Thursday, December 24, 2015

Book Review: With This Ring?

I really don't like short stories, but I love novellas! A novella, as I understand it, is a mini-novel, usually grouped with three others to make a book. With a novella, you get a lot more plot than a short story, but you get to find out what happens a lot faster than a full-length novel.

I just finished reading With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry. The first story--The Husband Maneuver by Karen Witemeyer--is an impossible (as in, it doesn't happen like this in real life) romance (ok, maybe most novels don't happen like real life, but this one seemed more fictitious than some) between a young girl and her dad's ranch hand. She is determined to win him over, but she doesn't realize that he is already interested in her. (I say "impossible" because he is very self-aware and becomes verbal but is the gruff, throw chairs out of the way as she backs against a wall, so he can tell her his feelings before passionately kissing her type of guy.) Good, but fiction.

Next came another very unlikely story--but it's one of my favorite storylines, so I didn't mind! Her Dearly Unintended by Regina Jennings. Two young people have to pretend like they are married (very chaste though!) in order to fool the potentially bad guy. Of course they also secretly like each other, but they don't find that out until the end.

The third novella is Runaway Bride (yes, this title has been used before). It's by Mary Connealy. Need I say more? She is such a good writer! Again, she nails the combo of action and romance. My only problem is it seemed the character development was abruptly cut out to make the story short enough for this collection. And...I'm not going to tell you the storyline. So there.

The last one is Engaging the Competition by Melissa Jagears, another he-woman heroine like many characters these days, though this time to the extreme. Seriously, that girl needs to read For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn or maybe attend the "Love and Respect" seminars by the Eggerichs'. But the guy that falls for her, despite being everything she is not (oh my word, he is such a guy in boasting about how well he can shoot...when obviously she can shoot better...but she lets that one slide, thankfully!), is a good, strong-character guy, willing to take a bullet for her, even though he can't see how many fingers he's holding his eyesight is so bad. It is an interesting romance though--they are so opposite but they can see beyond their differences and truly love each other.

I stayed up late reading this novella collection, so I think I liked it. :) My only negative would be that it's not the kind of book you want to read during the Christmas season when you're single with no prospects. Doesn't help. :P

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Releasing him she took a step back. 'Are you proposing to me, [insert name]?'
'No, I'm not.' His jaw hardened. 'I've got a parson that you done clocked in the head with a hammer to attend to. You wait your turn.'" (Regina Jennings, Her Dearly Unintended)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

162: solutions for the single blues this time of year

I don't know what it is about this time of year. Days before Thanksgiving it started. And not just for me. I was getting texts from others too, confirming that, yes, we were all kinda wishing that we had someone.

Maybe the magic of the season makes us extra sentimental. Maybe the family get-togethers make us more aware that we have no one to bring to the party. Maybe the cold weather makes us want to cozy in front of a fire next to someone wearing long-sleeved, buttoned-up, flannel plaid. Or thoughts of mistletoe and sleigh bells and walking in a winter wonderland are just getting to be a little much, even if you do live in a snow-less area, like I do.

Whatever the cause, it sorta creeps up on you in the cold days and early nights, and one doesn't know whether to jump on Christian Mingle or wait out the storm.

I think it depends.

God has given us desires to make us act. When we're hungry, we go get food. When we're exhausted, we sleep. All desires can be governed by self-control. I don't have to eat and sleep as soon as I'm hungry or tired, but if I had no desire for these things I would have no impetus to act (unless I just knew it was good for me to do so and forced myself forward).

The same thing with this nudging, longing, wishing for someone. It could be a reminder to change something in your life: get out and be more social with single people, let your desire for marriage be known among the motherly types in your church, sign up for a dating site, send a FB friend request, pray a lot more for a spouse.

On the other hand, if you feel an abnormal longing, something that is coming out stronger than usual and more possessive of a present you do not have, the solution might be what I have detected often in my own life: spend more quality time with God. Because sometimes the lack in your spiritual life will show itself by eating at you for SOMETHING, SOMEONE to fill the gap. And in that case, the last thing we want to do as believers is trek out on our own to pursue a crush instead of filling up on the One who has and always will be with us.
"Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods,
So is my beloved among the sons."
Song of Solomon 2:3

Along with that, if you are happy with your life, it can help a little to remind yourself that you are satisfied, that you are happy, that God has blessed you. I sometimes catch myself wanting to become more desperate than I actually am.

my class is growing green beans!
On a less substantial note, I've found, in rare occasions, that a couple Hallmark movies back to back can be just the thing to warm the heart and produce a happy sigh so one can get back to normal life.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: Bathsheba

What was I thinking in requesting this book to review? It's the story of BATHSHEBA after all.

Bathsheba's story in the Bible is graphic, and Angela Hunt communicates the reality of it. Tamar has her side-story as well. The first half or so of the book I was thinking, "No, I'm not going to recommend this."

But Angela Hunt does what she does so well, she brought all the story of Bathsheba, all the events happening around Bathsheba, into one coherent story about one woman's unexpected life. I never realized how much God disciplined David for his sin against Bathsheba. I never thought how Absalom's rebellion might have affected Bathsheba, whose son was the promised next king. I didn't realize that when David allowed Saul's grandchildren to be executed to satisfy the Gibeonites, that those were Michal's nephews and she would mourn for them. It never crossed my mind that in helping Absalom, Ahithophel was unknowingly fighting the right of his own grandson to be king.

If you want Bathsheba's story to come to life for you, this is a great book! But beware that Bathsheba's story will be brought to life, and her story did not have a pleasant start.

In comparison with my review on Esther, this book did not take a long time to start and did not wrap up too quickly. We know a lot about Bathsheba's life because David's life is well-chronicled. I loved that about this book--the thoroughness of covering her life.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. I have not read the similar fictional biographies by Francine Rivers and Jill Eileen Smith, so I cannot compare them, though I have been told that Hunt's version is much less graphic than Smith's, if memory serves that reader correctly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November Prayer 10 (when I want to bad-mouth others)

Lord, I get so frustrated at people sometimes. Don't they SEE what they are doing? Oh Lord, put a clamp over my mouth so I do not expose my family or friends or acquaintances to others. Let me open my mouth before You and cry out to You for justice instead of venting every detail to another human being. The tongue is powerful, Lord, and I always regret what I say, even if emotionally it felt like I needed to get it out. Teach me more self-control and more dependence on You for my verbal processing of frustration. Show me what to do with my frustration. In Jesus' name, Amen.

November Prayer 9 (for those struggling with being critical)

"You'll not get your man to be the man you want him to be by being critical of him. It doesn't work. You can't criticize him into his destiny." --Miles Weiss

Lord God, You say that he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22). But You also say that it is better to dwell in the corner of a housetop or in a wilderness than with a contentious, nagging woman (Proverbs 19:13, 21:9, 19). Lord, You know my tendencies. You know the tendencies of the single and married women I know. Lord, we are dripping-faucet women by nature, picking at and trying to change the men in our lives. Father, first I ask that You would teach us to pray. Teach us, married and unmarried, to hold our tongues, wait on You, and seek Your face and Your power for the change we want. It is not by our might to coerce, manipulate, or sanctify, but by Your spirit. Give us discernment when to stay silent, because honestly I struggle knowing what is helpful to say so he knows what I'm thinking (because he can't read my mind) and knowing what is better left unsaid.

I also pray You would teach us contentment. Oh Lord, I struggle so hard with accepting a man how he is. I need You to change me in that area. I want to love and accept a man the way I love and accept a friend--annoyances and all. I want to love him because I love him, not because he meets every qualification. Help my married friends and family to accept their husbands, even if they at times do or say something annoying. Empower us to extend grace. In Jesus' name, Amen.

This prayer was inspired by the following Elizabeth Barret Browning poem, believe it or not!

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
'I love her for her smile . . her look . . her way
Of speaking gently, . . for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'--
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,
--and love so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby.
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on though love's eternity.

Monday, November 9, 2015

November Prayer 8 (to see reality)

This is what I pray. Teach me, gradually, slowly, as I mature in You, what real truth looks like. Let me not accept material reality's view of truth--because that's sometimes depressing--or wishful thinking's view of truth--because that is false hope. Teach me to see beyond the present, beyond my desires, beyond the natural to the greater purposes, greater joy, greater glory of You. I am not capable of knowing that kind of truth apart from You. I don't want to be depressed, and I don't want to swallow a pixie lie as a charm against depression. I don't want to live in realism, and I don't want to accept that You don't do the miraculous because I believe You still do. But let me not have to believe in fairies and Neverland stories to delight in something as big as my imagination, in something supernaturally, magically wonderful. Let me not only see You in Your all-powerful grandeur but in the playful little everyday miracles--when You see and I see but no one else would understand how wonderful You just were to me. Teach me what Your supernatural--apart from what I would usually understand--reality looks like.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November Prayer 7 (for those of us who tend to keep our love in reserve)

Lord, I pray You would expand our love. Gently take down any wall we may have up from thinking we won't know true love until we get married. From reserving our love until then.

Open our hearts that feel like it doesn't make sense to love someone that is not permanently in our lives. Expand our love for the children we know, for people from church who could use a friend, for relatives we take for granted. Protect our hearts, yes, but, Lord, let us experience the glories of loving someone! Open us up for people we don't absolutely need to survive, and for those we do. Expand our capacity, add depths to our caring, overflow our sincerity of feeling, show us how to put feet to pursuing relationships with people. Let us be willing to "waste" love on temporary relationships, people who will come and go from our lives. To put ourselves out there. Teach us to love more than we do now.

It is never a bad thing to love (Your way) more. Fill our well-preserved-for-the-future hearts with true (not crushing or emotionalistic or trendy) love.

The other day I asked one of my student-girls for a hug. After our squeeze, I went for my other girl and got a hug from her. These were my new students (versus ones I had last year) who transferred to my class a month late. It struck me that I love these girls now. And I love my other students. Love does not come naturally to me--I don't build relationships quickly. So whenever I look into my heart and see love blossoming, it's an unexpected, happy thing. I've always felt that what convinced me to take my dog Bella was God telling me that it's never a bad thing to love more. I think God must be growing my capacity to love.

November Prayer 6 (when a friend miscarries)

Lord, comfort her. I don't know how to pray for someone who has miscarried. I think they feel it more deeply that I understand. It's heartbreak and mourning a death. Please help the couple heal. Help them know how to comfort each other. Please provide them another baby. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, November 6, 2015

November Prayer 5 (a reminder that we are known)

I don't know if this is a prayer or a reminder to store up for the days when one needs reminding. Instead of using the plural pronoun "we" or "they," I chose the singular pronoun "I" because there was no other way it could have been written.

Lord, sometimes I don't know who I am or what I want or where I'm going. Sometimes I am confused and just want someone to know me. Lord, John 10 says twice that You are the good shepherd, and verse 11 says that you know Your sheep. Verse 3 says that You call Your own sheep by name. You know my inward parts. Is it possible that You know me better than I know myself? That You know my desires as well, and even better, and more truly than I do? You, oh Lord, know me, not only in the way that the Knower of All Things knows. For lack of a better way of putting it, You have taken the time to know me, like a shepherd knows the individual idiosyncrasies of each of his sheep. You know me because You have watched me from birth. You have drawn me. You have chosen me. How great are the sum of Your thoughts towards me. You have searched me. You understand my thought afar off. You understand my path--You! Someone! understands my path and are acquainted with all my ways. But You have not only known me, but You have hedged me, enclosed me, behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me (Psalm 139). You show me Your ways, teach me Your paths, lead me in Your truth, and teach me (Psalm 25:4-5). You teach me the sound of Your voice, and I know You. I might not always like what You say. I may sometimes mistake Your voice and have to learn the hard way. But You never forsake me. You never stop loving me. I am Yours.

Whether today I am happy with life or miserable, confident in my trajectory or feeling like I'm living Plan C-, I am known and I am cared for. That is truth.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

161: arranged marriage

At the recent Homeschool Alumni reunion I went to, I kinda contradicted myself: "I still like arranged marriages," and then later, "oh, and just so you know, I'm not for arranged marriages anymore."


But in my mind it does make sense, and since this is a blog about singleness and relationships, I figured I would clarify my stance on arranged marriages/marriages of convenience.


To explain why this came up...

Last year at the reunion those in charge put together a survey to spark discussion. One of the questions must have been about our preferred means of making it to marriage because a handful of people actually clicked the option "Arranged Marriage." A handful meaning me and a few others.


This year we were reminiscing about that and that's around when I contradicted myself. To clarify, I'm against it logically and for it emotionally.

For a person like me, arranged marriage is an attempt to escape the discomfort of trying to figure out if the person I'm dating is a good fit for me (or to bypass the whole irrational crush thing and just get hitched). But as the Lord reminded me several months ago, what if He gives me a fellow with whom I can enjoy a beautiful courtship of being wooed and falling in love? I don't want to miss that. Also, just because someone's a great guy doesn't mean he's a great guy for you. Seriously. You need the dating process to figure that out.

On the other side though, in the land of make-believe, I think arranged marriages/marriages of convenience some of the most appealing, romantic love stories (think Hallmark's Love Comes Softly, The Magic of Ordinary Days, or Loving Leah). I can't help it! I like the idea of circumstances throwing you together and you slowly being drawn to each other. In real life, I'm guessing it might not be quite so romantic, or guaranteed. Maybe I'd end up with someone I would really regret...maybe it's not so easy to fall in love with someone you're stuck with...maybe I should stop wishing it would happen to me.



Check out my book reviews for Mary Connealy's Now & Forever and Fire & Ice for more fictional marriage of convenience stories. And then, who can read Elisabeth Elliot's Quest for Love and not remember that such things have worked in real life?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November Prayer 4 (those who are adopting)

Father, I pray for those who are working to adopt. The harvest is plentiful and the laborers few, but these couples are actively pursuing taking in an orphan. So I pray that all the money would come in that they need. Lord, show me what I should do to support them, because they are doing Your work. Prepare them now emotionally for bringing a child into their home. I pray that the devil would not have his way in their marriage. Give them Your wisdom in raising the child. Open the doors for the adoption to go through. Father, I thank You that through them You will bless a child. You will be glorified. Lord, honor these couples, bless them, provide for them, and preserve their new family units for Your glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November Prayer 3 (irrational crushes)

It is the most romantic time of the year (in my opinion)! If you have not already contracted a case of irrational crushing, then you probably will before the holidays are out. The following prayer is dedicated to those of us who have/will have an irrational, illogical, ain't-gonna-happen-but-can't-help-hopin'-it-will crush.

Admit it. You've been there.

Greenville, SC, November 2007

Lord God, You say to ask. So first I ask that You would hear the prayers of our hearts. We want spouses. And Lord, You say that You give good gifts to Your children. You are not going to give us a serpent if we ask for a fish, or a stone if we ask for bread. We believe that Your heart towards us is good and that You know so much better than us what is good for us.

But Lord, right now, we can only think of one person that we want, and in our near-sightedness, we think this is the one You should awaken to the fact of our existence. So first, I ask that You would consider our desire. If it is Your will that this person reach out and initiate conversation/interest/pursuing us, then I pray it would happen, because You can do all things, even the impossible of moving a person's heart. But if that is not Your will, I pray that You would bring a peace to our hearts. Calm our restlessness that can't seem to get this person out of our heads. If we are bordering on obsessing, coveting, or fantasizing, I pray that You would help us repent of the sin part of all this. Give us peace. Lord, I pray that somehow You could make it that hope in general wouldn't shrivel up and die in us, but that we wouldn't be so narrowed focused on this one person.

And lastly, Lord, if you want US to do something about it, if we need to be more friendly, open, approachable, teach us by Your Holy Spirit how to do that without becoming brazen. Or without bypassing You and taking control ourselves.

Thank You that You know best. We love You.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November Prayer 2 (wisdom for those in a relationship)

Lord, I pray for those in relationships right now. I pray You would give them day-to-day wisdom. You say You reward those who diligently seek You (Heb. 11:6), that You did not tell Your own to seek You in vain (Is. 46:18), and that You give wisdom liberally to those who ask (James 1:5). I pray for those who sincerely want to follow You in their romantic relationships--that You would please keep them on Your path and assure them that You won't let them get off Your path. I pray they would not be governed by fear. I pray for discernment between fear + majoring on the minors vs. lack of peace + a bad fit. Thank You that You are our Rock, that You give us a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7), and that our hope is in You. In Jesus' name, Amen

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November Prayer 1 (singles struggling with loneliness)

I find I'm having a hard time getting into writing blog posts. Maybe because I'm more focused on teaching school than philosophizing these days. Which makes me vacillate on whether that makes me living life practically or becoming less deep. Whatever it is, while my brain is still simmering on the backburner, I kinda want to take the month of November and daily, in writing, pray for people re: relationships. So here's my focus for today (I'm going to include myself and say "us" because it sounds too formal to pray AT people, and I'll be in this place sometime this month, I know :-P):

Lord, I pray for those who are single and really struggling with feeling alone. You have said it is not good for man to be alone. I pray you will surround us with people--Holy Spirit-filled brothers and sisters--who will really show us the love of Christ and will care for us and fill some of that hole we have from not having a spouse that cares about our daily life. I pray that someone would speak unexpected words of life to us. Bring fellowship when we are too exhausted to hike out and find some on our own. Give us peace in the struggle and rest. Refresh us and remind us that You love us more than we can imagine and that You have not allowed us to be alone and single for some devious reason. Let us feel the palm of Your hand and the comfort of Your wing. Ease the pain, oh God!

Lord, help us be that for someone else--a person that truly cares and follows up and follows through. Remind us to care, not just in passing emotion but in action--either in prayer or in reaching out. Show us how to be the body.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Book Review: Fire and Ice

Ok, after cautiously starting my first Mary Connealy novel two summers ago (which, coincidentally, was my first time reading a book for the purpose of writing a review), and now eagerly finishing my third Mary Connealy novel last night, I've officially decided I really like her as an author. This time I read the third of her Wild at Heart series. Earlier this year I had read, loved, and reviewed the second in the series (Now & Forever), but I think I might like Fire & Ice better!
I can't stand the cover art.
Unlike the previous one, the romance in Fire & Ice didn't culminate in the middle--there was still relationship conflict through the whole thing. Who knew relationship conflict could be a good thing, right? Well, it is when you're building a relationship worth reading. Similar to her other two books, the action...! This is what sets Mary Connealy apart from other romance writers I've read. She pours on the action. Not simply interpersonal drama, but ACTION. Though, all three books I've read of hers have been set in the Wild West, so . . . yeah, makes sense. I love this combination of out-of-the-home conflict and growing love (because, like the second Wild at Heart book, this third one in the series also has a marriage of convenience...which I still find romantic).

As for a quick summary, the story is about the third of the Wilde sisters, all of whom have masqueraded as boys since their pa forced them to join the Civil War. Bailey Wilde is the last one--her sisters have shed masculine wear, grown out their hair, and married good men--but Bailey is determined to cling to her disguise and her small but thriving ranch in the opening of a canyon owned by the hard-nosed Gage Coulter.

(And, since this is a romance, you can now make your own guesses about who the players in the marriage of convenience are.)

It is also about Gage Coulter, who finds himself on the receiving end of life-threatening traps and must figure out who would want to kill him. Could it be Bailey? Could it be someone else? And can he help Bailey trust God and embrace her femininity after the horrors of war?

If you like an action-filled romance (and it does have romance, fyi), give Mary Connealy a try!

I received a complimentary copy of Fire & Ice from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

160: the closing of a chapter, the re-opening of an old one

I'm 30 now.

I'm teaching two grades again. The first month of school I only taught 3rd until I got two new students, both 2nd graders, several weeks in. Last week I lost my favorite student to another school (not that teachers are allowed to have favorite students, but as we spent all of last year as the only girls in the class, we have a special bond). Her first day gone I  felt like my heart was bruised because of her absence. Now I have a total of 4 wonderful students, but we still miss our other girl.

my new co-worker brought me this to comfort
me the day after my break up--hasn't God blessed
me with good friends? :)
Two weeks ago my boyfriend of 6 months and I broke up, mutually agreeing it wasn't going to work out to be more than friends and hoping to go back to being just friends. Afterwards, we kept in touch via text, and it surprised me what a blessing it was to know he was doing okay. I didn't realize how much the pain of a breakup is intensified by my worry about how much I hurt the other person. But because I haven't had to deal with that (much), I've been more sad over not having a place for my heart to settle. I was so sure this was it, despite our differences, and both of us worked so hard to make it work (I think we'll both be able to use that practice in our potential future marriages). I didn't want to have to start all over again with a new person. There are still other hard things--like passing restaurants where we've eaten, or going home instead of running up north to visit, or not having anyone who will care what I choose to wear today.

Then this weekend I flew out to Oregon for a west coast Homeschool Alumni reunion. It was the first time I saw him since our breakup.

It was a miracle. We had all the camaraderie of knowing each other well without any of the awkwardness of wondering if we liked each other or any of the pressure of trying to make this work in a long-term romantic relationship. We both were (just) friends! Which was good, since we drove all the way back from Oregon together in his rented red bug!

driving along 101 in this sporty car!
So now that chapter is definitely closed.

The last six months I've heard the same message over and over, presumably from the Lord. Walk by faith. Hope against hope. Believe He is the God of the impossible and rewards those who seek Him.

After the break-up, I wondered what I was supposed to do with all that now that I had seemingly closed the door on God doing the impossible in our relationship.

Then I started to realize that all those things God seemed to be telling me are still true. My faith and hope and trust are in a Person, not in an outcome. Or, as I see it in my imagination, He is the stable straight line and underneath my life looks like an up and down wiggly line.

So I still believe He is the God of the impossible. I recognize the smoothness of this break up is a miracle! And it's also a miracle that I wasn't an emotional wreck from the lack of sleep I had this weekend! (I stayed up til 4:30 Sunday night/morning playing games and chatting. It was a blast!). These are His blessings, His miraculous, against reason, blessings.

I'm 30 and single again, but I have good friends, a fulfilling job, and hope in a God who can do great things, whether that means marriage or not.

His fortune on top, mine on the bottom--oh the irony! May it be so!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

159: almost 30

Well, it's been almost a month since I posted!

School starts in a week and a day. The teachers are back, and I have a teacher blog now!

I turn 30 years old on Tuesday! I've been anticipating this birthday for three years, and now it's almost here! I'm so busy getting ready for school though. My mom and a family friend took me to Santa Cruz at the beginning of the month.

garlic fries!

We're celebrating my niece's 16th and my 30th tomorrow as a family, and then next month, after school calms down, I'm getting together with my group of girl friends for food and coloring (hey, we're random).

What have I learned being in a relationship these last 5 months? That I am a sinner, and no manner of idealism can mask that fact. That I'm slow to be sanctified, and there's a reason why Proverbs mentions the dangers of a contentious woman so often: criticism and "drippiness" is a super easy pit to fall into! You can tell yourself your actions are a choice, but you cannot anticipate the emotions that will slam into you and convince you utterly that you are subject to them. I have learned that God has given men an amazing ability to forgive and keep loving.

What would I say to myself a year ago in preparation for being in a relationship? I'm not sure. There is only so much you can do to prepare yourself and so much that you just have to learn through experience. I really don't know if I could learn any of what I'm learning without confronting myself head-on.

I used to wonder when God kept saying "no" to other relationships--I wondered if He would always say no, or if I was misreading Him, if it was me, not Him. I have discovered that, no, He WAS saying no, not because He would never give me a relationship, but because He had something different in mind for me than what I thought was perfect at those times. He was exercising His infinite wisdom.

We serve a God who actually speaks with us. I serve a God who has been with me for some 25 years, Who has put His Spirit within me, who is constant in His presence, and faithful to guide me if I seek Him. Is this not an amazing thing?

I am very content with my life right now. I enjoy living at home, I am excited about teaching, and I have a boyfriend who is God's gift to me.

I suppose this is a good way to begin my 30s.

P.S. Angela Hunt's new book Bathsheba is on its way to me to review! Esther was so good, so I expect this one to be good too!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

5 out of 5 stars eeeeeasily!

This novel, for me, was the equivalent of starting a TV show you really like and want to come back to to find out what happens.

Set during World War 1 in England, it stars a girl who is so patriotic that she crashes a ball/dinner party to hand out white feathers of cowardice. She specifically wants to give one to playboy and coward Jack Benningham. Naturally, as soon as their eyes meet there is chemistry and sparks and all that. He kisses her hand, and she leaves in his palm the white feather.

Unbeknownst to her, he is actually not a coward; he helps catch spies. And her father ends up being one of his top suspects.

I won't give all the plot away, but she ends up joining the Women's Forage Corps and learning how to do all sorts of farm work, during which time she runs into Jack Benningham. While they are connecting, secrets unravel all around them, and then, near the end, the author reveals another secret that I did NOT expect, and everyone lives (we hope) happily ever after.

I loved the historical setting. The main female character was a little too self-focused at times, thinking she was at fault for other people's choices. But that's real life, right? All the characters were interesting--and thankfully, the author did a decent job in helping me keep track of who was who because I could not remember which name went with which girl!

I stayed up late reading this book, and when I came to the end I noticed the author For Such a Time. If it's as good as this one, no wonder my friend recommended it!
had written another book a friend of mine highly recommended,

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The book hasn't even come out yet. Wheeee! :D

Monday, July 13, 2015

fiction (vii): the life and loves of a homeschooled girl

My prayers that night after the dance were off kilter. I tried to pray, but trying to talk to God was like trudging through mud. I couldn’t think of anything to say. And what I did say felt lifeless.

Even though it was late, I opened the Bible and shined my reading light on the words. In my daily reading I was in the book of Mark. As I read about Jesus feeding the five thousand, my mind strayed to lines of young people dancing under a starry sky.

I became frustrated.

“Lord God—”

I hesitated. I sounded so . . . fake.

“Lord, why can’t I pray?”

I closed my Bible, put it on the side table, and turned off the light.

I snuggled under the covers. Immediately, as if on auto play, came thoughts of Michael. Two minutes in, something jerked me back to the present.

Fantasizing about Michael had become so automatic. A nightly ritual. It’s how I fell asleep.

Wait. Was I lusting after Michael?

The thought horrified me.

Surely not! I didn’t lust after guys. I guarded my heart. I hadn’t even ever mentioned Michael to Luanne in casual conversation, and Jen didn’t know about my secret feelings either.

But then I thought about the California Waltz and how our arms had brushed as we counted the beats. I thought of his hand on my waist.


He was standing before me, holding out his hand, the dark of the night creating a 5 o’clock shadow on his already strikingly handsome face.


But I couldn’t. Thinking of him was my normal. And now I could replay something that had really happened.

I fought my imagination. I fought my memory.

Tears pricked behind my eyes because holding back thoughts of Michael felt like holding back a tsunami. I didn’t want to stop.

Didn’t I know Proverbs 4:24 by heart? I lectured myself. What if Michael doesn’t marry you, Trisha? Don’t you realize that maybe Michael will marry someone else and that he doesn’t belong to you? My throat constricted. No, he couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine him with someone else. He was mine. Wasn’t he, Lord? No, You hadn’t promised him to me, but surely, surely You would give me this good gift. Please, Lord. Give me this good gift.

For the next week, every morning and evening I prayed my repentance. And dreamed. And prayed harder. And dreamed still. And felt guilty. And found myself thinking of him even as I prayed that I would stop thinking of him.

It’s not easy to change the direction of a heart that has been focused on one thing for years.

The dance, that lovely, romantic night, morphed into a horrible shackle.

“Dear God,” I’d say on my knees before my bed. “Help me stop imagining life with Michael. Help me stop obsessing. Help me surrender him to You.”

Because wouldn’t it be better if I let God work everything out instead of clinging to my dreams of life with Michael so very hard?

But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

In my prayers, I reasoned with God. Wasn’t it okay to like a guy? Isn’t that how You designed me?

Was I lusting? What did that even mean?

I began reevaluating my prior definitions of purity and lust.

Was imagining talking with Michael lusting?

Was imagining how my hand felt in his lusting?

Was lying awake conjuring up imaginary images of him looking at me with love in his eyes lusting?

I didn’t know.

Dear God, I didn’t know!

What had once been a lovely infatuation had turned into something painful and ugly and heart-wrenching. A battle to break a habit I, frankly, did not want to break.

fiction (vi): the life and loves of a homeschooled girl

Two weeks later found Jen and I dressed up respectively in a denim ruffled skirt and brown broomstick skirt and driving up to the Kellar’s house.

“Oh, look, Trish! Isn’t it romantic?”

The Kellars had strung white Christmas lights from the top of their barn to the fence several yards away. Hay bales for sitting were scattered throughout the area, and stalks of corn were tied to the barn and fence. Bonfires were lit in different parts of the field for warmth and ambiance. An old Virginia flag hung from the barn window.

Several teens were meandering around, drinking hot apple cider from a large thermos set on a barrel nearby. I spotted Michael standing with one of his sisters.

I was half exhilaration, half guilt over feeling exhilarated.

“Lord, is it okay to be excited?” I prayed. A gust of breeze billowing my skirt was the only answer I received. “Please bless this time,” I concluded.

My sister and I hopped out of the car.

I took a deep breath.

It was going to be a glorious evening.

I found Luanne standing by the snacks table.

“Are you excited?” I whispered.

She gave a half smile. “I don’t know. I’m kinda nervous!”

“Nervous? Whatever for?”

She nodded to a group of boys gathered around one of the bonfires. “Because the boys have to ask us to dance!”

“They do? Are you sure we don’t just like all line up and whoever is standing across from you is your partner?”

“No. I heard Sarah Jane—she’s one of the callers. She told someone that even though they are group dances, the boys have to ask the girls to be their partner. That’s how it works.”

“Oh!” In P.E. we had never paired up like that. I wondered what Mom was thinking. This was going to be a lot more couple-y! “Um, I’m nervous now too!”

We stood there together, looking out at the sea of young people ebbing and flowing around us. Part of me was more excited because this was much more romantic than anything I had ever experienced in real-life and part of me drew back with the same kind of dread I felt when we had played basketball in P.E. and Mr. Courtney had let the team captains choose who they wanted on their team. I had been picked last. Luanne and I now stood before the great unknown like Frodo and Sam entering Mordor.

“All righty, folks. Let’s get this dance started!” yelled Mr. Kellar.

Everyone gathered around the dance floor as Sarah Jane took the microphone. She explained that for every dance one of the callers would teach it before we would do it. In between dances people could help themselves to something to eat or drink, and she pointed out where the bathrooms were.

“Now fellas, grab yourself a partner for the Virginia Reel!”

Luanne and I tried to visually strike the balance between available and nonchalant.

“It’s a nice evening, isn’t it?” I said to her.

“Oh yes, very nice.”

We giggled.

I felt a hand brush my arm.

“Would you like to dance?”

Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I turned to see who was asking. It was Luanne’s brother Joey. How could I be nervous about 14 year old Joey? I glanced at Luanne, unwilling to leave her vulnerable. Joey held out his hand.

Luanne nudged me. “Go on,” she whispered with a slight smile.

I looked up into Joey’s freckled face. Seeing his hair neatly combed and his green eyes looking so serious made me want to laugh. He was so out of his element. And I was so ready to show that I was in mine.

“Sure!” I said with a grin. I ceremoniously placed my palm in his, and he led me to the dance floor.
The dance floor was a slab of cement under the string of lights. The caller directed the couples to stand a couple feet apart from each other, facing each other. Almost out of habit, I looked to see where Michael was. He was escorting Jen to the floor. The soft lighting accentuated his dark wavy hair and made him look like he had a 5 o’clock shadow. My, he sure was handsome.

I looked up at Joey, and at last, he smiled.

“How are you this evening, Miss Anderson?” His eyes twinkled, and he bowed slightly.

I tilted my head in acknowledgement. “I am quite well, Mr. Sparks. And you?”

“Quite well, quite well.”

I laughed, which made him laugh. Then he winked at me.

I was taken back. Maybe in his family it was normal to wink at people? He was just a kid. He probably didn't know better.

Other couples joined our line and Sarah Jane came through on the mic to begin walking us through the dance. Our set of dancers were lighthearted and enthusiastic and no one knew what they were doing! At one point, I was laughing so hard I was bent over, almost crying in hilarity.

“Now we’re going to do it with music,” said Sarah Jane.

Joey’s eyes met mine, and he lifted his eyebrows mischievously.

“You ready for this?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows expertly.

I laughed, wiping the tears in my eyes. “Why not!”

The music started. Joey and I were next to the head couple, so thankfully we could watch their example through the first set. After they sashayed down the line and back again, weaved, cast off, and made the bridge, all the other couples followed, scrunching down under their outstretched hands and taking their new places in line. Joey and I scooted to the front, becoming the new head couple. I looked at him wide-eyed.

“It’s our turn!” I mouthed.

He grinned and winked again.

Maybe this was his element, and I was the fish out of water.

We waited for the beat, and then each couple circled ‘round their partners with one hand, then the other, then both hands. One last dosey-doe before I looked up and grimaced nervously. Joey offered a huge smile, grabbed my small hands in his clammy ones, and together we pranced unevenly down the line like a pair of wild horses. Or rather, he was like a wild horse. I was doing all I could to just keep up!

Halfway back up the line, he twirled me around. I couldn’t stop laughing, and I could barely breathe from all the exercise. At the front of the line he again spun me around, and then we started weaving back and forth between the couples. It was so confusing! Half the time Joey had to pull me to the next guy, and half the time I had to push him to the next girl. Then we sashayed back up the line, pretending to look dignified with our noses in the air and our backs straight. Little Joey Sparks trying to look dignified. Oh, that was I sight I’d never forget!

We cast off, the girls following me and the boys following him. At the end, we clasped hands, forming a bridge, and all the couples paraded under our outstretched arms. The dance started all over again with the new head couple.

I loved it.

When the dance was over, Sarah Jane instructed the gentlemen to escort their partners off the dance floor. Joey offered me his arm and led me off the cement slab towards the refreshments table.

“Thank you for the best dance yet,” he laughed, bowing.

“It’s only the first one,” I countered.


I giggled. “Well, thank you too, sir,” I said and curtsied.

As Joey walked away to join the other boys, Luanne came flying back from her time on the dance floor.

“Oh!” she breathed. “Wasn’t that fun?”

“Magnificent!” I said. I was a little out of breath too.

“I stepped on my poor guy’s foot though!” she said. Then she burst out laughing.

“Why are you laughing? Poor guy!”

“Because he was a little kid, but he was all dressed up in a Civil War uniform, and when I accidentally stepped on him he said, ‘You stepped on my foot!’” Luanne’s voice mimicked a high-pitched, squeaky, indignant one.

I laughed.

“So how did my brother do?” Luanne asked. “I hope he didn’t completely act like a boar.”

“A boar! No,” I replied with a slight British accent. “He was quite the gentleman. Though he did wink at me. Twice,” I added.

“Oh really now?” Luanne’s eyebrows raised. “Well, despite that slight aberration, he has become quite the gentleman.” She smoothed her skirt. “But then, I have been working on him for 15 years now so I would hope he knows how to behave in polite society.”

I put my hands on my hip. “Oh, so I have you to thank for not being treated to the miseries of an uncouth boar, do I?”

Luanne smiled. “Yes, it is all my doing. I have transformed him from the boar of his birth to the gentleman you see before you today.” She swept her hand in the direction of Joey and his friends and then turned and nodded in satisfaction.

My shoulders shook from unreleased laughter.

“Wait,” I said, calculating something in my head. “Fifteen years? I thought he was only 14.”

“He turns 15 in January, so it’s been practically 15 years.”

“He’s two and a half years younger than me? I thought he was three years younger.”

“Nope,” said Luanne.

It didn’t make much difference, but when you’re young, even 6 months can make a world of difference. For example, if Michael had been 6 months younger than me rather than a year older, he would have lost almost all appeal in my eyes.

“So what now?” Luanne asked, looking around.

New dance, new partner. Suddenly I jerked back to the present. The dark sky made it harder to see who was who, but the white lights cast friendly glows on all the faces. I looked around for Michael. I couldn’t see him anywhere. Jennifer, his last partner, was talking with another boy with a few strands of mustache decorating the skin under his nose. I grimaced and turned away. Still no Michael.

“Let’s get a drink,” said Luanne.

“Ok,” I replied, absentmindedly, still looking for him.

We waited in line before the water thermos and then filled our Styrofoam cups.

“Mmm, I needed that!”

Sarah Jane announced the next dance, and a fellow came up and offered Luanne his hand. Then Logan, a stocky guy from our co-op chemistry lab came up and asked me. He also was wearing a Confederate uniform and a very serious expression. I almost refused, thinking I should hold it open for Michael, but Mom had told us in the car that it was considered rude to reject one guy for another. If I wanted to refuse a partner, then I needed to sit the dance out so that I wouldn’t be rude. Unwilling to do that, I accepted, and he walked me back to the dance floor.

As we stepped onto the cement, I caught sight of Michael escorting a strawberry-blonde girl to the line across from us. He was smiling at her.

Like a dart, jealousy pierced through my happiness. Was he going to enjoy dancing with her? What if he liked slim girls with long red ringlets? I thought back to my own frame. A little on the chubby side, but not bad. My hair was brown and wavy, sometimes frizzy on the top. I didn’t have any cute freckles, but a good smattering of pimples, depending on the time of the month. My ears stuck out. My forehead was too large. I frowned.

“What’s the matter?” Logan asked, peering across at me from underneath his bushy eyebrows.

I sighed. “Nothing.” I forced a smile and attempted cheerfulness. “Nothing!”

“You dance very well,” Logan said, after the music began.

“Thanks,” I said, a bit absentmindedly.

“Have you ever been to a Civil War ball before?"


"They are pretty similar to this, except people dress much more formally."

“Oh.” I snuck a glance at Michael and his partner down the line.

When the dance ended, Logan offered me his arm and led me off the dance floor. I thanked him, then set off to find Luanne.

The rest of the night was like a rollercoaster of emotions. Fun while dancing, restrained if I saw Michael with a pretty girl. Desperate loneliness in between dances, waiting to be asked by the man I loved.

Yes, loved. I did! I loved Michael. Goodness, I wanted to marry that fellow! And really, I was 17 years old. Realistically I could marry him next year. And to see him enjoying himself with other girls. It frustrated me to no end.

But then, as other boys asked me to dance with them, it did feel good to be noticed by someone. Sometimes, if my partner was especially attentive, and the dance especially fast, I would almost forget about Michael and have a grand time. Some dances you didn’t even stay with your partner but were passed from person to person. A couple times the song lasted long enough for me to have a turn with Michael. Those moments were wonderful! But they were just moments before I’d have to move on to the next person, not sure whether I was still on the high of having danced with him or if I was on the low of having left him.

The last dance of the evening came. The “California Waltz” I think one of the callers dubbed it. Luanne had already been escorted to the floor by a father who had taken pity on her, and I was about ready to take a seat on a hay bale and try not to let the night be ruined by my disappointment.

They say that when you give up, your dreams come true.

Just as I had found my hay bale and sat down, Michael approached.

Even in the dark, he had never looked handsomer.

“Lord God, help me!” I prayed as the butterflies threatened to fly up my throat.

Would he really--? Was he going to--?

“May I have this dance, m’lady?” he asked, bowing ceremoniously and holding out his hand.

Shy, I averted my eyes and looked down at his hand. It was a man’s hand. Larger than mine, fingers long and stubby, palm thick and meaty.

“Yes!” I squeaked.

The moment had come. I put my hand in his, and he led me to the floor.

My senses came alive. My hand pulsed with the feeling of his callused skin. The breeze felt sharper. The smiles on everyone’s faces brighter.

I looked up. The moon shown in splendor, and the stars winked down at me. My heart felt like it was going to burst.

I grinned. This was it!

James, one of the other callers, explained the California Waltz to us. We all started in a circle holding hands and walked four steps into the middle and four steps out. Michael was supposed to then take me in his arms—oh, be still my beating heart!—and we would waltz two steps, sorta tango-style, into the middle, where he would twirl me, and then waltz two steps out. That would repeat, but without the twirling. Then we would waltz around in a circle for 10 counts before he would spin me to the fellow on my right, and the pattern would start over. It seemed fairly easy after you got the hang of it.

The music started. My left hand held Michael’s as the circle walked in and out. Then we turned and faced each other. Michael deftly placed his hand on my waist and took my right hand. Heart beating wildly, I lifted my left hand to his shoulder. Our arms brushed. I could feel my ears turn red, and goose bumps broke out on my arms.

In, one, two, twirl.

Out, one, two.

In, one, two.

Out, one, two.

Then circling in each other’s arms, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. In all, the set encompassed a full 18 counts, not counting the twirling, and for all 18 beats I was in Michael’s arms—my Michael’s arms—his hand cupping my waist, my hand resting on his shoulder like it belonged there.

This must be what paradise feels like.

And then it was over, and he was passing me off to the next fellow.

But paradise stayed with me. I didn’t even think about what I was doing as I was passed around the circle, waltzing in, out, and around.

It was almost 11pm by the time Jen and I stumbled into the car, exhausted. Behind us the white lights still glowed across the enchanted dance floor. The moon had risen higher and flooded the fields with moonlight even as the bonfires were dying out.

“So did you girls have a good time?” asked Mom.

“Definitely!” said Jen.

“What about you, Trisha?” Mom asked, peering at me through the rearview mirror.

“Lovely, just lovely.”

I sat back in sheer satisfaction and watched the evening landscape sweep by.

I would never forget those 18 counts of the California Waltz. Not if I lived to be a hundred.