Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thanksgiving Books and Blessings!

I intended to have a thoughtful post today, but with two deadlines within five days, let's just say time for other things has gotten away from me, LOL. But I did want to pop on here long enough to invite you to come chat with me today at a Facebook party!

I'm part of the Thanksgiving Books and Blessings event, which can be found here on Facebook from 10-4 Central Time. My slot is 12-12:30 Eastern/11-11:30 Central.

There will be games, giveaways, and lots of fun ~ a way for us authors to thank you, the reader, for all your support and enthusiasm throughout the year. Hope you can make it!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Word of the Week - Science

These days, when people say science, they have a particular thing in mind, right? Chemistry, biology, anatomy, physics, etc. But did you know that science used to be a far more general term?

The word dates from the 14th century, from the French word of the exact same spelling, and it meant broadly "what is known; knowledge acquired by study; information." The French, in turn, came from the Latin scientia, which means "a knowing, knowledge, expertness." This most likely came from scire, which means "to divide; differentiate."

Back in the 1300s, this word was used for general book-learning. By the end of the century, it was that learning especially gained by observation. The modern, restricted sense of science didn't come along until the mid 1700s and was commonly called philosophy as well.

Don't forget that tonight I'll be chatting on Facebook Live about the inspiration and behind-the-scenes of Giver of Wonders! Hope to see you all there at 7 p.m. Eastern. =)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fridays from the Archives - Stray Mittens

Time for another Fridays from the Archives! Today we're looking back to January 2010, when Xoe was only 4, and Rowyn only 2. I actually went looking for this one, because it's something I think of from time to time. I in fact recently regaled Xoe with the tale of how she refused to put matching mittens beside each other, and she thought it was utterly hilarious.

And though now she's a bit more fashion conscious and will play by the rules, that creative streak is still definitely present--and still such fun to see!

I know, I know. You look at the title to this post and think I'm going to talk about my kids' propensity to lose one of each and every set of mittens in the house. And they do, I assure you. But that's actually not my point at all. =)

On Tuesdays I take Xoe to Story Time at our library, which she loves. It's the usual setup--the librarian reads to them, they sing some songs, there's a craft or snack. The past few weeks, one of the songs has made use of the felt-board and cutout paper mittens in different colors. When the song calls out the color of then mitten you have, you run up and put it on the board. Simple, right?

I've noticed something these last few weeks. Whenever Miss Liz says, "Put them here" and pats the board, every other child--I'm talking every . . . single . . . one--puts their colored mitten where she points. The first to get there will put it by the edge, the second (there are two of each color, go figure) right beside it.

Except Xoe.

Naturally, my little princess must be different. On Tuesday, she put her white mitten right in the middle of the board, though the first child to get there with with white put it by the edge, under the red ones, just like the librarian indicated.

I watched carefully when it was her turn again. By the time yellow was called, the board was mostly full. Again, another kid got there with yellow before her. Again, started a nice, neat row.

Where, I wondered, would my little deviant put this one? There wasn't much room left, other than beside its match. Would she conform?

Er, no. She put it in the spot still open beside the first white one, which was all lonely because her white one was off by itself.

I nearly laughed. There it was, this lovely rainbow of mittens, surprisingly well ordered by a bunch of three-year-olds, and the only oddities in the pattern were those two mittens my daughter put up, one white, one yellow. Two bright, cheerful slaps in the face of conformity.

Now, as a mother of a preschooler, there are a lot of moments when I think, "Can't you just do what you're told? Please? Must you make waves? Must you do things your own way? Don't you see that your outfit looks ridiculous, that you've made your 'art' over top of an actual picture, that you've undone all my cleaning by creating this 'obstacle course' of toys?" Especially in public. Especially around other mothers with their well-behaved children who come to the library appropriately dressed.

But you know . . . on Tuesday, something in me cheered. Something said, "Yeah, go Xoe! Make a new pattern! Color outside the lines! Wear red and black Minnie Mouse shoes with a pink and yellow kitty-cat dress! Be you!"

Now, I would like to note that my daughter is darn good for a 4-year-old. She can color inside the lines, follow precise directions, and pick out a pattern. She can clean up her toys, pick out presentable clothes, and charm the socks off any adult she comes across.

But she can also create. She can go around for a full day, narrating a story in her mind that incorporates everything she's actually doing. She can turn a boring tan rubber band into an intricate bracelet.

She can turn a paper mitten into a bright spot. And this mommy, who sometimes just wishes she would listen, couldn't be more proud.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Word of the Week - Romance

Last week, in talking about the word novel, I mentioned that novels were previously referred to as romances, which of course set us up perfectly for this week's Word. =)

Since around 1300, romance meant "a story, written or recited, of a knight, hero, etc." Why were they called romance? Because they were told in the everyday, vernacular language of a place rather than in Latin, and romance was also the word used for everyday, vernacular French. This comes from the Vulgar Latin romanice scribere, "to write in a Romance language," which is to, one derived from Latin. (I daresay most of us have heard of "the romance language" of Spanish, French, etc.)

By the 1660s, the literary definition had expanded to mean "a love story." Interestingly though, it wasn't applied to an out-of-literature love affair until 1916--who knew? Romance novels have only been a recognized genre in an of themselves since 1964.

Also interesting is that the verb, to romance someone, is only from 1934. Before that it meant "to invent fictitious love stories."

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thoughtful About . . . A Living Water Faith

There's an old-world definition of "living water"--it means water that moves. Dead waters are stagnant--you don't want to drink from them, and sometimes things can't even live in them.

For instance, the Dead Sea. Now, this place is pretty amazing in a lot of ways. The salt content in so high that nothing can live in the waters. So high that you get salt cubes littering the shore and chunks of it floating in the water like icebergs. We've all probably heard the stories about how easy it is to float, and how quickly the water heals cuts or scrapes on your skin.

Why is the Dead Sea so salty? Because the Jordan river flows in, but then it stops. There's no outlet. The water simply evaporates in the heat. It's dead, not just because the salinity is so high that nothing can live there, but because the water doesn't move.

In contrast is the Sea of Galilee, which is fresh water. The same Jordan river flows in, flows out. Plus, it's fed from underground springs. This is living water. Fresh and clean and teeming with life.

That's what our faith is supposed to be.

My dad preached on this last weekend, and it really spoke to me. He started with John 7:37-38:

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (Emphasis mine. NKJV)

 Somehow, through all the times I've read John, I'd never caught that before. Whenever I think of living water, I think of it being Jesus--I remember the woman at the well, and how our Lord promises that He can give a living water that will make us thirst no more. Jesus is the living water.

But then there's that part in bold above. He comes into the hearts of those believe in Him--and then what?

Out of [our] hearts will flow rivers of living water. 

 Living water--moving water. Fresh water. He comes in . . . and He needs to flow out. We need to be fed with His words, with His truth, with His salvation, yes--but that can't be the end of it. We can't just hold it all in and think we're good. That we're saved, so that's all that matters. 

We can't stagnate. We have to move. Our faith has to move. It has to flow back out to the rest of the dry and thirsty world.

In our Bible study on Wednesday nights, we've been reading Romans. In 2:16, Paul is talking about about how the law is written on the hearts of men and that God will judge them, through Jesus, according to "my gospel." My husband, ever amazing at digging deep into the wording, asked "Why does Paul call it his Gospel here? Isn't it usually called Christ's gospel?"

We went back and forth with it for a while, and eventually I said something I thought was kinda simplistic, but which everyone loved: that Paul is owning it. He's taking the Gospel inside him and then sharing it, so fully unashamed, so fully committed to it that he's willing to call it his own.

That's the living water faith we all need to have. The kind that takes it in. That lives through it and by it. And that sends it out again to nourish others.

Father, let your Living Water spring up within us. Let it fill all the parches and empty places in our souls. And let our spirits' cups then so overflow with you that we have no choice but to spill out your goodness for those around us. Let us be the fresh spring in a bitter world. The life among the dead. Let us be a fountain of your glory.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Word of the Week - Novel

I'm not sure how I've managed to go this long without featuring the most obvious word in the world as my Word of the Week ~ Novel ~ but it's high time I remedy that oversight!

We're all probably familiar with the two ways novel is used in English today--"A novel idea" and "the best sort of written work." ;-)

As it happens, that adjective use predates the noun by a good bit, coming directly from novellus, which means "new, young, recent." It appeared in English in the 1400s, with an added sense of "unique, unusual."

In the 1560s, the Italians began calling short stories ("new stories") novellas, particularly when part of a larger work--specifically given first to the stories of Boccaccio. By the 1630s, novel was being used for longer works of fiction--books which had been previously been called romances.

Which will be our Word of the Week next week. ;-)

And, in keeping with the theme, tonight I'll be chatting about books I've been reading on Facebook Live, and I'd love to hear about your recent reading list too! Novels and non-fiction suggestions alike are welcome. =) Join me on Facebook at 7 p.m. EST!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fridays from the Archives - Soft Spots

Given that it's once again pumpkin-carving weekend upon us, I thought that today I'd re-post something from almost exactly six years ago . . . when I got a rather unpleasant surprise during my carving. Which, of course, led me to some thoughts on life and faith.

This year on Xoe's birthday, we went down to the family farm's pumpkin patch to select our pumpkins--we got orange ones in tall and then round, white ones with a ghosting of green and orange, and warty ones too. What kind of pumpkin is your favorite?

My kids love this time of year. We have Octoberfest at our family's farm (not in the German tradition, mind you), the best family reunion ever, my daughter's birthday, Halloween . . . as soon as pumpkins start appearing in the stores and on the stoops, the questions begin: "When are we getting a pumpkin? Can we carve it? What kind of face should I make this year?"

Now, belonging to a farm family, I do not buy a pumpkin, certainly not from a store. I instead pick out some from the selection my grandparents bring for the kids to the above-mentioned reunion [or venture down into the fields to choose my own]. So this year Rowyn chose a nice, round one, and Xoe one with a beautiful squiggly stem. We set them on the porch way back the week of Columbus Day.

And waited. My thought: if we carve them later, they may actually last through Halloween, and the kids are disappointed when they don't.

So on Tuesday night, we deemed it a great day to carve pumpkins. The weather was warm, we had nowhere to go . . . perfect. So the kids went out with our dry-erase markers, I with my carving knife and a few plastic bags for glop. While Xoe drew a happy face on hers and Rowyn made a few scribbles and then decided that fallen tree branch in the yard was far more interesting, I got down to business on Rowyn's pumpkin. I cut my circle in the top, pulled it up.

And went, "Ewwwwwwwwwwww!"

It was rotten inside. You know how there are supposed to be strings? Seeds? We had only mush. Orangish-brown, sloppy, stinky mush. It was seriously one of the grosses moments of my life. But my exclamation had brought the boy-o back over, and looking down into his dimpled face, those big eyes . . . yeah, I didn't have the heart to say, "Sorry, kiddo, no pumpkin for you this year."

I scooped out the foul-smelling goo. Poured it where I could. Held my breath and got rid of the rotten. I hosed it out. I bagged and double-bagged the glop and got rid of it. Then I went to work cutting away any yucky meat from inside.

At which point I noticed the soft spots. The weak spots. The spots I would have noticed from the outside had I looked for them. It hadn't occurred to me to do so, I just assumed the pumpkin was fine--but had I bothered, I would have seen the signs. I could have gotten another pumpkin beforehand. I could have spared myself some disgust, lol.

Oh-so-often I do the same thing with life. I push forward, not even considering caution. Or I ignore that soft spot I detect. It's the little things, the little warnings. Like yesterday when I handed Xoe a bowl of Spaghetti-Os and thought, "She's going to spill that." But handed it to her anyway. Thirty seconds later . . . . Or that time I looked at the bananas on the counter and thought, "I should move those so the dog doesn't get them." But the dog had never shown any interest in bananas, nor had he gotten anything off the counter. Yet when we got home that afternoon . . .

The Lord tries to show us those soft spots in life's pumpkin. He gives us the Spirit to whisper the warnings in our ear. "You had better be careful here, beloved . . . better open you eyes . . . better listen, and spare yourself some discomfort." After years and years of observing this, it's still a task to listen to that voice. To take it seriously. To trust it.

I'm in a place right now where I can see how the Lord has led me lovingly to some of the big things happening in my life. But how awesome is it that He leads us in the little things too, if we pay attention? 

Thank you, Lord for having a soft spot in Your heart for humanity, so that you can show us the soft spots in us. 

For where it makes us weak, it makes You strong.