Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Remember When . . . Harvest Traditions Clashed?

It's that time of year again--the time when most of America gets ready for Halloween, and those who oppose it often take the time to explain about why.

I'm not going there, LOL. Instead, I'm looking at how some of America's Halloween traditions got here to begin with, and what the Puritans did this time of year instead. Because, you see, it's the 4th Wednesday of the month, which means it's my day to post on Colonial Quills. ;-) Hop on over to read about the anticipated ear of red corn that could usher in your future, and how jack-o-lanterns came from the clash between Christianity and Druidism.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Word of the Week - Knit

About a month ago, a lady at our church volunteered to teach knitting classes. Having been crocheting since she was 9 and then knitting as well when she moved to our area and began working in a yarn store, Ms. Judith knows her stuff!

I joined mostly because Xoe has taken a few classes and needed a few more, LOL. And I figured, this way I could help her. I wasn't expecting to fall in love with it, but boy have I!

So today, our word of the week is knit.

The word has been around since Old English, meaning "to tie with a knot, bind, fasten." And while the art of knitting has been around so long no one knows exactly when it started, the word has been in English with the particular meaning of "to do knitting" only since the 15th century. (Only . . . LOL)

Interestingly, referring to a piece of knitted work as "knitting" is quite new! That only joined the English language in 1848. (Wondering now what they called it before...)

(Those are my knitting projects thus far in the photo - starting at the left, we have a stitch I just wanted to try so did something that ended up the size of a pot holder, LOL. Didn't like the yarns though so stopped. Then I decided I'd do a cable knit scarf. I still had lots of the yarn, so I made a cable-knit hat to match [it's finished, but I didn't take a finished photo yet]. Those are the same yarn in the two middle pictures, just different lighting, LOL. And finally, I'm trying some toy patterns, so I did a star fish. Just finished that this weekend, and am currently working on a bat!)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . The Refugee Crisis

In my circles, we hear about the refugees flooding Europe from Syria and the Middle East, driven out by ISIS, and we're horrified. We want to help. We want to learn more. 

I was a bit surprised to realize that the opinion of my circle wasn't the norm (though I guess I shouldn't have been). Scrolling randomly through Facebook one day showed me that most people's opinions are that this is just another ISIS tactic to infiltrate the world--that the refugees are terrorists in disguise, not to be trusted, not to be helped. Or that even if many aren't, it's not our problem. We have an immigrant problem of our own, I saw one lady say on a friend's post. We need to deal with our own issues before we go taking on theirs.

That, my friend, is a dangerous, dangerous philosophy. That, if you carry it out in all aspects of your life, is an excuse for turning a blind eye to any problem--because seriously, when will we not have something to deal with already? Does that mean you let every other atrocity go on, unchecked?

Last week, my husband and father were in Bulgaria, and they went to the refugee camp there to interview some of the refugees. Do you know what they found?

They found people who just want respect, who want to be treated as people, not as a disease. They saw people who manage to smile and joke and talk of their hope of going home, even while they admit that they still have family in Syria, and they haven't heard from them in months, don't know whether they're alive or dead.

These people said over and again, "Syria is beautiful. Syria is wonderful. Syria is even better than the United States. Until DASH [the local name for ISIS] we all lived in peace. We all helped one another. Of course I want to go home. As soon as it's safe, I'll be there. We'll rebuild."

I'm not sure Americans understand that--that these people aren't fleeing by choice, aren't trying to find a new life in Europe or America or anywhere else in the world. They're just trying to survive, to help their children to survive. Their goal isn't to stay in those countries to which they flee, it's just to earn a living there until they can go home. That's the ultimate goal--to go home, to a place they swear is the best place in the world.

Are there terrorists trying to take advantage of this? There are. Bad people will always try to take advantage of the hardships of others. But those people will find ways in no matter what. To those who live in fear of that, I say this:

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25)

When I stand before God, I don't want Him judging me for the thousands of innocents I chose not to help for fear of the few evil men among them. When I stand before God, I don't want to be on the left hand, begging and pleading and saying, "But Lord, I might have helped an enemy by mistake!"

I think He has an answer to that, don't you? Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you . . . if your enemy is hungry, give him food. If he is thirsty, give him drink.

Already there are stories coming out of terrorists who were trying to do what we fear . . . but who, being met by the love of Christians in the camps, changed their minds. Because never had they seen such love, and they couldn't deny it.

Christianity has an opportunity here--to show the world what it really means to serve a loving God. A merciful God. A God who loves you so much that He would make the ultimate sacrifice. That's a love that changes people. That's a love that changes the world.

Are we willing to shine that love into the darkness? Or do we turn our faces away and pretend the darkness can't reach us here?

Over the next few months, I'll be sharing opportunities as they become available--opportunities to support those ministering to the camps, and hopefully to take some more active roles too.

And if you'd like to see more of what my husband and father did last week, you can listen to their presentation to our church this coming Saturday, October 24, at 11 a.m. We'll be broadcasting the service here: FGSDB Live Stream

Please, please join us in praying for the thousands of displaced Syrians. Pray for their safety. Pray for their provisions. Pray for their hearts and souls.

If by chance you're ready to give right now, you can donate through our not-for-profit organization, the Appalachian Relief Mission. Just put a note that it's for the refugees--we'll be sending money to our contacts at the camp in Bulgaria (the poorest country in the EU, just FYI).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Remember When . . . The Models Posed?

Last week I had a super-exciting email from the folks at Bethany House, asking for my input on poses for the book cover of A Lady Unrivaled, the third and final installment in the Ladies of the Manor Series.

Yes, if you heard giddy squealing, that was me. ;-)

Now, they hadn't selected a model yet, so this was purely an in-general question, but a fun one. And it got me thinking. As a cover designer myself, I know how much poses matter--and it's especially true on a book cover where the figure is the majority of the composition, like in these.

(I'm still so in love with these covers!)

But in the email last week, my editor asked if I'd like to see them use any props this time (props! squee!), how I'd like to see her positioned. And oh, the possibilities!

Just looking through Edwardian photographs gives such a wide variety...

We've got the parasol-as-a-cane.
Which was very popular.
Or hey, just a cane!
We've got the show-off-the-waist ones...
(I can't breathe just looking at that one...or this one)
And of course, some softer poses.

Endless possibilities, of course. And I love how much attention Bethany House gives this as they prepare for their photo shoots. Just look at some of these fabulously posed covers.

We tossed around some ideas, and I can't wait to see what they settle on during the shoot and the photo selection.

But now I'm curious. What are your favorite types of poses for models on book covers?  Close-ups? No faces? Something quirky? Serious? Action shot? Obviously much depends on the type of book, but which ones tend to draw you?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . The Contradiction of Freedom


It's a subject being discussed quite a bit these days in hot-topic conversations . . . though sometimes I don't think people realize that is at the heart of what they're talking about.


It's the heart of the Christian faith, something Americans certainly make a show of valuing . . . but often atheists' main objection to Christianity is--though they rarely realize it--our freedom.


Something we want so desperately, but understand so poorly.

Last week, a friend of mine had changed her social media profile picture to be a little thing that said "I Am a Christian." For some bizarre reason, this triggered attacks on her by total strangers on Twitter, who took it upon themselves to insult her in some rather colorful language and accuse her of "liking to be a victim then."

I was so very impressed with how my friend handled herself. Not at all confrontational, she just asked the person to explain what they meant. The root of their argument? That there had better not be a God, because if there were, He was doing a lousy job of protecting people. Just look at all the violence and crime!

My friend's response: "So you want a God who controls you completely?"

The confrontational person certainly didn't take kindly to that. But it sure got me thinking.

That is, in essence, what people are asking for when they say, "Why doesn't God stop these bad things from happening? Why didn't He stop that shooter? That bomber? ISIS?"

When those are the questions churning through our mind, we see only one side of the equation, and it looks grossly unfair. God should put a halt to these terrible thing! Right?!

Wrong. So very, very wrong.

Because if God put a halt to those terrible, terrible things--things people choose to do to each other--then He, being perfectly just, would also have to put a halt to everything you do that isn't perfectly pleasing to Him.

Is that how you would want to live? With God controlling your every word? Your every action? Your every thought? Do you want to live as nothing but a puppet?

I daresay no one, even those of us who strive to be better and live according to God's will, want that. We, by nature, value freedom. Free will. We, by nature, want to choose whether we love God, whether we serve Him. He doesn't demand compulsory service--He softly requests our hearts.

But if we grant that He should give us free will, we have to extend it to all humanity--including those who abuse it.

And there will always be people who abuse it. There will always be people who heed the whispers of the enemy rather than those of God, who take perverse delight in hurting, killing, abusing, misusing other people. Could God stop them? Of course He could. But except for a few occasions where His people are praying and His glory needs to be demonstrated, He doesn't. Because He already let us choose--He granted us that most basic freedom. We don't really want Him to take that away.

Not from us, anyway. But we still wish He would take it away from them, don't we?

At least until we realize that God loves them just as much as He loves us. And because He loves them, He wants them to have that freedom to choose Him too. He wants to reach their hearts, not to bind their hands.

But freedom, as much as we treasure it, terrifies us when it's extended to those whose views are different from ours. Because what if they abuse it? How do we stop them?

Well, as I know I've said before, we don't accomplish it by tying their hands, since God won't. We don't do it by taking away guns. We don't do it by limiting everyone's freedoms.

We do it by praying a revival into the world. By turning hearts to Him. By reinstating the morality that God, in fact, gave us to try to guide us away from these abuses we find so heinous . . . but which also include Him guiding us away from abuses we find pretty nice. You know, like sex with whomever we want, whenever we want, married or not. Like getting rid of whatever child (oh, I'm sorry, fetus [which, now that you mention it, means "child" in Latin, no differentiation between born or unborn]) we find inconvenient. Like putting anything and everything before Him in our priorities and loyalties.

We call those things freedoms, proving how little we understand the concept. Free choice. Free love. Free time.

Those things aren't free--they come with a cost. One America and the world are paying every day when we create a generation, a people, who value life so little that they see no reason not to end the lives of those they disagree with. We, as a culture, have taught them to do that, then we wonder why God didn't stop them?


It's a crazy thing, isn't it? Something we want so fiercely . . . understand so little . . . and don't know what to do with once we've got it. Something we go to war to protect . . . and then give away in terror. Something we say is a basic human right . . . even if that requires changing the definition of "human" so it doesn't have to apply to those to whom we don't wish to grant it.


It's one of God's sweetest gifts to humanity. And one of the things that make people doubt His very existence.


A gift we can't accept without extending it to others too.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Word of the Week - Draw

Last week, Rowyn was reading Amelia Bedelia, who classically misunderstands commands that include words with more than one meaning. Early on in the story, she's working on a list of chores from her employer, who instructs her to "draw the drapes." Naturally, she sits down with a marker and paper and draws those drapes.

I'm totally raising my kids up right--Rowyn asked, "Why does that word mean both things?"

So Mommy the Lover of Etymology replied, "I think it's that draw means, 'to pull across.' So you draw the drapes closed, along their rods...or your draw your pencil across the page, which eventually got shortened just to draw. It's also why drawers are called that--because you pull them out."

Score one for Mommy, who was right on. ;-)

Draw dates from about 1100, its meanings including both those things, plus to "draw a weapon."

As a noun (specifically, when something like a game has no winner), it has existed since the 1600s, and in the sense of "something that will draw a crowd" from about 1881. To draw a blank is an expression that came about from the lotteries and dates from 1825.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thoughtful About . . . Half of a Unit

We're surrounded by them. Couples. Siblings. Families that are super close. People we think of individually, sure, but also, always, as part of a unit.

Over the weekend my husband and I went to the airport to pick up friends flying home from a mission trip. As I was saying a prayer for them the next morning, they came to mind as they often do: Mike and Terri. I've thought of them this way for nearly 30 years. Mike and Terri. And it got me thinking.

What units have I been a part of in my life? Growing up, I was often grouped in with my sister: Jennifer and Roseanna. Just like my kids: Xoe and Rowyn. My nieces: Isabelle and Paisley. Because these groups tend to travel together. Share space. Live in the same home. Because when you see one, chances are you see the other.

But these units change as children grow up, don't they? Then they're often paired with their friends. In high school, my friend and I joked that people seemed to think our name was Jen-and-Annie.

Then it becomes the couples. David and Roseanna. Brian and Jennifer. Mike and Terri. And so on.

It's a normal thing, in life. We spend time with people. So in the minds of other people, we're a unit. We arrive together. We share time and space. We have the same stances on things, usually. We work together.

We're a unit.

It's a normal thing, in life...but one that shifts. Relationships break. People pass away. Move away. Things come between us. Distance, sometimes physical and sometimes emotional. The unit breaks down.

But there's one unit that shouldn't. I wonder though...

Do people ever think of us as part of a unit with Him? Do people know what when we show up, the Spirit does too? Can strangers ever glimpse Jesus walking with us as surely as our spouses do?

That's what the Church should be, right? The bride to Jesus, the bridegroom. The other half of His unit. But are we? Can we be, when we fight so much among ourselves that one has to wonder what "The Church" even means anymore?

At the end of the day, that's the only unit that matters...but the one so often neglected. I strive to keep accord between me and my husband, for example--do I strive to keep it even more between me and my Lord? Do I spend more time with Him than my family? My spouse? Am I in unity with my God?

These earthly relationships, the earthly units are important. But not as important as unity with Him. So that's something I'm going to be thinking more about. How do we fill in this blank in our lives?

Me and ______________________________________

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Remember When . . . History Came to Life?

WhiteFire Publishing has a busy, busy month. Never in our history have we had more than 2 books come out in a month, but this year the schedule ended up with a few holes in the early part of the year, and then 3 titles releasing simultaneously on October 15--and 2 of them are historicals, so I thought I'd chat a bit about what's taking up my days right now. ;-)

Our first title is actually a contemporary by Melody Carlson. Her Dear Daphne Series began with B&H Publishing, but when the company shut down its fiction line, Melody's series got caught halfway finished. WhiteFire acquired the remaining two books in the series and are thrilled to be releasing book 3 of Dear Daphne this month!
Dear Daphne is a continuity series, where each book picks up right where the previous one left off--no wonder the readers have been clamoring for this next installment! And they're going to love it. Daphne Ballinger, in previous books, discovered her aunt had left her a sizable inheritance...but only if Daphne got married within a year. Her aunt didn't want Daphne to be alone, like she was--but talk about pressure! Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel and Dating, Dining, and Desperation see Daphne coming to terms with this odd will and trying to find Mr. Right. Instead she finds a young girl in need of a caretaker. In Home, Hearth, and the Holidays, Daphne and young Mabel are settling down for their first holiday season in the small town of Appleton. But what first looks like an answer to all their problems might just destroy the cozy little family they're building. Is there any hope at all that love will find Daphne before springtime?

We at WhiteFire are so happy to be working with Melody to bring this series to completion! And after the remaining 2 books in Dear Daphne, she'll also be working with us on a historical series. =) (See how I tie that back into history for Remember When Wednesday? Eh? Eh??)


Next we have the second book in the Steadfast Love Series, The Sound of Silver.

You may remember a bit about this series from last fall when we held the photo shoot. (The ridiculously photogenic model for the series is my niece, Jayna, who loved playing dress-up for me.) Where the first book, The Sound of Diamonds, took us into the terrifying Iconoclastic Fury (Protestants acting with violence toward the Catholics, seeking to destroy all the icons) in the Low Countries and then back to England, the stakes have shifted in book 2. No longer is Catholicism and Protestantism the main conflict between the characters--now a new question has been asked. To what lengths must a man go to restore his honor...and to protect those he loves? And to what lengths can a young lady go to convince that man to let her remain at his side?

One thing I really love about this series is the idea from the which the titles come. Gwyneth, our heroine, has bad eyesight and relies heavily on her other senses, especially sound. In book one, she hears the sound of her diamond rosary clinking together and associates it with hope. I absolutely loved the role of silver in this one--though I won't spoil it for you. ;-)


And our final release is the start of a new, oh-so-fun series! Revolving around the World's Fairs of the turn of the 20th century, the first book begins with the Pan-American Expo in Buffalo, NY in 1901...the fair at which President McKinley was shot.

Clara Lambert is a Kodak girl--meaning, she's been hired to go around the fair demonstrating the new, lightweight, easy-to-use Kodak camera, targeting mothers so that they can see how easy it will be to build visual memories for their families. But her first day at the fair, what should have been pure excitement at getting to photographs the president turns to horror when an anarchist shoots him. And gets even more terrifying when someone tries to hurt her and take her camera. Did she capture something on the film that the anarchists wish she hadn't? What follows is fun, sweet, adventurous journey through New York of 1901 as Clara and police officer James seek to deliver all evidence safely to the authorities...without implicating Clara in the process. You'll love this romance, and the history that shines through as characters ride newfangled bicycles, share the joy of those first family cameras, and take sips of the new Coca-Cola.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Word of the Week - Command/ment

At church this week a slight variation in translations of 2 John made us wonder at the difference between the nouns command and commandment. These different translations were using the words interchangeably, but then...why are there two different words?

Both have a very long history in the English language. Interestingly, commandment is the oldest, dating from the 1200s. It was taken immediately from the French comandement, which is taken in turn from Latin commandamentum, which was a noun form of commandare. And carried a very particular meaning--"and order from an authority."

The verb command then came into English right around 1300. Pretty interesting in my mind that the verb was at all behind the noun!

Then we have the noun version of command. Also old, but they date it to the 1400s, which makes it a couple hundred years newer than commandment. And at the time there was a slight variation in the meaning--this was any order, not necessarily from an authority. 

So while translators today no doubt use them interchangeably, any time it's coming from God I daresay the original translations would have taken care to use that -ment ending. ;-)