Posted in What I'm Learning, Work

Slow Processes

Don’t you just love how God can teach lessons during every season of life?

This season of not having a personal writing rhythm has lasted much longer than I would have chosen. Even when it seemed like I was writing regularly, I wasn’t. It was hit and miss. In fact, it has been several years since I have had a good rhythm. And for the longest time, I have seen that only as a negative thing. I’ve wondered why God has not helped me find a rhythm for something that obviously nourishes and grows me.

But here’s the thing…God doesn’t see things like I do. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I don’t see things the way God does, at least not at first. In fact, so many of my experiences are times of needing to gradually gain His vision. Sometimes I’m slow and He has to delay so that I can catch up. But other times I think it’s just the nature of growth. We often want to learn things quickly, but the more quickly we learn, the less we retain. Slow learning – slow progress in almost anything – usually means much more solid retention and growth.

There’s a quote in George MacDonald’s novel The Landlady’s Master that I love, one I recall when I’m frustrated with slow progress. In an idealogical discussion, one character presents ideas and perspectives that seem dreadfully slow and ineffective to his conversation partner. His response concludes with, “All God’s processes are slow. The works of God take time and cannot be rushed.”

That has definitely been true of my writing journey. It has been extremely slow – excruciatingly so at times. But in the process, and especially in this most recent stretch in which a personal writing rhythm has been so elusive, I have learned at least one very important lesson. To really explain it, I need to back up a few years, back to a time when my writing was regular and I had a solid rhythm.

Every morning, I journaled. Throughout the day I would keep a notebook or planner handy to jot notes. I had a notebook in Evernote strictly devoted to writing ideas. Writing fodder piled up so high that I could not write quickly or frequently enough to utilize it all! But as time went on, I began to notice that the ideas were harder and harder to flesh out. What had been great inspiration when I wrote it down was simply an empty statement by the time I got around to fleshing it out. At first I thought it was because I didn’t flesh out the thoughts quickly enough, losing the essence before I could actually write the post. So, I began to take more thorough notes. But, that often failed as well.

It took me a while to realize that the problem was not with the ideas. The problem was with me.

At one time, I’d written from the outflow of what I was learning and experiencing in life. But, somewhere along the way, that changed. Blog writing became the goal instead of the outflow. Instead of internalizing the inspiration, lessons, and Spirit whispers coming to me throughout life, I was simply writing about them.

Over time, the writing well began to dry up. My journal showed huge gaps because I seemed to have nothing to write, even for my own edification. I had not stopped growing altogether, but my growth was stunted because my focus was distracted.

Slowly but surely, I have had to relearn how to journal for the sake of journaling. How to hash through ideas for the sake of real growth. How to remember that life is not blog fodder. Writing is, instead, an outflow of what I just cannot keep cooped up inside as God molds and transforms my heart.

Looking back at it all, I can see why God has not yet granted the wisdom for a writing rhythm. He’s been slowly working on me. Who knows when I’ll be ready for the next step? I hope it’s soon, but I have a little more patience these days now that I’ve realized it all comes down to God taking His time working on me. Working out His slow processes.

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Posted in Reviews

Deeds of Darkness

This week I recruited a “guest” reviewer. My daughter Angela has loved reading Mel Starr’s Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton. So, when the most recent addition to the series came up for review, she asked for the chance to read and review it! Here’s what she has to say:

Deeds of Darkness is the tenth book in Mel Starr’s Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton.  Hugh de Singleton, a surgeon and bailiff, must weave through a series of seemingly unconnected murders to discover the truth behind them. A man named Hubert Shillside, has gone missing, and Hugh finds himself in the midst of strife and deceit in his attempt to find his friend. While searching for any signs of Hubert, a body is found in a forest. Several robberies occur around the same time, including a robbery of Hugh’s father-in-law’s shop. The identity of the criminals is hidden, with the only clues being a wisp of green wool, men in scholar robes, and a stained book. As feuding townsfolk and a murdered heir find their way into the tangle of mysteries, Hugh must locate the end of the trail and bring the criminals to justice.

I found this book an excellent read.  The plot is absorbing and holds together well, while the twists and turns keep the readers anticipating until the very end. The mystery was enthralling to watch unfold. Starr introduces new characters and develops old ones well. Deeds of Darkness continues the series well, while still standing on its own plot. This book also upholds Starr’s excellent writing abilities and historical knowledge fantastically.

This book was sent to me by Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey

When you pick up a novel that includes romance, it is almost always obvious from the beginning which characters will fall in love by the end. The challenge for an author is to recognize that the conclusion is not a mystery, yet keep the reader wondering how in the world it could possibly come to fruition. That is the key to writing romance well, and it is a key that Carolyn Miller handles with finesse.

The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey is book three of Carolyn Miller’s Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series. I was introduced to the series this spring with The Elusive Miss Ellison, and enjoyed book two, The Captivating Lady Charlotte over the summer. The delight of the series is such that, although it was relatively easy to see which character the author would focus on in each subsequent release, the playing out of each lady’s story was anything but predictable. In fact, Carolyn Miller tackles quite the challenge with this third title when she takes a young lady who was somewhat of a villain in the first two books and turns her into the lead character of The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey.

Miss Clara DeLancey was once among the most eligible of London’s high society. But when the Earl of Hawkesbury, the one man who held her interest, rejected her in favor of the “unworthy” Lavinia Ellison, bitterness toward both the earl and his bride buried itself deep into her soul. Then, if the rejection had not caused enough damage, scandal visited her family in another fashion, reducing them from the most admired of London society to the subjects of juicy gossip. Retreating to a modest life in Brighton, Clara finds every foundation of her life – her beauty, wealth, and status – stripped away, leaving her with little to stand on.

Clara finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Mattie McPherson and Tessa Kemsley, two sisters who exhibit a genuine love unlike anything she has ever known. Unfortunately, the Viscountess Winpoole, Clara’s mother, still clings to the pride of their station and considers her daughter’s newfound friends to be appalling company. But something stronger than society and status keeps the desperate Miss DeLancey hungry for the company of her new friends, not to mention their somewhat intimidating brother, Captain Benjamin Kemsley.

Anyone who has read the first two books in the Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series will expect a beautiful romance in The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey. But the true beauty of this novel is not the love story between and man and a woman. It’s the love story of redemption. Of the way God works in even the most prideful of hearts, turning them toward Himself. This story is woven naturally and seamlessly into the fabric of the novel, turning a delightful historical romance into something so much deeper.

My girls and I have fallen in love with the Regency Brides series and definitely recommend all three titles!

This book was sent to me by Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

The Promise of Dawn

Well, it seems as if I am only getting reviews written these days, but I’m definitely thankful for the chance to write those and encourage other writers in their endeavors. It can be hard to imagine that a prolific writer such as Loraine Snelling would be encouraged by reviews such as mine, but maybe you will be nourished by reading her novels as I share them with you, thus encouraging her to keep up the good work!

It’s no secret that I love fiction. And although romance just for the sake of romance is not my favorite genre, I do enjoy the novels that have romance brewing while deeper issues are being dealt with. But, most of us spend a good deal more time living life after the giddy feelings of a new romance. So, it is nice to see Christian fiction that matches that stage of life as well.

That is where The Promise of Dawn fits.

Opening in Norway where the Carlson family struggles simply to put food on the table, The Promise of Dawn proceeds across the ocean and over land to Minnesota where Rune and Signe Carlson and their three sons intend to help an uncle and his wife clear timber from their farmland. Rune embraces the opportunity, expecting his family to flourish in America in ways they never could in Norway. But Signe’s concerns fill her with reluctance from the moment the invitation arrives. An illness-filled journey and cold welcome do not ease her mind in any way.

Signe’s fears are confirmed as her family interacts more with Uncle Einer and Aunt Gerd, feeling the burden of their thankless, demanding hosts. As the weeks pass, the Carlsons wonder if they will ever find the better life Rune had dreamed of for his family.

The Promise of Dawn is real life. The perspective, understanding, and struggles of Rune and Signe remind me of my own experiences with newness and unexpected disappointments. I could feel the weight of discouragement, challenged faith, waning hope, and strained relationships as I walked with the Carlson family through challenges that seemed to have no foreseeable end. How often do we feel the same? Even though The Promise of Dawn is set over a hundred years ago in a time and culture long gone, the nature of the challenges remain the same.

That is why The Promise of Dawn was so refreshing, even while reading of seemingly insurmountable challenges. It was reminder that our choices in attitude, relationship, and spiritual growth are critical, whether our circumstances change or not.

The Promise of Dawn is book one in the Under Northern Skies series, and the characters are connected to Loraine Snelling’s two Red River series. I look forward to going back and meeting some of those characters while also getting to know the Carlsons a little better as the Under Northern Skies series continues. Loraine Snelling is definitely an author I would recommend and want to explore more myself!

This book was sent to me by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

Walk It Out

Years ago, I became a fan of Tricia Goyer when I read her book Blue Like Play Dough. Then I got my hands on From Dust and Ashes, and I was completely hooked. Years later, I am honored to call Tricia a friend, but that doesn’t make me any less of a fan. I have had the privilege of seeing glimpses of her living out – in real life – what I once only read about in her books.

Walk It Out is a bit of that glimpse for Tricia’s readers. In every other book she writes, readers see this beautiful woman’s heart. But, in Walk it Out, Tricia gives a glimpse of the challenges, responses, and real-life growth behind the stories and non-fiction that have touched the lives of so many.

Tricia Goyer’s life today differs greatly from the dreams she held as a child. The girl who once dreamed of being a classroom teacher has homeschooled her three oldest through graduation and continues to homeschool her remaining seven children. The teen tortured teen who walked in hidden shame over her decision to abort her first child now openly shares her story to aid in the healing of other women. The task-oriented perfectionist has learned that the rewards of relationships rise above the rewards of a spotless house. Walk It Out shares the story of how Tricia learned these lessons and many more.

Two themes actively reveal themselves in Walk It Out. First, Tricia stresses the importance of growth through a relationship with Christ, obtained only through prayer and time in the Word of God. Secondly, lessons cannot truly be learned unless they are followed up with action. Each chapter in Walk It Out clearly shows Scripture and action that accompanied every step of growth God has walked her through.

But, I also see a third theme: community. In every chapter, Tricia’s story shows how integral the family of Christ has been in her growth. Fellow believers loved on her when she felt unlovable, received her story when she expected rejection, and surrounded her to walk alongside her when she stepped forward in actions of obedience. The community of faith is critical, and that shines through every single page of Walk It Out.

Walk It Out is, without a doubt, my new favorite of Tricia Goyer’s non-fiction, and I look forward to sharing it with others for years to come.

Posted in Reviews

Liar’s Winter

It never ceases to surprise me how beauty and tragedy can not only dwell side by side, but can be so intertwined that the full beauty could not exist without the tragedy. Today I get to review a book that powerfully depicts such an intertwining.

Liar’s Winter by Cindy K. Sproles is the story of a young woman who has known nothing but shame her entire life. For the superstition-ridden mountain folk among whom she lives, any little anomaly is the sign of evil, and Lochiel Ogle is living proof of that harsh reality. Born with a red-wine birthmark on one side of her face and neck, Lochiel has been raised with the understanding that the mark brands her as the Devil’s own daughter. Time and again she is reminded that her birth mother discarded her in fear and she would not be alive at all were it not for the kindness of the Ogles who have hidden her away and protected her from the prying eyes of the mountain folk.

But when Lochiel’s brother attacks her and leaves her for dead, the hands of a stranger bring rescue and an introduction to the world beyond the Ogle’s yard. Even more than that, her rescuer possesses a kindness – a real love – that plants seeds of doubt in her mind. Did the man she called Poppy and the woman she called Momma ever truly love her? Or had their raising been something else entirely?

I honestly did not know what to expect when I picked up this novel. The description intrigued me, but I anticipated that I would read it, review it, then stick it on my shelf and forget about it. The opposite occurred. Liar’s Winter captivated me from page one. I felt drawn into Lochiel’s very soul as I watched events unfold from her perspective. Superstition, abuse, fear, and stubbornness collided with love and faith as Lochiel slowly discovered the truth about her nineteen years of life and the people she called family. Each page made me want to turn another, and even in the memory I’m drawn back into the powerful story Cindy K. Sproles weaves through every scene. This is a book I want to read and reread, share with friends and my children, discuss, and explore.

Liar’s Winter is not an easy book to read, by any means, especially knowing that these mentalities and this sort of abuse ran rampant throughout history and continue even into our day and age. This is the real reason I want my children to read it, as they reach an appropriate age. They need to know what this world hands out, and they need to see how they can either be rescuers or bring additional harm. Most of all, though, the can see that the powerful love of God shines beautifully even through the darkest of circumstances.

This is my first experience with Cindy K. Sproles, but it will not be my last, and I will definitely not hesitate to recommend Liar’s Winter.

I received this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.

 

Posted in What I Do, Work

Learning, Not Doing

I am realizing something as I learn and grow. What I do – the methods I have perfected over the years – isn’t automatically the best thing, even if it seems to be working. Sometimes, what I do need a serious overhaul.

Take my learning, for instance. I love to learn. And I like learning about practical things. How to do something. How to improve an area of my life. I like to gather resources that will help me out and supplies that will make a practical application easier. It’s fun to try to figure out all of the ins and outs, getting everything lined up and perfectly in place so that the doing will be easier.

There’s just one problem. I can go on and on and on without exhausting all there is to learn, figure out, or plan. In the process of trying to make the doing easier, I neglect to get around to the doing.

I justify my behavior by watching those on the opposite end of the spectrum. They are the ones who dive in full-force, doing without putting any time or effort into figuring out how to do what they’re doing. Sometimes they accidentally succeed, but more often than not they blunder their way into a mess. Surely my way is better than theirs, isn’t it?

Except that they, at least, are doing something.

Learning, planning, and gathering tools are important. But, they are as useless as the blundering mess if I don’t actually take a step and act. I suppose fear is often what holds me back, just as impatience leads the go-getters to skip the learning stage. I am afraid that I’ve missed something. Afraid that I don’t know enough. Afraid of failure. Embarrassing, humiliating failure. (Maybe there’s a little bit of pride in there, too.)

I don’t ever want to stop learning and exploring. But, if at some point I don’t also step out and do, then I am not walking in obedience. I’m not glorifying Christ in all things. I’m not furthering His kingdom or pointing people to Him. Instead, I’m just filling my brain with information that could be useful but won’t be because I don’t act.

Learning is good only if it leads to doing.

I want to learn to do.