Favorite Quotes from The Curate of Glaston by George MacDonald

I finally finished reading The Curate of Glaston by George MacDonald last night. I’ve been plugging away at it since the beginning of January – and while it is in a similar vein to MacDonald’s There and Back, I found it considerably weightier, and am still mulling over it. As usual, I love how MacDonald handles skepticism (the story follows a young curate who doesn’t believe what he’s been preaching), but there’s something he drives at in this book that I’m not entirely comfortable with. I’m trying to understand why it makes me uncomfortable, and at some point in the future, I expect to provide an analysis of exactly what is troubling me. Until then, I thought I’d share some of my favorite quotes from the book.

She had just finished the novel of the day, and was suffering a mild reaction – the milder, perhaps, that she was not altogether satisfied with the consummation. For the heroine had, after much sorrow and patient endurance, at length married a man whom she could not help knowing to be not worth having.

“Helen Lingard was not a girl of the sort to fall readily in love.”

I wonder how many speak with the voices that really belong to them.

“Ought not men be good to one another because they are made up of ones and others? Do you or I need threats and promises to make us kind? … You must consider that you are but a part of the whole, and that whatever you do to hurt the whole, or injure any of its parts, will return upon you who form one of those parts.”

Even the sunshine, the gladdest thing in creation, is sad sometimes.

“But how can a man go through anything till his hour be come?”

‘Then do you intend that a man should make up his sermons from the books he reads?’

‘Yes, if he cannot do better. But then I would have him read – not with his sermon in his eye, but with his people in his heart.’

“What is Christianity, then?”

“God in Christ, and Christ in man.”

‘How am I to know that there is a God?’

‘It were a more pertinent question, sir,” returned Polwarth, -‘If there be a God, how am I to find him?’

“My longing was mainly for refuge, for some corner into which I might creep, where I should be concealed and so at rest.”

‘I repeat,” said Polwarth, ‘that the community whose servant you are was not founded to promulgate or defend the doctrine of the existence of a Deity, but to perpetuate the assertion of a man that he was the son and only revealer of the Father of men, a fact, if it be a fact, which precludes the question of the existence of a God, because it includes the answer to it. Your business, therefore, even as one who finds himself  in your unfortunate position as clergyman, is to make yourself acquainted with that man: he will be to you nobody save in revealing, through knowledge of his inmost heart, the Father to you.’

“If a man will use figures [illustrations], he should be careful to give them legs.”

Sometimes a thunderbolt, as men call it, will shoot from a clear sky; and sometimes into the midst of a peaceful family, or a yet quieter individuality, without warning of gathered storm above, or lightest tremble of earthquake beneath, will fall a terrible fact, and from the moment everything is changed. That family or that life is no more what it was – probably never more can be what it was. Better it ought to be, worse it may be – which, depends upon itself. But its spiritual weather is altered. The air is thick with cloud, and cannot weep itself clear. There may come a gorgeous sunset though.

“The Power of Life is not content that they who live in and by him should live poorly and contemptibly. If the presence of low thoughts which he repudiates, yet makes a man miserable, how must it be with him if they who live and move and have their being in him are mean and repulsive, or alienated through self-sufficiency and slowness of heart?”

But when a woman, in her own nature cold, takes delight in rousing passion, she will, selfishly confident in her own safety, go to strange lengths in kindling and fanning the flame which is the death of the other.

“To be content is not to be satisfied. No one ought to be satisfied with the imperfect.”

Thou only thinkest – I am thought.

“It is the man Christ Jesus we have to know, and the Bible we have to use to that end – not for theory or dogma.”

If a dream reveal a principle, that principle is a revelation, and the dream is neither more nor less valuable than a waking thought that does the same.

“For Christianity does not mean what you think or what I think concerning Christ, but what is of Christ. My Christianity, if I ever come to have any, will be what Christ is in me; your Christianity now is what of Christ is in you.”

What man was more dangerous than he who went too far?”

“The only thing I can say is: if you have been in the way of doing anything you are no longer satisfied with, don’t do it anymore.”

How would Jesus Christ have done if he had been a draper instead of a carpenter?

“The curate’s search, it will be remarked, had already widened greatly the sphere of his doubts.”

With him they sought and found shelter. He was their saviour from the storm of human judgment and the biting frost of public opinion, even when that opinion and that judgment were re-echoed by the justice of their own hearts. He received them, and the life within them rose up, and the light shone – the conscious light of light, despite even of shame and self-reproach.

“And do not our souls themselves fall out with their surroundings, and cry for a nobler, better, more beautiful life?”

Yet it is strange to see how even noble women, with the divine gift of imagination, may be argued into unbelief in their best instincts by some small man, as common-place as clever, who beside them is as limestone to marble.

“No crime can be committed against a creature without being committed also against the creator of that creature.”

But the first part of friendship sometimes is to confess poverty.

“Your calling is to do the best for your neighbor that you reasonably can.”

What sort of watchmaker were he who could not set right the watches and clocks himself made?”

“The only way to save your brother is to strengthen him to do his duty, whatever that may be.”

It is true that the best help a woman can get is from a right man – equally true with its converse; but let the man who ventures take heed. Unless he is able to counsel a woman to the hardest thing that bears the name of duty, let him not dare give advice even to her asking.

“He loved her with the passion of a man mingled with the compassion of a prophet.”

I only venture to suggest that, though the labourer is worthy of his hire, not every man is worthy of the labour.

“The waves of infidelity are coming in with a strong wind and a flowing tide. Who is to blame? God it cannot be, and for unbelievers, they are as they were. It is the Christians who are to blame. I do not mean those who are called Christians, but those who call and count themselves Christians. I tell you, and I speak to each one of whom it is true, that you hold and present such a withered, starved, miserable, death’s-hand of Christianity; that you are yourselves such poverty-stricken believers, if believers you are at all; that the notion you present to the world as your ideal, is so commonplace, so false to the grand, gracious, mighty-hearted Jesus – that you are the cause why the truth hangs its head in patience, and rides not forth on the white horse, conquering and to conquer. You dull its lustre in the eyes of men; you deform its fair proportions;  you represent not that which it is, but that which it is not, yet call yourselves by its name; you are not the salt of the earth, but a salt that has lost its savour, for ye seek all things else first, and to that seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness shall never be added. Until you repent and believe afresh, believe in a nobler Christ, namely the Christ revealed by himself, and not the muffled form of something vaguely human and certainly all divine, which the false interpretations of men have been substituted for him, you will be, as, I repeat, you are, the main reason why faith is so scanty in the earth, and the enemy comes in like a flood.”

‘I need a God; and if there be none how did I come to need one? Yes, I know you think you can explain it all, but the way you account for it is just as miserable as what you would put in its place. I am not complete in myself like you. I am not able to live without a God. I will seek him until I find him, or drop into the abyss where all question and answer ceases.’

 

 

 

The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett

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About The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett:

A little girl who is sad from the death of her mother and longs for love and affection receives a special box and becomes curious who sent it and what could possibly be inside.

A miracle takes place and restores the love in the little girl’s heart that she thought was gone forever.

About Debbie Sheffield-Barnett:

Debbie Sheffield-Barnett is a 30 year veteran teacher (retired) of the Oklahoma City Public School. She holds a BS degree in Elementary Education and minor in music (piano) and has currently returned to the classroom.

She is an accomplished singer, pianist and organist. She serves and dedicates her talents to the work of the church ministry. Debbie lives in Oklahoma City and is married to her husband Charles.  She has 5 children and 10 grandchildren.

You can connect with her on her website and Facebook.

My Review:

I give The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett 5 out of 5 stars.

This review is long overdue, and it was actually supposed to be a video review, but my camcorder is acting glitchy, so I’m going the old-fashioned route: a written review.

I don’t often have the opportunity to review children’s books, but since I work with kids a lot, I’m always looking out for good books that will interest and entertain them. The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett is such a book.

The book is actually based on Sheffield-Barnett’s own experiences following her mother’s passing when she was a little girl, and I think that’s important on a few levels.

First of all, it’s a way of passing a story from one generation to another. Of course, we’ve all sat and listened to our parents’ and grandparents’ stories (or, at least, I hope we have), but it’s important to have those stories preserved, and writing them down is one of the best ways to do that.

Secondly, a children’s book is an excellent way to engage the younger generation, especially because of the illustrations. Being a visual person, a story is likely to stick with me longer and be more meaningful when it’s accompanied by an illustration of some sort.

Finally, sharing from her own experiences, made Sheffield-Barnett’s The Box relatable. I understood the little girl whose world changed when her mother passed away – how she battled pity from others and how she didn’t have anyone to really talk to. I loved the suspense as the little girl tried to imagine what was in the box – I would have been doing the same thing!

I highly recommend this book for 4-6 year olds. They might not be able to read it themselves, but it’s a good one for dads and moms (or grandpas and grandmas) to read to them.

Go get your copy!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Hollywood’s Treatment of Other, an Analytical Review

*SPOILER ALERT: This review is analytical in nature and may contain Pride and Prejudice and Zombies spoilers. If you are planning to read the book or see the film, you may want to wait to read this particular review.*

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For fans of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the speculative fiction genre, this newly-released reimagining of Jane Austen’s classic from writer Seth Grahame-Smith and director Burr Steers is sure to raise a cheer. It is indeed a provocative concept and my own hat is certainly off two these two creators for pondering what would have happened if zombies were introduced to the Bennett’s world. The fierce Elizabeth Bennett was played by Lily James and both the character and actress translate well to a martial arts master. The impregnable Fitzwilliam Darcy is played by Sam Riley who captures the newly-imagined cold zombie killer exceptionally. Watching familiar, ordinary scenes transformed into fight scenes managed to be both thrilling and just off-kilter enough to work. As far as an Austen and zombie films go, it was a lot of fun and everything it should have been.

There is, however, an underlying message in the film with which I’m not entirely comcomfortable. Whether it was intentional or not, I can’t say, but having extensively studied film, it is something of a trope in horror film. I refer to the subjugation of what Jacques Lacan and other psychologists call Other, those things the Ego perceives as being radically alien and unassimalible. That is, the Ego sees those things different than it and cannot be made like it as effrontery to its own being, and thus, views Other as something to be suppressed at all costs.

Of course, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Other is portrayed as the zombies and Ego is perhaps best represented in the character of the hyper-vigilant Mr. Darcy. From the outset, he considers it his duty to detect and dispose of the undead, even in instances when they pose no real threat because they have yet to consume human brains. In his mind, it is only a matter of time before they do, and must be dealt with immediately. In his zeal, he nearly kills Jane Bennett and his closest friend, Charles Bingley. Fortunately, the more level-headed Elizabeth stops him in both instances. We later learn no one was there to stop Darcy from destroying his father when he had become infected, duty-bound to keep the disease from spreading. To the analytical mind, it begs the question of where Darcy’s sense of obligation originates.

George Wickham’s mysterious character also elicits unease, because if ever there was a villain in an Austen novel, it is the charming officer. Wickham swiftly gains Elizabeth Bennett’s trust, as can only be predicted, and whisks her off to a colony of the undead at St. Lazarus, a  church, ironically enough. There, he reiterates that the undead are essentially harmless, being sated from pig brains offered during communion. They will not attack humans without having first tasted human brains. While it becomes clear Wickham is using these zombies and controlling their urges toward his own ends, the benign nature of these zombies until they are fed human brains is never fully explored, nor is the aggression against them fully explained.

Perhaps most disappointing is how easily the otherwise strong Elizabeth Bennett is swayed. At the beginning, she is not only forceful, but compassionate. To her, protection against harm is one thing, aggression against something harmless is another. She prevents Darcy from prematurely slaying her sister, and later, his closest friend. After the latter scenario, Elizabeth says, rather critically, “Mr. Darcy, your skills as a warrior are above reproach, but you are not a very good friend.” She continues believing this about him until, after her rejection of his first marriage proposal, he explains what he had to do to his father. Oddly, that changed her mind about Darcy, while it further solidified him as somewhat uncompassionate in mine. After all, if there was evidence such as she had seen at St. Lazarus that zombies could indeed be harmless, why was she so quick to believe Darcy’s assertion that it was a battle – the living against the undead? Perhaps it was the growing knowledge that Wickham used and controlled the zombies to infiltrate the homes of the wealthy, but surely that knowledge lends itself to cutting off that kind of leadership, rather than destroying its followers.

When George Wickham and Elizabeth Bennett appeal to her for help in guiding the harmless zombies at St. Lazarus, Lady Catherine de Bourgh compares the undead to locusts, saying they go forth in bands, having no leader, referencing an Old Testament proverb. In context, the proverb is actually saying this behavior of locusts is wise, but Lady Catherine uses it to say the undead will reject any and all leadership, and therefore must be destroyed, another example of Ego against Other. Because the undead did not fit within societal norms and could not be assimilated, they must not be allowed to exist.

It is reminiscent of the response of many in the United States to the Syrian refugee crisis, though Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was created before that came about. On one hand, there are those who, like Darcy and Lady Catherine, believe we should close our borders to people trying to escape the tyranny of Islamist extremists. Perhaps their personal histories lend them to the belief that the United States is most protected from terrorist attacks if she closes her borders to all Muslims.

On the other hand, there are those who believe we should be alert about those who wish to harm the United States and to be protected against them, but who also desire to help others who have been harmed. It is easier to embrace the first position than the second, because the second involves more risk. There is always a possibility when we open ourselves up in compassion, harmful things can slip in with the harmless. That’s why I enjoyed Elizabeth’s character at the outset: she was compassionate, but she was also protected.

Of course, there will always be those who seek to manipulate those who need protection for their own ends like Wickham and even Darcy did near the end when he fed the harmless zombies brains. Compassion is not a front to be hidden behind to change those who need help to be our way or do things our way. If it is, it is not compassion at all, but control, and it will backfire.

It’s human nature, really – this fear and subjugation of Other. That’s why prominent psychologists like Hegel, Freud, and Lacan have studied it so extensively. That’s why it’s a trope in the horror genre, where fear is rampant. That’s why there has been slavery and oppression throughout history. That’s why there was a Holocaust. That’s why we can’t welcome Syrian refugees. That’s why we can’t accept people who are attracted to other things than we are, who believe differently than we do. Our Egos are affronted by anything different from us, anything that cannot be like us or, God forbid, anything that doesn’t want to be like us, and our narcissistic tendencies insist that we crucify anything Other than ourselves, until at least, we are god.

In the New Testament, Paul warns Christians to mortify, or slay, the Ego, that inner resident who insists that everything must be about him or her; to reject self. If we continue to feed our Ego and reject Other, we run the risk of creating monsters, according to Percy Bysshe Shelley: “Treat a person ill and he will become wicked. Require affection with scorn; let one being selected, for whatever cause, as the refuse of his kind – divide him, a social being, from society, and you impose upon him the irresistible obligations – malevolence and selfishness. It is thus that, too often in society, those who are best qualified to be it’s benefactors and it’s ornaments, are branded by some accident with scorn, and changed … into a scourge and a curse” (On Frankenstein).

Interestingly, the Bennett sisters were considered as Other by respectable society in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well, having been trained for war instead of marriage, yet Darcy came to consider Elizabeth a suitable bride. Maybe there’s hope for him yet.

***

I am deeply indebted to Dr. Harry Benshoff of the University of North Texas for my analytical framework of horror films in his Gender and Sexuality in the Horror Film course. In other words, y’all can blame him that this review wasn’t just that first paragraph.

 

 

Happy #AfricanAmericanHistoryMonth: 10 Quotes from Dr. Maya Angelou

This month, I celebrate African American History.

I celebrate the African Americans who have given of their lives in building and rebuilding America and making her great.

I celebrate the significant contributions of African Americans to my spiritual development, teaching me and praying for me and giving me swift kicks to the rear end when needed. These women and men are a major part of my spiritual heritage.

And since it’s both African American History Month and Wisdom Week, I want to include some quotes from my favorite African American poet and a truly wise woman, Dr. Maya Angelou.

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The Tethered World, A Review

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About The Tethered World (from Amazon):

“Normal” means different things to different people. For sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen, family dynamics look a little different than most. Parents with oddball occupations? Normal. Five homeschooled siblings—one with autism? Normal.

Police knocking on the door and parents gone missing? Definitely not normal!

When Sadie uncovers the reasons behind her parents’ disappearance and the truth about her heritage, she despairs of ever feeling normal again. Especially when she learns that her mother’s interest in Bigfoot, Dwarves, and other lore extends beyond her popular blog. Sadie’s family has been entrusted with keeping the secrets of the Tethered World—home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden.

Sadie and her siblings must venture into this land to rescue their parents. Stepping out of reality and into a world she never knew existed is a journey Sadie fears and resents. But she chooses to risk all to save her family.

She’s just not sure she will survive in the process.

About Heather L. L. Fitzgerald:

Heather Fitzgerald grew up in Orchards, Washington (considered part of Vancouver). She loved creative writing and loathed math. In third grade she began her first book, Rubber Bands and Mashed Bananas, pounding it out on an old-fashioned typewriter. With no typing skills or knowledge of white-out, Heather eventually gave up.

Though she married and settled down in Texas, “write a book” remained on her bucket list. Family life included homeschooling four children, one with autism. A favorite pastime was reading adventures with the kids. After they read through The Chronicles of Narnia, Heather’s desire to write became too powerful to ignore.

She began to blog and work on story ideas. When author Susan K. Marlow read Heather’s review of her book, Trouble with Treasure, she contacted Heather and asked, “Are you a writer?” By God’s grace, Susan saw something in Heather’s writing and began to mentor her.

Heather joined North Texas Christian Writers and attended writing workshops. A prompt from Susan sparked Heather’s original ideas for The Tethered World. This book is the result of six years of writing and a gazillion edits (with equal parts coffee). Though the novel is YA Fantasy, Heather prefers to call it Family Fantasy. She hopes families will read it aloud and enjoy the adventure together.

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

My Review:

I give The Tethered World by Heather L. L. Fitzgerald 4 out of 5 stars.

In her debut novel, Fitzgerald has created a vivid world, diverse cast of characters, and an adventure on par with The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Redwall.

What you see on the cover is just a small glimpse of the world Fitzgerald has brought to life in The Tethered World: giant mushrooms, dark tunnels, snake branches, and many, many others occupy the pages of the story. What intrigued me most, though, was the concept: a world within our own, linked to our own since the Fall. Because of its connection, the Tethered World groans along with ours without needing to resort to allegory. Whether intended on the author’s part or not, I was reminded that human sin created total bondage for all creation, that sin does not occur in a vacuum.

When I say the characters are diverse, I don’t just mean that there is a variety of creatures in The Tethered World, though that’s certainly true. There are leprechauns, gnomes, dwarves, Nephilim, yetis, ogres, and fairies, but beyond that, the human characters were unique. Being a former homeschooler, I loved that Sadie and her siblings were homeschooled and had that special brand of homeschool humor (there was a joke about chain male that had me laughing longer than was probably reasonable). One of Sadie’s brothers has autism, and her great-aunt is afflicted with dementia, and those with loved ones in either condition will find the characters beautifully and relatably written. I would love to see more diversity like this in speculative fiction.

Sadie is not your typical brave heroine, and spends most of the adventure wishing she was back home. I didn’t particularly identify with her, but I liked this aspect about her – it made her authentic and gave opportunity for character growth.

Sophie, though – Sophie is my soul sister. There was a moment when a character quipped, “Hay is for houses,” I thought, I think the saying is ‘Hay is for horses.’ Maybe it’s a typo? Sophie echoed my sentiments just moments later, minus the part about the typo. I am known as the know-it-all in my family, too. I’ve gotten so much better over the years, but I mean, sometimes a girl just can’t help it, so I adored Sophie.

The story is packed with action throughout, and it makes for an exciting read. There were many moments when I caught myself holding my breath, wondering how the Larcens were going to make it out of this scrape or that. It’s not all serious, though: there is plenty of comic relief to offset the tense moments.

That being said, this is a bit of a journey story, and action girl that I am, I had a bit of trouble with the traveling portions. I know they’re necessary – unless you’re J. K. Rowling and then, disapparation – but even in my favorite stories – The Lord of the Rings, for example – I have a hard time with them.

I also want to thank Fitzgerald for not ending on a cliffhanger – that is my pet peeve in serial fiction, and I loved that it was resolved, and yet, you know there’s going to be more.

I highly recommend The Tethered World for fans of Tolkien, Lewis, and Jacques. It’s a fun, clean adventure that will appeal to families everywhere.

Goodbye, 2015

As I sit at the end of another year (my 27th year end – yikes!), I’m not only evaluating myself on how I met the resolutions and goals I made at the beginning of this year, but reflecting on all of the things that have changed over the days, weeks, and months of 2015. Let me tell you, it’s been full and nonstop and intense, and a lot of that hasn’t been covered on the blog or social media at all.

At the beginning of this year, I had a picture in my mind of how it was going to go. I always have a picture of how things are going to go – it’s part of the whole writerly imagination thing – but somehow it doesn’t ever turn out that way, which is totally fine.

As most of you remember, and as I was reminded by someone who found my blog by searching “Lydia Thomas Seattle” this week, I was going to move to Seattle this year.

At the end of January, somebody found me at my place of employment. I didn’t know this person, but this person knew who I was, and proceeded to tell me about a situation that, as far as I was concerned, had nothing to do with me. I had limited knowledge of the situation already, through a series of dreams I’d had, but this person filled in the blanks. It was a sucky situation, and it continued for many months with this person finding me many more times to discuss things, but God was trying to get my attention.

Instead of talking about what was really going on, though, I told you about Bethel (an important theme this year, for sure) and my Christian Friend(s) in the Closet, and fed you Confessions, Baptist Snippets, and Favorite Writing Quotes.

For the first time in February, I ended up owing taxes. I usually donate my refund, and some people have come to expect that support. It wasn’t there this year. It sucked having to explain to people that I just didn’t have it to give, and it seemed like even more people than usual were asking, especially given my new position as a marketing manager at Booktrope Publishing. People who couldn’t have told me what was going on in my life were asking for my money. I’ve never felt less loved in my entire life.

But I kept those less than pleasant thoughts under wraps, and focused on funny, positive anecdotes and analogies.

In March, I went to the doctor for the first time in six years. My parents actually forced me to go because one evening my mom noticed excessive hair loss (actually, her exact words were, “Lydia, are you going bald?!” which, you know, was pleasant). My dad showed up the next day with an insurance card and the phone number of his doctor, telling me to get my thyroid checked before I got booted from his insurance. (I was about to be 26). Anyway, I went to the doctor to have blood drawn and we made an appointment to discuss the results, and was told they wouldn’t contact me before that unless there was something that concerned them. Well, they contacted me. When I went back to my doctor in March, she said, “Lydia, are you diabetic?” To which I responded, “You tell me.”

But, I really didn’t want to talk about all of that. Not about how long I’d been feeling bad and had complained about feeling bad before I just shut up and lived with it, or about how my doctor told me I couldn’t have anything that enjoyed (forget dessert, we’re talking bread…and cheese), or about how my parents got on me for going to the doctor wrong. (Apparently, if I had gone in for a well check up, the insurance wouldn’t have charged me for something I couldn’t afford, which I might have known if I’d been to the doctor more than once in my adult life. In my own defense, my dad told me to tell them I wanted my thyroid checked.) No, during March, I mostly talked about books and reading.

April was lonely. It was lonely because I wanted to talk about it – all of it – but I didn’t want to talk about it online, and by and large, that’s how my community has been done the past few years … online. I was hearing so much from my parents about how preventable the whole situation (health and insurance) was, I really didn’t need to hear any more well-meaning tips and lectures. I needed a hug and someone to listen to my side of things over a cup of (black, haha) coffee.

So in April, I was pretty quiet. I did end up tackling loneliness, at least a little:

On the other hand, I hold back.  With a few notable exceptions, this is how I have lived my life.  After all, if I have to make transitions, why not make them as easy on myself as possible?  Except living life this way doesn’t actually make things easier at all.  It’s made it much, much harder, and I’m realizing it much, much too late.

In May, I started making some changes, starting with church. Don’t get me wrong, I had been attending a great church throughout 2014 and into 2015, but that’s all I was really doing. I hadn’t really connected with anyone and so much of that had to do with a beyond hectic and unpredictable work schedule, and the rest of it had to do with the aforementioned why bother relationship ethic I’d developed. It wasn’t me at all, but at that point, I kind of figured most people there had given up on me, so I started over at another church, which was neither my best nor my worst idea.

I didn’t talk about this either, at least, not literally, because the Lord knows I am a recovering church hopper, and if there’s something the Church doesn’t like, it’s a hopper. I started writing posts with more substance, though, and got back to anecdotes. I also wrote my most popular post this year – about the Duggar’s – in May. (Well, I say it was about the Duggar’s. Really, it was about justice.)

At the end of June, there was an intervention staged in my honor by my Dad concerning me not taking very good care of myself. This has been the nature of every lecture and intervention that I can remember. And it’s hard to explain the why to my dad, because the fact that I sometimes get depressed and have more difficulty functioning is not something that has ever registered with him, since I gather depression is not supposed to be a Christian reality. His thought was that I was doing too much between three jobs, and that I had very little to show for the work I was putting in, especially in the newest one I’d acquired. (It was royalties-based). Add to that, I couldn’t afford to really take care of myself and the health issues that had cropped up for me. (Seriously, is the Affordable Care Act affordable for anybody?) So, even though I loved my authors and their books, I decided to step down in most of my marketing projects to do things like eat and sleep. (I stepped down from the rest of my projects soon after).

I really didn’t want to talk about that, so I spent most of the month talking about reading and writing.

A big shift happened for me in July.  I decided, not for the first time this year, that I was going to live my life, after a sermon on money (of all things) at church. Money is always my biggest reason to not do anything, and I made up my mind it wasn’t going to be that way anymore. There were things I wanted to do and see, and I was going to do and see them. I started with an impromptu road trip that same day, and two weeks later I headed to Oklahoma City on a trip that literally changed my life’s direction, when I realized God was saying, “Yeah, it’s not time” about Seattle, yet again. For whatever reason, I was more open to hearing it at that point.

God opened the doors for a relocation to Oklahoma City in August, and I did a lot of reading and launch prep for the republication of The Field for Vox Dei. And in September, I moved.

Since moving, I’ve been readjusting to a more traditional church atmosphere, which given my background, really shouldn’t be difficult, but it’s not without it’s challenges. I’m also trying to connect better with people, not just at church, but at work as well, and looking for new social opportunities with people my age. I’ve been trying to feel out my community, especially my apartment complex, for ministry opportunities. I’m learning about sensitivity and identity. I’m learning that I don’t have to be just one thing, but I don’t have to be all the things, either. I’m learning about patience.  And moderation. And compassion for local and global issues. And empowerment.

Most of all, between reading this blog and my journals over the past year, and noting the discrepancies between the two, I’m learning I don’t want to be a brand either. I don’t want to just pick certain parts of myself to share (like, “Reading, Writing, and Matters of Faith”), and completely leave out others (like science and history and my completely dorky side or anything else I might develop an interest in). I want to be able to talk about the stuff that’s impacting me. Instead, the first thing I’m asking before posting is, “Does it fit my brand?” And now all it feels like I am online is a brand.

Naturally, I have plans to change that, because this isn’t working for me – this writing a post at the end of the year to let you know what actually happened in my year. This blog should be actual, not blow by blow by any means, but realistic about what I’m going through.

And that’s going to be my starting point for 2016…

 

 

 

 

 

The 2015 Thomas Review Book Awards

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Goodreads tells me that I’ve read 41 books this year. My goal was 52, so I didn’t make that, and for ethical reasons, I couldn’t review all of them. I did want to take a post to recognize some of the truly exceptional stories I’ve read and characters I’ve met throughout the year. Without further ado…

Best Male Character. Without a doubt, this goes to Will of Ashley Townsend’s Shadows Trilogy.

I get Will, and I am so thankful for the grace and empathy Ashlee displayed writing his character.  Most Christian writers don’t have the ability to write a character like him without getting preachy, but she did an excellent job.  There was actually a point where Will was discussing some of his issues, and I actually cried.

Because besides relating to him, he’s actually this really knowledgeable and skilled character, with an incredible sense of purpose.

“To stop yourself from feeling is like ceasing to live; life no longer holds meaning.  Hurt, anger, pain, desire, compassion, love – they’re what make us human.  They’re what living is all about. Being able to feel is something we shouldn’t take for granted or push away when offered.”

I truly can’t commend Ashley enough for Will’s character.  While very much a hero, Will realizes both his own brokenness and the broken situations around him.  He struggles to fight through those situations, and even learns a little bit how to let someone else fight for him.

“I have always wondered,” he began slowly, drawing the words out, “if my failure was because I lacked conviction to follow through, or perhaps I was afraid of death and wasn’t aware of it.”

Best Female Character. The best female character I read this year was Sparrow from Hilarey Johnson’s Sovereign Ground.

I completely identify with Sparrow’s desire to be free (and also, her love of grape pop), so while I have never had to face the choices she faces, I understand why she makes them. Sparrow is direct, smart (an avid reader), and strong, and so not only is Sovereign Ground a great story, Sparrow is a great protagonist.

Runners up in this category include Ruby from Jenna Zark’s The Beat on Ruby’s Street and Isa Maxwell from Ana Spoke’s Shizzle, Inc.

Best Supporting Character. The Best Supporting Character goes to Addy from Penelope A. Brown’s The Gatekeeper’s Forbidden Secret.

Addy was my favorite character, reminding me of my younger self with her wild imagination and dolls and stories. When I was little I had a fake phone on which I talked to all of my imaginary friends. Anyway, as I got older my grandma told me that the way I talked she would have sworn someone was on the other end. Maybe there was, Grandma. Maybe there was.

Best Couple. Best couple goes to Chase and Mads from Emerald Barnes’ Entertaining Angels and Before We Say I Do. They’re just super adorable. ‘Nuff said.

The runners up in this category are Macy and Dillon from RJ Conte’s The 12th Girl in Heaven.

Fiction That Needs to Hit the Big Screen. Tabitha Caplinger’s Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline.

It’s a great alternative to much of what exists in the YA market. This is both praise for Caplinger and Vox Dei Publishing (full disclosure: my publisher) because they have managed to bring a story that contains the classic elements of YA fiction (difficulties navigating high school relationships, a romantic element, and intrigue, to name a few), yet manages to empower teens at the same time. The teens in this story are kind and brave and relatable (i.e. not perfect), and they also have mentors who care for them and speak into their lives, something that is all-too-often missing in YA fiction, and perhaps in real life. (Let’s bring that back, shall we?)

Runner up in this category is Heather Huffman’s Ties that Bind.

Best in Fantasy. Best in Fantasy goes to Elise Stephens’ Guardian of the Gold Breathers.

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.

Best in Literary Fiction. Best in Literary Fiction goes to Run, River Currents by Ginger Marcinkowski.

This story is harrowing, absolutely harrowing. I cried as it ended, because it was so familiar. I am so, so grateful for its brutal honesty, and yet, it ended in a tone of hope. It gave me courage, and it gave me hope.

Runner up in this category is A Decent Woman by Eleanor Parker Sapia.

Best Family Saga. Best in Family Saga goes to Last Child by Terry Tyler.

Hannah was my favorite character from Kings and Queens, so I was overjoyed to see her in the role of narrator for this book. I thought Raine, Isabella, and Amy were fantastic characters, but I adored Erin – a woman after my own heart right there, not to mention she was a refreshing change from the “woman scorned” characters that preceded her.

Best Memoir. Best in Memoir goes to The House on Sunset by Lindsey Fischer.

You may wonder why I – a single, independent twenty-something woman – picked up a memoir on domestic violence. It’s simple, really: before Lindsay met Mike, she was a single, independent twenty-something woman, too. I hope this doesn’t sound too terrible, but since I personally dread getting into a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, I was hoping to glean some advice as to how to avoid one.

What I found was a woman looking for love and acceptance, like any of us might be at any given time. What I found was a woman who learned rejection from a mother who learned it from her mother. (Something I deeply relate to).  I found was a woman who internalized so much pain for so long she began taking it out on herself. What I found was an optimist, a healer, a lover. What I found was impossibly complex.

Runner up in this category goes to Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter by Sarahbeth Caplin.

Best Non-Fiction. Best in Non-Fiction goes to Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster.

I was surprised to find it was very much in line with my theology, which has drastically changed in the past year or so. Shocked, actually. I didn’t expect to be pumping my fist in the air, saying, “Yes! Somebody gets it!” but that’s what ended up happening. And because Foster includes many thoughts from theologians from history, it was comforting to realize that the things I have come to believe about God are not new and untested; in fact, they are ancient and respected. Foster introduced me to concepts I’d never heard of, but that made perfect sense.

Runner up in this category is Pulpits and Pink Lipstick by Tabitha Caplinger.

Best Fiction. Best in Fiction goes to There and Back by George MacDonald.

In There and Back, George MacDonald did for me what Dickens never could: he went to that deepest level and he lived there with the story and characters. The story takes place in nineteenth-century England, and follows the aristocratic Lestrange family and those who cross their paths, from other aristocrats to tradesmen to clergy. MacDonald explores the social, emotional, and spiritual standing and evolution of every character he introduces. It’s a complex look at how people’s philosophies shape how they relate to God and one another. No less important is the gritty look at why a good God allows bad things to happen – an age old question, I think.

I’m actually feeling a little burnt out on reading and reviewing, so I think I’m going to try a different approach – in 2016. I’ll probably still do little reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but reserve blog space for more analytical and critical reviews – maybe once a month or something. I don’t know. I just know I’m not going to attempt 52 books in one year ever again, haha. (Probably).