Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy New Year, 2017 Style!

How is it I stand here, in another year
As fresh and shiny as new fallen snow?
What joy is this, another day blessed.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord my soul!

This year, in just two days, I'm going to be twenty-nine. 2016 was a crazy, painful, beautiful, awful, wonderful year. There is so much that went on, I cannot possibly cover it all. To me, New Years is often a bit depressing and stressful, because I get caught up on all that I didn't do last year that I feel I should have and all the things that I've got no plans for in the coming year. It's like anticipating more failure. But this year feels a bit different. A bit more hopeful.

Last year, was one of the hardest wrestling matches with doubt than I can ever remember. I have learned so much, yet in all my new knowledge, those stupid seeds of doubt still found room grow. I often wonder just what I've done with my life, what it is that I'm even trying to do. Through that perspective, it often seems as though I've done next to nothing and that I'm utterly lost. My hopes and goals never fail to fall through, year after year. Schedules? Those are clearly skittish, exotic creatures that I cannot tame for the life of me.

And oh the legalism! I could swear that legalism is like hard alcohol, the taste of it seems to get better with each one you throw back until the next thing you know you're drunk on it and passed out in your own spiritual vomit... okay a bit of a gross image, but that's how it feels. In striving for some perfect line to balance on, I forget my first love, just to pick up that 'bottle' foolishly thinking it's going to be some quick cure for whatever I think is wrong with me. Yet, it's this hyper focus on 'what I do' that keeps giving my flesh the ammunition to shoot holes in my belief. I cannot argue that my works are inadequate and I'm often tempted to despair, to doubt Him, and to drink deep of saccharine apostasy. After all, I can't be good enough, so why bother try, right? After all, I keep slipping. In this year alone, I have been many things I wish I hadn't been. Cruel, foolish, proud, rash, and much more. Paul sure knew what he was talking about when he wrote Romans 7:15-20.

And yet, there are these rare moments. When life is just still enough that He gives me the grace to be able to look back and understand that my foolish heart is a liar and that it's not about what I have done with my life. That's not what gives my life meaning or worth. From my very first sin, I was unworthy. To me, it's still an unfathomable mystery how He could love me. The only explanation I can have is that He is love. That it is His nature, not my worthiness, or rather lack thereof. It's not me. It's Him. What He has done and what He is still doing.

When I pause to consider, I am amazed at Him. Just a half a lifetime ago, I was this young, wild, and foolish girl. Forget running with the wrong crowd, I was a wrong crowd all my own, licentiousness, mysticism, and rebelliousness my drugs of choice. My mother always thought it was others that turned me that way, as mothers tend to do, but no one forced me down those wrong roads. I was deep in wrong before they ever could have had the chance. I was a thoroughly lost child, drunk on pride and a head full of dreams of writing get-rich-quick stories and of running my own night club with my gal pals. Life, was going to be an endless party if I had my way.

But I can genuinely say, thank God that those dreams died.

Looking back on those days, I cringe and wrinkle my nose at myself. And yet, those days provide a needful visible contrast to my now. Even on my bad days, when I still doubt that He would ever have wanted me and fear the heart of my own motives, I cannot say that I am who I was. Looking at my past, even when everything else seems utterly uncertain and clear as mud, the proof remains that He has changed me.

If not for His working in me, there is no way I could be standing where I am, how I am, today. The sins that I once relished in disgust me now. The negative emotions and self-depreciation I got high on are no longer an addiction. I was a mess y'all. But He is rearranging me, slowly, purposefully. He makes me a better person, a better wife, a better mother, with each year that passes. Each year, I find more joy in, even despite the bad moments.

Some people might loathe the idea of anyone, much less God, controlling our lives and I understand that, I know I used to something fierce. But now that I have lived under my own rule and have lived under His, I'm glad He'll never let me return to the life I used to know. He is far more gentle, more patient, more kind towards me than I ever was to myself. It is true that His yolk is easy, because His strength is what gets me through and it's His work that ultimately changes me, not my own. Sure there is struggle, but none that I have ever walked through alone. My way tastes good for a little while, but it makes me sick in the long run. His way tastes bitter at times and there are growing pains along the way, but the peace His way brings I never could find in mine.

To be honest, I hesitated to share this post. In a way, all this feels just a little bit... contradictory. Almost as if there is an invisible someone accusing me that I'm lying about how I’m really doing. Suggesting that because I see a therapist and am taking Prozac means I’m not really doing as well as I suggest. That it somehow disproves that God exists, could possibly be good, etc. But what anyone believes about all of this is the wrong thing for me to be concerning myself with. The truth is that, while my therapist has been nice and given a listening ear during a hard and stressful time of my life, the credit for the changes or healing in me do not rightfully go to my therapist, nor myself. The medication is not the source of my peace or joy. It’s a gift from God to help me better manage my mental health. And to be completely truthful, I was improving, long before I started to take the medicine.

While I might talk of my mess often and my screw ups even more, the self hatred is gone. The suicidal thoughts only return when I start wandering down my own ways again. I am not always comfortable, but I am nearly always content. I'm not always happy, but between my numerous blessings and His joy, sadness doesn't last long. It's rare to have a day that passes when I do not sing for joy or a night when I do not sleep well(except when I just don't feel like sleeping, because sleep is boring :P ). If this is slavery, then I can say with certainty, I never want to be free again!

So, you’re probably wondering what I have planned for this year. Well, to be honest, I don't know, but not for lack of ideas and aspirations. I have plenty of those! 

I anticipate there will be many changes to the blog, likely including the name and the direction of it, because I'm not the person I was when I changed it last time. My focus and intent has changed. Also in my writing and my approach to life. I've tried to lead my life so often, wanting to force it down my own road, grasping at how I think things ought to be, but I think this year I'm going to aim for something different. To follow, instead of trying to lead. To walk and work, but accept that He is the one that establishes my steps, not me. To rest in grace and trust, instead of striving and checklists and another bottle of legalism. But this year, above all else, I want to fall in love with and find my all in my Lord, all over again. 

P.S. In the spirit of starting off the new year new, I've decided to unpublish my other previous posts, because of reasons. Lots of reasons, but mostly, growth.

Friday, February 13, 2015

What You Need To Know, Part 1: Prayer

Okay, today we're starting off a new series that will consist of answers to the frequently asked questions burning away in the mind of most new Christians. We all have to start somewhere, right? So, come join in. If you have any questions that you'd like answers to, feel free to ask and I'll see if I can be of any help.

Today's F.A.Q is on prayer. Many new Christians ask how they should pray. It's definitely important, but first, I think we ought to examine what prayer is.

The simplest way of putting it is that prayer is a conversation with God. Now, let's take a second to consider that. A conversation. Not simply talking at God as though He were just some idea of a guy in the clouds, but talking with Him as though He is a real, living person. Because He is.

The best conversations are the ones in which both parties get to talk and get to know each other better. That is the purpose of prayer. Getting to know God(The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit) on a personal level. 

Now, let's get to the how. In Matthew 6:5-13, we find the instructions and example of prayer given to us by Jesus Himself.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
In verses 5 and 6 Jesus warns us to not to pray for the attention and praise of other people, but instead, to withdraw from others and go to a private place to pray to God. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't pray in public or out loud. It simply means that when we pray, it should ONLY be for speaking with God and drawing near to Him; not to be puffed up about how 'good' we are because we pray or to draw vain attention to ourselves.
In 7 and 8 He also warns us not to pray with empty phrases. Some translations say 'repetitions'. You ever feel intimidated by all those fancy prayers we're often taught we're supposed to pray like, wondering how you're ever going to learn to pray like that? You know the ones, long and rambling with all the thees and thous and chants? Well, don't feel intimidated anymore, because that's not how we're told to pray in the first place.
What kind of prayer does God want? Well, let's take a second look at 9-13. 9 tells us that we should address God and offering Him praise. 10 shows us we should pray for His kingdom to come and for His will to be done. 11 says we should pray for our needs. 12 shows us we should pray for forgiveness. 13 tells us that we should pray that He protects us from evil and helps us to keep from it. 
Also, take note of the brevity of them. Again, back at what 7 and 8 said, which basically instructs us to keep our prayers simple. God already knows what is in our hearts and on our minds, before we can even speak, so we never need hold back anything from Him. In fact, I'm certain that is what He'd prefer. An organic relationship with no barriers and no falseness. So, why do we need to pray, if He already knows, you ask? Well, because prayer draws us closer to Him and He wants a relationship with us.
Now, these aren't the only things that we can or should pray for, but this gives us an idea of how we should pray. Personal, God-focused, heartfelt, praising, apologizing, seeking His will and His help, etc.
Still feeling a bit intimidated at the idea of talking to God? I understand the feeling, I struggled with learning how to pray a lot during my early years. I used to pray like a hypocrite, but I've learned better since. But we don't need to be afraid when coming to Him with our prayers. In fact, in Hebrews 4:16 we are told to come boldly before Him. We are also not alone, but according to Romans 8:26-27 we have the help of the Holy Spirit to intercede for us when we don't know what to pray.
One of the requirements of prayer that I still struggle with sometimes is the faith. Believing that I will receive what I ask of Him. But in James 1:6, we are told to ask in faith with no doubt. Matthew 7:7 tells us that what we ask of Him, He will give to us. But we must be careful of our motives when we ask of Him. James 4:3 tells us that we won't receive, when we ask for the wrong reason. For example, if we ask Him for wisdom, so we can be thought of as wise by other people, then that is not the right attitude and we will not receive it. So, before we pray for something, we need to check ourselves and our motives. 
Praying gets easier with time, if we're praying how we've been told to. It needs to become an integral part of our daily lives. Not just praying over meals or before bed. God is with us all day long and in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to pray without ceasing. We should be talking with Him frequently, all day every day. Sound intimidating? Well, it gets easier, I promise. Like any good habit, it takes practice and conscious effort. Wonder what to pray about all day long? Well, start with the little things many of us overlook. Is it a nice day out? Praise Him for it. Have food to eat? Thank Him. There are so many things we can talk to Him about, if we just stop long enough to look for them.
I challenge you to practice praying. Go to some private place. Doesn't really matter if it's your room, your car, or taking a walk. Anyplace that allows you to talk with Him without being interrupted or distracted is a good place. Then, once you've done that, settle in like you would for a chat with a good friend. Relax and let your mind focus on Him. If you're having trouble, start out your prayer asking Him to help you to focus on and grow closer to Him. Then just pour out your heart to Him. Big things, little things. Nothing is too small to bring to God and nothing is too big for Him to handle. Give it all to Him. If you're like me and still have trouble with your mind wandering, stop, ask His forgiveness, and ask again for Him to clear you mind and give you focus. He will help you, because He wants to draw near to you and you to Him.
Don't have time to pray? Not all prayers need to be lengthy or free from distractions. Often times it's just a little conversation while we'r. And that's okay, so long as we take time to talk to Him more when we have time. Pray while getting ready for work, while you're in the car, while you eat lunch. There are plenty of moments during the day that we can fit in a prayer, so long as we look for them and take advantage. Still struggling to find time to pray? Pray for Him to give you the time.
And the last tip I'll leave you with is that when you see someone in need of prayer or have been given a prayer request, do it right away so you don't forget. Remember, it doesn't need to be long. And often when you pray for it right away when you don't have much time, you'll remember those prayers later when you do have more time to pray over it better.
So what is your favorite place to pray? Got a time of day that works best for you? Think that I missed something crucial? Feel free to share.

Have a blessed week, all!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Can You Tell Me What Love Is?

Love. What is it? Many people would describe it as a warm, fuzzy feeling, strong affection, or physical intimacy. But that is not how biblical scripture defines it. And there is no better place than 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 to learn what love(aka charity) is all about. 

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Take notice of the first three verses. This paints a pretty clear picture; we can do all manner of 'good' things, even miraculous or sacrificial things, but if they're not paired with love, they are worth nothing. What does that tell us? That tells us that love is not simply our actions or words, but also in combination with having the right attitude. 

Now, let's break down the following verses to dive deeper into what that really means.

Love is long suffering. What does that mean? To love is to be patient. That means that when that cashier at the store is being slow checking out the people in front of us or when our family does things that annoy or frustrate us(put a new roll on the toilet paper holder, anyone?) we are to be patient, not just in outward actions, but in our minds.

Love is kind. This one ought to be obvious. Give genuine compliments, lift up our friends when they're feeling down, lend help where we can. Hold open a door. Share things. There are far too many examples of how we can be kind.

Love does not envy. Since envy is to not only want something that someone else has, but to believe that you deserve that something more than the person who has it and/or to wish bad things on them for having 'what I deserve', just don't do that. Don't matter what that something is or who is it that has has it, seriously, just don't.

Love is not vain, is not puffed up. What this means is that to love is to not view ourselves as greater than someone else. When we are blessed with talent or wealth or nice things, we should never hold those things over someone else's head or look down our noses at those that don't have them. This also goes for the things that we do. It is neither loving nor honoring to God to say or think that we are better than someone else because we're more modest(wow, isn't that an oxymoron? But I've heard it happen) or because we volunteer our time or tithe more or support orphans in a third world country. Humility, pass it around.

Love does not behave inappropriately. So when that person cuts us off in traffic, we should not even think about flipping them off or hoping they crash. That post on "insert social media site"? We shouldn't respond rudely or crudely to it(if at all). We shouldn't insult or belittle the person that thinks or lives differently than we do, even if they do so to us. When we're mad or upset, we should not cuss or throw a fit. Instead, we are called to act and think with maturity and decency.

Love does not insist upon her own way. So when we see that awesome thing in the store and someone else wants it, we ought to let them have it(and not begrudgingly, either). When there is a group project, we should not insist on being in control if someone else wants to be. When we're out with friends or loved ones and want to see a movie, we should not insist on seeing the one we want. Also, when we speak to others about God. In my experience, it does no good to shove the gospel down other people's throats. They just tend to vomit it back up and run away from it, and us. Offer or mention God, but don't insist that they listen.

Love is not easily provoked. We should show grace to those that say and do hurtful things. Not to say that we should accept abuse, that's entirely different. But if someone is rude to us, we should let it go. It also means developing a tough skin to being insulted or having topics we're sensitive to being brought up. Even when we're not having a good day, we should not be irritable(difficult, I know, but not impossible). Even when someone hurts our feelings or does something we don't like, we should not be resentful nor should we be keeping score of hurts or annoyances. If something irks us, we need to stop and truly think about the situation. Most things that we don't like are not worthy of being provoked over. When it comes down to it, we should not let the actions, thoughts, or unlikable habits of others to dictate how we behave. Let it go, let it go!(Yes, I had to.)

Love thinks no evil. We should not hope for bad things to happen to others, fellow Christians or those that are still lost. We should not dwell on impure things. We should not plan to do bad things to others. Etc, etc.

Love does not take joy in doing evil, but rejoices in truth. If we are loving, we should not be happy or smug when we do sinful things, but instead take joy in doing what is right and speaking what is true(in a gentle and kind way).

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I had to learn this part recently through a hard lesson. Someone I love dearly came to me, telling me about a life choice they made that I cannot possibly agree with. One that goes against God's word and His holy design. But by God's grace, I can choose to keep on loving that person, believing that He can make things right and keep hoping that the person will find their way back to Him. We're called to keep loving, even when it's hard, until the end of the race that is life. There will be days where it seems impossible, but it's then that we must ask God to give us the strength to love and then do it.

Another bit to chew on. God is(among other things) love.  Therefore, those who do not love, do not know God.

He is our best example of what love is. So, if we can't imagine(based on what the bible says) that God would do, say, or think something, neither should we allow ourselves to. Don't get me wrong. I'm by no means perfect in any of these areas. But we should all do our best to live up to these instructions on a daily basis. 

So, what should you have gotten from all of the above? Long story short, in order to love, we need to actively and constantly choose to put our neighbors(which I firmly believe includes all of humanity, not just literal neighbors or those we like) first, not just with our actions but in our attitudes. Not because we think they deserve it, but because God commands it. 

A godly action + a godly attitude = love. Think about it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Do You Have the Wisdom of a Child?

When something goes wrong for a little child, the first thing he or she most likely to do is to run to their parents. A lot of Christians could learn a lot from their example.

As a mother, I cannot count how many times my kids have come to me when something goes wrong. For hugs when they've fallen down. To rescue them from the scary wasp. For help when they're struggling to tie a shoe or zip up their jackets. When they want to know why the sky is blue. Or when something they had their heart set on goes wrong. They haven't grown so proud to refuse help or learned to be embarrassed to let me know when something is wrong yet.

In Luke 18:17 Jesus said that in order to enter the kingdom of God, we must come as little children. While I believe He was talking about salvation, I also think that He meant that we need to approach the Father like little children, humble and trusting that He will take care of us.

So, when you have a problem, do you turn to the Father in prayer about it or do you tend to try to deal with it on your own? I know that most days I forget to live with that childlike wisdom. I tend to let my pride trick me into thinking myself stronger than I really am. I get this crazy idea stuck in my head that I'm supposed to tackle my it all on my own and I put a weight on my own shoulders that ends up crushing me, because God never meant for me to carry it all on my own. That goes for any child of His. The bible tells us to give our troubles to Him, because He cares for us. 1 Peter 5:7

There have been so many times in my life that I could have saved myself heartache and trouble, if I had only come to God first with my problems, instead of trying to tough it out or fix it 'all on my own'. Having stumbled down the wrong way for many years of my Christian walk, I strongly believe that the first thing that a new Christian should learn to do is to learn to pray without ceasing, as we have been instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Having a bad day at school or work? Pray about it. Going through heartbreak? Pray about it. Feeling tempted by something? Pray about it. Looking for guidance? Pray for it. Pray about everything, all the time. God wants us to. How much easier might our lives be, if we only ran to the Father as our first response, instead of our last course of action?

My prayer is that if you are a new Christian, or even an older Christian that has tripped into this rut of 'handle it myself' along with me, please let us run to the Father.

Be blessed, all!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sharing! The Last Doomling: Book 2 Snippet

This morning I'm sharing one of my favorite scenes(unedited) from my current WIP fantasy novel, Breaking Point. This one is from the point of view of the main male character. It was a blast to write, so I hope you enjoy it :) Brandon’s eyelids fluttered open, staring up at a ceiling of what appeared to be sandstone, a furious ache in his head. I blacked out?
With a groan, he rolled into a sitting position, blinking as he looked around. The room was simple, but comfortable, a large mat of reeds covering the floor, warding off most of its chill from his feet when he swung his legs over the bed. Perhaps it was the damp air that did it, but the room seemed gloomier than he thought it ought to be. A small bronze sconce on the wall holding a bundle of lit rush-lights that should have cast away most of the darkness, yet it encroached on him still.
His heart lurched when it dawned on him that he didn’t know where he was or even if his sisters were there with him.
Wherever he was, he was still clear-headed enough to know that Nickolas was behind it. Grinding his teeth, he made to stand and fell flat on his face.
Twisting to look back at what had tripped him, iron shackles bound his feet to the bed. Am I a prisoner?
Grabbing the edge of the bed, he pushed himself back up with care not to reach the end of his chains again. Flopping down on the end of the bed, he glared at the door. It had no bars, nor was there a window. Just stone all around, including the door itself. If he didn’t know better, he’d think that he’d been swallowed up by a living boulder-man of legend.
Except that when he closed his eyes, he could hear voices and ringing footsteps beyond his stone prison cell. Men, women, and even the light laughter of children. Where am I?
Footsteps drew nearer and Brandon found himself leaning forward, his shoulders tense as he stared at the door.
Then the stone door swung open, with an unexpected swish, like material being pushed back. It even folded as such. Brandon blinked. An illusion?
Stepping in, Nickolas’ eyes flew wide. “You’re awake!”
“Where have you brought me!?” Brandon demanded, his voice low. “And where are my sisters? If you’ve harmed them-”
“I’d cut off my own hands,” Nickolas finished for him. “Your sisters are fine, currently eating with the others in the dining area. They’ll be glad to hear you’re awake, they’ve been worried about you.”
“I’m fine.” Brandon’s vision dimmed at the edges, fluctuating, but he tossed it up to the rush-light’s battle with the shadows.
Nickolas was shaking his head when a sudden scream, distant and piercing and tormented all at once, made Brandon stiffen and spring to his feet, almost losing his balance as his sight wavered on the edge of blackness. “What was that? What’s going on out there?”
“Hmm?” Nickolas turned his head in a questioning sort of tilt, then blinked with understanding. “The screams. I heard them too.”
“Of course you did, how can you not? How can anyone not?” Brandon said, pointing at the door, frustration mounting. Why is he playing games with me?! “Are you torturing people here? Is that it? You’ve gone mad, like the rest of them?!”
Then the ache in his head sharpened and he gritted his teeth, doubling over with eyes squeezed shut.
“Brandon? Brandon can you hear me?”
“Don’t touch me, you daemon!” Brandon hissed between his teeth, putting a hand to his head. Burning, feverish. He shoved Nickolas away when a hand rested on his shoulder.
When he opened his eyes, all was black. He saw nothing, felt nothing, yet remained standing. He shook his head, but his sight didn’t clear. Am I blind?!
Susurrations fluttered around him like the wings of a moth, words that he couldn’t quite hear, raising the hair on the back of his neck. “Nickolas?” No answer. At least, none that was discernible from the whisperings.
He started when something came into view in the void.
A woman clad in rags flashed in and out of his sight, as though illuminated by lightning. Bound in chains that bit into her wrists, she reached for him, her skin covered in cuts and pale scars, her hair long and scraggly.
Brandon stood still as a statue, frozen in place as she neared in flashes of existence.
She opened her mouth in a shrill scream of rage, “Thief!”
He put up his arms in defense as she flew at him, hands outstretched like grasping claws.
“Who are you?!”
She disappeared once again into darkness, her fingers alighting on his brow as her ghastly figure returned.
Her touch burned, yet was cold as ice, and he couldn’t pull away.
What’s happening?! He shuddered uncontrollably, his back suddenly on fire and his eyes roll back as his head felt it would split, a scream dying in his throat.
“The thief will pay!” the woman shrieked, her fingers pressing harder against his forehead.
Brandon choked on his breath, convulsing as it felt like a great raging beast thrashed inside him, goring its way out of his back with its claws.
Then the woman lifted her hold on him, winking out of existence as he crumpled to his knees, slumping to the floor.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Finished! Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I knew there was something that I forgot to do before going to bed last night. Write today's blog post. *facepalm* Sorry about that. I still need to work on making posting a habit.

It was a crazy day yesterday. I started yesterday off by getting up at 6:30am to be at the church. We had an electrician coming by and the pastor couldn't be there at the time, so my father in law and I went instead. Then, after that, I spent most of the day running errands, bringing people to doctor appointments and making trips to the store. Not that I minded, because in the pauses between all that running around, I spent every minute I had reading on my hubby's old ipod.

It feels great to be reading again! Especially when it's as excellent a story as Shadow Hand.

It kept me up reading until 2am and it definitely has made its way into my top five favorite stories. As usual, I ate up the scenes involving Eanrin and Imraldera. Can't help but love those two and the relationship between them! And I squealed with delight when some unanticipated old faces from previous books made their appearances, but I won't give away who. ;)

I have to admit that at first when I read the blurb for the book, I had some reservations to a story with Daylily as a main character. In the previous stories, she was not one that I was partial to, but I shouldn't have worried. Daylily resonated with me in a way I hadn't expected in her fear of the wolf. And Foxbrush's struggle with self-doubt gave me a greater respect and admiration for his character.

I enjoyed Shadow Hand immensely. With its perfect balance of lightheartedness and dire situations, it had me laughing, crying, and dying to read more every time I had to set it down. I have never read another series that has the books so deliciously interconnected, while each is still able to stand alone, like Stengl's. Her masterful story weaving and beautifully crafted world make for a series that just keeps getting better!

I would recommend that any lover of good fantasy stories that hasn't given one of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's books a try yet, add them to their to-read pile asap!

Now, I'm supposed to be working, but first, I think I'll take a little time to dive into the next book in her series: Golden Daughter!

Happy reading, all!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Stewarding Today

I'm sure you've seen plenty of posts this New Years, people coming joyfully and with renewed vigor into another year, full of aspirations and goals. But I'm coming into this year with something for you all to consider.

I spent a good part of New Years thinking on something that I rarely enjoy pondering. What if today had been my last day?

What would I have had to show for it? Would I have given my all? Would I have spent time on the things that I truly value in my life? Did I give God and my family due attention? Did I live the values that I speak? Pursue my dreams and be obedient in the call?  Did I try to have balance in my day? Stick to the schedule I'd made? If I'm honest, the answer to any of those questions would be a resounding, painful, "No."

I'm not proud of it. Looking back, I wish that I'd made better use of my time. Because of all the things that God has promised his children, tomorrow is not one of them. Nor even the next minute. All we have is the here and now. The only thing we have control over is what we choose to do with the moments we are given and I didn't choose wisely.

There is nothing I can do about the wasted yesterdays, but one thing I can do is hold onto my hope. Hope that I can be a better steward of my today. Spend my time more wisely, think on better things, try new things, pay attention to the good, and weed out the bad or the unimportant.

Because when all is said and done, I want to hear God say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Matthew 25:21

So, what will you be doing with your now? Will you be a better steward of today than you were yesterday?

God bless, all!