Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thoughftul About . . . New but Eternal

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

One of the most amazing things about our God is that He's eternal. He exists somehow outside of our understanding of time, beyond the line of it that we perceive. We can understand the "unchanging" aspect of His nature best when we realize that change requires time, and He is not subject to it. Now, our perception of Him can change. Our understanding. That can evolve and grow over time, as we experience more and contemplate more. But God Himself remains unhindered by time. Eternal.

Perhaps this is also how His love can be unceasing. How His mercies can be new every morning. They are new...and yet older than anyone. As is everything else about our Lord.

Several months ago I came across a discussion about a current movement among women in the church, women whose message seems bound up in the idea that they've discovered something their mothers and grandmothers didn't know about God. Okay...understanding can certainly evolve over time, so maybe. Until you ask those mothers and grandmothers, who look at these young women like they're crazy and say, "Well of course. We've always known that. Weren't you listening?"

On the one hand, this sort of example makes me shake my head in dismay--why can't we just learn from those who come before without thinking we've grown beyond them, that we're better, more faithful, closer to Him than they could have been? It's really kind of strange--we look to the first century church for so much wisdom and so many examples...but many people also just dismiss those early church fathers out of hand, unless their words were canonized in the Bible. Not named Paul, James, John, or Peter? Sorry, dude. Not interested.

And there's still something relevant to this idea of "new knowledge." It is new. New every morning, like His mercies. It's new to us. We get to discover it every day, every year, every generation. More, we must discover it anew, for ourselves. We have to find that thing that makes us go "Aha!" and internalize it. That thing that makes the faith ours, not just theirs.

There's truth there. But there's opportunity for deception too. Because we need to understand what that possessive pronoun means. It's ours, not just theirs...but NOT "ours, so not theirs."

See the distinction?

Faith, Christianity, Truth itself is not like a shoe. One person owning it doesn't mean another can't. It's more like...a planet. We can all live here. There's room. We can occupy different parts, we can travel around, seeking to understand. One person can study one aspect, another a different one. It's big enough, mysterious enough to accommodate all our curiosity.

But let's not fall into the trap of saying, "Oh, no, you're so wrong to describe it as mountains. Clearly it's plains. God wouldn't have done that." Or, to go back to my original example, "Look at this waterfall I've discovered, that's been completely unknown until now!" (And it turns out to be Niagara Falls.)

The faith is new every morning. Every generation. But it is also--MUST also be eternal. Otherwise, why would it have survived this long? The Truth we discover today is the same Truth Jesus preached. The same Truth that founded the Church. The same Truth that led Christians onward before there was even a Bible compiled. The same Truth people have been contemplating and writing about and preaching about all these centuries.

We need to learn anew each day what those before us have already learned. We can follow their examples, we can build on their work. We can discover new facets...but chances are, if you pick up a few ancient works, you'll find those same facets already explored. Because He is new every morning--always relevant, always discoverable, so vast we'll never comprehend all of Him--but He is also eternal. Unchanging. The same today as at the dawn of time.

He is new every day for us. But let's remember He was new every day, in the same way, for them. For all who have come before, and for all who come after. Our faith is ours, but we don't own it. If anything, it ought to own us.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Word of the Week - Handsome

Those of you who have been reading these posts for the entire eight years I've been writing them weekly may (or may not) remember the third word I featured: handsome. I thought it would be fun to revisit some of those early entries and remind myself of their etymologies!

So today, handsome.

This is one that has meant its current meaning long enough that I never have to wonder if I can use it in a manuscript. Still, it got its start elsewhere--just a looooong time ago. Let's break down the word. "Hand" and "some." Now how in the world did that come to mean "good looking"??

Well, first it meant "ready at hand or easy to handle" in the 1400s. Literally hand + some. By the mid/late 1500s the meaning had been extended to mean "considerable, of fair size." And then within ten years, that became "of fine form," which easily becomes "good-looking." Then it extended further to mean "generous" (i.e. a handsome reward) a hundred years after that, in 1680.

A fairly significant change in 280 years, especially when you consider that it hasn't changed any more since!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . Elevators

How do we approach conversation? Is it just a means of exchanging information? Letting our opinions be made known? Are we trying to help others? Broaden our understanding? Do we go at it with no purpose--or with a self-serving one? If you're anything like me, the answer is simply "yes"--we use conversation for all those things.

But how SHOULD we use and approach it?

After having some truly amazing conversations over the weekend with friends we don't see nearly enough, I realized anew that conversation can be so much more than we usually allow it to be. Think for a moment about the power of our spoken words--the very things God used to create the universe. The very thing John calls Jesus. The very means Jesus himself used to express Truth to the world.

How often do we use it for that purpose? Sometimes (I hope, ha ha). But enough? I know I don't.

But as I contemplated WHY I find myself falling into the comfortable, routine, surface conversations more often than not, I realized that this isn't what I want to do.

I want to actually know what you think, believe, feel about things.
I want to know where our thoughts merge and where they digress.
I want to know why they digress.
I want to let my understanding grow based on what you teach me.
I want you to know that you have taught me.
I want to be able to share with you anything I've learned that might help you.
I want you to leave a conversation with me knowing that I heard you and value your words.
I want us both to walk (or tab, if it's online) away with that certainty that the Lord was in our words.
I want, most of all, for our conversation to lift us both closer to Him.
I want our conversations to change me.

We need to be elevators. Not the metal box that transports our bodies upward in a building--but the spiritual equivalent. We need to use our words to lift others--and ourselves--closer to the Most High.

How do we do that?

I've been pondering that question all week. In part, it's by teaching, when that's appropriate. But it isn't always, is it? What about when we're talking to someone older, wise, and more educated? Is there just no way to elevate them?

I don't think that's the case. Because I think the true way to lift ourselves and others toward God in conversation is this: to ask good questions. To actually listen to the answers. And to adjust our thoughts accordingly.

That last part is key--the greatest conversation means absolutely nothing if both parties walk away and dismiss it. We have to let it change us. Change our opinions, our approach to a subject, our actions. We have to be willing to be the clay if we want the Potter to continue shaping us daily--and conversations with others is a way He's done this throughout the ages.

Now, we can't control whether other people will change--but we can control ourselves. And if we model it, if we demonstrate that they had a real effect on us, if we make it clear to them that we took their words into account and adjusted accordingly, they're going to be more likely to do the same. Because it will allow us all to lower our defenses. And that's where real change can occur.

This works whether we're the teacher or the pupil. The shepherd or the flock. It works whether we're talking about how to convince the world to entertain ideas about God or about our kids' interests. It works if we're talking about fashion, and it works if we're talking about salvation. Why? Because it shows the other person that we value them, it gives us both the opportunity to entertain new ideas, and it lets the love of Christ shine through us. It builds relationship.

This is a challenge I'm making to myself. I want to start THINKING about the conversations I engage in, and I want to be deliberate about how I participate in them. I want to always be looking for what I can learn from them, and also for places where I can share the truths of God's love that He's shown me. I want my conversations to reach for something higher than myself.

Words are some of the most powerful things the Lord has given us--and some of the most ill-used. Let's change that.

How do you lift others toward Him in YOUR conversations?

Monday, September 30, 2019

Word of the Week - Pale

At church last week I was joking with my son about something and declared it "Beyond the pale." At which point he, of course, asked what in the world that meant.

Hmm. Good question. This being me, I immediately pulled up (so not cool, Mom) and looked up what archaic meaning of pale had led to that saying--because obviously, it doesn't mean "beyond fair-skinned." Though my husband jokingly insisted it did.

Turns out that back in ye olden days, in the 13th century, a pale was a stake or pole used to create boundaries between things. By the 14th century, it had taken on the figurative meaning of "any boundary or restriction." I love that the website says this meaning is "barely surviving" in phrases like "beyond the pale." So true! Something we still say, but without really knowing why we say it! So "beyond the pale" would literally mean that something pushed beyond the limits.

Are there any other phrases you use whose actual meaning you're uncertain of? I'd love to look into them!

Friday, September 27, 2019

What We've Been Reading - September

Roseanna's Reads

In My Devotions

A Grief Observed
by C. S. Lewis
Yes, I'm still on my C. S. Lewis kick. 😉 This is a very short little book(let). It's Lewis's personal journaling after the death of his wife, with a preface by Madeline L'Engle and also a foreword by Lewis's step-son. Both point out that this is one man's journey through these hardest of days and not meant to represent everyone's grief. Everyone goes on their own journey. But it was definitely interesting to read his. To see how first he questioned God and then realized that it was himself he was questioning--that he couldn't see beyond himself in those first throes. I loved his observations later on about how holding to the sorrow didn't keep her more present, but rather the opposite. That it was in the moments he felt more like himself again, closer to God again, that she was the clearest to him too.


The Great Divorce
by C. S. Lewis

Since the first book was so short, I was soon moving on to the next in the collection I'd bought. The Great Divorce is a sort of fable or allegory akin to Dante, where a character journeys through the different parts of the afterlife. A little odd, LOL, but it does allow for some really interesting reflections that worked their way into his other books too. Much of what I've seen in this one showed up in Narnia--and are in fact the parts of The Last Battle that stuck with me so fully decades after first reading it, so this one has been fun.


For My Bookclub

Within These Lines
by Stephanie Morrill

Okay, so I've read this one before, it being by my best friend/critique partner. But I read it two years ago, so I needed a refresher before chatting about it with my book club yesterday. =) I've found that it's just as brilliantly done as I remembered! Stephanie does a fabulous job of writing a story of love and loss, boldness and honor, of a great injustice met with grace by many of those who suffered it and ignored--and often forgotten--by those who watched it happen. This book tells the story of the Japanese Americans who were relocated and sent to camps during WWII here in America, capturing all the horrifying details--like the fact that the camps weren't finished and had no working toilets, no walls in the dorms, and the paper exterior walls (literally!) did little to keep out the desert sand--through the eyes of our hero, Taichi. Meanwhile Evalina, the girl who loves him, is determined to fight against this injustice back home in San Francisco. I love how she paints one thumbnail red--leaving the other nails bare--to remind herself that life isn't normal anymore, even though everyone else in the city goes on with life as if their neighbors hadn't just been imprisoned simply because of their heritage. Highly recommended!!! It's a young adult but great for any age group, from middle schoolers on up to my grandmother!


For the Edit

Heart of a Royal
by Hannah Currie

Okay, who doesn't like a princess book?? I know my daughter and I are both crazy for them, and we were super excited at WhiteFire to welcome Heart of a Royal into our young adult line, WhiteSpark! Hannah Currie (an Aussie author) has done a fabulous job in this first book in her Daughter of Peverell series--a fictional kingdom in modern times. Mackenna Sparrow is a commoner by birth, but when the queen dies giving birth to a daughter the same day Mackenna is born, her mother is brought to the palace to nurse the infant princess, and the king promises Mackenna a home there as long as Princess Alina is there. So she's grown up with the life of a princess...which is now crumbling around her. The king hates her and, now that Alina is engaged, kicks her out, forbidding her from ever speaking to his son, Prince Thoraben again. It seems the people have gotten it into their heads that she ought to marry Ben and be their next queen, and while Ben has always been her best friend, she can't imagine why they feel this way. As her life shifts around her and a horrible storm disrupts everything in the kingdom, Mackenna finds herself having to face not only the people's expectations, but her own heart--and the truth behind the Rebels she's been taught are her greatest enemy.


  With the Kids

The Sign of the Beaver
by Elizabeth George Speare

Our school year is in full swing, and we've already read quite a few books! The other day we finished The Sign of the Beaver, a great middle grade book about a boy whose father leaves him to watch the homestead in Maine one summer while he goes back to Massachusetts to fetch Matt's mother and sister. Matt's summer nearly ends in ruin until some local Indians step in. He ends up thrown together with a native boy a year older than him--he's supposed to be teaching Attean to read, but more often Attean is teaching him how to survive in the wilderness. They definitely don't strike up an instant friendship, but it was a wonderful thing to watch develop!

Lawn Boy
by Gary Paulsen

I love this short little book. It's hilarious and fascinating--the most fun you'll ever have when it comes to economics lessons. ;-) The idea is that a boy is given a lawn mower for his twelfth birthday and soon he finds himself with more jobs in the neighborhood than he can keep up with. But no worries--a local stockbroker knows some guys who'd be happy to help with the work for a portion of the pay...and does he mind if he pays him in stock? He's a little cash-poor right now. Pretty soon, this kid is the head of an enterprise he can't even fathom. Each chapter has very technical titles, and then the story itself is nothing but fun.


Rachel's Reads

I'm so excited that FALL is officially here! YAY! Time for Here are some of the books I've been reading this month. You can watch for my reviews over on my blog, Bookworm Mama.


by Charolette Bronte

I'm currently listening to this as part of a Read-a-Long with author, Rachel McMillan. It is basically a virtual book club that we get to read through together section by section and discuss together. I have the version read by Mandy Weston from SCRIBD and I'm really enjoying it.


For Fun/Review

by Jody Hedlund

I am so so SO in love with this series!!! Foremost is book 2 in the series and you really need to start with Always (a Novella) to get the full scope of the story.


Finding Lady Enderly
by Jonna Davidson Politano

You guys, Joanna is SUCH an amazing author! I was thrilled to see her book, A Rumored Fortune, was nominated for The Christy Award. This one has me so captivated it is hard to put down!


With the Kids

Red Sails to Capri
by Ann Weil

With school back in full swing, this is the first title we are reading this year for literature/history/all the good stuff...My 2nd grader has been loving it. A fun story with a hint of mystery.


For the Book Club

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente

This month's theme was fairytale/folklore etc. And this is the title we voted on. Currently, I am only about 2 pages into it...Shhhh....don't tell them I'm behind....But I am super intrigued by it. Technically a YA book, I am curious to see what we all thought of it.


Happy Fall!!!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Announcing: The Nature of a Lady!

Though there are still two books yet to come out in the Codebreakers Series, they're both already written and turned in...which means it was time for me to begin thinking of what's coming next. =) After conferring with my editors (i.e. sending in a list of a dozen ideas and seeing which one they liked best), we decided it would be fun to leave behind the world of the Great War and go back to the earlier 1900s. Return to the world of aristocracy and the upstairs/downstairs feel. But of course, deliver some super fun romance and mystery.

I absolutely love that the team went for this idea. And I'll tell you why.

When The Number of Love came out, my first order of business was packing up the pre-orders that had come in through my store. I had a ton of them, and as I signed books and affixed labels, I was entertaining myself by counting the number of people who had the same name. I had no fewer than four variations on Emily and something like six Elizabeths. At one point as I tackled one of those, I said to myself, "Oh, look. Another Elizabeth."

Another Elizabeth.

The words stuck in my head all day. I knew there was a story there, but I wasn't sure what it was. It would make a fun title, I thought. But I didn't know what the concept would first. A day or two later, however, I was out on our giant swing set, and the story began to trickle into my head. 

A girl shows up at a new apartment. When she signs the lease, the landlady greets her with, "Oh, another Elizabeth, is it? Hope you're more dependable than the last one. She left me high and dry..." Our Elizabeth thinks nothing of it, at first. But then she begins to find things in her new home, left there by the previous owner. Mysterious things. Made all the more mysterious when people keep knocking on her door, saying, "Elizabeth?" and then foisting more mysterious articles into her hands when she confirms that she is indeed Elizabeth. Baffling...until the first Elizabeth's brother shows up, concerned for his sister and shocked when she doesn't open the door. This would be our hero, of course.

That was the basic concept that I pitched to Bethany House. They were very enthusiastic--though they did instruct me to come up with a title that conveyed the nobility angle more. For about a week I cast around, looking for good locations, different titles, and specific plots and characters, before sending them an official proposal. I decided on the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall as a setting, and as I dug into the history of this island chain, other plot elements just fell right into place--you know, legends, pirates' treasure, and an abundance of unique flora and fauna. So I'm now thrilled to announce the first book:

The Nature of a Lady

1908 – Lady Elizabeth "Libby" Sinclair, with her love of microscopes and nature, isn’t exactly a hit in society. She flees to the beautiful Isles of Scilly for the summer...and stumbles into the dangerous secrets left behind by her holiday cottage’s former occupant, also called Elizabeth, who mysteriously vanished.

Oliver Tremayne—gentleman and clergyman—is determined to discover what happened to his sister, and he’s happy to accept the help of the girl now living in what should have been Beth’s summer cottage…especially when he realizes it’s the curious young lady he met briefly two years ago, who shares his love of botany and biology. But the hunt for his sister involves far more than nature walks, and he can’t quite believe all the secrets Beth had been keeping from him.

As the two work together, along with Libby’s maid, they find ancient legends, pirate wrecks, betrayal, and the most mysterious phenomenon of all: love.

I'm currently armed with these two fun research books, and I can't wait to dive in and bring Libby and Oliver's story to life! I have some time to really get to know them before I start writing, so I've been daydreaming about who they are and what will make them special. I'm going to be including some fun local legends from the islands, there's going to be an antiquities smuggling scandal in the series, and undergirding it all will be the true history of one of England's most terrible pirates, who made the Isles of Scilly his base of operations...and whose treasure still hasn't been found.