How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Reads of 2015

Another year draws to a close. Ever since October or so, I’ve been absurdly excited about my last blog post of the year, because I have a tradition of listing my top reads of 2015. Usually I do fifteen books, but this year I couldn’t trim the list lower than seventeen. (I read too many good ones this year!) These books all impacted me profoundly in one way or another; they’ll reside in my mind for years to come. I tried to list them more or less in order, but that’s really hard for me to do, so don’t take the order too literally. So…out of almost sixty books, here are the TOP SEVENTEEN.

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
Melanie Rehak
I had so much fun revisiting my girlhood fictional hero, Nancy Drew. In a thoroughly engaging manner, this book presented lots of what there is to know about the history of her existence.
The Challengers Beauty for Ashes The Patch of Blue Rainbow Cottage
The Challengers, Beauty for Ashes, The Patch of Blue, Rainbow Cottage
Grace Livingston Hill
Together, these four sweet Christian romance books, published in the 1930s, enhanced my feel for and understanding of the 1930s American experience.

The Moonstone
The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
A forerunner of the “detective” genre, this thick Victorian novel had intrigue on basically every page. It combined Eastern mystery, an old country estate with secrets in northeast England, and the maze of London with the puzzle of a missing diamond and a romance in turmoil.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
This children’s classic that I ought to have read years ago was fun, quirky, and strangely insightful.

Heidi (Heidi, #1)
Johanna Spyri
Ditto on this children’s classic, only it was a bit more life-altering than Alice. The Christian lesson was heart-warming, and it made me long for beauty—in nature, in simple living, and in helping others.

From the Dark to the Dawn: A Tale of Ancient Rome
From the Dark to the Dawn
Alicia A. Willis
This impacting book took me back to ancient Rome and the persecution of the early Christians. It strengthened my resolve to live for God and to be a witness of Him.
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
John Milton
This epic poem reaches across the centuries. I especially loved the latter half of the book; besides understanding it more than the first half, I thought the Biblical themes put into lyrical verse was lovely and profound.

Caught Up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination with Your Children
Caught Up in a Story
Sarah Clarkson
I thoroughly enjoyed this nonfiction book about reading, particularly choosing good books for kids to read. I closely identified with the author’s reading journey, and came away with a strengthened understanding and conviction of how essential reading good books is. It’s called being “story-formed.”

Grace Triumphant: A Tale of the Slave Trade
Grace Triumphant
Alicia A. Willis
Like Alicia Willis’s other books, this novel, about the 1700s British slave trade, was exciting, convicting, and encouraging. I was always on pins and needles over what would happen next. The characters felt so real. And the spiritual lessons—they were serious and rich.

Catherine Marshall
This well-written and -researched novel about a rural Pennsylvania factory town in the Great Depression was very powerful and hard to put down. What made it absolutely fantastic was how hard-hitting spiritual themes were woven into the very fabric of the story.

Day of Atonement: A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt
Day of Atonement
David deSilva
This novel about the Maccabean Revolt filled a hole in historical fiction that I always wanted filled. It was well-researched and detailed, and gave me a better understanding of how Israel could have slid into assimilation with the Greeks in inter-testament times. The ending was powerful and made me more determined than ever to stand for God’s ways.

The Map Across Time (The Gates of Heaven, #2)
The Map Across Time
C. S. Lakin
This lengthy fantasy adventure was one long joy to read. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style, world-building, and characters of C. S. Lakin, especially the myriad of ways she alluded to Scripture and ancient Hebrew. Although it’s the second in a series, it felt strong enough to stand on its own. So much adventure, so many twists, so much mystery, so many beautiful descriptions and lessons….

A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness & a Trove of Letters Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression
The Secret Gift
Ted Gup
This nonfiction memoir-type book was extremely helpful for my Great Depression research, being about Canton, Ohio (the setting of my WIP), in the 1930s. Not only was it helpful, it was extremely touching as the author explored a fascinating true story and traced the many lives connected to it.

Least of All Saints
Least of All Saints
Grace Irwin
The top four are difficult to order, but I’ll do my best. This was an incredibly well-written Christian novel from the 1950s. The author starts out with a distinctive premise—that of an intellectual unbeliever who becomes a Methodist minister because he believes the tenets of Christian living are compelling, even if he doesn’t believe in God. What follows is a thought-provoking, character-driven story that left me strengthened in my faith.

Les Misérables
Les Miserables
Victor Hugo
Finally reading this beloved classic, I was able to see what all the hype was about. It was truly a solid, satisfying, memorable read. Although I did read an abridged version (the vast majority of versions are abridged), it was plenty long enough. The scope of this story was incredible. Jean Valjean is a wonderful character!

The Dean's Watch
The Dean’s Watch
Elizabeth Goudge
With breathtakingly beautiful prose, Goudge weaves a heart-warming, thought-provoking story about the enigmatic Dean of a city in the northeast England fen country. The spiritual lessons sent chills down me, and the author’s writing style is the most beautiful I’ve ever read!

The Scent of Water
The Scent of Water
Elizabeth Goudge
Although I may have liked the story of The Dean’s Watch a tad better, The Scent of Water had several scenes of beauty in it that touched me to the core. Plus, it was my first Goudge novel; thus, it was the most impacting. Set in England, the story took place contemporaneously to when it was written (1950s, early 1960s) and involved a retired teacher searching for something more to life.

What were some of your top reads of 2015? Which of the books on my list have you read, and what did you think of them?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


“I give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14a
“Before I formed you in the belly I knew you, and before you came out of the womb I did set you apart—I appointed you a prophet to nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

"NSRW Forms of water" by Unknown
God takes delight in fashioning each and every human being. Because of that, each and every human being is unique; unlike the evil governments of the Star Wars universe, God does not create clones. He made every person distinct from one another so there would be an infinite variety in His world, resulting in the greatest possible number of experiences and developments. Because we’re all so different, we’ve brought some pretty crazy stuff into this world, but we’ve also done and discovered an amazing amount that enhances and beautifies life. Which is what God intended. He does not want duplicates; duplicates fit only one purpose.

Which is why it’s absurd to covet what other people have, what they do, who they are. To feel that you’re less of a person than someone else because you can’t do exactly what they do. To believe that you’re unnecessary because you can’t think of anything extraordinary you’ve done. The very fact that you are a unique individual means that you are absolutely necessary to this world. You are not redundant. If you were supposed to be just like someone or everyone else, God would not have made you, since He delights in making His creations diverse.

Being creative yourself helps you understand that aspect of our Creator’s nature. You know the urge to make something new that wasn’t in existence before; it fulfills you unlike anything else. For example, though my main creative outlet is writing, I also enjoy making cards for family and friends. I don’t enjoy writing duplicate stories or making duplicate cards—it’s boring. I take delight in discovering countless ways of crafting words and cards, tailored for a purpose: a particular message or story I need to tell, a particular card for a particular person.

So it is with the individuality with which God created us. He delighted in making you unique, for a special purpose; don’t ruin that by being discontent with your fundamental makeup. Seek the path God has laid for you. 

"Schneeflocken 1885" by Unknown

Note: This isn’t to say we should always consider ourselves individualistically or ignore the good examples of others; we’re made to work for God’s glory in community, too. I’m just concerned about when a person thinks he or she is worthless or superfluous or is tempted to envy others.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

It's Jane Austen's birthday today! I am so thankful for this talented woman, one of my very favorite authors. She was born 240 years ago, in 1775.

File:Jane Austen coloured version.jpg
wikimedia commons

She wrote six of my favorite books:
  1. Sense and Sensibility, 1811
  2. Pride and Prejudice, 1813
  3. Mansfield Park, 1814
  4. Emma, 1816
  5. Northanger Abbey, 1817
  6. Persuasion, 1817
If you're interested in more of my thoughts about this world-renowned English author, here are three posts: one, two, and three.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Beautiful Books: The Editing Process

Happy December everyone! I’m here with another blog link-up from Beautiful Books. Even though I didn’t officially participate in NaNoWriMo, I’m coming to the end of my WIP, Suit and Suitability, so the questions about “The Editing Process” seemed fitting. I managed to write over 27,000 words in November, a record that leaves my other monthly word totals far behind. This month I hope to write with equal persistence (come on, brain, you can do it!). But I am starting to think about the editing process, so without further adieu…

 1.    On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), how did the book turn out? Did anything defy your expectations? 

I don’t know; perhaps an optimistic 7? The novel took turns I definitely didn’t expect from the outset but that I really, really like. It also came out way longer than I expected…frighteningly longer. 

 2.    Comparative title time: what published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men.)  

Sense and Sensibility meets Grace Livingston Hill’s 1930s novels meets a scoured clean Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, I think. (I don’t want to see that movie, but I semi-know the story, and the rich 1930s setting is similar to how I picture my S&S. Plus, I understand that it involves an actress and two female leads with opposite personalities.)

 3.    Do you enjoy working with deadlines and pressure (aka NaNoWriMo)? Or do you prefer to write-as-you’re-inspired? 

I enjoy working with my own deadlines and goals, such as the 25k words I made myself write last month. That’s the best way to make my writing actually go somewhere fast!

 4.    How do you go about editing? Give us an insight into your editing process. 

I set aside the completed story for a while, until I feel distanced enough to read over it with a fresh, eager, yet critical perspective. I read it once, fixing things as I go (inconsistencies, clumsy sentences, wordiness, length, inaccuracies), then let some other people see it. I keep going through it until it’s as good as I feel I can make it, then I have my special critics read it and help me improve it. After all that, I’ll probably read through it again…

 5.    What aspect of your story needs the most work? 

The law case involving Ellen and Marion’s father.

 6.    What aspect of your story did you love the most? 

Ellen’s and Marion’s spiritual journeys.

 7.    Give us a brief run down on your main characters and how you think they turned out. Do you think they’ll need changes in edits? 

Thankfully, I don’t think any my main characters will need much changing, though I’d like to better develop Calvin Bradley (aka Colonel Brandon) and Everett Shepherd (aka Edward Ferrars).

 8.    What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever? 

More edits, finding beta readers, self-publishing in the Vintage Jane Austen series!

 9.    Share a favourite snippet! 

This is at a Broadway theatre where Marion has just seen the musical Anything Goes.

     Marion’s hands flew into an involuntary frenzy of applause; she felt as if the whole audience’s applause lifted her somewhere heavenly. She let her tears gather. The show was beautifully madcap—touching and amusing and thoroughly cheering, all at once. It could appeal to the masses and delight critics, planting songs and lines in the minds of everyone to flourish there forever. Someday she would know the actual feel of having acted in a show like that, and this applause would be for her and her friends.

10. What are your writing goals and plans for 2016? 

I’d like to finish S&S and tie it up with a pretty bow. I’d also like to start on a new novel…I have at least two ideas, but nothing definite yet. I also have shorter stories simmering, but we’ll see if anything comes of them.

Check out the original post on Further Up and Further In! How does your editing process work? What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Festival of Lights

During winter, the darkest time of the year, we naturally think of lights that can illumine our paths and thaw us from the cold. Hanukkah, the eight-day long Jewish holiday in this season, is called “The Festival of Lights” and in fact is going on right now. Since Jesus/Yeshua is the Light of the World, in honor of Him and this festival I am posting some of my favorite Bible verses about light.

Thank you, Unsplash!
Thank you, Unsplash!

2Ch 21:7  Howbeit the LORD would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever.

Psa 27:1  The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Isa 42:6  I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 

Thank you, Unsplash!

Mat 5:14  Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 

Joh 8:12  Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. 

Thank you, Unsplash!
Rev 22:5  And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.

What is your favorite Bible verse about light?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway for Alicia A. Willis's new release, Grace Triumphant!

And now, to announce the winner...

Congratulations, Kimberly Snyder! Please contact me through my website's contact page HERE so I can relay your email address to Alicia for your e-book. You're in for a wonderful read!

I enjoyed everyone's answers to my question, “What do you think is the most powerful thing we can learn from history?” so much I compiled the answers so we can all read them again:
  • I think the main thing we can learn is from the example of those who walked faithfully before us!
  • Learning from the examples of those before us, good and bad.
  • The most powerful thing I've learned from history is God is the Redeemer of history. No matter how terrible or hopeless a period of history seems to be, God always works in it to bring good and glory to His name.
  • I think the most powerful thing we can learn from history is God's unchangeableness, and His unending grace and forgiveness. There have been many, many before us that have gone through these struggles also, and made it through, which means we can, too, through His strength!  
  • The most powerful thing we can learn from history is that God always has a plan for the lives of His people. Whatever happened in history, God worked it all out according to His will! Plus, from history we can learn about God Himself, as it is HIS-STORY!!! :)
 To those of you didn't win, I hope you still get a chance to check out Grace Triumphant. It's one you won't want to miss.