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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Emma's Anniversary

“I do so wonder, Miss Woodhouse, that you should not be married, or going to be married—so charming as you are.”
“My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry. I must find other people charming—one other person at least.”

I had to chuckle at that, since it so wittily expresses how single women feel sometimes. It’s just one of many clever, timeless, spot-on statements that appear frequently throughout Emma, the last novel that Jane Austen saw published. She died a year and a half later. It was published in December 1815; I read Emma this year in honor of its 200th anniversary.

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Although Sense and Sensibility is my favorite, I think Emma may be her best novel. It certainly is her most mature work. She was older and more experienced when she wrote it than when she wrote all her other completed novels save Persuasion; and Persuasion, published posthumously, did not have the benefit of her final edit. Emma is symmetrical and tightly plotted. Every circumstance and character is tied off in probably the most satisfying ending of her novels (the others tend to finish too quickly for us romantics). The major characters, from Emma to Miss Bates, are so realistic and well drawn you can know them like real people; none of them are the least bit unbelievable or caricature-ish. Their dialogue sparkles. Emma’s character development is probably the most detailed of all Jane Austen’s heroines. The setting of Highbury is a living portrait of a small English village.

I seldom reread books, but I plan to always reread Jane Austen’s novels. This was my second time reading Emma. Just a few things I would like to draw attention to that I especially enjoyed this time around:

- Emma and Mr. Knightley’s delightful relationship and repartee: “Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me, you know—in a joke—it is all a joke. We always say what we like to one another.” Their conversations are some of the best in all of Jane Austen’s works!

- The cohesiveness of the plot: Perhaps more than any other of Miss Austen’s novels, marriage is the driving plot of Emma. It opens with a wedding and ends with a wedding; a wedding shakes up Emma Woodhouse’s world in the beginning, and rectifies it at the conclusion. Emma’s character arc is bound to it—marriage removes her best friend and former governess, Mrs. Weston, causing her to commandeer Harriet Smith, a graduate of the local girls’ school, as a new constant companion. Matchmaking becomes her hobby as she tries to manage Harriet’s marital prospects. Marriage between her sister and Mr. Knightley’s brother defines Emma’s and Mr. Knightley’s friendship and blinds them to their own feelings for each other. Marriage, or the desire of marriage, brings three new characters to Highbury—Jane Fairfax, Frank Churchill, and Augusta Elton. One of Emma’s most prominent wishes is that she not marry, and one of her father’s most defining characteristics is that he dislikes marriage because it changes things. By the end of the book, we have met no less than six married or soon-to-be married couples, and most of them are the major characters. Only two other major characters are unmarried, Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates. Marriage, proposals, engagements, and romantic speculation propel the story. And at the end, marriage between the right pairs puts the world aright again.

- The beautiful theme: While marriage is the driving plot, the take-away theme seems to be truth. I’m indebted to Peter J. Leithart and his book Miniatures and Morals for pointing this out (highly recommended for all Jane Austen fans!). Mr. Knightley, the epitome of a truthful man (he won’t even tolerate any equivocation, but always speaks and acts decisively), is the only man who is right for Emma. Only when there is truth in all the characters’ dealings with each other is the story ready for conclusion. The biggest plot developments hinge on cleared-up misunderstandings (such as those that concern Mr. Elton, Harriet, and Emma; Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax; and Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Harriet). Although marriage propels Emma’s character arc, her growth is measured by the amount of truth she tells, learns, and recognizes about herself. She is ready for marriage when truth triumphs in her life. Takeaway point: Truth is essential for a happy marriage and really, for any wholesome relationship.

I know this is sort of an unconventional review, but I’ll end properly: Not only is Emma humorous and well written, it’s full of insight and rich character studies. It’s a novel that has lived two hundred years without losing any of its freshness or power. It will surprise and delight you with every read!  

What do you think of Emma?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Surrender: A Song Book

Calling all pianists! With a Joyful Noise has released a new piano solo book for late-intermediate to early-advanced pianists. Whether you are your church's pianist or you simply enjoy learning new music for personal enjoyment and reflection, finding new music books is always a joy. Coming from a church pianist who knows the struggle of finding new offertories, Amanda Tero has taken timeless songs and woven advanced techniques into simple, relaxing settings.

The songs in the piano solo book are commonly known as “invitation songs,” and the messages ring true. Have we laid all on the altar for God to control? Have we acknowledge our need for Christ and turned fully to Him? Have we truly surrendered all to Him? Are we daily seeking to be near Him so that we can say in assurance, “It is well with my soul?” Are we eagerly awaiting His eternal plans for us or do we still cling to that which will one day fade away?

Listen to all of the songs on YouTube.

About the Book
Level: Late-intermediate/Early Advanced
Pages: 37

Buy the Book
Visit or email Amanda at for more information on purchasing your own copy (digital or print).

About the Arranger
Amanda Tero is a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, currently living and teaching in Mississippi. She has played piano since 1998, studying under Karen Tero, Donna Hopkins, and Shelley Hayes. The Lord has given her opportunities to be involved in accompaniment, congregational playing, hymn-arranging, and recording since 1999.

Connect with Amanda

Since not all blog-readers are pianists, there are two giveaways going on, so no one is left out! First, you may enter for a physical copy of Amanda's piano solo CD, The Solid Rock. Second, you may enter to win a print copy of Surrender for yourself. Note: these giveaways are open to U.S. Residents only (non-U.S. residents may enter the giveaway for Surrender if they would like to win a digital copy instead).

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Be sure to hop by the other great blogs that are featuring Surrender on their blogs this month!


Friday, June 10, 2016

Impactful Books

Okay, so I said I might not be posting as much on here because I needed time to focus on my story writing…but I couldn’t resist participating in the Read-to-Win discussion on Homeschooled Authors that will be happening every week. They’ll be short, direct answers to short, direct questions—good blogging material for me right now! (By the way, check out the Read-to-Win program here.)

The first question is: What fiction book most impacted your life?

My answer: I’m bad at narrowing things down. The narrowest I can get is four:
1) Christy by Catherine Marshall
2) Ester Reid by Isabella McDonald Alden
3) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
4) The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Christy and Ester Reid impacted my faith walk as much as or more than certain nonfiction books on Christian living. They showed me what a sold-out-to-God life looks like. Christy especially has become a model to me on how to write fiction where God is the center of my characters’ lives.

Sense and Sensibility, the first Austen novel I read and still my favorite, turned me into a Janeite. Elinor Dashwood is my favorite fictional character and is an example to me of strong, gracious womanhood.

The epic struggle in The Lord of the Rings helped me understand the epic struggle of our lives in this world. Its serious themes yet constant declaration of hope—hope that is always there, despite the shadows—picture to me how to stay faithful to and hopeful in God. 

What fiction book has most impacted you?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Faith Blum's Novella Cover Scavenger Hunt

Who doesn't like a scavenger hunt? I suppose it depends on the kind of scavenger hunt, but Faith Blum is with us today to reveal the covers for her three upcoming novellas.

Each novella will be published this summer. One on June 26th, one on July 26th, and the last one on August 26th. To reveal the covers, I have a scavenger hunt set up. I have a few clues for you and then once you find the covers, you can fill out the form below to enter a giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Each cover you find will get yo u four extra entries. Entries will be closed on June 10th and the winner announced on June 11th.

First, here are the descriptions of each book:

Just a Closer Walk

Katie and Joanna meet on a train headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming. They start talking and find out they are both headed there to become mail order brides. They quickly become good friends. When they get on a stagecoach with three other young women, Katie becomes suspicious. What is going to happen to them? Or is it really possible that nothing untoward is happening?

Just As I Am

Eve and Evangeline Collins are adventurous twins who decide to take a risk and head west as mail order brides. Their parents are less than pleased, but do nothing to stop them. Eve and Eva don’t realize their danger until they stop just outside Cheyenne. Will they ever see their family again?

Blessed Assurance

Adelaide lost her parents a year before and now a rich man in town is making unwanted advances toward her. Desperate, she writes to two men and quickly accepts the one from Cheyenne, Wyoming. On the final leg of her journey, in a stagecoach with four other mail order brides, her suspicions are confirmed. Will she ever find a man she can truly trust?


Each cover is hidden in a blog post on Faith's blog. Here are some clues to help you find the posts:

Clue #1: Agencies, mysteries, and westerns. Where might this cover be?

Clue #2: The ides of March. A holiday, a bird, or perhaps a plane. Can the cover be there?

Clue #3: A light or six and you may find the third and final cover.

In case the form below doesn't show up for some reason, please use this link to enter the giveaway.

Tour Schedule

June 6

June 7

June 8

June 9

June 10

June 11

Thursday, June 2, 2016

I'm Back

Upon my word (a rather common expression in Emma, which is my current reading book), I’ve been absent for more than three weeks! The first week I was enjoying the visit of a dear friend and getting ready to be in a wedding (one of the best weeks of this year so far!). The week after I was “recuperating” (more on that in a minute). And earlier this week, I just couldn’t think of anything to post. But what has also bothered me is that I haven’t been very faithful in commenting on my friends’ blogs…and I apologize for the neglect!

I'm going to share some honest thoughts. I haven’t exactly gone through a crisis in my writing—nothing that drastic. I’ve just tried to set things in order. I had been getting so far away from actual writing on any of my projects that my creativity felt dry. Once general, outside-life busyness was over each day, I still wasn’t making any headway, but getting distracted by social media and other internet attention-grabbers. I was getting burned out in the “author has to market” mindset and not writing, which is why I’m even online doing this sort of thing. So I put much of that aside and just worked on my projects (I have three), resolving that even if I have to start over with marketing when I’m ready to jump in again, it’d be worth it. I needed to rediscover my love for writing and not worry about marketing (which I’ve never really known if I was doing it right anyway). Worrying about becoming known made me stop writing. Inadvertently, but still, unfortunate and pointless.

From now on I’m going to take it slow. I may not post as much on my blog, but that will (or at least should!) be because I’m actually writing soon-to-be books. My goal is not to allow the author business to overwhelm the writer business. Other people know how to handle it, but I’m still learning. If you are going through a similar reassessment (in writing or something else), I hope that this is encouraging to you. It’s okay to not be able to do everything you think you should do; it’s okay to draw back, pray, and straighten your priorities according to how God is leading you, even if that means you have to say no to some things.

Have you ever felt that busy-work was crowding out your creativity? Do you have any advice?