31 May, 2015

Fierce Beauty - Book Review

It's much harder to review a really, really good book. Mediocre? That's easy, just ramble on about the storyline, and why it was good and why it wasn't. But when it comes to reviewing one of those books that is just so good, I stall. How can I put all that goodness into words? It's impossible. But I'm going to try, because Fierce Beauty is one of those books.

Fierce Beauty is all about being a warrior for the King. It's about what true beauty really is. Kim points us to the fact that God does call us to be beautiful, but not in the way we've come to understand beauty. He wants us to be beautiful on the inside where it really matters. He wants us to be fierce beauties, to fight against the lies that define who we are, and against the hopelessness that encircles our world. As Kim Meeder says, “You were not created to be a princess of entitlement but a warrior fighting to bring love and hope to the world.”

In Fierce Beauty, Kim shares many true stories from her life, each rather extraordinary. Then she expertly draws a lesson from each one, and points us back to our King and what we're really made to live for. She summarizes the book in the introduction: “The first section is a challenge to evaluate what you're honestly living for. The second section is an invitation to discover the God who offers you His eternal love, hope, and purpose. The third is an opportunity to see how you can answer God's call and begin living the life you were uniquely created for.” In each of these sections, she covers many topics like forgiveness, surrender, true beauty, trials, using our gifts even if they're small, and never quitting, ever.

This idea that being a daughter of the king meant being a warrior, a soldier fighting to the last to bring the good news about God's hope, love, and peace, really resonated with me. I'd never taken on the idea that being a daughter of God means I'm a little pink princess. Of course, it's true – daughters of kings are princesses, but it can sort of lead to an image that we sit here on earth fondling our tiaras while we wait for the King to take us to heaven. But that part isn't true; we all have work to do here, and that's where being a warrior makes more sense. We've got to be active in the cause. This book was also encouraging to me in that it said again, even if we don't have big gifts, God can still use our small things, even seemingly unimportant things like a smile. (There's a really good story in the book about the power of a smile, but I won't spoil it for you. :)

Fierce Beauty is a little different from Kim's other books (two of which are reviewed here and here), mostly because of the topic, but in my opinion it's the best. She writes descriptively and well; it was never boring, uninteresting or preachy. Instead, it's encouraging, inspiring, and motivating, and I recommend it to everyone, especially young ladies who, like me, are wondering how and where they can effectively live life and share hope.

27 May, 2015

Guest Post - Incorporating Christianity Into One's Writing

Hello! I have something really exciting, and different, for you today! Remember I wrote about a young author - Emily Ann Putzke - who recently wrote a really good book called It Took A War here? Well, her and her writing buddy Emily Chapman have recently written another book called Ain't We Got Fun. They actually wrote it as a series of letters between their characters and posted it on their blogs early in the year, so I read it back then, and I can definitely say it is a really good old-fashioned story. Even though it does turn romantic, I wouldn't say it's all romance. It's more a story of two sisters learning to live, discovering, growing, falling and picking themselves up again. In short it's really good, and now it's published, so you can read it for yourself! Anyway, there's more information about Ain't We Got Fun at the end of the post, but in the meantime, I've been very privileged to have Emily Chapman write a guest post for my blog! Below she writes about how to incorporate Christianity, in a realistic way, into our writing:

"How is one to incorporate the Christian faith into one's writing? This is a difficult question to answer, and you could take it many different ways. However, I'm going to focus on the aspect of incorporating Christianity into a book that isn't necessarily “Christian fiction.”

I've written three novels/novellas in my lifetime. Cry of Hope, which was published in March of 2014, focused very deeply on Christianity. However, my other two novellas, Sensical Nonsense and Ain't We Got Fun, are rather light-hearted stories that focus mainly on relationships with fellow people. Both could, in fact, be classified as romances.

It's a bit more difficult to incorporate Christianity into these sorts of stories. Why? Because Christianity is such a wide-ranged topic that one simply cannot begin to delve into it only to drop it later on because it's drifting away from the storyline! Below I have a list of ways that I try to incorporate the faith into my writing.

1. Keep it moral. Something I hope that stands out in both Ain't We Got Fun and Sensical Nonsense (the latter of which has yet to be published) is the innocence in the romances. These stories do not involve the typical sensuality one might think of when you hear that a book is a “romance.” In fact, I hope that these stories will enlighten the audience. You see, love is more than a feeling. It's a choice. And a couple are more than just a couple. They are friends. And what comes with friendship? Laughter and loyalty; conversation and time spent together. Friends see one another through hardship and good times.

So you see, morality in a story is a symbol of Christ in its own way.

2. Don't hesitate to mention Him. In my everyday life, I don't talk about Jesus every hour and every minute of every day. However, I don't never talk about Him either. He's a part of me! So there is nothing wrong with the conversation in a novel turning to a topic of the faith, if it coincides with the story's plot. In fact, if you are a Christian and the character is a Christian and the character enters dark times, it would be abnormal for the character not to pray or speak with another character about Him!

3. Keep the characters real. This is a biggie. I have heard that many of the books under the label of “Christian fiction” seem to be stories with characters who are perfect—not only in their dashing good looks, but in their seemingly sinless life. If a character is a Christian, they are still bound to stumble. In fact, if they don't stumble, you are probably portraying the Christian faith in a … well, in a wrong way. We are all sinners. Even once we are saved, we still sin. Even if we desire not to sin, we still sin. Therefore, give your characters flaws.

A person could go on and on about this topic—how to incorporate Christianity into writing—for ages. Everyone has different opinions on this as well. Sometimes it depends on what you personally have been convicted upon. But despite all of that, I pray this has been helpful to you.

And that's another thing, and, probably, the most important thing: pray. Ask Him to be the guide of your pen as you incorporate Him into your story. He will most certainly be the best guide of all."

Thank you so much Emily! Those are excellent points, and really it's just making our characters as real as possible, as for us our loudest witness is the way we live, so it is for characters in stories!

Anyway, here's the information about the book Ain't We Got Fun, and the wonderful authors, Emily Chapman and Emily Ann Putzke:

About the book:

It was never much of an issue for Bess: living contentedly on her family's farm, despite the Depression which loomed around them. But when her older sister Georgiana takes off to New York City to make a fortune and help Papa out, feelings of adventure and wanderlust strike Bess at home. Through their lively letter correspondence, the sisters recount to one another their adventures, surprises, and heartaches, leaving little room for depression. For in a world of such wonder, ain't we got fun?

You can purchase Ain't We Got Fun through:

Amazon (Paperback) 
Amazon (Kindle) 
Createspace (Paperback)
Smashwords (ebook)

Author bios:

EMILY CHAPMAN, also known as Bess Rowland, is a young hobbit living in the dear old South, and she is entirely bonkers. She's a dreamer, an optimistic pessimist, and an introverted people person. Blue skies, dancing, Disney, and whipped cream make her happy, and she swears she's once been to Narnia. She's been a reader all her life, became a writer because of that, and published her first novel, Cry of Hope, in March of 2014. But without her Savior, all of this would mean nothing. It is in Him that she puts her hope.You can learn more about Emily Chapman and her books at www.emilychapmanauthor.com and www.facebook.com/emilychapmanauthor.

EMILY ANN PUTZKE and Gi Rowland have two big things in common: their love for God and coffee. Besides writing historical fiction, Emily enjoys being an aunty, photography, Irish dancing, spending time with family, attempting to play the guitar, reenacting, and reading. She loves polka dots, war movies, and all things vintage. Her first novella, It Took a War, was published in December of 2014. You can learn more about Emily Ann Putzke and her books at www.authoremilyannputzke.com and www.facebook.com/authoremilyannputzke

And if you live in the U.S, you can enter the giveaway below!

Thanks so much for reading... How do you incorporate Christianity into your writing? Have you read Ain't We Got Fun yet?

 Jessica xxx :)

12 May, 2015

Autumn Inspirations

Although there's still a few more weeks of Autumn left, it doesn't feel that way. All the dew-covered leaves in the photos above have been blown away in the cold, wet, winter-y weather we've had for the last few days. I guess, if the old leaves are never lost new ones can never regrow... But, I seem to be waxing poetic here, so without further ado, here are a few things I've been enjoying this autumn:

Psalm 34. There are so many promises in this psalm. The whole thing is good, but here are a few of the verses that stood out to me:
O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing. Psalm 34:9-10
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. Psalm 34:19 
The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. Psalm 34:22

This paragraph from Tuesdays With Morrie (page 159):“It is 1979, a basketball game in the Brandeis gym. The team is doing well, and the student section begins a chant, “We're number one! We're number one!” Morrie is sitting nearby. He is puzzled by the cheer. At one point, in the midst of, “We're number one!” he rises and yells, “What's wrong with being number two?” (By the way that whole book is full of good stuff, little wisdoms on life and death, and the living in between.)

This proverb that appeared on my sister's perpetual calendar: “No man has ever injured his eyesight by looking on the bright side of things.” 

These bookish photos. I really like books, as is obvious, and seeing them stacked up in these photos is just really good. Especially because so many of them have old or unique covers. 

This post. I only recently discovered this blog, but this post got me. It's so true, and it was a definite reminder not to use those letters to keep us from the work God has out there for us.

I came across this 'thing' called newspaper blackout. It seems it was invented by Austin Kleon, an author who has several interesting bestselling books out (most of which are on my to-read list). I guess it's a form of poetry, and I really like it - the idea and the results, both visually and because of the words. (I'm terrible at explaining how things work, so just check it out on the website.) We happened to have a newspaper laying around, so I tried it. It was somewhat easier than I thought, and it was definitely fun to take a bunch of boring meaningless words and turn them into something entirely different.

Well, postcrossing. Have you ever heard of it? It's only new to me, or rather I'm only new to it - I've been a member for six days. :D What it's all about from their website:"The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world, for free. Well, almost free! The main idea is that: if you send a postcard, you will receive one back from a random Postcrosser from somewhere in the world. Why? Because, like the founder, there are lots of people who like to receive real mail. The element of surprise of receiving postcards from different places in the world (many of which you probably have never heard of) can turn your mailbox into a box of surprises - and who wouldn't like that?" It is a fairly big thing, as since its beginning in 2005, over twenty-nine million postcards have been received.
I've sent one postcard so far, and I'm looking forward to sending many more, as well as receiving some. For me, it's not only about getting new and exciting mail from all over the world, I also see it as a witnessing opportunity, a chance to make this world a better place. It is somewhat limited, as the recipients of the postcards are many and have varied beliefs, and I don't want to offend anyone, but I'm still hoping to use it as a tool to tell others that they matter, and life is worth living because of Jesus.

 And I guess that's about it! Seems there should be a song listed above, but I don't have a current favourite song at the moment... So, what has inspired you this Autumn?

06 May, 2015

Hold On, Petal

The weather here today is rather wild. It started off as a deep foggy morning, but once the sun rose above the cloud, the fog disappeared. It was calm, sunny – cold, yes – but nice. Then, from nowhere this wind materialized. To begin with it wasn't very strong, just a little gust, a slight breeze. But it picked up speed until the point where now, is it positively fierce. Standing in front of the window while doing my violin practice I observed petals flying off what used to be a beautiful cream and pink rose. Just yesterday I had photographed that rose sparkling in the early morning dew, and noted just how large it was – positively massive. Now, as I looked, a few more petals fluttered down, leaving one petal remaining. I watched as the wind twisted and pulled and whipped that petal in every direction, but it still remained attached to the rose stalk. A few minutes later I checked again. It was still there.

That was a few hours ago now, and since then I've cleaned up an overflowing drawer in my room, made lunch, and read a chapter in a book. Then I remembered my rose with its lone petal. I looked out the window and guess what? It's still there. The wind is as strong as ever; it's knocked the bikes over on the verandah, it's blown the cane lounge across the lawn, its made the tin flaps on the rabbits cage bang, but it can't budge that little rose petal, clinging on for dear life to its centre.

I must tell you something else about this petal: it's not exactly pretty. Sure, it's a soft pink on one end fading into a mellow cream on the other, but it's been brighter. It's starting to go brown, and it has flopped down and started shrivelling up. Except that I observed that it remained attached to the rose centre while all the other petals blew away, I wouldn't have taken any notice of this petal at all. It's not something anybody would notice. It's small and insignificant, ordinary, and not even pretty. Yet look – it taught a lesson.

I think we need to be like that petal. If we hold onto our Centre, and remain connected to Him, no amount of tempestuous wind, or violent storms can tear us away from Him. Though perhaps others get whisked away, nothing can move us. It's about holding on, even when we feel worthless, brown, shrivelled and ordinary. Hold on when life gets wild, when problems multiply, when situations go wrong, when tears come. Hold on: our Center is not going anywhere, and when we're connected to Him “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Linking up here.