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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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Know Who Holds The Future...

I recently heard my pastor say something that struck me as incredibly interesting because I had never heard it (or heard it and taken it mentally to heart) before.

"Satan doesn't know the future. Only God knows the future."

It struck me as interesting because I had always assumed (in a I-never-really-thought-about-it-before way) that Satan could freak me out about what was going to happen in the future because he had some sort of way of knowing how it was going to go.


He doesn't.

Satan knows as much about the future as I do, so it does make it rather ridiculous to believe the things he says *might* happen. He tells you all sorts of things that could happen in the future - all those horrible things that are going to happen that'll ruin your life - but the truth is that it's all speculation. He has no idea what God has in store for you! Satan will tell you anything - anything - to get you to abandon your trust in God's promises. No matter how outlandish it sounds. But he doesn't know. Only God does.

Praise the Lord!

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." - Jeremiah 29:11-13

Till next time!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Pitch {No.1}

Here's the pitch for the first novel I ever finished! It still doesn't have a title and it's still not completely edited, but every book needs a back-cover blurb to show around. =D And I actually wrote this one - not Jamie. ;)

Though a matter of immense importance, what to wear to dinner is one of the last things on eighteen-year-old Jocelyn Harrington’s mind.
Growing up as a privileged young lady in the sleepy countryside of Derbyshire, England, her life should be as untroubled and tranquil as an afternoon tea. But circumstances, like the gossip that flies through the air, can be deceiving.
With a twin brother missing since the tragic accident that took her parents; a beloved grandmother whose illness is slowly taking her life; a handsome Yankee with a shadowed past catching her eye; a self-indulgent cousin chasing her affections; and a tyrannical aunt ruling her future, Jocelyn’s life is as tangled as the threads in her spool-box. A predicament the independently-minded Victorian miss is determined to change.
Armed with nothing but a crumpled label, a faded daguerreotype, and a fantastic story, Jocelyn takes her destiny to the heart of London, where she uncovers a stubborn and strangely distant brother; a spirited red-head with a faith as fiery as her hair; a romantic mess; and unexpected joy and heartache. But when the future she has planned for herself takes an unexpected turn, will headstrong, self-reliant Jocelyn turn her back or reach out her hands to the God who has never stopped pursuing her heart?      

Till next time!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What's the Point?

Ever since I was thirteen (and before then, just not noticeable by output :P), writing has been in my blood. I've tried *not* writing and I just can't do it. It's part of me. But what, I've often wondered, is the point of writing?

The questions that have been bothering me for years and years of novel-ing are these:

Why am I writing?

Who am I writing for?

and what am I writing for?

The first one is easy to answer: I write because I have to. I can't not write. So there. But the other two questions are much harder to answer.

The who and the what.

I always tell myself "well, yeah. I'm writing for God!" But writing for God entails so much more than just occasionally slipping in a conversion or a dull, washed-out, overused repetition of what thousands of other Christian authors write. Someone always has the answers, someone always gets saved, Christian characters turn the conversations to Christ whether it fits or not.

But that's not reality.

Many times we don't have the answers and we chicken out and avoid telling others about God and the sinner doesn't always get saved.

But taking that sort of realistic approach is not going to cut it either. There's a fine line between perfection, reality and chickening out yourself.

Because it's hard to steep your writing in Christianity without coming off as very Christian and annoyingly preachy or less Christian and limply cliche. I've read both and I can honestly say that neither one is the way to go.

So what is a writer to do?

One of my (many :D) writing heroes is Francine Rivers. I have never read a book by another Christian author that rivets and challenges me like hers do. When I finish reading her books, I don't put it away and say "what a good book!". Heavens no. I put it down and I want to change.

And it occurred to me last night why her books are so powerful.

For me, I focus on telling a "good story" (making sure that my dialogue isn't boring and that my characters are realistic and that my drama isn't over the top {something my dear editor is an enormous help with!}). In fact, I focus so much on that that I lose sight of the real reason I'm even writing at all.

The way to write is not to tell a "good story", but THE story. When I take my eyes off of the fact that Jesus Christ is the center of the story and forget that challenging faith is why I should even be putting pen to paper in the first place, I lose the entire reason for writing anything at all.

I let myself get so caught up in creating the story that I forget who I'm creating the story for. Jesus gets tossed in and yanked out and shuffled around until I have to remind myself "this is supposed to be Christian fiction, my dear; so quick toss something about God in". Haha, I'm sure God appreciates that.

Christian fiction should not be a fluffy romance where the book is considered "Christian" because some cliche Bible passages are tossed in, someone gets saved, there are a few prayers and church services and the characters live upright lives and abstain from an intimate relationship until they're married.

That's what I find so sad about today's Christian fiction market. So many authors who could write powerfully have settled for books that don't challenge or preach but instead spin out a silly, worn-out romance with brainless characters who fill their pages with pathetic attempts at real drama and real life so that we can settle down with something "clean" and "mindless".

And that is exactly why I'm worried about these questions.

Because I don't want my writing to turn into something like that. If the purpose of writing Christian fiction is to allow someone a few hours of fluffy enjoyment, then I don't want to write it. I want my writing to glorify God, to challenge and engross the reader and to give them a new perspective on things they might not have given much thought to before. I don't want my books to be read once and then tossed into the Goodwill box for resale. But in order to write books that challenge and engross and give glory to the One who gave me this desire means that I must put Him before my writing and steep myself in Him first.

And that's another struggle. I get impatient and it's hard to focus on God with all the distractions of life. But, when I get down to the nitty-gritty, what is life really about?

God gave us life and it's really unfair of us to say that we want to live it our way.

So this is my resolve: to write for HIS glory and not for anything else. And if it falls sub-par, then it is sub-par and not worth anyone's time. If I don't write for God, then I won't write for anyone else.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men - Colossians 3:23

'Till next time,

Monday, February 13, 2012

I'm Letting Go

I don't want to write this post. I don't want to write it. But I have to, for reasons of blog-longevity and for my own personal reasons which aren't very interesting or easy to explain.

So lately I've been struggling with what I feel I should do with the rest of my life and what God wants me to do and how they both coincide and so on and so forth. It became an enormous point of anxiety to me for several days and still now gives me a vaguely sick feeling in my stomach when I wake up in the morning.

What does God want me to do?

I knew what I wanted to do.

With two job options open to me, I knew the truth. One was "safe", the other was..."scary" (well, not really, but the devil tends to take your smallest fears and blow them completely out of proportion until they consume you).

Obviously, I wanted the one that was "safe".

I got the "safe" one, but my mom still wanted me to try for the "scary" one.

So I started filling out applications and fear and doubt quickly consumed me. I was scared stiff with irrational fears that would look incredibly silly if I put them down on paper. Incredibly silly.

I struggled with the idea that God wasn't going to bless my decision to take the job I did, because I figured that since fear was holding me back from diving into the "scary" one, He would be disgusted with me. For a day I rationalized and planned and flipped and flopped back and forth until I wanted to bury my head into the couch and scream out my frustration.

A few days later I was sitting on the said couch, writing and listening to an assortment of my favorite Christian songs. Francesca Battistelli's song I'm Letting Go came up and I reached out to skip it. I didn't want to hear about how I should let go of the plans I made for me and let God take control of my life. I was scared of what would happen if he did. So, I started to skip it.

And then a thought stopped me.

If God knows the plans He has for you, and they're going to prosper you, give you hope and a future, then won't letting Him take control make you the happiest?

God isn't going to toss me into something I'm completely unprepared for. He wants to prosper me. He wants to give me joy, hope, peace - everything! So why am I afraid to trust in His plan and let go of mine?

I prayed right then - one of the hardest prayers I've ever prayed in my life - and told Him that I was letting go. And when I told Him that, the peace that flooded my mind was so overwhelming.

And I realized that God wasn't quibbling over what job I chose, only the fact that I was refusing to let Him in on the plan.

It just threw me how long I struggled and worried when the answer was so simple. God wants us to be happy. It's part of His plan. We're only unhappy when we don't allow Him to be in control.

There are no 'ifs' in God's kingdom; and no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety. - Casper Ten Boom - The Hiding Place

'Till next time,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Just a Hack (Don't Panic!)

Well hey there all of you, this is Jamie!

Since Jocelyn hogs up all the publicity with her public blog, I guess I'll just have to sneak on when she's not looking and hack hers so you guys can read my posts. (Heehee!) (You have NO idea how long it took me to figure out her password. Aiee, that girl should consider a future in the FBI!)

Jossie always says that my brain (if it exists - she claims to have heard rumors *stern glare*) runs on a different universe's wavelength, but I tend to disagree. She's just a fuddy-duddy.

Anyway, I've decided to stop letting her make my announcements because she always makes it sound like I'm some sort of morbid hacksaw artist who finds no greater pleasure than in killing off all my innocent characters in violent infernos. (I actually am, but that's beside the point. And it'll go to Jocelyn's head if I say she's right. ERG!) But I'm the one writing all this good stuff, so she'll just have to live with whatever it was that I was going to make her live with.

So now that The Redemption Ring is all spilled out, my brain and fingers have been itching to wrap themselves around my capless black papermate with the toothmark-scarred end to scratch out another mess. The only problem was that I didn't have anything to WRITE ABOUT!

(Yes, I have just consumed two cups of caffeinated tea with cream and sugar, thank you for asking!)

Undeterred by this utter blankness of mind (blankness = mental betrayal), I set forth to garner a story.

It was trickier than usual this time, since The Redemption Ring had taken the best idea from the zillions that are simmering around in the back of my brain. The rest of them - well, let's just say I was going for something new.

Jossie and I have been reading Francine River's A Lineage of Grace (which is a series of five books; each one about the Biblical women in the lineage of Christ - namely Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Quite the lineup, I know!) So far, we've read Unveiled (Tamar) and Unashamed (Rahab).

It made me interested in the whole idea of storifying Bible stories. There's nothing wrong with how they're written in the Bible, obviously, but it is generally a little vague on the details (understandably so, too. It's not supposed to be a novel). And I love details.

I also love the story of Joseph.

I've been toying with the idea of storifying it for a long time (ever since I saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the fiftieth time...) and the little tidbits that Francine Rivers tossed into the story of Tamar sparked my interest enough to actually go and give it a try.

I mean, could you get a better story than this? Hatred, betrayal, being sold into slavery by your own brothers (!), a hero that the Bible (which is usually skimpy on the details of appearance) informs you is "well-built and handsome" (NIV) or, as I like better: "strikingly handsome" (MSG), well, there is that *ahem* lovely bit with Mrs. Potiphar..., and then there's the drama of being tossed into prison, yanked out, elevated, promoted and adored, the storybook-perfect brothers-coming-to-Egypt-to-save-their-starving-families, plus wonderful themes of forgiveness and trust. My word, it's PERFECT!

I've found it terribly exciting to dig into the story (lots of translations give you different perspectives!) and find out the little details that make the story that much clearer. If all I ever get out of this is a stack of scribbled pages and a deeper understanding of Joseph's chapters in the Bible (and maybe another page on my beloved Scribbles), I'll be happy! Extremely so! :D

So, just an update on my most recent escapade; I'll let you know further details when further details come forth and present themselves.

Jocelyn is going to kill me for this already, so I'll sign off before I blunder into a worse fate.

Tata for now!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ann Recruits the Parishoners (This is NOT a joke!)

though I wish it was...

I found this on Kellee's blog and decided that I feel like doing something fun and mindless. Feel free to copy it to your own blog if you so desire to provide mindless (and hopefully amusing) reading material to your blogging friends! Take the questions, set your iPod to shuffle and let the mismatched craziness ensue!

1. What do your friends think of you?
As Long As It Takes - Meredith Andrews - Haha, that's actually kind of funny if you think about it the right way... :P

2. If someone says "Are you okay?" you say:
Revelation Song - Kari Jobe - Uhmm, ok... If I said that, I suppose they would know that I'm not okay - in more ways than one too.

3. How would you describe yourself?
An Ocean of Memories - Titanic soundtrack - Now that would be interesting

4. What do you like in a friend?
The Council of Elrond - Lord of the Rings soundtrack - I should say not; I don't even know what the Council of Elrond is! 

5. How do you feel today?
Veruca Salt - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory soundtrack - So, does that mean I'm feeling bratty today? 'Cause I'm not...

6. What is your life's purpose?
Robbie Hannan's Jig - Jerry O' Sullivan (The Dance Music of Ireland) - This is a sad state of affairs, I must say.

7. What is your motto?
Dragon Training - How To Train Your Dragon soundtrack - Hahahaha - no.

8. What do you think about very often?
The River - Meredith Andrews - Awesome song, but hmm... I suppose I think about the message of the song a lot...

9. What is 2+2?
Rumour Has It - Adele - Wow. Ok... Rumour has it that 2+2 is...5!

10. What do you think of your best friend?
Jack Dawson's Luck - Back to Titanic soundtrack - I seem to be having a lot of strange thoughts considering my friends here

12. What is your life story?
The Future Has Arrived - Meet the Robinsons soundtrack - Ugh, not really. And I'm not...well, never-mind. It makes it sound like I'm an alien or something...

13. What do you want to be when you grow up?
Who Is Like You? - Meredith Andrews - She seems to be cropping up a lot. I think my iPod is involved in some sort of conspiracy theory...

14. What will you dance to at your wedding?
Simply Love You - Ginny Owens - Well, that's not too bad, actually. You couldn't dance to it of course, but I don't think I'll be dancing to anything at my wedding anyway.

15. What will they play at your funeral?
Learning to Fall - Martina McBride - Hmm, I hope not

16. What is your hobby/interest?
This Is Home - Switchfoot - Well, I do like being at home... 

17. What is your biggest fear?
Bless Us and Keep Us - John Waller - Goodness, what a horrible thing to be afraid of!

18. What is your biggest secret?
Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood - Heehee, not happening!

19. What do you think of your friends?
Star of the County Down - The Irish Rovers - My friends must be Irish today or something

20. What will you post this as?

Ann Recruits the Parishoners - The Patriot soundtrack - Oh drat, I knew I was going to get something like this! :P I suppose it'll arouse idle curiosity if nothing else...

'Till next time!

P.S. The last installment of The Redemption Ring is going up tomorrow! Don't miss out; visit Scribbles!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Review: Flight Into Spring

I've been wanting to read this book forever and ever since I saw it on the Bethlehem Books website because I've adored every single sweet, wholesome book from their site that I've read. (No, I shan't list favorites; they're all listed on the Tried and True Bookshelf page) So when I received this from a friend for Christmas, my joy knew no bounds.


My first impression was that it reminded me incredibly of another favorite Bethlehem book: They Loved To Laugh by Kathryn Worth and Brooklyn Rose by Ann Rinaldi. If you've ever read either of these and then read this book, you'll probably agree.

Anyhoo, we might as well get on with the review since that's what you were reading this for in the first place.

Opposites: Sally Day Hammond is vivacious, tiny, coddled and Southern; Charles Horne is silent, tall, unbending and Northern. The American Civil War has just ended. And a marriage is to be made between these two? When Charles brings Sally Day back to live with his strict New England family, little wonder that tensions rise to the breaking point. But Sally Day has mettle and Charles has determination; in the desperate honesty of this young couple’s conflict, both young hearts may yet stretch and truly meld. (Back-cover synopsis)

Plot: This book doesn't exactly have much of a plot, per say. When I think plot, I think mystery, intrigue and suspense - something that drives a book along. This book is a story. It doesn't have any real resolution. It simply tells the story of a young married couple. 
I know that probably sounds incredibly boring, but it's not. There is tension, romance (of the good, sweet, innocent kind), and good characters; it's just not Agatha Christie or Dee Henderson.

I started this book rather late one night and kept telling myself "after this chapter, I'll put it down and go to bed". I'm sure you all relate with that decision - and know how it generally turns out. 
I'd reach the end of the chapter and there would be something in it that would make me just have to read the next one. 
So I would.
I eventually did put it down when I was about halfway through and then yesterday night I finished it off in one gulp. 

I suppose the ending could be called cliche, but then who really cares about that stuff? If it works, it works and that's all I'm going to say.

Sally Day Horne nee Hammond: I liked her. She definitely lived up to her back-cover claim. It was fun to see how she adapted to different situations (esp. the ones where she's dealing with her tyrant of a father-in-law) and I admired her spunk and determination. She was definitely no doormat.

Charles Horne: Since the book was largely about Sally Day (and since it's actually pretty short) you never really get to know Charles very well. He's exactly how they portray him in the blurb, though. You have sort of a half-grudging admiration for him, even though you wonder what on earth he was thinking marrying Sally Day. 

Ezra and Elizabeth Horne: You can't really take these characters separately, since the one is so much like the other. It's a love/hate relationship with these two pretty much all the way through the book.

The fact that I can just curl up with this book and enjoy it. It's not nerve-wracking or anything, so you can just slowly enjoy it until the end. Sometimes, I just really love to read a book that meanders.

Sally Day's vivaciousness. She reminded me a lot of myself - except that I'm not 5 feet tall and I will never (emphasis on the never) have a fifteen inch waist. 

How the give-and-take, submission, and other forgotten aspects of marriage are portrayed. "It's not always easy, but you can't give up" is one of the main messages of this book.

The wholesomeness of the story. Nothing to avoid; nothing to hide. Hallelujah!

The one brief moment where it is mentioned that hell doesn't really exist. It's argued by two sides, but still the idea lingers that someone in the story believes it.

It takes this book a little while to get off the ground, but it's worth the getting through. :)

Flight Into Spring was not exactly what I had expected it to be, but I enjoyed it nonetheless (is it just me or do I sound like a broken record?). I would willingly let my younger sisters read it without worrying that they would run across some age-inappropriate scene (though some aspects of the marriage may be slightly over their heads anyway). 
If you can find this book anywhere (I've discovered that Bethlehem books are generally rather difficult to track down at libraries...) I would definitely recommend giving it a try!

'Till next time,

P.S. Jamie's The Redemption Ring has almost reached its conclusion. Don't forget to check Scribbles for the latest updates!