Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spring TBR

via Pixabay
It's the first day of Spring! I'm so glad! Spring always feels like a fresh burst of energy after the cold winter season, so it's time for a new TBR stack and endless ambitions for the next three months or so. Here's what I've come up with for my stack this spring:

Crowning Heaven
You guys. My friend Emily is releasing Crowning Heaven, an epic portal fantasy, on May 15. You won't want to miss this. I don't want to miss this. I simply can't wait. You can add it on Goodreads here and check out the official announcement here.

The Silver Chair
Precious Puddleglum. I'm almost through The Chronicles of Narnia series re-read.  I have so much respect for Lewis's talents in this read-through. And not only that, but my heart is warmed and stirred by the truth and glory of Aslan in these stories.

The Last Battle
I really wrote down The Voyage of the Dawn Treader here when I was first drafting this post. Moment of distraction. Should I read the last one this spring? Should I save it? I feel like I should read it now while the spark is hot.

Hannah Coulter 
Some friends lent me this book. I've had it waiting too long, so I started it last night. I love the gentle, nostalgic look at life's memories told from the perspective of a woman who lived through WW2 in America.

The Art of War for Writers 
The kind administrators at the place where I teach are adding a highschool fiction class to the lineup this fall. I get to teach it, so I want to start reading in preparation. I cannot wait to talk fiction for an hour every week and discuss stories and brainstorming and characters and all that good stuff.

A Study in Scarlet 
Like the Chronicles of Narnia, I'd like to finish the Sherlock stories this year. I've read a lot of the short stories, so I'm going to tackle a couple of the novels next. I'm actually reading A Study in Scarlet in order this time. Normally I start from the middle, read all the backstory, and then read the mystery uninterrupted.

A Wounded Shadow 
I am so excited. SO excited. This is the end of Willet Dura's journey in Patrick Carr's latest series, a fantasy world threatened by a forest so dark that no one can escape it unscathed. Questions will be answered. Mysteries will be uncovered. I have waited so long for this.

Anne's House of Dreams 
I've been reading through the Anne series the last few years and hope to finish it this year. To be honest, I can't wait for Rilla of Ingleside, but must.read.in.order.

Good News for Anxious Christians 
I'm almost done with Elisabeth Elliot's Passion and Purity. After that, I'd like to read this one to be changed and strengthened with truth.

What's on your TBR stack? Is anything cool coming up in life this spring?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Inside Out {best movie ever}

via Wikipedia
The night before my sister's 18th birthday, we all scrambled through chores and birthday preparations so we could be done early. Then we curled up on the couch with Minky Blanket and popped in Inside Out for the first time ever.

Inside Out, if you're new to the Pixar franchise (this is my first Pixar film) is a movie about 11-year-old Riley moving to a new town and processing the emotions and life changes that come along with that. The cool thing? Riley's emotions are animated characters inside her head: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger. Inside Out sets out to show how all of these emotions work together. Containing everything from the Train of Thought to the Subconscious, it showed just how much the writers thought about the brain in general, perfectly expressing the heart of a kid.

I don't watch a lot of animated kids' movies. I fell head over heels for this one. The creativity is incredible, and the emotions it evokes are deeply resonant with common life experiences. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. I teared up twice, and had I been watching it alone, I would have outright cried. In other words, it might be for kids, but it can keep adults captivated two times in one weekend.

Sadness. Let's talk about Sadness. I just loved Sadness--the sweetest-round faced girl with a pudgy blue body and a thick, warm sweater--just the kind of sweater you like to curl up with on tough days. Sadness always thinks she's ruining things, but she's so incredibly sweet you just want to wrap her in a warm hug. (The scene when Joy is pushing Sadness's little blue foot inside the chalk circle so she won't ruin Riley's first day of school is the cutest.moment.ever.) We loved the quote, "Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life's problems." Sadness brings realism, Joy brings hope, in the midst of disaster. 

The cool thing about this movie is that it's a springboard for kids (or even overthinking adults) who haven't learned that it's OK to have emotions, and they can work together in healthy ways. Emotions like Fear and Anger are often touted as bad--they should be locked away, stuffed down, or ignored, while positive emotions are encouraged. But emotions like Fear and Anger can also be warnings that keep you healthy and safe.

Inside Out shows Riley working through her emotions--sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways. Anger wants to use curse words, but none are used. There's a couple of brief instances of the mom fantasizing about a handsome man other than her husband.

Inside Out processes the joy of nostalgia, family, and memories--it holds sacred the moments of the past, as well as showing how to step forward into the future. It gives a warm picture of family meeting life's challenges together, even in their imperfect moments--and it captures the imagination of childhood in ways that defy you not to cry while you're watching them (Bing Bong, anyone?)

Have you seen this movie? What were your favorite lines? I'd love to talk about it with you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Currently // a wealth of work and stories

via pixabay
Poor Lord M is still waiting to be reviewed after finishing the late David Cecil biography. But he's a patient fellow--and I think he'd rather sit and chat about life rather than talk about himself. I have a craving to write a life post today, which can serve as the Diary I Do Not Keep.

My heart is full. I'm feeling rather like Anne from Anne of Avonlea, who loves new horizons and dreaming and a bright vista of thought and feeling in front of her. We stayed up until midnight on Friday watching it. There's so much kindred spirit in Anne. I don't have sudden bursts of frank indignation, but I do think life has so much to offer and love. I'm also a teacher and a writer. And I love her costumes in Anne of Avonlea.

But I wouldn't want to iron them.

Lark Rise to Candleford
A couple of weeks ago I picked up Lark Rise to Candleford from the Main Library. Lark Rise is about a small village and even smaller hamlet--full of people who love, who sin, who work hard and help their neighbors, who have family and find family, all in this delightful 19th century British atmosphere. Ask about the episode where they bring the harvest in and the measles come to Lark Rise. It's absolutely golden stuff. Lark Rise is one of those series you have to pick and choose. Some plots are based around superstition that borders on potions and spells, and I don't feel comfortable with that sort of thing. But other episodes are full of regluar adventures with a dash of warmth and kindness, and they're so inspirational.

Season 4 is really golden so far. I love the costumes. I love Gabriel Cochran who lost his wife and his business and is trying to build new relationships again. His character is wise, and the actor is so able to pull off eyes full of deep feeling and thoughtfulness. I love Miss Lane's hair and dresses. I love Minnie, trying to figure out her feelings towards Alf and his towards her, and her dear accent. And in season 4/episode 4, where there's a pig roast and a grand bonfire night, I love how Daniel tells Laura not to be afraid of the future, how he smiles and looks after her and they act like I've seen people who love each other. I love bonfire nights and dreaming of the future and a kindred spirit close by to share the moment with.

Sis and I have been two months strong on an exercise program since the beginning of the year. It has nothing to do with books, but it's something that's happening lately and it's so fun. Cassey Ho has free calendars (We spent the month of January doing the 30-minute workout twice a week, and now we do the beginner calendar 3x a week.) I love the cheerfulness. The fact that I don't need weights or equipment, but it's feasible for what I have right now. At first, it was confusing to figure out how to breathe right and how to do the moves, but now I'm getting the hang of it. And I love the sense of being able to do something to care for and strengthen my body. It feels good to hurt after a hard workout. It feels good to sweat, and have someone show you what to do, and strengthen your body, and sit up one morning and feel like you actually have ab muscles. When I make it to 3 months I'm going to treat myself to Celtic Thunder X with my Christmas money and try to have a reward every 3 months after that. If you're taking a look at the program, there is some immodesty to navigate on the social media channels, and once in a while, she'll misuse God's Name, which I don't like. But overall it's clean, I'd recommend it for girls who need a coach to work out with, and it's filled a spot I really needed (a personal trainer) on the budget I had to work with (nothing). Being able to have direction and challenge has been such a joy this year, and I love feeling healthier.

Outlining Folkestone Files #2 
Over the past few weeks, I've been outlining the sequel to War of Loyalties like crazy, fitting together plots, having aha! moments, and listening to lots and lots of A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman. Somehow it sounds like a song that fits one of the characters, and I think it keeps Melancholic Schuyler from listening to sad songs and plotting under their influence. The action is so much tighter than the planning process for the first book, and it's so fun to think over the story without muddling through thousands of words to try to figure it out. I can't believe I just wrote that sentence. I hate planning. But I am finding that I love a story summary, and I want to try it for more books if it helps me write this one well. Maybe this is the sweet spot I've wanted all along--and since I'm taking on more tutoring and will need to use my time even more wisely, I like learning a new process to make that productivity happen.

God has been so kind. He is kind even when life feels dark, but I am enjoying the sunshine. I have meltdown days. I still struggle with anxiety. But my heart is learning and growing and expanding. I'm studying things with friends and reading and thinking and writing and I feel like I am exercising my gifts in the spot he has me in right now. Life is crammed full of Romans, and writing short stories by hand, teaching and house help, devotions over breakfast and tearing up over Little Women dramatized as I drive to work.

I do not mind bends in the road. But this is a stretch of road I am content to linger in for now.

this post fueled by "when you're with me" by the afters. give it a listen if you want some warm fuzzies.

Friday, March 2, 2018

How to Be The Perfect Christian {by the Babylon Bee}

Babylon Bee's satirical articles have kept the world in stitches of laughter ever since they started putting them out. Having fun at the expense of well-known speakers and worship trends, they lead to half-gasp, half-laugh reactions that make Christians say ouch and amen at the same time. Adam Ford started the site, and his journey through depression and gift of humor is well worth reading about. So when their book came up on my list of review options, of course, I wanted to pick it up.

via Goodreads 

How to Be the Perfect Christian is full of classic satirical fun at what Christians love most: everything from modern church worship (your worship team had better have nine people on it), to potlucks, to forcing every movie and activity into a Gospel parallel, the authors provide a lot of classic laughs at what the American church has become. Whether you need to know how to make the worship team work for your response or review the seven essential truths of the Gospel, it's all here to guide you along the way.

I have to admit, this is a tough review to write, because I just wasn't syncing with the humor while I read the book, and I honestly think it was my own mental state at the time and not the fault of the book. While I thought the book would have been tighter divided into a modern Christian track and a legalist Christian track (someone who hated alcohol and wore denim skirts probably wouldn't go to the church in chapter one) it provides a great opportunity to get introduced to the Babylon Bee and loan it out to others.

The Babylon Bee is a fun, laugh-inducing read in the evenings after work. As for me? I read it on the way to church and back. Because after all, if you want to be the perfect Christian, Sunday morning is the best time to read all about it.

I received an ARC copy from the publisher, and not all details may be the same upon publication. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, February 23, 2018

All the Lies We Cannot See

*parody of a book title I haven't read yet. 

Beliefs get firmly rooted in our head.

"I don't have enough time today."

"I can do it all."

"I'd be happier if I looked different."

"I can't say no to anyone."

"They had {my anger} coming to them."

"I have a right to be honest about my feelings."

"There's no way out of this sin. I'm stuck."

"I'm going to struggle the rest of my life."

All of them are ones I've believed at different times. Some seem like big beliefs; some seem like small ones. Everything on that list is a lie or a half-truth.  And there are so many more that I don't even know I'm thinking. This week I've been diving into a book about them. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wrote Lies Women Believe back in 2000. But after seventeen years, a new, updated and expanded edition has been released to include references to social media, new insights from her role as a wife, and even more of what she's learned since about walking with the Lord. I've never read the original edition, but I had the blessing of reading the updated edition this week, pouring over chapters in some days that I had off of odd jobs and events.

I have to admit, I started the introduction a couple of weeks ago, and it looked like it was going to be hard to go further. I didn't want anything I loved to have to go through painful surgery. But a review deadline forced me back to face it. The book has been full of the Holy Spirit and Scripture and truth. My reactions have been a strong rejoicing in grace and truth, with a couple of ouch moments which I still need to wrestle with. Here are some highlights of things I loved:

  • I loved how, in reading this book and another book by a Christian author, as well as enjoying some sweet devotional and prayer times, my soul and perspective feels sweeter and closer to God. I was going through a season of pride and slipping into a love of entertainment that wasn't leading me to healthy places. It feels joyful and right to be in a tenderer place. 
  • Reading it gave me a better perspective on praying and waiting through hard things. 
  • I started the chapter with sexuality a bit nervous as a single woman. It was kindly and appropriately written and gave me so much truth to plant deep. A person's ultimate longing with their sexuality is to be known, and while that is fulfilled differently in marriage than in singleness, I can be legitimately, intimately known by Christ and in appropriate relationships without sex. Also, I loved the section in that chapter about being an image-bearer and my identity in Christ, not in temptations. 
  • I need to wrestle with living a perspective that's about the glory of God and not about myself, my pleasures, my fulfillment. 

Nancy's book just came out on Monday. Each chapter ends with Scripture verses that counter specific lies we believe with truth. It's a great book to pull into your devotional time (I've been reading some Christian books along with my devotional time and loving it!) It's a good book to read slowly, to savor, to pray over, to allow to sink deep into your soul. It's beautifully packaged and gently, graciously written. And it's one I hope to be returning to. And it's one I'd love to talk about any time via email, text, or blog comment with any of you as well. It would be a joy.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of a launch team. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Olympics Come to Avonlea

via Pixabay
I was off to bed the other night at the insane hour of near on midnight.

I love and hate the Olympics. I am so tired.

But it occurred to me on Sunday that I'd love to hear Mrs. Lynde and Deborah Jenkins talk about ice dancing. I mean, seeing those two precious pillar-of-the-church ladies watch performers with those costumes, especially the Latin dancing, just cracked me up so much.

And then I thought, why not? Let's make it happen. So I present to you, The Olympics Come to Avonlea.

deborah jekins isn't in avonlea, schuyler

i know. but that title, tho.

Scene: A cozy parlor, with wooden rocking chairs on a clean, wooden floor. Over the backs of the rocking chairs are folded hand-pieced quilts. The curtains are drawn, and there's a fire in the grate. Not a roaring fire. That would be a waste of wood. But a comfortable, economic fire that is doing its work creditably. Both ladies sit in cozy knitted shawls. Over Mrs. Lynde's lap is a quilt square she's piecing, and Deborah Jenkins has yarn and needles close at hand.

In front of them sits an antique wooden table with a modern black box of Babylon on it. The screen is currently blank. Miss Jenkins takes up a small rectangular wand lying on the table next to her and looks with furrowed brow at the buttons on the face of it.

Miss Jenkins: "Perhaps, Mrs. Lynde, if you will attend to this, I will attend to the tea kettle. I hear it in the kitchen."

She departs. Mrs. Lynde puts on her glasses and takes up the remote.

Mrs. Lynde: "I suppose this makes that great contraption work somehow. I never did hold to television. This red button looks like the gateway to evil. Downright sinful, that's what. For mercy's sake, it says ON."

She pushes the button and waits, leaning forward on her rocking chair in suspense. Miss Jenkins returns with a tea tray.

Miss Jenkins: "It is late to be observing this curiosity. I doubt any good comes from staying up past one's bedtime."

She shakes her head and lifts the teapot, but before she can pour it into the cup, a great blast of music comes from the screen and it turns on. Both ladies start.

Mrs. Lynde: "So that's what I heard coming from Alexander Randall's the other night. How does anyone keep this under control? It's enough to make a person deaf."

As soon as the commercial ends, the camera return to the ice, where a pair of dancers stand waiting for the music to start. Mrs. Lynde gasps. Miss Jenkins, in the act of pouring tea, freezes speechless.

Mrs. Lynde: "She's actually showing her legs. Well, things have come to a pretty pass with the current Prime Minister, make no mistake. I never thought I'd live to be ashamed of being a Liberal. I knew this country would go to ruin after the last election."

Miss Jenkins: "I am relieved Martha is in bed."

The music starts. As soon as she hears the opening notes, Miss Jenkins sinks into her rocking chair, cold disapproval in her gray eyes. The teapot is forgotten with the cups half full.

Mrs. Lynde: "I heard they have to travel all the way to South Korea. In my day, young women were content to live and die in the same place as their mothers and fathers before them. And they certainly wouldn't have bared their backs to the watching world. Why, I was at the Ladies Aid meeting and the minister's wife spoke of watching them. Things have changed, that's what."

The music ends. The pair leaves the ice, and the television cuts to commercials. Mrs. Lynde finishes pouring the forgotten tea. Mrs. Jenkins lays aside her knitting, at which she's been working furiously. She gets up and lights another candle, then blows out the first one to make sure they stay even in length. The dancing returns.

Mrs. Lynde: "The Yankees are all over the scoreboard. I'm not surprised they're involved in something like this."

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir stand waiting on the ice. Mrs. Lynde raises her eyebrows and removes her spectacles. Miss Jenkins purses her lips.

Mrs. Lynde: "Ruby Gillis would have been an ice dancer if she had been born later. If Canada wins a medal, I won't count the evening as a waste, but I'm not the same woman after what I've seen. If it gets out what I've sat and watched, I'll never face the Sewing Circle again. I never thought I'd actually have to hold my tongue about something."

Mrs. Lynde watches the dance spellbound until the commercials interrupt before the score is given.

Mrs. Lynde: Well, that's the last one. We'll find out who gets a medal next. I only hope it's the Canadians."

The commercials are over, and the ice dancing returns. Miss Jenkins placidly keeps her needles clicking in and out. She does not watch the television. Mrs. Lynde drops her quilt piecing and leans forward.

Mrs. Lynde: "I wish it was over. Lawful heart, I don't know how anyone can stand it. Of course, the Canadians will win."

Miss Jenkins, still knitting: "Speculation is the enemy of calm."

The score appears on the screen. Mrs. Lynde's quilt square drops to the floor.

Mrs. Lynde: "Well, they've won, and that's a mercy. The Canadians still do themselves proud, I'll say that for them. Though none of the world will hold together much longer when they're handing out medals for falling all over each other like that. If the heathen could see us now, they'd send back the missionaries, that's what. I'll hardly sleep a wink tonight."

Miss Jenkins: "I do not approve of this modern invention. It has evil tendencies."

Mrs. Lynde: "It's indecent if you ask my advice. I heard yesterday that Josie Pye's cousin's family watched the television every night and turned into the most shiftless housekeepers. I went to call there yesterday morning and I caught Ellen Pye actually bundling Monday washing into the kitchen cupboard. And this was on a Tuesday. The whole church knows what goes on behind those closed doors, believe me."

Mrs. Lynde pushes the red button, and the screen goes black. Miss Jenkins collects the tea things and replaces them on the tea tray. Soon after, the little house is tucked into a quiet slumber.

The next day, a modern television is carted away to the village to be sold.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Lost Castle {kristy cambron}

The Book  {description via Amazon}
Ellie Carver arrives at her grandmother’s bedside expecting to find her silently slipping away. Instead, the beloved woman begins speaking. Of a secret past and castle ruins forgotten by time. Of a hidden chapel that served as a rendezvous for the French Resistance in World War II. Of lost love and deep regret . . .

Each piece that unlocks the story seems to unlock part of Ellie too—where she came from and who she is becoming. But her grandmother is quickly disappearing into the shadows of Alzheimer’s and Ellie must act fast if she wants to uncover the truth of her family’s history. Drawn by the mystery surrounding The Sleeping Beauty—a castle so named for Charles Perrault’s beloved fairy tale—Ellie embarks on a journey to France’s Loire Valley in hopes that she can unearth its secrets before time silences them forever.

Bridging the past to the present in three time periods—the French Revolution, World War II, and present day—The Lost Castle is a story of loves won and lost, of battles waged in the hearts of men, and of an enchanted castle that stood witness to it all, inspiring a legacy of faith through the generations.

My Thoughts 
Where Kristy really shines, and what I love to see included in stories, is the five-senses details she uses to enrich her stories. Details show the craftsmanship--in things like violets and beautiful houses, in a mint dress and barrel roll curls, in Ellie's boots, the taste of a pear, and the furniture of a house. Houndstooth trousers. A fox brooch. Kristy lingers in the moments, using her knowledge of art to lovingly arrange the details of the scene, and I especially like the vivid life and heritage in the French country in Ellie's plotline.

It was cool to see little details weave through the three time periods, watching the legacy of the castle span through the centuries in objects and names. The beginning inciting incident was a great way to kick off the adventure, and the ending packed a lot of heart-feelings into the final climax.

If I could sum up this book in one word, I think savor would describe it perfectly. Life is savored here. Food and color and beautiful things are savored. Friends and family--people--are savored. And those are things I love to savor too.

This book was provided by the author. All opinions expressed are my own.
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