Saturday, June 17, 2017

197: 57 year old virgin--what if?

I was listening to the audiobook version of Kingdom Woman (by Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst). I'm only in the introduction so far, but it was talking about how we assume a kingdom woman is someone over there who has it altogether. Someone who has been married for 57 years, or someone who is 57 years old and "has walked in remarkable purity."

I know the author wasn't talking about marriage or singleness or even what our ideal should be. But it got me thinking.

Would God be glorified if I got to be 57 years old and was still a virgin?

See, I look at our divorce culture and God's design of marriage and I think, "If I could be married and do marriage well, I could be a light to show that what God designed is good!" With all the conflict inherent in our relationships, a marriage that stands the test of time seems to me to be a testimony to the goodness of God's design! Amen?

What I haven't considered recently til I heard the line from the book is that, just as I look at a long lasting happy marriage as glorifying God, maybe, too, a long lasting purity glorifies Him equally.

Not only do we live in a divorce culture where you go to a wedding and wonder if it will last in the face of 50/50 statistics, we also live during a time when fornication is culturally accepted. As a 31 year old wanting to be married, I know the likelihood of finding a guy who has not slept with a girl at some point in his life is ridiculously slim. And I'm not downplaying God's redemptive power. The Lord is glorified when we cast our trust for redemption from our sinful selves on Him. He is glorified  when He gives new life. Purity cannot be worn as a badge of boasting, just like a happy marriage cannot be taken for granted.

But. For those who are progressing through the decades in singleness, in virginity, as living within a culture of immorality and yet not part of it, don'tcha know that God's righteousness is lifted up through your life? You may not be a testimony of God's design of marriage, but you are a testimony of God's character, to His own purity.

There is purpose. How I live out my relationship status can glorify God. And that encourages me.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Book Review: Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette

Isn't the cover breathtaking?
My mom read the first Out From Egypt book by Connilyn Cossette awhile ago. She loved it! When I got the list of possible books to review from Bethany House Publishers, there were a couple authors I've enjoyed before--which to choose?? Well, Wings of the Wind (the third book in the Out From Egypt series) was not only by an author my mom had enjoyed (I made sure to request a hard copy so she could read it after me), but it also had an arranged marriage of course I chose it. :-P

Wings of the Wind takes place during the end of Moses' leadership and the very beginning of Joshua's. It is a romance, but more than a romance. It is about a Canaanite woman and a Hebrew man who marry solely for the sake of her own safety. The plot, especially for the first couple dozen chapters before the plot twist, are about their budding relationship. But that's not what I take away from this book. What I loved about Wings of the Wind was how the author contrasts Canaanite culture and Yahweh's way. I think often we read the first five books of the Bible and scratch our heads and go okaaaay.... That's a weird law. That law doesn't seem severe enough. We read God's laws from a 21st century, Judeo-Christian/post-Christian perspective and, to be honest, they don't seem to fit into our thinking. Connilyn Cossette plants those laws back into 1400 B.C. culture where Biblical morality wasn't the norm and, granted it's a novel, suddenly His laws appear how they are--wonderful and beautiful and designed to create a holy people. She also describes (not in excessive detail, but in detail) the cruelty and immorality of the Canaanites, and you understand why God told His people to destroy that culture of evil (and the cultural anthropologists gasp). The author also puts her own spin on what the pillar of cloud looked like and makes a beautiful contrast between the living Yahweh and the "having ears, they do not hear" baalim.

I left this novel--and yes, it's a historical fiction romance--worshipping God more.

5 out of 5 stars!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Book Review: Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano

Behind the Scenes is I think the sixth Jen Turano book I've read. Her historical romances are always humorous and somewhat outlandish, her female heroines unique and strong-minded, and her plots much more like a comedy of errors than a staid historical novel. It's her trademark.

On Amazon, it seems you can always get a Jen Turano prequel for free--and then you're hooked! I think the novella At Your Request, introducing the reader to the world of wallflowers during the 1880s, was my first Jen Turano book. Behind the Scenes, the official Book #1 in the series, was not yet published, so I put its release date on my calendar and went in search of other Turano books. I read through the Ladies of Distinction series, one right after the other. Bad choice. Even though I really enjoyed the first couple books, by the time I reached the 4th and last of the series, I was completely burnt out on Turano's style. And I kinda still am.

So although this author's books are always guaranteed for a good laugh set in either the Regency Era or, like Behind the Scenes, in the Gilded Age, let me forewarn you about the aggravations of these novels, and you can decide if those would inhibit your own enjoyment.

Besides outlandish situations and quirky characters, another trademark of her flowery language. It reminds me of how I used to talk on instant messenger when it was late at night and I wanted to pretend to be British and talk witty and at length. At long length. It's fun to read, but there is no economy of words. None. Whatsoever. And some of the same phrases are used over and over.

Then when the male characters sound and think EXACTLY THE SAME as the female characters, and the side characters are the same, and characters between books in the same series all sound the same--it becomes painful. Very painful to this reader.

I can't help but wonder why the editor didn't notice the lack of characterization? If I were her editor (which I'm not qualified to be), my red pen and I would have a heyday with Asher Rutherford's parts in Behind the Scenes. He should not sound like a carbon copy of Permilia. He should not talk and think like a girl. His lines should be more succinct, his mental density more natural, his thoughts less ridiculously intuitive.

Confession. When the author started focusing on Asher Rutherford's mental processes, I read a whole other book (Lassoed by Marriage--soooo good!) before returning to finish this one.

It's not that I don't enjoy Turano's writing. I do. It's just sometimes very painful to read because of the lack of ruthless editing. But even though it's painful doesn't mean I won't read another of her books. Because, despite being historical fiction, Turano's novels are in a category of their own.

Try one of the free novellas on Amazon and know that every other book she writes is exactly the same, for better and for worse.

(Side note: If you want to read really well-written historical fiction--but less crazy--from the same general time period, try Kristi Ann Hunter. Yummmm.)

P.S. Amazingly enough, I didn't have to buy this on the release date after all! I got a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for writing an honest review. Sweet deal!

Monday, May 8, 2017

196: placebo, cure-all, inner muse in male form

So, I'm reading Deuteronomy 33 right now. I'm very tired. Like, physically I've been sick for over a week so my eyes kinda hurt and my throat and stomach. ANYWAY, I'm reading a little of Deuteronomy in an effort to feed my soul--which is also empty of strength--and some things I'm coming across are cool, like

"From His right hand
Came a fiery law for them.
Yes, He loves the people;
All His saints are in Your hand;
They sit down at Your feet;
Everyone receives Your words."

Isn't that a cool mental picture? "Fiery" law is just cool (Mt. Sinai, clouds, thunder, fire--what a spectacle that had been 40 yrs prior). And the direct statement of His love! And then us being in His hand (cf John 10). And all us like sheep sitting down and receiving His words.

And then I keep reading. "He was King in Jeshurun." Now, I feel like I should know what this means but tonight I'm like what is Jeshurun??? So I follow my unhelpful cross-reference over to 32:15 which says (and I remember reading this the other day), "Jeshurun grew fat." Well THAT didn't help. And I figure I could look up the Strong's definition on my phone but right now I'm just whinily, humorously frustrated that I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS! (the Jeshurun part, not the fat part) (oh. Is Jeshurun a synonym for Israel? But why?? I don't remember 😩).

And somewhere around my whining and discovery of cool words like "fiery" it comes to me AGAIN that I, like, really wish I had a guy to text right now about it and someone to swap deep thoughts with.

(And no, if you're a guy I have tried to wrestle deep conversations out of that doesn't necessarily mean I'm on the hunt. A single does not have to be deprived of co-ed good conversations until (s)he is married. Or rather, I'd hope not!)

The thought (of wanting a guy to talk with about stuff like this) occurs to me semi-regularly.

Of course, do I really want to sit there and listen to someone else go on a tangent that has nothing to do with obese Jeshurun?

That's not really what I had in mind.

What I have in mind is more like a cure-all for these moments of wistfulness.

Realistic expectation? No.

But it was a nice thought.

(I wouldn't mind hearing his thoughts too, my head is just hurting right now so I'm leaving out commas I should add now that I'm proofreading, and not being clear about what I mean. Of course a real person is better than a placebo! And basically, singles sometimes think in terms of Disney 2D static characters without realizing it. At least I have a tendency to :( ).

Instead I have the internet (you) and the God whom I should care more about being in communion with than a fella.

"There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to help you" (Deut. 33:26)

(I really need to look that up!)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

195: most recent thoughts on believing in the beauty of God's unknown plan

I have completely lost my voice, it's getting close to a time when I should be getting ready for bed, my throat feels scratchy, but I want to write what I've been thinking. Might not be as coherent or well-examined (or succinct!) as if I had more time. Disclaimer there.

Do I believe in the beauty of God's design? Do I believe in the beauty of His redemption?

I'm reading Laura Story's When God Doesn't Fix It. For those who don't know, Laura Story is a Christian songwriter. Shortly after she and her husband Martin married, he suffered from brain trauma and now has short term memory loss (reminiscent of the movie Remember Sunday but not that bad). Her dream had always been to be a stay at home mom, like her mom before her. But instead she had to deal with seeing that dream die as she became the breadwinner for the family. And she and her husband have had to walk through his medical issues and figuring out how to do life differently than they had ever imagined. She writes:

"When Martin and I said, 'I do,' we set out on a boulevard of marital bliss. Then came a bumpy detour called 'Brain Tumor.' We took the detour and followed its winding ways. but I kept thinking the detour would take us back to the main road. It took me several years to realize that it wasn't a detour; it was the road. It was taking us farther away from anything familiar and would never lead us back to the boulevard of dreams where we started. . . .
I had to reconsider other dreams. Our parents had always been our role models--both our dads worked outside the home while our moms took care of their homes and children. That was our dream too. I'd always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Now my only option was to a be a working mom. I didn't know what that would look like, or even if I could do it." (ch. 9)

"It's easy to sign up for a short-term mission project or donate money . . . . But would you be willing to sign up for the brokenness in your life, if you knew your brokenness would bring glory to God and enable you to learn to trust him in everything?" (ch. 10)

"When Martin and I walked through his medical trials, we saw a lot of things die. Our vision for our future. Our dreams for each other. Our idea of a perfect family. Sometimes they died all at once; other times, our dreams slowly withered away. When they did, I thought they were gone forever. But occasionally God allows a dream to die so that we can see his power greatly displayed." (ch. 16)

(I did NOT summarize the book, just picked the relevant parts, so get the book for yourself! Here's a vid of Laura Story singing her song "Blessings.")

My mom and I went to Sight & Sound's movie production of "Jonah" last night. They characterized Jonah as a man who had been waiting for 17 years for God to give him another prophecy. When he heard God say He was going to destroy Ninevah, Jonah was ecstatic. Then he realized, wait, why would God tell him to warn them unless . . . . And at that point Jonah began fighting God. He wished God had never spoke to him. He told God He was asking too much of him. He ran away. He decided he couldn't do what God asked and decided to disobey and separate himself from God. He even was willing to be thrown into the sea and die instead of having to do what God wanted him to do. Of course, God kept him alive. God got him to the point of reluctant obedience.

When I think of redemption, I think of a mosaic sun catcher of colored broken glass. Like something made "perfectly" has been broken and recreated. Usually I think of the breaking being a result of sin, and so God redeems the ugly to make something beautiful.

What if God does, or allows, the breaking? What if He breaks what I think is perfect? How much do I believe that whatever beauty He is going to create from the brokenness is better than what I thought was perfect?

We all have what we think is perfect. And we all experience brokenness. It is common to man.

Ok, not sure where I was going with that.

Not sure where the thread of Laura Story and Jonah and the mosaic weave together....

God. Do I trust God when He breaks my plans and presents me with the unknown. Do I look at the unknown and then look back to Egypt and say, but THAT would have been better, Lord? Or do I look at the unknown and say, You are good, You create amazing beauty, and I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Or is it (more likely) two steps forward in faith and one step back in wishful thinking?

How much do I trust that, in His power, He will make something more beautiful (by His definition) than I would have, and how much am I willing to let Him?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

194: ...and a sound mind

Fear. It's powerful in relationships. It's no coincidence that when 2 Timothy 1:7 says that "God has not given us a spirit of fear" that the corollary is His giving us "a sound mind." Because when I am fearful about a relationship, I do not have a sound mind. Obsessive. Overanalyzing. Worried. Stressed. Predicting the future. Jumping to conclusions. Reading into things. Seeing doom. Giving up. And all within hours of the last interaction.

There is no buoyant hope. No steadiness. No waiting to see what will happen next if I let it rest a day in God's hands.

If I squint and cock my head, I can vaguely see the writing on the wall, and even though I have no divine interpreter, I can agonizingly surmise it says, "This person has been weighed on the scales and found wanting; this relationship's days are numbered." The former butterflies in my stomach transform into a knot that drags me under. No more information needed. It's the end. I'm going to bed.

Been there, done that, Lord, please, teach me to have a sound mind.

The other day I was sitting across from a little girl who deals with possessiveness when it comes to friendships. And one of her male friends had been particularly chummy with another person lately. Not good. So as we sat there coloring, she told me resignedly, "So, I think this *her name* and *his name* thing is over." After I got over the humor of hearing a little girl refer to herself in the third person, I started talking to her about how friendships go up and down, and, yes, it's hard when we have to wait. She was like, "I know. It's been TWO days." Inwardly chuckling, I replied, "And it feels like FOREVER." But it's not. It's hard to wait. It's really hard. But things will change. (I may have even promised her chocolate if it doesn't . . . I don't always have wisdom when interacting with kids.)

I know firsthand how hard it is to wait and want a guy and try to surrender him to God and then see him get married and want any guy and get one and lose one and spend months recovering from the loss and wait some more. I literally know emotional pain very well, like the back of my hand, like an old blankie actually.

I also know that God has been there with me in every painful season of my life. He has been so close. I also know that the days upon days that sucked me under were seasons. They did not last. Two days is not forever. A painful day or two (or week) where the anxiety over a guy makes me want to keep sleeping and I'm eating two bowls full of chocolate ice cream and yet my stomach still is in knots? It will not always be like that.

But even if the disappointment is more severe, God has been with me through so much emotional turbulence already, and He's continually taking me back to the basics of who He is as my baseline. He is my baseline. THE baseline, apart from me. My life will have highs and lows. But the Rock does not change. Do you know how much having a sound mind is related to clinging to that Rock and knowing He'll get me through even this, because I've seen Him do it in the past over and over? My memorial stones were agonizingly set, but they are there, witnesses of God's faithfulness.

God has also blessed me with people who listen when I'm hovering at irrational highs and dragging through irrational lows. Sometimes they just listen; sometimes they speak steadiness and insight into my crazy, rubberbanding, emotional self.

Fear. It's powerful in relationships. But God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

During a very hard season,
I played/sang this song over and over.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Book Review: Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy

Long Time Gone is the second book of The Cimarron Legacy series. I remember where I was when I read the first book. It was last summer, and I was out in the back yard on our lounge chair. When the book ended, I felt all delicious and so ready to read more about the Bodens and Sadie and Heath.

I have loved everything I have read by Mary Connealy. She always grabs your attention right away and perfectly combines suspense, action, and romance.

So I don't know if it was because I have more recently been reading Regency Era fiction (so different from Western!), or because I was struggling to recapture my first impressions of this book's main character from when he was introduced in last summer's book, or if it was because the author spent chapters upon chapters re-establishing the plot so we wouldn't be confused, but I didn't feel like this book picked up the pace until around chapter 12.

Long Time Gone is the continuation of No Way Up. The characters are trying to figure out the reason behind all the chaos in book one. Which means there is a lot more sitting around talking and trying to piece the puzzle together than Connealy's normal fare.

The romance too, while fun once it started, seemed to go way too fast, like time in each other's presence was implied, but I didn't even realize it had happened.

In the past, I have marveled at how smoothly Connealy writes--flawlessly smooth. This book wasn't like that at all. It felt more haphazard and pieced together. (Example: I didn't like that when it was Angie's time in the spotlight, the point of view was more omniscient than her POV.) The end was the best part (and it was really good!), but then it was over.

I still want to see what happens in the next book--so little happened in this one--but I have to give Long Time Gone 3 out of 5 stars unfortunately.