For Me, Life Is Long

The other day I was watching Jane the Virgin. (Yes, I watch Jane the Virgin.) Anyway, Jane has just turned down her boyfriend’s proposal, and he’s upset. Jane acknowledges his feelings (she’s awesome like that), but she says she’s upset, too: the proposal came too early in their relationship, and he shouldn’t have put her in that position. Then she says something really profound about where they find themselves in their relationship: “To you, life is short, but to me, life is long.”

I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

 

In the Christian walk, we’re often obsessed with the concept of the brevity of life. It simply means that in the grand scheme of things, life is short and it can end any time. Ideally, it spurs us to live fully and intentionally.

 

What Jane is saying about life being long seems to contradict what Christians believe about life, or at least, this life, but the more I think about it, the more I agree with Jane.

 

Now, I’m not trying to take away from the understanding that we have an appointed time in which to live, nor that we shouldn’t fully and purposefully use that time. If you’ll stick with me for a few minutes, however, I’d like to add to it.

 

You see, a the concept of a short life can turn into a mad dash if misapplied. It might translate into the belief that a full schedule equals a full life, and that leads to jumping into every opportunity, because our lives are short and can end anytime. It might translate into the belief that a purposeful life equals a narrow focus, and that leads to missing out on all sorts of things, because we don’t want to be distracted. We run in circles, large or small, thinking that the chaos is the abundant life to which Jesus is calling us.

 

I know I’m guilty of this. I’ve had a life is short mentality.

 

The more I live, though, I want to look at my life and say, “Life is long.” I haven’t known how to phrase it until Jane the Virgin, but still.

 

For me, life is long.

 

For me, there is time. Sure, I have a sense that I will not always be as I am – my days are numbered, so to speak. But, whether I have five years or fifty remaining, I’m not in a rush.There is time to get to know myself – who I am and what I was created to do. There is time to build meaningful relationships with others.

 

For me, there is flexibility. There is room to take savor life, for the unexpected, for detours, for imperfection, for growth. I don’t have to be everything I was created to be all at once.

 

For me, there is abundance. There are opportunities everywhere. If one doesn’t work out, or I don’t seize it and should, another will come around. And another. And another. There is enough for everyone – always enough when I look for it.

 

For me, there is peace. There is no sense of racing against time – no clock, biological or otherwise, ticking away – of having to make certain milestones at certain times. There is no panic, no criticism when things don’t pan out as anticipated. There is no competition and envy. There is just grace, an understanding that the circumstances I find myself in are impermanent and subject to change, and that I am impermanent and subject to change within them. And that is okay.

 

For me, there is joy. There is a respect and appreciation for all life. There is beauty in creative expression and reception. There is a profound connection with God and humanity and nature.

 

Whatever time I have, it is enough to be who I was created to be and to have the impact I was created to have.

 

Because for me, life is long. And it is wide. And high. And full.

David Copperfield Meets At the Back of the North Wind, A Review

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About Guardian of the Goldbreathers (from Amazon):

Twelve-year-old Liam Finley doesn’t expect anything good when he is forced to move from Dublin to his stepfather’s large country house on the edge of the wild woods. But after the first night there, Liam abandons his fears of dreary boredom when he discovers that fairy tales haunt his new home. Has he truly discovered a dragon egg?

The house’s old blind gardener Michael Moran claims to know Liam’s secret destiny, which lies in an enchanted Otherworld. He says Liam is the next Guardian of the Gold Breathers, a champion of dragons.
Time is not on Liam’s side. Can he complete his three tasks to prove himself as Guardian before the paths close between his world and the Guardian’s land? Liam wants to believe the mysterious tales of Michael, but should he instead seek shelter in the practical kindness of Hannah, the housekeeper who calls Michael’s stories “rubbish”? Liam’s heart tells him to trust the things of magic, but it’s the humans he can’t be sure about.
Themes in this story include losing a parent, family relationships, dealing with guilt, overcoming challenges, facing your fears, and standing up for what is right, even when it costs you something.

About Elise Stephens (from Amazon):

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. She earned her degree in Creative Writing at the University of Washington. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. She is a recipient of the Eugene Van Buren prize for fiction. Her previous novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), and Forecast (2013). She lives in Seattle with her husband and son.

You can connect with Elise on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

My Review:

I give Guardian of the Goldbreathers by Elise Stephens 4.5 out of 5 stars.

When his mother remarries a disgraced scientist, their new family moves to a country estate where Liam discovers a world beyond his own.This book has the feel of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and George MacDonald’s At The Back of the North Wind, so I’m not surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s the perfect blend of reality and fantasy, bittersweet in its execution.

I adored all of the characters. They were well-rounded, complex, and relatable, and I didn’t feel like any of them lacked development or depth. I especially appreciated Grace and her love of the finer things, and Hannah’s skepticism. I also thought Dr. Parker made a tremendously compelling villain, with his mad scientist ways.

Liam, though. Stephens gives Liam such a voice that you see the world through his eyes. I was able to feel (I mean, really feel) where he was coming from.

The world-building was vivid, and it wasn’t hard to imagine myself at a country estate, in a forest, in a maze, or in a tunnel with a smelly troll. Stephens describes her world masterfully, and I thoroughly enjoyed being swept up in it.

The story lagged a little as Michael relayed the histories to Liam, but overall the race against time kept me engaged from start to finish. I can easily see this book being made into a movie.

I can imagine it will keep fantasy-loving readers of all ages engaged, but I highly recommend this winner from Elise Stephens for pre-teens who love adventure stories based in folklore, fairytales, and mythology.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The Dream (That Changed Everything)

I had two really beautiful and vivid dreams and they both inspired me. I don’t usually remember my dreams, and my dreams certainly don’t inspire me. But in these two dreams I was in these gorgeous middles-of-nowhere. Wilderness places. Hiking, but mostly just talking with people on these hikes. Having good conversations, building relationships. It was so pleasant and even though there were people in these dreams I didn’t even know, and groups of people I do know who never mix, it all made sense.

I finished reading Hosea a week ago, and since then I’ve been in Exodus. In Hosea, God refers to wooing His people to wilderness places so they will seek Him and love Him. In Exodus, God brings His people to a wilderness and leads them there. Through all of this, God has been speaking to me about two things: He wants my love and He wants me to take care of His people. After the dreams, I would say God wants my love and He wants me to take care of His people in the wilderness places. To cultivate and restore life and health in barren places. It is my calling to walk with people through times of difficulty, particularly young people from broken and poverty-stricken homes.  I will walk with people through these times, I will bear their burdens before my Heavenly Father.

“God gives us a vision and then puts us in the valley in order to sift us, sand us, discipline us, prune us – in other words, to rid us of all that would be a hindrance to us climbing or living on top of the mountain.” ~Dr. Charles Stanley,The Source of My Strength

Originally posted on Wilderness Adventure.

Too Much Coffee with My Creamer, A Review

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About Breathless (from Amazon):

What happens when an ordinary girl meets the man of everyone’s dreams? Keeping secrets is never easy, especially since Ryan Spalding is on the cover of every magazine and this year’s “Hottest Hunk under 30.” Good thing busy lawyer Carly Sparks is so out of the loop when it comes to celebrity affairs, or she’d realize she was in one! Leading man Ryan Spalding tempts Carly Sparks in ways she’s only ever seen in the movies. She’s drifted away from a promise she made to God as a teenager, but Carly must rely on her faith when her relationship with Ryan is put to the test. Will it be enough to keep them together, or will theirs be just another failed Hollywood romance?

About Becki Brannen (from Amazon):

Becki Brannen is a thirty-something writer born and raised in the heart of Georgia. Her debut novel, Breathless, is the result of NaNoWriMo 2011, having been written in just twenty-nine days. Becki primarily writes “chick lit with a Christian twist,” marrying one of her favorite genres with her Christian faith. Her life verses are Jeremiah 29:11 and Isaiah 41:10. Becki and her husband have twin daughters and a poodle, Sophie.

You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

My Review:

I give Breathless by Becki Brannen 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Based on its synopsis, Breathless was everything I expected it to be: celebrity Ryan falls for Carly, a busy lawyer who has no idea who he is. Even without knowing who he is, she falls for him, too. Given Ryan’s secret, they experience more than their share of relational ups and downs.

I’ve discussed my complicated relationship with romance on this blog before, so it may go without saying that I love my romance like I love my coffee – loaded with a lot of other stuff (not unlike Carly). I felt like the romance was all there was to this story, and to a normal romance fan, that wouldn’t have been an issue. I wanted to connect with the main characters beyond the romance, to get a sense of them outside of how they related to each other. For that reason, I have mixed feelings about the flashbacks interspersed throughout: on one hand, I found them slightly disruptive to the flow of the story, and on the other, they helped me gain insight to Carly’s character. I guess I wanted more.

I am also a fan of the slow fall: you know, attraction, subtle flirtation, connection, wooing,… Breathless moves at a fast pace – too fast for me, and I wonder if it wasn’t realistically too fast even for the characters, given their relationship histories. The pacing makes it an easy read, though, so it’s not without its benefits.

That said, Breathless raises an important issue: sex, and how it should be treated anything but casually. Brannen takes a character who jumps from woman to woman and a character who made a purity pledge to showcase this message, which is commendable in a society where virginity and a commitment to purity can make you feel like a mutant. (See also: Jane the Virgin.)

Also, and far less important, this book taught me that I have been misquoting Shakespeare for years. (There are these epic romantic quotes at the beginning of every chapter, which I thought were a fun addition.) But that … is another story for another day.

So, even though this book was a bit too much coffee for my creamer (if you know what I mean), I have no doubt that other fans of the genre will find it enjoyable.

I received a free eARC from the author in exchange for my honest review.

When You Spill a Cup of Water…

I once heard an illustration from the great Hudson Taylor.  Well, not from him, exactly, but from a preacher who attributed it to him.  Regardless, this illustration is now stuck in my mind.

Let’s say we have a glass of water, and it gets knocked over.  What happens?

“Well,” you might say, “you have a big mess to clean up.”

You’re missing my point, I think, so I try to rephrase my question.  What if it’s a glass of orange juice?

“Duh,” you say, “the orange juice goes everywhere.”

You are correct, of course, but still not understanding my point.

Whether we have a glass of water, or orange juice, or pop, or milk, or nothing at all, one thing is sure:  when that glass is knocked over, what is inside comes out.

Think about that with me for a minute: what’s inside comes out.

When you’re hit with a life circumstance that knocks you down, know this if you know nothing else:  what is inside will come out.  Things you maybe didn’t even know were in your heart will come out.  The point is not that being knocked down is messy, but that what you really, truly believe in your heart of hearts comes out.

For me, this has been one of those weeks where what is inside has come out.  It’s not all pretty, but there is this one thing that I hold on to:  I trust God.  I admit freely that I do not understand what He is doing, but I do trust Him.  And I trust that He wants to do good things for me, in me, and through me.   In the midst of disappointment, varying levels of resentment, and straight-up hard circumstances, I know that.   And in the end, that’s the most important thing.  That what everyone around sees come out is a doesn’t-make-sense-at-all trust in HIM.

Originally posted on Wilderness Adventure.

All This Time and The One Who Sees Me

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About The One Who Sees Me (from Amazon):

Teenage slave girl Faru’s life has been turned upside down when she discovers she’s been traded to a new master, forcing her to leave all she‘s ever known. Upon her arrival, Faru meets a friend, Cailean, who helps her adjust to life in the strange location. Life settles into a new pattern, and romance blossoms between the young friends. But as soon as they plan to get married, another proposal comes about – one that cannot be ignored. Being a slave means not always marrying who you love. 

On a daring journey to heal her heart, Faru encounters the Existing One. Will she trust Him and do His bidding even if what He requests is so hard? 

Follow Faru’s tale in author Kandi J Wyatt’s retelling of a Biblical story found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, showing that when things don’t make sense, God will guide the way.

About Kandi J. Wyatt (from Amazon):

Kandi J Wyatt is a wife, mother of five, teacher, artist, and author. In her free time, she enjoys writing fantasy stories and Christmas programs, and drawing with graphite and colored pencils. Portraits are her specialty. Kandi also enjoys photography, thanks to her photographer husband who has let her join his journey as both his model and apprentice, and she occasionally serves as his assistant when he needs a “light stand with feet.”

You can connect with Kandi on her blogFacebookTwitterGoodreads, and Amazon.

My Review:

Based on the story of Hagar from Genesis, The One Who Sees Me shakes up the all-too-comfortable perception that perhaps Hagar had done something to deserve her fate.

Faru is a medieval slave girl, subject to the whims of her masters and mistress, which often leave her isolated and confused. Whenever she tries to take control, it backfires to her misery. She’s well-written and easy to sympathize with, but her story is not a happy one. 

It rings true. While I may not be a medieval slave girl, I’ve been through my share of misery that I had no control over. I’ve been in the position of trying to get out and being pushed down further than ever before, and the sinking, suffocating feeling that comes with that.

I felt it all again with Faru.

Then, she encounters the Existing One, the One Who Sees and Hears. I wish I could say that point turns her life and story around for the better, but her life doesn’t really improve – she just becomes more accepting of it. (Which, may, in some minds, be an improvement). She reacts to prolonged pain and suffering with patience and faith in the as yet unfulfilled promise of the Existing One.

And that’s when I stopped identifying with Faru, and started identifying with her son, Istik. Like him, I am not comforted by an entity who sees and hears … and does nothing.

If I had been Faru, I’d have been ticked. In fact, reading, I was ticked for her. Then, I realized I wasn’t ticked for her at all; I was ticked for me.

There are people who encourage me to be thankful for the things I’ve been through, to call them good, because look at who I am now. There’s truth in that: I wouldn’t have half the character I possess today if hadn’t been through it. I also wouldn’t struggle with crippling anxiety, depression, or anger that my character often cloaks. I certainly wouldn’t wrestle with the idea of a being who sees and hears and does nothing after reading a story like this. I know there is some good, but the things that happened were bad, and bad things sprung from them.

My faith has come through bloody battles, and every inch of ground over doubt has been hard won. Knowing Jesus has not brought the acceptance and patience and faith of Faru for me; at least, not yet. In terms of that, I may be more like Lady Cwen, the character based on Sarah.

The One Who Sees Me brings up another important matter: people of faith often exercise their faith imperfectly, even to the detriment of others. Yet, God still chooses to meet with them. Whatever I’m wrestling with this story in terms of God’s intervention, it undeniably paints a vision of grace.

Overall, The One Who Sees Me by Kandi J. Wyatt is well-written, creative, and undoubtedly historically accurate. The world and characters are believable and relatable. But there’s more to this story then plot, world, and characters: it’s a story about God, and His dealings with people. And, for that reason, I am certain it will be on my mind for a long time to come.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.