value ourselves (albiet uncommunicative guys who either don't get the message or are too shy to tell us that they appreciate our efforts - haha). But when I get my act together, it's also because I feel awkward when I know that I'm making myself a trap for guys to keep their eyes away from and I don't feel comfortable wearing something that I constantly have to pull up, pull down, adjust or watch like a hawk.
I struggle for modesty because I know that it's what God asks me to do. He asks me to guard my body and save it for the one man who will value it as much as I should. He asks me not to make it hard on young men by giving up. He asks me to do it out of obedience because He has plans for me that I don't know about.  

It's a struggle, I know, but it is always a struggle worth keeping up. 

Now I'm not saying that we need to wrap ourselves in sheets and present to the world a completely blurred image of ourselves. 

Nay, not at all.

We can dress attractively and still be modest. The point is to draw a line and have the obedience not to cross it. 

Long ago, I left Group #1 in the pursuit of something different. A sort of Group #2 without the drawbacks. 

It's certainly been interesting and I must admit that I've redrawn a lot of lines.

If I could rate my closet, I'd say I'm a solid Group 2 with slight Group 3 tendencies. I still love my twirly, floor-length denim skirts, but I'm also comfortable in loose jeans. I hate dressing up because that's where the Group 3 tendencies come to play. Dressy stuff is...not my style and it's always hard to keep those convictions when the stuff is designed to flatter - not cover.

What's your closet like? I don't know. But I do know this:

When you look at what you wear, does it say you value yourself and you're waiting for someone who will value it too? Does it say "God, I trust that you know what you're doing when you ask me to dress like this"? Or does it say, "forget it, folks; I'm tired of waiting".

When you try on that toe-the-line top that looks so good what is the first though that pops into your head? It's the reason you want it.

What it all boils down to is this:
There is clothing out there that is attractive and modest (I know it can be hard to find, but it's not impossible for a determined woman) and there are lines between what you should wear and what you know you shouldn't. 

It's a question of value.
A question of trust.
An act of obedience.
A sense of who we represent and how delicate that image can be.
And how easy it is to destroy. 

What will you wear?