Friday, October 13, 2017

Reformation 500: Ladies of the Reformation

via Pixabay

Ladies of the Reformation, by J.H. Alexander, is a bright pink paperback without even a barcode and dives into one part of the Reformation that you might not have on your list this year. When a friend lent it to me, I was absolutely thrilled. It gave me a huge amount of help in preparing a short series of lessons I'm writing about women of the Reformation and Scripture principles we can take from their lives.

In the midst of Calvin and Luther and an impressive list of theological points, it's easy to let the year go by while overlooking the women who contributed to the Reformation. Who thinks about it much? It's like the women who supported Jesus in his ministry: many nameless and faceless, but all valued by the Son of God in helping to spread the Gospel.

J.H. Alexander's book highlights women from all over the world who helped support Christian ministers and were used by God to advance the cause of Christianity. With lots of exciting details to interest girls (midnight escapes and forced marriages!), this book can give vision in so many areas: reading Scripture for themselves, supporting churches and ministers, and obeying God rather than men when people try to force them to abandon their faith. These are important lessons and show them the powerful biblical influence a woman can have on those around her. Some of the stories end happily; others are martyrdoms that end in faithfulness to Jesus. The women in this book come from all around the world and range in scope from nuns to princess to housewives.

Sometimes I think certain aspects of the book could be very slightly embellished, and I found a couple of facts differed from internet articles on Elizabeth of Brunswick's life, so I would want to fact check. But this book serves as a good introduction and jumping-off point into further research. I'm so glad I got a chance to read it.

I've enjoyed studying the theology and history of the Reformation this year. It's a watershed moment in Christendom, and regardless of a person's theological background, it's a vital time in history to be informed about. It's shaped our pulpits, our congregational singing, and our view of work and marriage. Reformed or not (I'm actually not 100% Reformed) it's well worth taking the time to study. In fact, if you're looking for a great theological overview, you might want to check out my brother's studies over at www.icbfblog.blogspot.com!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Currently....


We're seeing trees turning red and orange, yellow and green along the roads now.

It's autumn.

A couple of weeks ago I ran away to a local cafe and hung out for the morning to run through edits and make a game plan on the second half of War of Loyalties. This half is much better than the first half, and I was able to get a lot done. A mug holding a delectable concoction called Paris Tea Latte kept me company. I think it's something with Paris tea and raspberry, and it tastes like this song in drink form.

I found Flame-Colored Taffeta by Rosemary Sutcliff at a bookstore today. I love that book, and the copy I have isn't mine, so now I can return it. ;) I also found Tolkien's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was a good book day.

Last week in Bible study I was challenged by a question our leader asked. How often am I inspired by God's Word? I am inspired quite often. But the next question was harder. How often am I transformed? So often I am inspired without being transformed. It's a good wake-up call to ponder.

I missed devotions several times last week. I don't miss devotions. They've been part of my life like clock-work. But last week was a week where life turned upside-down, and I missed more than I gained. Whenever I do, I think of an article I read a while ago on Desiring God that says we do not rely on devotions for God being pleased with us, or for the grace we need. He is still able to dispense it when we fall short. It's not dependant on our actions.

Some seasons of life have felt like famine times, but this season has felt like a feast, and God has been the good Giver of it. I'm so glad.

I've been having good conversations this week. I'm an INFJ, and I love deep conversations, though I tend to have them more on the phone or in person, or via email perhaps than posting on social media. I love iron sharpening iron. My soul is fed, and my heart encouraged. I'm so grateful for the gift of fellow believers.

I'm slowly starting to get a handle with record-keeping and self-employment. It feels good to be a little more organized. Doors I never expected are opening. Tutoring. Extra jobs that pop up now and then. I get to do interesting work that engages my mind and stretches and teaches me, and that's such a blessing. It feels like something I'm training and getting stronger in, and I love it.

Rediscovering the joys of harp songs has been part of my life the last couple of months. Some of you might not know that I played the harp. I have a heather harp (about the size of a lap harp with a beautiful stand that my grandfather made.) I pulled out some songs again recently on it. I love it and enjoyed practicing again so much. I might even pull out some Christmas songs on it again this year. While I don't have correct form, it's still fun, and I'm OK with being half-correct, I suppose. Nat Bowditch was OK with half-knowing French until somebody made him learn it properly, so maybe someone will force me to learn properly too.

A few days ago I got to do some Scottish Ceilidh dancing--the Gay Gordon and a couple of easy waltzes, which are good because I'm not accomplished at dancing. I love being twirled around and asked to dance. Joy is a precious thing.

Last night something exciting happened on the War of Loyalties front--but I can't say what it is yet. ;)

What have you been up to? Thinking about? Reading in the Bible? Pondering? Have a cup of tea, and we'll chat about life together.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Sometimes you hear of a book, and it automatically associates with a certain season in your mind. To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) always associated with Autumn for me. I'd never read it, but when a friend loaned me her copy (which she had already taken care of the language in) I was really glad to explore it for the first time.

TKAM got onto my to-read list after I heard of Go Set a Watchman, the controversial sequel to Lee's first novel. Amidst a swirl of debate about the suitability of publishing the book, and whether or not Lee was coherent enough to give mindful consent, I really wanted to discover the original book that inspired so much passionate love and nostalgic remembrance on the part of its readers.

It took a while. Like two years later? But all things come in good time. :)

The Story [description below and book cover above from Goodreads]
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

My Thoughts 
TKAM is a detailed story of heart and childhood. If you loved books that managed to capture the eyes of a child, like Laura Ingalls, you'll like Scout. Scout is sharply perceptive, a classic little sister, and a very good protagonist. There are so many things that ring true to childhood experience--Jem and Scout and Dill's fascination with role-playing their hermit neighbor and bullying each other into playing things they wanted to do. The sibling tussles, the struggles with adults, and the golden adventures are classic. 

Atticus, Scout's father, is a fascinating character study. He's not emotionally demonstrative. The most affection he openly shows is allowing Scout to climb up on his lap every night and read the paper with him. He's not cold, but he's not a man of many words. He doesn't struggle to communicate, and he's not a wounded soul. He's a man of precision, a bookworm, and a man of integrity, and yet he still has warmth to him, and you catch glimpses of his love and care for his children. While I would be nervous talking to him, he seems like a man whom one could have a fascinating conversation with. The moment that shows his character the most keenly is when he walks out of the courthouse and people stand because of the kind of man he is.

It's kind of funny, because when I heard about TKAM, I had absolutely no clue what it was about, and it was totally different than I pictured without actually having a picture in my mind. The seclusive neighbor plot was a surprise, and the only thing I knew for sure was the court case plot.

That court case. I've read two gut-wrenching books on racism this year. I wasn't expecting the grief in TKAM, which Jem really epitomizes when he's processing the unfairness of what's going on. It's something so obvious to us--that all shades of skin are one, equal race, and deserve the same justice in the court systems. That all humankind is infected with sin, no shade of skin more so than another. While the subject matter was tough, as a black man is tried for supposedly raping a white woman, the way the court case is played out is legendary, and none of the information is R-rated. It can be a way to answer children's questions quietly and thoughtfully through the means of Scout's eyes. Even so, I'm glad I didn't read it sooner, and I'm really glad I didn't read it last year when I was in the middle of some emotional upheaval. There are some tough, sobering, adult things in Tom Harmon's trial that were even challenging to read this time around.  

While this book has language (many instances) and a mature central plot, it is a heart-warming, full-blooded story. The colorful personalities, the beauty in its writing, and the sense of memory and home pervading its pages combine to make a story that enriches the lives of those who read it. I wish I could be more eloquent in how I feel about it. Please tell me what you love most about To Kill a Mockingbird in the comments! 

P.S. I originally planned this review for last Friday. Life is getting the better of me, folks! I have books lined up in the queue to review, but some work and life projects are commandeering my time right now--I'll see you next Tuesday for a newsy life update, with more reviews to follow in days to come! 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Young Victoria {what young love should look like}

my photo of the dvd cover
On the night of my twenty-third birthday, I watched The Young Victoria. British movies are quintessentially Schuyler, and The Young Victoria is pretty much quintessentially Schuyler too.

*goes off to look up quintessentially* 

I've seen this movie a lot of times. It's one that grips my heart. It made me cry the first few times I watched it. It's a story about a young queen navigating her ascension to the monarchy, trying to fend off a regency, a revolt, and a Tory Parliament. As she makes mistakes and learns how to be a queen, she also learns who she can trust: her prime minister with his smooth words, or her uncle's marriage candidate, Albert.

Victoria has been controlled all her life (some of that is inevitable, being a future monarch). But her controllers in this story don't do so for her benefit, but for their own political advancement. The heart revolts against this kind of treatment, and Victoria needed people who would actually love and support her without self-interest and forceful behavior. Because she was controlled wrongly, she revolts against control when she becomes queen, making some major errors as a result. Ironically enough, she still falls under the control of Lord Melbourne, who pursues his self-interests with kid gloves and smooth compliments rather than Sir John Conroy's threats and force.

Victoria wants to be seen and supported--to be affirmed and loved. Because Lord M fills this role, she doesn't realize that she's fallen into the same trap that she was in before.

Then Albert enters.

Albert takes on a completely different role than John Conroy and Lord M. Instead of controlling Victoria, he becomes a friend, a partner, and a voice of wise affirmation and guidance--two things Victoria really needs. She is, after all somewhere between eighteen and twenty. She needs some help, but she needs it in a tenderer way than she's received thus far. Albert fits that bill. He's quiet, even-keeled, and steady. He's also kind, treating Victoria as someone with intellectual value and affirming her in her efforts to tackle the role she has been given in life. I like Albert. He feels safe--the epitome of 1 Peter 3:7: Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (ESV) While Victoria is not a Christian movie per say, I think Albert and Victoria epitomize what kindness and vision and oneness can look like in a Christian marriage.

There's a scene where they play chess together and Victoria asks, "Do you recommend I find a husband to play [the game] for me?" Albert responds, "I should find someone to play it with you." He neither subordinates his role to his wife's, nor does he devalue hers. Albert is no less a man and a leader for being the husband of the queen of England. He's not there to complete Victoria's life. He's his own man, and doesn't relinquish his leadership role simply because Victoria is socially above him. (I could cheer as he overhauls the palace system and tells Lord M, "I neither ask for nor require your advice.") To put in biblical terms what the movie illustrates, both Victoria and Albert have gifts, personalities, and callings, and their marriage makes them stronger and more able to accomplish the work God called them each to together than they can accomplish apart.

All that to say, it's not just a kind and even-keeled personality that can make for a good Christian marriage. Martin and Katie Luther were two strong-tempered firebrands that had one of the most glorious Christian marriages. But I am not like Katie Luther. I am more like Victoria. And therefore, when it comes to the type of person I'm looking for, characters like Albert resonate with me. I would like a marriage like this movie portrays someday.

Parent Guide:
Sex: One nude statute shown when Victoria is a girl, a row of statues shown in several scenes with King Leopold of Belgium. Victoria and Albert kiss several times. Albert and Victoria share a wedding night roughly around 1:14:47-1:17:22, 1:18:37-1:19-24, and 1:36:25-1:36-47. Some costumes are off the shoulder with low necklines.
Violence: One gunshot, bloody shoulder shown. The palace windows explode.
Language: Two instances--that might be all? 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Happy Birthday, Schuyler!


A certain conversation took place yesterday in an undisclosed location...three people sit in folding chairs in a dimly lit room. One of them is speaking.

Ben: I’m not sure Schuyler would want us to post on the blog. She might not consider it very professional.

Me and Terry: No, no, no, it’s a Grand Idea! We’ll keep it super professional, we promise.

Me: By the way, where’s Jaeryn? Oh wait, here he is!

Jaeryn: *sits down on folding chair* Hey all! Sorry I’m late.

Me: No problem. Long time no see, Jaeryn! What have you been up to?

Terry: *interjects* He’s not been doing anything half so interesting as what I’ve been up to—spending time with Acushla.  By the way, isn’t she supposed to come to this meeting?

Me: Terry, this is our third annual meeting, and Acushla has not come to one of them. Furthermore—

Terry: *mutters* That’s a tradition that has to change.

Me: Furthermore, Terry, you wouldn’t be any help, if she was here. We’d be too distracted trying to keep you from kissing her or something.

Ben: *chuckles* I think he’s distracting us enough as it is.

Terry: Hey, I have an idea!! How about I instagram this conference, so people can see it live?

Me: But Terry, it’s supposed to be secret. What about a live video says secret to you?

Terry: *sadness* But then Acushla could watch it. And I could text her and send her cute heart eye emojis.

Me: But all Schuyler’s other followers could watch it too, and this has to be a spur-of-the-moment thing. Besides, I don’t think Acushla has an Instagram account. Neither do you, now that we come to it. Whose account would you be posting from?

Terry: Colonel King’s! He’s amazing at social media, you know. Has a Pinterest and everything.

Me and Jaeryn: O___o

Ben: What does he post on his Pinterest boards?

Terry: A whole bunch of home d├ęcor stuff. Look at this picture.

[Terry proceeds to shove the phone in our faces, showing us a shiplap dining room with green vine things in it]

Jaeryn: I would have thought his style to be more vintage.

Me: *coughs* Getting back on track….wait, what are we trying to figure out again? Jaeryn missed the beginning of the meeting.

Ben: Whether or not we should post on the blog this year.

Me: Yeah, I mean, I think we should. Think about it. Schuyler’s getting a book published this year!! You guys have to share that joy.

Ben: *coughs*

[Terry says something about everyone having colds.]

Me: Don’t you want to share the joy, Ben?

Ben: I wouldn’t call it a joy to have our stories told to the world. There’s such a thing as confidentiality. And personal SPACE.

Me: Oh Ben, that’s very bad advertising. Once you read the book, you’ll understand why so many people love it. Besides, aren’t you part of Schuyler’s street team? You need to advertise it, so lots of people will buy it.  

Ben: *shakes head* No, I’m actually not yet. Jaeryn is part of it, though.

Jaeryn: *looks up in surprise* No, I’m not.

Me: Well, actually, Ben’s right because I signed you up for it. What about you, Terry? Are you part of Schuyler’s street team?

Terry: Yeah, when I can get ahold of her phone to check my emails. To start the conversation ball rolling, she asked us in the Facebook group what our favorite things were. You want to know what I said?

[Jaeryn and Ben glance at each other.]

Jaeryn: We know what you said, Terry.

Me: Does your Favorite Thing start with A?

Terry: *grins* No, her name actually starts with P.

Ben: And how are you spreading the word, Terry?

Terry: Oh, that’s easy. I just tell Acushla about the book and how grand it will be.

Me: Acushla’s pretty shy, Terry. I’m not sure that telling her reaches a wide audience like Schuyler wants.  

Ben: Fenton almost joined the street team, but Schuyler wouldn’t pay him, so he decided he wouldn’t participate. He was going to tell his clients to buy Schuyler’s book or he wouldn’t investigate their cases anymore.

Me: Now there’s marketing for you.

Terry: *checking emails* I just got an email from McConkey Press! Oh, it’s about voting for a series title.  *glances through the titles* Aw, there’s not one I want to vote for.

Me: But Terry! They’re all fantastic names for a series. What don’t you like about them?

Terry: There’s wasn’t an option for The Acushla Accounts.

Me: *chokes* That alliteration tho.

Ben: We’ve been over this before, Terry. The series is not about Acushla. It’s about loyalty and honor and—

Jaeryn: And a good bit of it is about you, Ben. Don’t forget to say that.

Terry: *leans over to Ben* Selfie time! With face filters!

Ben: I refuse. Absolutely.

Me: I’ll do it, Terry!! Let’s do the koala ears!

[both make funny faces for camera]

Jaeryn: *grimaces* There are at least two of us in this room acting very ridiculous. But I’m not naming names.

 [knock at the door. everyone looks up….
…just the postman leaving a package]

Terry: *walks over to pick it up* Oh, it’s for Schuyler. Probably for her birthday. I’m going to open it.

Jaeryn: *tries to snatch the package away* Terry, don’t you dare.

Terry: Don’t worry, doc! I’ll tape it back up again so she won’t know.

Ben: That’s not the point, Terry. It’s her present. She ought to open it herself.

Terry: *looking at the return address* But it’s from Starlin! I’m definitely opening it. That kid never sends presents to anyone. *rips paper*

Ben: I am not responsible. 

Me: Me neither. Actually, probably I am, because I’m heading this secret meeting up.

Terry: It’s sheet music for her. That’s nice of him. He should play it sometime for me and Acushla. *rifling through tissue paper* OH, and look at this! A Dickens book! Wonder where he found that? *worried* I was just going to get her some chocolate truffles. Do you think that’s not fancy enough?

Jaeryn *twinkling*: I think Schuyler will appreciate the heart behind the gift. Just don’t eat them all before you give them to her.

Terry: Well, I did have one or two….

Ben: I have some house calls to do before the party. Can we get back on track? Are we going to post on the blog or not?

Jaeryn: I vote for posting. I think she’d enjoy it, and after all, it’s a momentous year with publishing and all. We’ve got to help her celebrate. Besides, I bought her a present that I think she’ll like.

[Jaeryn pulls out a box. Three heads get in his way as he tries to open it.]

Jaeryn: Stop that. Get out of there. You’ll all see soon enough.

[Pulls out copy of War of Loyalties.]

Jaeryn: I thought we could all sign our names in it and give it to her.

Me: *squeals*

Ben: I think that’s an excellent idea. Schuyler would love that.

Terry: *reaches for the book * Yeah, can we put a message along with our names? Like, “Will you let me kiss Acushla?” or something like that?

Me and Ben: No, definitely not.

Jaeryn: I’m planning to place a message with my name, so I suppose Terry could be allowed to put something there. I do think we should tweak the wording of his message though.

Ben: What are you going to write as a message, Jaeryn?

Terry: Oh, it will definitely be his vow. And Ben will write something about home and happiness, I suppose. I wonder what Fenton would write?

Me: We’ll probably never know, because I’m not planning to pay him to find out. Okay WoLians, we have to wrap this conversation up; we’re making it super long as it is. Anything special you want to say to Schuyler? Jaeryn, you can go first since you weren’t here for the beginning of the convo.

Jaeryn: I wish her Many Happy Returns and ask her not to treat me too poorly in the upcoming novel. Enigmatic Irishman aren’t always treated in the way they deserve.

Me: We’d better just stick with Many Happy Returns for a proper-sounding birthday wish. You all coming over for brownie cheesecake later?

Terry: You bet! And I’m bringing Acushla too! I’ll finish her piece for her coz she won’t be able to.

Ben: I suppose I could come. As long as the house calls don’t take too long.

Jaeryn: They won’t; I made sure of that. I’ll come too. Brownie cheesecake sounds incredible.

…and thus the curtain falls on these four conspirators.  They wish Lady Bibliophile a happy birthday and they are eagerly looking forward to the release of her upcoming novel. Many Happy Returns of the day!




Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Birthday to the Hobbits!

via Pixabay

September 22nd, Bilbo and Frodo's birthday...

The memories are slowly coming back to me.

I was trying to trace how I first encountered J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. I had asked my dad if he minded me diving into Tolkien, and he gave me the grand go ahead. I've never looked back since.

I ordered it from the library. The Annotated Hobbit, with extra notes about how Tolkien spelled dwarves differently (I prefer his method) and all the different covers various Hobbit editions had. I took the book to bed with me while I couldn't sleep, trying to read without disturbing the rest of the house. (At the time, it required two stifling blankets to keep the light from leaking out. Now I just go in the living room and turn the light on.)

I don't really remember my first reaction to The Hobbit. Some time later, I ordered Lord of the Rings from the library, and they sent me the gorgeous Alan Lee editions. I was too unversed in Tolkien to know I had encountered the most magical version of the books possible. I still smile at the wonderful fortune of receiving those particular editions out of all the books they could have sent.

The journey continued when we attended a Family Economics conference in Illinois. It must have around 2011, (at least after I read Fellowship of the Ring) because R. C. Sproul Jr. compared God to Tom Bombadil in his talk on the tithe of rest, and I knew exactly what he meant. Among the beauties of that vendor hall, there was a used book booth with a paperback version of The Hobbit. I picked it up and read it aloud to my family.

(I still think it's a shame the movie left out all the funny lines in the spider fights of Mirkwood.)

Years later I returned to The Hobbit, stunned by the epic fight at the end of the book. I could picture that fight--and I wish the movies, much as I enjoyed them, would have done a lot more arial shots and fighting around the foot of the mountain like the book described.

When The Hobbit came out in movie form, they made for my first trip to the movie theatre. I don't go often to the theatre, but I do go for films I know I would like. Those movies were my once-a-year treat. While watching The Desolation of Smaug, I tried my first Coca-Cola freestyle machine, where you can mix and match any kind of pop you like. The next year, when The Battle of the Five Armies came out, I bought a tube of waterproof mascara. It still cracks me up to remember sitting at the end of the row of my brother and his friends, being the lone girl crying during the sad scenes. Those were fun years--wondering if Legolas and Bard were going to have an archery match-off in the films, and hoping Legolas would win--loving Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield--hating the dwarves' table manners, which affected my enjoyment of the first Hobbit film for a while. (I got over it.)

In Tolkien's world, I have wept at grief and heart-throbbed with glory, had dozens of conversations about them with friends, watched the movies, listened to the audio drama, and listened to the musical song, "Now and For Always". I've written a post defending Frodo and watched The Two Towers with my dad the day after a late night Celtic Thunder concert. Now we're watching the movies with the sis, and we've almost made it through all six. Just one more to go.

Tonight, I'm making chicken and mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy (because Hobbits love mushrooms.) I wish the hobbits could drop in to dinner, but that's a bit much to expect for fictional characters. So I'll just wish them well, and maybe curl up with a clip from The Hobbit in honor of the occasion.

How did you discover The Hobbit? 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The One Book When You Need Encouragement for Your Passion

I'm always shoving a book towards someone saying, "You should read this!" I love sharing my favorite things. But this time, someone shoved a book towards me.

My mom and sister kept chatting about this book called Chasing Grace. "You should read it, Schuyler!" And when it came up in my review Program, the BookLook Bloggers, it was really destined to be. I needed a quick, easy read that was still enjoyable, so I put it on hold.

It's been a while since I've read a biography, and I've never read a biography of an Olympian before. The experience was inspiring.

The Book
“For as long as I can remember, life has been measured in seconds. The fewer, the better.”

Most people equate success with having more, but Sanya’s quest was always for less. She started running track as a little girl in Jamaica and began competing when she was only seven. At 31 she’s had a career’s worth of conditioning to run a 400-meter race in 50 seconds, hopefully 49, or even better, 48.

When she started training with her coach, Clyde Hart, they divided her race into four phases: push, pace, position, poise, and with the inherent prayer. For years Sanya worked to hone every phase in practice so that when it came time to race, her body would respond as her mind instinctively transitioned from one phase to the next. As she got older and embraced a life that measures more than just a number on the time clock, she has realized the genius of this strategy for not just racing the 400 meters, but for living her best life.

Sanya shares triumphant as well as heartbreaking stories as she reveals her journey to becoming a world-class runner. From her childhood in Jamaica to Athens, Beijing and London Olympics, readers will find themselves inspired by the unique insights she’s gained through her victories and losses, including her devastating injury during the 2016 Olympic Trials forcing career retirement just weeks before Rio. Sanya demonstrates how even this devastating loss brought her closer to the ultimate goal of becoming all God created her to be.

”Sometimes you think you are chasing a gold medal, but that’s not what you are chasing. You’re racing to become the best version of yourself.”
My Thoughts 
Sanya writes in a warm, simple, easy-to-read style. It's a pleasure to read because it flows smoothly and almost feels like she's having a conversation with you. I love conversational literature. Her life of intense training on the track reminded me in some ways of the training process my sister undergoes for the Bible Bee competition--it's a long process with a brief off-season, and she has to stay pretty intense and focused to keep in shape--just like Sanya.

I was inspired by two things in particular--one was the four phases of the race, which Sanya calls "the four Ps". You cannot always run the race by pushing off and going at the top of your game and energy. Eventually, you have to pace yourself into a steady rhythm so you don't burn out. The discipline of pushing hard at the start and then holding a steady rhythm made a lot of sense, and I want to incorporate it into my projects and mindset as I work.

Another inspiring thing about Sanya's training was just the sheer discipline on the track every day. I had a really tired week last week, and didn't do too great on the rhythm side of things. It's OK to take a break sometimes (pacing, after all) but I want to press on, and not fall into bad habits that could derail the work God has set before me. I hope to remember Sanya's example and techniques to encourage me to run the race faithfully and constantly.

Also, I loved the section when her body could no longer hold out in the running, and she had to retire. Passing the baton into the next season of life with grace was really helpful. I loved the inspiring finish to her book.

I love Sanya's passion. I'm passionate about what I do, and this book gave me tools I needed to run the race well. I highly recommend it for an inspirational and inspiring read.

I recieved this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, September 15, 2017

8 Book Suggestions for the Reformation 500


The 500th anniversary of the Reformation that changed the Church as we know it is fast closing in. With that in mind, I thought I'd put together a Reformation reading list, because we still have a couple of months left in which to tackle some books.

*deep breaths* we can do this 

I haven't read all of these yet, so they don't come with 100% guarantee. But they look to be great ones to take a peek at, and I'm going to try to get through at least a couple more of them before the year is out.

1. Martin Luther and His Katie, by Dolina MacCuish
This book is an excellent, quick look at the lives of Martin and Katie and their marriage together. It's a quick read. I heartily enjoyed it, and recommend it for a brief introductory overview.

2. Ladies of the Reformation, by J.H. Alexander
An absolutely stellar book to invest in, this book specifically covers women during the Reformation. Each chapter gives a brief snapshot of different womens' lives, and this was a great starting point for a Women of the Reformation set I'm writing for my Christian girls' group--I'm adding Scripture lessons to go along with their lives.

3. Martin Luther, by Eric Metaxas
While I haven't read this one yet, I've enjoyed Metaxas' biographies of Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce, and his engaging style of writing. While Metaxas wavers wildly off-base on how God created the earth in his book Miracles, I've enjoyed his history based stuff, and I'm looking forward to reading his thoughts on Luther.

4. Rescuing the Reformation, by Erwin Lutzer
I'm going to borrow this book from my mom as soon as I finish my current read. I think this will give a great general overview (Yes, it was supposed to be on my summer reading list. I'm behind.)

5. Reformation Heroes, by Joel Beeke
A beautiful coffee-table book illustrating the lives of various reformers, this is another great introduction to look at for your children or even yourself if you want a big-picture view of Reformation history.

6. Katharina and Martin Luther, by Michelle DeRusha
I haven't read this one, but I'd really, really like to. It's a longer biography about the marriage of Martin and Katie Luther.

7. The Thunder, by Douglas Bond
If you'd like a look at this Scottish Reformer and enjoy Douglas Bond's fiction, this is a great one to check out.

8. The Betrayal, by Douglas Bond
A fantastic fictional biography of Calvin (told, ironically enough, through the eyes of someone who hates him) this will give you another wonderful portrait of Calvin's life and scholarship. Note: Some PG-13 elements of immorality in the church and burnings/torture which may be disturbing for some readers.

Are you celebrating the Reformation this year? Which books would you add to this list?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Tale of Endurance Every Kid Needs to Read

cover via Goodreads 
Jim Weiss' warm, smooth style of narrating kept us company through severals audiobooks growing up. The one I've come back to most over the years is his audiobook edition of Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. It's a children's classic that I look forward to reading to my own kids: a tale of the sea, of love and family and a young man who persevered through incredible odds after the death of his educational dream, his siblings, and his first love.

While that sounds sobering, it's actually an upbeat tale full of educational interest. Including things like the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, facts about navigation and shipbuilding, and Nat's interest in foreign languages, as well as interspersed beats of humor, you could spend a lot of time discussing various aspects of it in a school curriculum.

I don't own a copy of Carry On, Mr. Bowditch yet, but I did actually find a copy of Nat's book, The American Practical Navigator at a local book sale (not an original edition, but pretty cool to look through, especially since it's so thick.)

But what I'm most excited about when I read it is the themes of the tale itself. Nat Bowditch had nothing handed to him. He was smart enough to go to Harvard, but his dad couldn't make ends meet, so Nat was indentured for nine years--from the time he was twelve until the time he was twenty-one. By that time in history, it was too late to go to college. His dream was dead. Instead of despairing, in a moving imagery of sailing by ash breeze (having to use the oars when there is no wind) Nat taught himself countless things he needed to know simply by having a learning, hungry mind.

Nat learned diligently (he wasn't stumped by anything too hard, even learning Latin to read Newton's Principia). Nat's learning wasn't quick, though he was bright. The story shows him taking months, over a year, to learn Latin, translating Principia sentence by sentence so he could read it.

Nat is a stellar example of a diligent hard worker who keeps on dreaming, keeps on learning, and doesn't forget to turn back and give a helping hand to someone else so they can learn too. His investment in sailors who never would have been able to be first mates without his help showed that in spite of his brilliant learning, he was able to maintain humility.

The characters that people Nat's world--from sweet Elizabeth Boardman with "eyes in the back of her heart" to Polly, with her installments of common sense and good conversation to keep Nat on track with his writing deadlines--to David's funny, adorable romance with Nat's sister, Mary, offer sweetness and love to counterbalance Nat's earnest pursuit of mathematics. It's a world you won't want to miss, written simply enough to delight the children in your life, while being deep and timeless enough to challenge and warm the heart of any adult who reads it along with them. If sons of mine (or daughters) pick up on Nat as a role model, I'll be pretty happy.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A United Kingdom {movie review}

Have you signed up for the War of Loyalties street team yet? Applications close the evening of September 9th! Don't miss the chance for a private street-team view of the War of Loyalties publication process! Check out the details here: 
http://ladybibliophile.blogspot.com/2017/09/announcing-mcconkey-press-street.html

my photo of the movie cover

After watching Rosamund Pike in Wives and Daughters and the 2007 Pride and Prejudice, I think I wanted to watch A United Kingdom just because she was in it. Then as I researched more about the movie to see if it would be worth watching, the story itself grabbed me.

After working hard on War of Loyalties, (and using the soundtrack for this movie again and again as I edited) I decided it was time to pick it up from the library and see if it was any good. So this Sunday afternoon I popped it in the laptop and gave it a try.

The Story
A United Kingdom explores a true-to-life story about a black king of Bechuanaland marrying a white English girl, and the persecution they both endured for their interracial marriage in the 1960s. (I say interracial, wishing there was a better term. I don't believe in different human races.) As Seretse and Ruth try to establish a home in Africa, the prejudice of their families and the opposition of the British government make a happily-ever-after seem next to impossible.

My Thoughts 

  • The opening scenes of Ruth and Seretse's early relationship didn't grab me. They meet in secret, going to jazz dances and taking long moonlit walks together. While Rosamund Pike makes for a mature actress in what doesn't seem like a mature situation, I wouldn't want to handle a relationship as a temporary fling, and jazz dance halls didn't seem like good places to hang out. (Though the line when her little sister said, "He says you could bring me if you want to," and Rosamund says "I don't" is a hilarious zinger.)
  • Rosamund Pike is a pleasure to watch. I appreciate watching some of her interviews because she speaks in a cultured, thoughtful way. She brings maturity to movies (the only sister in the 2007 Pride and Prejudice I truly liked *ducks tomatoes*) and her character has a strength for the challenges of life that is cast in iron without being feministic. She plays a wonderful helpmeet and wife who is able to hold fast in the midst of prejudice and separation from her husband. 
  • After Ruth and Seretse's marriage, when they arrive in Africa, I really pick up with the movie and the emotions it portrays. This marriage was hard for everyone. It was hard for Ruth and Seretse, who didn't deserve persecution simply because of the color of their skin. It was hard for Seretse's uncle, who had raised his nephew to be a king of his people and expected him to take a native wife. And I can't imagine what it was like for Ruth's parents, who saw their daughter marry a man not culturally acceptable and receive persecution from the British government. I'm sure they would have wanted something more respectable and safe for their daughter. While there are villains in this film, there are also real people with real emotions and concerns on all sides of the issue, and I think that brings a more realistic, fully-fleshed view to history than taking only one side on the question. 
  • As well as the main story of the marriage, there's also a subplot as the British government looks for diamonds in Bechuanaland without the knowledge of the people, and Seretse tries to secure the mineral rights for his nation. You see that there's a lot more going on under the surface than an interracial marriage. The British people are fighting for control of Bechuanaland in one of their less shining moments. 
  • While A United Kingdom is a secular film, it offers a good example of marriage--a couple committing to stay true to each other whether together or separated, in hard times and in beautiful ones. 

Not only is this educative about a real-life situation, but A United Kingdom also offers a fun and moving 2-hour British drama for when you're looking for a quality British movie to relax with (as I often am.) With a few brief exceptions of scenes I'd skip, I highly recommend it.

In fact, this article about the real story and the making of the movie might give you a fun Friday read as well: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/11/04/the-true-story-of-the-first-president-of-botswana-and-the-englis/

Parent Guide:
Language: Scattered handful of 6+ instances. Some racial epithets.
Sex: Skippable scene of the wedding night after Ruth and Seretse exchange rings at their wedding. Flirtatious scene of the two of them together in their hotel room after they arrive in Africa. Ruth and Seretse are sitting together on their porch, and Seretse makes a comment about not marrying her because she's beautiful. Ruth says "Liar" and pulls up her skirt hem.
Violence: Brief fistfight in an alley.
Other: Smoking, references to various alcohols, Ruth and Seretse exchange kisses as a married couple.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Announcing the McConkey Press Street Team+Newsletter!


It's time.

what what what schuyler, please tell me 

Fall is the time for cuddling up with a cup of cocoa and a big book (War of Loyalties is about the size of Wives and Daughters or Little Dorrit) and I want to get the book into your hands. Today, I'm excited to make two announcements as the War of Loyalties publication season starts heating up!

Join the Street Team
To be honest, street teams have always sounded like one of the most incredibly fun parts of publishing a book. I mean....who wouldn't want a special community to fangirl and chat with?

I've always loved getting review books and being part of a couple of street teams has been no end of fun. For me, the writing process is truly most complete and most enjoyable when it can be shared. And I would love to share it with you in an inside way.

If you've ever loved War Horse, bought multiple copies of Sherlock Holmes, worn out Great Expectations, or waited week by week for the next episode of Victoria, then I would love to have you join this team of people. We're going to have lots of fun together as we strategize about how to spread the word of War of Loyalties' upcoming release!

Street Team Commitments 
1. Spread the word about the book's release through social media platforms.
2. Help with blog posts, interviews, and guest posts leading up to the release of War of Loyalties.
3. Request the book at local libraries.
4. Join in praying for the book release and the details leading up to it.
5. Review the book on vendor sites and Goodreads (encouraged but not required).
6. And more to come!

Street Team Benefits 
1. Read ebook copies of War of Loyalties (Due cost and budgeting, I'm so sorry I can't offer print copies for this book release. ARC ebooks will be available to street team members sometime in October!)
2. Get exclusive extra scenes connected with the novel characters.
3. Sneak peeks and opportunities to weigh in on future McConkey Press story ideas (including the War of Loyalties sequel!)
4. Recieve a first peek at the book cover!
5. Fellowship with a vibrant community of historical fiction lovers, readers, and writers.
6. Special surprise swag in the mail now and then as a thank-you for all your efforts!
7. Share prayer requests, life updates, and writing/reading related news of your own with each other on special thread posts.

How Do I Sign Up? 
Do you wanna be a Samwise? I would LOVE to have you apply to join the street team! The Google sign-up form is open until September 9th (Jaeryn's birthday!)  and accepted applicants will be emailed a link to a street team Facebook group the following week!

Just a note: don't panic if your social media stats are small. I want a great team, not just a widespread social media reach!

To join the street team, just click the link below:


But wait! There's more! Love the sound of the street team, but not sure about the commitment? Want a chance to weigh in on some secret War of Loyalties details?

There's something for you, too!

Join the McConkey Press Newsletter

Before War of Loyalties is printed, I still need to decide on a series title! A sneak peek at the series title choices (and your chance to tell me which ones you like) will be exclusively for newsletter subscribers. Sign up below and keep a lookout for the first newsletter, coming in the next couple of weeks to an inbox near you! :)

Here's how to join:
1. Put your email in the white box and click "Subscribe".
2. You'll receive an email with a subject line that says something like "McConkey Press Newsletter: Please Confirm Subscription." Open the email and click the link inside to confirm your subscription. (Very important!) This email may be in your "Social" or "Promotions" tab if you have a Gmail address. Or in Spam.
3. You're all set! A newsletter will be coming out sometime in the next couple of weeks! :)

Subscribe to McConkey Press

* indicates required




Whew! That's a lot of exciting news for one day, bibliophiles. I'm so excited with all the Lord has in store!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Movie Review: War Horse

photo credit via War Horse official Facebook page

This week, after a tutoring appointment, I stopped at the big library we don't normally go to and meandered through their used book section. On a rolling cart, they had a stack of DVDs. I never find used DVDs that I want to buy, but since I love movies, I scanned through them anyway.

War Horse was on the second side, bottom shelf. For $1.00.

I popped open the case and looked at the back of the DVD. It had a few scratches--probably wouldn't work, I thought. But...or $1.00...I'd never seen it, but I'd heard good things about it.

Who could say no?

The Story 
It's about a horse--

oh my, schuyler, i never would have guessed. 

--who's bought and sold to help a family make the rent on their farm. Leaving a heartbroken boy behind, who's too young to enlist and travel with him, Joey the horse enters the tragic world of WW1 trenches, where he shuttles back and forth between British, German, and French owners. As the war drags on, Joey's miraculous courage and tenacity bring heart to a horrible fight. But miracles are limited, and the war is a long one. Will Joey ever be reunited to the home he was torn away from?

Release Year: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Composer: John Williams
My Rating: 4.5 stars

My Thoughts 
Well, when I brought the DVD home, I had to find out if it worked. And fair warning: once you start, it's really hard to stop. Here are the things I loved most:

  • The Devon scenery is beyond spectacular. (I'm assuming it's Devon? Albert, the boy who loves Joey, refers to being from Devon.) It looks like a painted landscape panorama of rocks and rolling hills for the first few minutes of the movie. Interestingly enough, the War Horse Twitter feed said all the sunsets in the movie were real sunsets--not special effects. 
  • When Joey's owner, Ted Narracott, faces the consequence of how his drinking affects his family, he asks his wife if her love for him has changed. In her terse, unsentimental way, Rose says, "I might hate you more, but I'll never love you less." One of the good things about this movie is that Rose sees her husband's faults and the war trauma he has never recovered from and still works hard to stick with him. The movie doesn't tie their struggles up in a neat little bow. Instead, it shows how a family can stick together even with deep-seated flaws and parts about each other that they can't understand. A deep and abiding love can run through and hold together imperfect people. I liked that. (Plus, Rose's purple outfit was my fav.) 
  • What really impressed me throughout the movie was the tough choices the director/screenwriter were willing to make for a war film. Whenever there was a twist in the plot or a dark moment, they rarely gave the easy way out. Joey and Albert save the farm only to have another catastrophe undo all their hard work. A soldier makes it all the way through the trenches only to die at the end. Joey escapes the Germans only to run through barbed wire (more than once). The characters taste victory, but victory is rarely handed to them. You feel the cost of the war. 
  • In counterbalance to the last point, another thing I loved about War Horse was the moments of heart in the midst of horror. Albert finds camaraderie with a Devon boy who was his former rival. A British soldier and a German one strike up a brief friendship over their compassion for Joey. Joey looks out for another horse, Topthorn, when Topthorn is struggling to pull the heavy guns up the hill. Albert looks into the face of a stricken soldier who's just been ordered to kill any of his comrades who run back from the trenches and tries to bolster him with courage. 
  • My favorite scene of the entire movie was the moment early on in the film when Albert realizes he's got to teach this spirited horse how to plow one of the worst, rockiest, un-plowable fields, so they can save his mum and dad's farm. The scene that followed was moving with its endurance in the midst of jeers and obstacles and showed the blessing of stubborn tenacity in the face of impending loss. The obstacle is a more innocent one than the life-threatening dangers Joey faces in the war, but it's bright, shining heart has so much warmth and love to it. 
In reading a bit on Wikipedia about the book and the screenplay, the movie seems to strike a nice balance the two and their differences. War Horse isn't a film for giggles. It's a heart-wrenching depiction of the great hardship of war that fills you with twin emotions of grief and inspiration. In spite of the sorrow, you walk away with a lifted step--a grander, bigger kind of courage that makes you want to go write about something great. It's a story of tenacity through hardship, compassion for suffering, the grief of separation, and the hope of love. Any story that can capture those big emotions and capture them well is worth the time it takes to watch. 

I'll be watching War Horse again. And again. And again. 

Have you seen War Horse? What did you like about it? 


Parent Guide 
It's a bit dangerous giving a parent guide after seeing a movie only once. I don't always catch everything the first time. I mute and fast-forward at necessary moments in movies I decide to watch, so before I pop them in, I generally do a quick search on PluggedIn or IMDb Parent Guide (search the movie title and scroll down the page until you get a link for parent advisory in the "Storyline" section.) Then I'm not caught off guard: I at least know what's coming.

Sexual Content: None.
Language: at least 4 different swear words, 6+ instances of language.
Violence: Men are shot or killed with sword thrusts in battle, a horse runs through barbed wire, two men are executed in a firing squad, soldiers face gas in the trenches, horses are abused.
Other: Man struggles with intoxication, brief instances of cigarette smoking.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

One Book About Racism Everyone Needs to Read

Perhaps it would surprise you to know that I haven't always been much involved in current events.

I know of them. I follow them a little, from friends' Twitter streams, and things I read on the news.

But in the last year, my hands have been full in a smaller, local way that doesn't give much energy for larger scale following. Still, I want to pray more. I want to care more.

And the book I just read may be a first step towards doing that.

My first time reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, for a curriculum that I'll be teaching this year, moved my heart.

It's a book everyone needs to read.

The Book (description below and above cover from Goodreads)

Why is the land so important to Cassie's family? It takes the events of one turbulent year—the year of the night riders and the burnings, the year a white girl humiliates Cassie in public simply because she's black—to show Cassie that having a place of their own is the Logan family's lifeblood. It is the land that gives the Logans their courage and pride—no matter how others may degrade them, the Logans possess something no one can take away.

My Thoughts
This isn't a book that homeschool families might pick up naturally. The language is grittier--even that the children use. The story is a dark one, with a destructive character arc. It's not a light, summer read. Even the escapades that the children go on have darker, sinister undertones because of the prejudice that existed at the time. They might play a joke to get the better of a white child, but that could unravel a whole string of tragic events if they weren't careful.

 At nine years old, Cassie has been protected by her parents from thinking she is "less than" because she isn't white. But Cassie is gradually going to more places outside her home. In the wider world, she finds that she isn't treated fairly, and her parents can't always defend her, no matter how much they love her.

The daily walk to school, where they're splashed by the white kids' school bus and then ridiculed. Having to call a white girl "Miss". Not getting served at the stores. Hearing of neighbors receiving burn injuries from white men and never put on trial for it. Black people receiving the death sentence for white men's' crimes. These are heavy themes. They're themes that are dealt soberly and truly with, but also through the eyes of a 9-year-old protagonist, which takes some of the edge off for younger readers.

The ending is a vital and important ending for a book tackling the racial injustice issues. It is not happy. It is not easy. It is eye-opening. It grips your heart and leaves you angry at the injustice the characters grieve over. For issues like this, the ending must not carry a comfortable conclusion. It must leave the reader dissatisfied and restless, ready to get up and do something about it all. It's not a call to entertainment. It's a call to action, to look and be appalled, and ask the question, "Is this still alive today?"

Racism is a blot upon the church. This book can be a tool used to introduce children to the tragedy and horror of racism at the appropriate time, so that they, too, can have a heart for the oppressed. I don't know all the ins and outs of the modern fight against racism. I see things that concern me about it. It requires more research and more thought. While this book might not be for everyone, I appreciate what I learned from it for my own heart. It will be a privilege to guide a discussion of this book in the upcoming school year, and fit it into a picture of how Christ would have us treat all people created in God's image.

Friday, August 18, 2017

2 Grammar Tools Every Writer Needs

via Pixabay

I don't know about you, but for me, catching stray typos isn't easy.

Sometimes I look back through private messages and just cringe.

I can't help with spell check for private messages, but over the last couple of years, I've found a couple of great tools for grammar checking that can at least take out some of the guesswork. If you write stories, emails or even Facebook posts and tweets, one if not both of these resources can make a huge difference in providing a second eye for your work!

(Note: This post doesn't have affiliate links. I just love the products!)

1. Grammarly
I stumbled on Grammarly when I started teaching writing lessons, I think. Sometimes I was stumped by a piece of homework and wanted a second opinion. Grammarly.com lets you upload documents (lengthy ones, but the free version limits the length) and it will give you a basic grammar check. If you buy Grammarly Premium, they'll check even more details for you, but, while I'd like the premium someday, I found that the free version does a very, very good job. Grammarly will suggest a fix, you can click on the fix they suggest, and it will automatically insert the correct spelling/punctuation for that particular word. Some of its fixes aren't always correct, so you don't have to apply all their suggestions, but they do a great job in general.

Grammarly can also be installed as a plug-in on your internet browser. What does that mean? Every time you type something, whether it's an email, or a Facebook post, or a Facebook comment, or a tweet, you'll see a little circle at the bottom of your post/email with the number of fixes Grammarly has suggested. The incorrect words in your posts and emails will be underlined in red, and you can hover your mouse over the word to see the suggested fix. Grammarly is even checking this blog post as I type!

Not only does Grammarly have a website and an internet plug-in, but it can also be installed into your Microsoft Word program (I've never used a Mac, so I don't know about Mac users--sorry!) Once installed, you can type up your document, click the Grammarly tab at the top left of your screen, and it will show the fixes for you. In Word, Grammarly doesn't show up the mistakes in your document as you go along. You actually have to click on the Grammarly button for them to reveal the suggested changes. My computer is in good health, so this option works well for me. As it slows down with age, the Grammarly plug-in will definitely slow down opening up Word (it opens a little slower with the added plug-in) so I may have to remove it temporarily as my computer ages.

I've used Grammarly all three ways and definitely recommend it. You can find the official website by clicking here. Also, Grammarly sends you weekly emails with a fun summary of statistics about your writing, which I always enjoy seeing in my inbox.

2. ProWriteAid 
I first heard of Pro Writing Aid through Steve Mathisen, a great editor who you can find by clicking here. Once I looked it up, I really liked what I saw, so much so that I bought a $40 year's subscription, and will probably buy the lifetime $140 option when this year is up. Pro Writing Aid gives you a much more robust check than Grammarly, though they both have good uses. Pro Writing Aid could very quickly look overwhelming, so Grammarly is a good choice to ease into things.

Pro Writing Aid offers a multitude of different options that help you improve the style of your work as well as the grammar. It will show you if all your sentence lengths are the same, or if you have good variety. It will show you if your quotation marks are straight or curly (There are two kinds. I had no idea.) It will show you how many repeats you have of certain words. It goes over grammar, style, cliche phrases, and so much more. Pro Writing Aid also gives you a nifty summary with fun info like how many paragraphs and sentences you have, your most unusual words, and your most repeated words.

Pro Writing Aid allows you to copy and paste your Word document into their website and check it there. But the word count they allowed you to check for free was limited, and I preferred paying the $40 to be able to check larger portions of my work. Pro Writing Aid also allows you to install their program into Microsoft Word, so you can keep Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid, and your story all in one spot.

While I haven't used Pro Writing Aid for very long yet, it seems like a valuable tool, and I'm looking forward to using it a lot more in days to come. I highly recommend trying it out by clicking here.

Grammar is important, but it's hard, too. I'm so grateful for tools like Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid which help make it easier. They give stories that extra polish to take it to the next level.
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