Dark Glass Ponderings

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. -1 Corinthians 13:12

I am looking on tomorrow with both elation and dread.  Chris has been waiting to take a course at work which they are having difficulty filling in our area.  So they offered to send him to Chicago.  And I begged him to try to find accomodations for the whole family. 

My aunt lives in the area.  She's the only living relative on my dad's side of the family, so I jumped at the chance to visit family.  Neither Chris nor I have a strong independent streak, so I was very content not to face the separation.

In homeschool Elizabeth has been studying dinosaurs.  Upon learning that the infamous "Sue" the T-rex is located at The Field Museum.  Sue has so many superlatives in front of her name, she must be fantastic.  She is billed as the largest, most complete, best preserved T-rex.  Of course the first conversation we had was explaining to Liz that "Sue" doesn't live at the hotel where we are staying.  That was a major disappointment.

I was excited to find out that bestselling author Elizabeth Berg was speaking at a local library.  I don't read too much secular fiction anymore, but I love hearing author talks.  I am one of those dweebs sitting there with a pen in hand madly jotting...hoping to find some secret that will hone my own craft.  Picturing how the picture of my family will look on the back cover...oh, wait, which picture would I pick.  I snap back into the reality of my life as a mom, mentally flipping through some recent pictures.  The one where he is picking his nose...the one where her thumb covers her whole face...the one that looks like it was taken from a funhouse mirror.  In all likelihood it is doubtful I will make it to hear Berg   A five-minute line at Wal-mart can be a catastrophe...so the thought of a long wait with kids is not appealing.

Although my author sightings will likely be non-existant, I have been drooling over the webpage of Myopic Books.  It looks like a book lover's paradise.  Its open until 1 am, has jazz musicans and poetry readings, and most importantly has a cat named Leonard who wanders around the building.  Anyone who has a cat will tell you that any book is infinitely more appealing when holding a feline in your lap. 

Posts may be a bit scarce for the next week or so.  I'll be enjoying my visits with Sue and Leonard.

My rating: 4/5

As a confirmed armchair traveler, I love visiting new places via the page.  I was excited about the “Love Finds You” premise of romantic adventures in unique historical settings (some of which are no longer in existence).  I have read several nonfiction books about the plight of mail-order brides in the nineteenth century, so was anxious to read Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley.

Dooley excels in making the setting come alive.  As I read Love Finds You in Golden I was immediately transported to the mining camps of New Mexico.  After reading Dooley’s lush, evocative descriptions I wish I could plan a vacation to this now quiet town.

The characters’ faiths are a very real part of the novel.  I really appreciated the fact that the characters live out their faith from day-to-day.  Jeremiah finds the loving father figure he never had in devout Philip.  Philip seeks God’s guidance moment-by-moment in every situation he faces. Madeline’s faith allows her to forgive in extraordinary circumstances.  She is truly a mother to the motherless and brings her faith to bear in every situation.  I appreciated the fact that the Christian message was proclaimed so clearly throughout every chapter of this novel.  Madeline, Philip, Jeremiah, and Mr. Johnstone demonstrate the power of forgiveness and through God how we can forgive even the seemingly unforgiveable. 

On the whole I enjoyed this historical romance, however there were a few issues that marred my opinion of Dooley’s story.  I found the villain, Mr. Johnstone not as clearly developed as some of the other characters and throughout the book I felt he came off as the “stereotypical” villain.  I suppose it didn’t help that I had read the dedication of the book and so immediately knew that Johnstone would be the villain.  Since I didn’t feel I got to know Johnstone as a person, even his transformation seemed less than believable. 

Although I appreciated the way the characters’ faith was present throughout the novel, I think there were times when the way this faith was demonstrated might be difficult for a non-Christian to understand.  For instance, the way Philip “knows” exactly which letter to open.  Throughout the novel God speaks to Philip in a way that is understandable to the believer, but may appear mysterious to the unbeliever because it is not explained fully.

Despite some difficulties, I still found myself wanting to pick up this book and continue to read to find out what was going to happen to the characters.  I feel that Dooley’s work has merit and I look forward to see what the future holds for her.

*Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book from the author for review purposes.

Carrie at Reading to Know is one of my favorite book bloggers and I thought her take on Jennifer Knapp's recent announcement and comeback in the music industry was particularly well-thought out.

I remember listening to Jennifer Knapp in college.  Sadly, I have reached the point where I lack the shock I used to feel when I find out a musican (or pastor) has gone astray.

Do you listen to Christian music?  Does the lifestyle of an artist influence whether or not you listen to them?  

What's your reaction when an artist, pastor, or author in the faith has gone astray?  How should we respond as a community?

My rating: 2/5

I just finished reading "I'm Not Good Enough"...And Other Lies Women Tell Themselves by Sharon Jaynes.  Having enjoyed Jaynes' Becoming the Woman of Your Husband's Dreams as well as her devotionals for Proverbs 31 Ministries I was looking forward to reading this book.  I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of depth in content. 

There are so many lies women tell themselves. I understand that it isn't possible to deconstruct each one in depth.  I felt that Jaynes did a decent job of choosing lies that many women struggle with: worthlessness, feeling like a failure, forgiveness, discontentment, and misbeliefs about God. 

Each chapter included a compelling example of a real-life woman who believed a particular lie and how the lie impacted their life.  At the end of the chapter, Jaynes provides a few scripture verses to help counter the lie.  The application section was short and I didn't feel the author had many new insights on the topic.

Sometimes its difficult to fully appreciate a book when I feel I've read another that covers the same topic in a superior way.  I think a much better book regarding countering the lies of the enemy is Praying God's Word  by Beth Moore.  Praying God's Word is a rich Scripture reference countering specific lies.  Moore provides prayers based on the Scriptures and recommends the reader create her own similiar prayers for the issues she faces.  It is a very practical reference and I find that it has changed my devotional life.  It comes more naturally for me to pray the Scriptures for whatever I'm facing or in intercession for others as a result of reading this book. 

In short, if you're looking for a good book on countering the lies of the enemy God's way (using God's word), I highly recommend Praying God's Word. 

Here are my favorite links from the past week or so.

19th Century Historical Tidbits is the ideal blog if you're looking to do some research or just love things of the past.   Author Lynn Coleman includes everything from recipes to home remedies to just plain fun facts (I just learned that the tallest man of modern times was Austrian Winklemeier at 8'9".

Learning Curve is a site I've found in the last few days that has some fantastic homeschool ideas I plan to implement.  Right now she is doing a state unit study, travelling around the U.S. vicariously through books and food.

Motherhood is...thankless? and The Role of Literature in the Life of a Christian are two recent posts I've enjoyed at Heart of the Matter Online.

Also on motherhood, here's a beautiful post from Robin on How to Become a Kinder, Gentler Mother.

To teach is to learn twice.

-Samuel Johnson

Anyone who has taught children for any length of time: whether Sunday school, homeschooling, or in the classroom can verify this fact.

This morning I was presenting an object lesson, only to find the unplanned interruption provided a powerful object lesson...for the teacher.

First I poured some cola into a clear glass.   The glass represents us, and the soda represents the darkness in our hearts where we hide our sin.  Next I placed some buttons into the cola.  The buttons represent our sin.  When we place them in the water they hide, then pop to the surface.  Just like we can try to hide our sins for a while, but it isn't long before they pop to the surface.  I then used a spoon to remove the buttons from the water showing that if we confess our sins, God will remove them.

Immediately two of the boys started discussing the buttons.

"I think there's still some in there."

"They're hiding in the soda."

I shook the soda around, but still the children were skeptical.  Even after we counted the buttons and I showed them that there were the same number I had put in, I could see one little boy was still doubtful.

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.-1 John 2:27

I have always struggled with perfectionism.  Thanks God He has allowed me to fail again and again in my pursuit of perfection showing me my need for His indwelling Spirit.  

God pointed his finger at my heart at that moment.  The buttons aren't in there.  Stop fishing for them.  Stop looking for them.  Just believe.

Whether your struggle is with depression, pornography, your children, alcohol, fear, or any of a myriad of other things.  Bring it to God...and then hand in your tackle box...fishing season is over.

Since I've joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) the list of books I want to read seems to grow exponentially.  I've heard about many new authors, read fantastic interviews, and devoured reviews.  Since I homeschool and parent two preschoolers, my reading time seems to be shrinking.  Also due to finding great blogs, I've entered some contests for books which has only increased the pile.  And 1-click order for my kindle sure hasn't helped my budget or reading list. :)

Here are some of the books I'm looking forward to reading in the near future.

The Missing by Beverly Lewis (current read)
Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley (for review)
101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth Osbeck
The Emergent Church by Bob DeWaay (current read with hubby)
The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (along with Tim Challies blog)
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss
Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot
Michal & Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith
Dancing with My Father by Sally Clarkson
So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore
A Stray Drop of Blood by Roseanna White (online discussion)
A Pastor's Wife by Jennifer AlLee
Mommy Power by Sheila Coleman
No Greater Love by Kathi Macias
When the Darkness Won't Lift by John Piper
A Sweet & Bitter Providence by John Piper
Third Times a Charm by Virginia Smith (online discussion)

What about you?  What upcoming titles have you excited?  What's on your bedside pile?  And where do you get your best recommendations?

"Here was a new generation, shouting the old cries, learning the old creeds, through a reverie of long days and nights; destined finally to go out into that dirty gray turmoil to follow love and pride; a new generation dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty and the worship of success; grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken." -F. Scott Fitzgerald

My husband and I occasionally play a game we like to entitle "youtube" wars.  It generally involves us taking turns playing songs designed to evoke a reaction (usually groaning...as in my husband's Burt Bacharach and  Barry Manilow selections).  Tonight we wound up playing a few songs we remembered from my freshman year of college when we first started dating.  We mainly listened to secular music in those days although in the past decade this has become somewhat of a rarity.  I found myself feeling more depressed listening to the lyrics of these songs.  Depressed at the lack of hope.  Our generation has been described as hopeless, disillusioned. 

I love reading the "hopeless cases" of the world in the Bible.  People who God chose to use in spite of great personal failure.  Empty wombs and aching arms filled.  Miraculous healings.  Legions of demons removed.  Prostitutes, murderers, tax collectors...covered with the dredges of the world changed by his presence.

Tonight I'm thinking about the woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9:20-22.  Even though we know God can do anything, sometimes that merely becomes our mantra.  How often do we lack faith in God's timing?  Yet after twelve years what hope must have been in this woman's heart.  Here she is venturing out into the public arena, disobeying the Levitical law.  What shame she must have been feeling.  I imagine like Job's friends many would have told this woman that her disease was because of her sin.  I can imagine those who knew her standing a distance away.  Maybe this was how she was able to get through the crowds.  I imagine the Pharisees amazed and astonished that this woman was even venturing outside let alone coming near Jesus.

As she came behind him I wonder if she was thinking what if he sees me.  I've heard that this man has done many great miracles.  He must be a great man.  Will he be angry at me for daring to approach?  One touch, one extended hand holding twelve years of hope.  Hope the world tried to kill by isolating her, by making her feel unwanted, unloved, ashamed. 

Then I think of Jesus turning around.  Did she try to hide in fear?  He tells her to be of good comfort.  I think of the physical pain that was likely involved in her condition.  I think of the emotional anguish.  I think of the hope that never dies.  To touch Hope and to be touched by Hope. 

Will you reach out and touch His garment of hope?

Here are a few links I found of worth around the blogosphere:

If you have a love for the beauty of language I suggest adding A Holy Experience to your blog reading list.  I truly love reading Anne's words.  I always find something to ponder and convict, though I must warn these posts may occasionally lead you to become misty eyed.  Here is a recent post I enjoyed: "When It Comes Time to Really Die"

On a completely different note, writer Judith Miller gave me a chuckle with these obscure tidbits in "Details from the Past"

Go Ahead and Wear the Purple has been exploring thoughts on different genres of Christian fiction with a new author posting each day.  Its a great way to try something new!

Blessed Femina offers up "A Tart for All Seasons".  Yes, I put myself through graduate school lining up strawberries and kiwis in a row.  These look gorgeous and beautiful.

Apropos to my blog title, I have been thinking a lot about mirrors lately, especially in regards to spiritual life.  In my life, God often reflects what is in my heart using the mirror of those I love best, my family.  At times I feel the strongest mirror in my life can be my five-year-old daughter.  The most common question I hear when entering public places with my daughter is "Were you a redhead?"  Followed by "because she is just the spitting image of you."  But these aren't the similarities I'm speaking about.

Anyone familiar with a five-year-old knows about the particular raw honesty among this age group.  This coarseness leaves me daily exposed to the most base parts of my nature.  We both fear meeting new people.  We both know that "Jesus is the best treat" as she tells me regularly yet sometimes dip into the M&M bin when we're feeling sad.  We both dread stepping out into the unknown.  We prefer the familiar whether that means listening to Ted on audiobook ad nauseum, or ordering a buttered toasted wheat bagel with a root beer on shopping days.  Yes, my daughter is that mirror on my life that God uses to open my eyes to what I am slow to see in myself.

On my daughter's birthday I am also reflecting on the ways she is a mirror showing me more about Him.  Throughout my life I have struggled with periods of intense depression.  My daughter has always had a strong connection to human emotions.  While barely talking she would murmur "God--peace to mommy, peace to mommy."   In her sweet cuddles for those who are struggling, I see God's compassion.When I gave my life to Jesus as an older teen I was not even aware James was a book of the Bible, yet my daughter at five is always questioning, always wondering, always wanting to know more about Him and His ways.  In her I see God's seeking after us, longing to know us, pursuing us as the hound of heaven.

After an intense seventeen hours of labor and four hours of hard labor, my firstborn came into this world.  My intense, sensitive, creative, snuggly, God-loving girl turned my life topsy-turvy five years ago today.

I love you Bith.

I've discovered an injury is not always detrimental to one's writing hobby.  Notwithstanding the fact that a recommendation of taking it easy and a house full of toddlers are not compatible.  Even though they've been in bed for over an hour I'm surrounded by a multitude of toys as I sit on my husband's laptop typing away as he kills phosporic ooze.  Those who know my husband can imagine him reciting the kill count to me as I type.  For those who don't, suffice it to say he is a very avid gamer. 

Should you wonder I'm as graceful as an elephant in ballet slippers.  Over the weekend I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle.  So yes, now I can give the age-old stereotypical excuse. 

There is nothing funny about spousal battery. 

However, I have never been able to live down the "questionning" incident.  I bruise easily.  Ask my mom.  Its an unfortunate trait she passed on along with the big teeth and tiny mouth I haven't been able to come to terms with even after thousands of dollars spent on dental appliances. 

A few years back I took my daughter to the pediatrician.  It was a sultry August day.  My daughter was visiting the doctor for a periodic weight check due to the fact that she was labelled "failure to thrive."  What kind of label is that to put on a child at 6 months of age, I ask you??  Or any age?? 

So anyway as they are checking out my daughter for "malnutrition" the nurse notices bruises on my legs.  She takes me aside and begins questionning me.  She tells me this is a safe place.  I'm caught between mortification and hysterical laughter.  Again I truly do not mean to make light of spousal abuse by this post.  And here I hear my husband's voice in my head telling me stop worrying about what people think of the entry...just write the post.

Though I must admit my husband does practice violence regularly against the aforementioned phosphoric ooze and receives regular spider extermination calls.  My husband is about one of the most mild-mannered men you could hope to meet. 

I'm not sure I'm ready to share with the pediatrican's office about that other male in my house...the one who dons a fireman hat and hoses on (yes, with his spit) the worms he finds in the driveway.  I've recently learned that anything and everything should be swung through the air and trampolines exist throughout my house. 

I'll definitely need some divine intervention to help me through the next sixteen years.

Title: Love's Pursuit
Author: Siri Mitchell
Publisher: Bethany House
Pub. Date: 2009

My rating: 5/5

Amongst the blitz of "Little House on the Prairie" ripoffs and the dearth of Amish fiction that seem to have gained a strong following among Christian fiction readers, Siri Mitchell is a unique voice.

My Review:
God's pursuit of us is relentless . He uses unusual methods and circumstances to get our attention. Within God's Truth is found freedom and grace. His scandalous grace removes shame, yet at the same time brings a complete realization of just how unworthy we are to receive it.

Love's Pursuit is a beautifiul romance, but at its core it is a most powerful allegory. Amidst the rules-based Puritan community, Captain Daniel Holcomb is sent by the governor to train the militia to defend the community against the alleged threat of savages. The Captain demonstrates to Susannah the scandalous grace of the Hound of Heaven who pursues us relentlessly. As Susannah finds herself pondering these new ideas about God, she also finds herself falling in love with Captain Daniel.

Amidst the beauty and grace of God demonstrated through the Captain's life, the world's evil is strongly constrasted. Simeon Wright is determined to marry Susannah in spite of her distaste for his character. Through deceit, violence, and cruelty Simeon has been used to worming his way into getting whatever he wants. In this case, his desire is to marry Susannah.

The power of hope is never small. The grace of God can erase shame and guilt. God's beauty is demonstrated in the most unusual of places. God's grace is shown through humility. Powerful lessons are packed into this novel full of historical detail. I look forward to my next read from Mitchell.

There is a numbness inside.  Nearly every day I've watched.  Watched the cruel contortions of bodies gaping their last breath.  Blood, water, sweat mingling...beginning as droplets...ending as puddles the size of which I've seen the children jump through in the streets.  I used to walk around the corner to retch, but now I just turn away.  Etching in the dirt with a stick, silently willing the screams to stop.  You learn to drown out the labored last breaths, as the rhythm drones in and out.  My father did it before me and I know nothing else.  Nothing but watching death, wondering when my turn will come.

My mammoth arms pound.  I no longer ache from the labor.  You learn things through the years.  How to push the rough hewn wood into the ground without splintering your fingers.  You learn to feel for just the right spot before pounding.

So why was my stomach lurching as I held the tunic between my fingers.  I had won the bet.    It had no seam so we couldn't split it.  Think of how much this would make in the marketplace.  "The King of the Jews".  I'm betting his followers would pay dearly to have just a little piece of their King with them.

I drew the garment over my cheeks to feel its softness, yes a nice piece of cloth.  The stench of death no longer bothered me, but this was something different.  As I pressed it to my face, the cries I had guarded against filled my mind.  Usually screaming and cursing.  But this man spoke about forgiveness.  As nail hit marrow, "forgive them" he said.  His face so close I could feel his labored breath as his mouth pushed out the words.  The words reverberating, now stabbing.  Panting I throw the tunic to the ground and collapse on the floor.  I tear my garments in despair.  

Earth shaking, I look up.  He caught my eye.  He must have.  For my heart was stabbed to the core.  In one instant I felt he saw everything, everything.  And yet I saw love in His eyes.  

Julia M. Reffner

About Me

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Christ-loving bookworm & homeschool mom of 2 stealing the rare quiet moments to pursue that all elusive writing dream. I also write book reviews for Title Trakk and The Historical Novel Society.


Contributor at The Writer's Alley:


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