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

My husband and I have been reading Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, a gift from a dear friend.  Here are some words that have spoken to my heart this evening:

Once the Shepherd stooped and touched the flowers gently with his fingers, then said to Much-Afraid with a smile, "Humble yourself, and you will find that Love is spreading a carpet of flowers beneath your feet."
Much-Afraid looked at him earnestly.  "I have often wondered about the wild flowers," she said.  "It does seem strange that such unnumbered multitudes should bloom in the wild places of the earth where perhaps nobody ever sees them and the goats and the cattle can walk over them and crush them to death.  They have so much beauty and sweetness to give and no one on whom to lavish it, nor who will even appreciate it."

The look the Shepherd turned on her was very beautiful.  "Nothing my Father and I have made is ever wasted," he said quietly, "and the little wildflowers have a wonderful lesson to teach.  They offer themselves so sweetly and confidently and willingly, even if it seems there is no one to appreciate them.  Just as though they sang a joyous little song to themselves, that it is so happy to love, even though one is not loved in return."

"I must tell you a great truth, Much-Afraid, which only the few can understand.  All the fairest beauties in the human soul, its greatest victories, and its most splendid achievements are always those which no one else knows about, or can only dimly guess at.  Ever inner response of the human heart to Love and every conquest over self-love is a new flower on the tree of Love.

"Many a quiet, ordinary and hidden life, unknown to the world, is a veritable garden in which Love's flowers and fruits have come to such perfection that it is a place of delight where the King of Love Himself walks and rejoices with his friends.  Some of my servants have indeed won great visible victories and are rightly loved and reverenced by other men, but always their greatest victories are like the wild flowers, those which no one knows about.  Learn this lesson now, down here in the valley, Much-Afraid, and when you get to the steep places of the mountains, it will comfort you."
(Hurnard, 42-43)

**This interview was provided by Janice.  I am happy to post it, because I think her course is a great idea.  I learned so much information from her ACFW seminars on Freelance Writing.**


Janice Thompson: booksbyjanice@aol.com

Janice, I understand you’re about to debut a new fiction course online. Why fiction? What is your background, as it relates to fiction writing?

Every writer hopes to one day write “The Great American Novel.” I started writing novels as a child, so the desire to craft “story” has always been inside of me. In the mid ‘90s I started writing with the desire to be published. After years of trial and error, my first novel hit the shelves in 2000. Since then, I’ve published over forty novels—everything from inspirational romance to cozy mysteries to Y.A. (young adult) to romantic comedies. It’s been a great run! I’ve noticed a trend in recent years. “Young” writers approach me, one after the other, asking the same questions and struggling with the same problems. I’ve worn myself out giving the same answers! (There are only so many times and ways you can say, “You’re head-hopping, honey!”) Because of that, I decided it would be easier to compile the information into a fiction course, will debut mid-June at www.freelancewritingcourses.com. I can’t wait to see what novelists think of this exciting new course!

You’ve started with a lesson on understanding the genres. Why is that?

As mentioned above, I’ve been published in multiple genres. My first book was a suspense-thriller. I’ve since written historicals, contemporaries, children’s, young adult, romances, mysteries and much, much more. Because I’ve been able to successfully cross genre lines, I feel qualified to teach on the subject. Before writers can establish themselves as novelists, they must develop an understanding of the fiction genres/categories. Choosing the best genre (or genres) is critical to your success. But with so many categories to choose from, how do you know which is your best fit? This lesson will give writers a thorough introduction to genre writing and will provide them with the necessary information to choose the one(s) best suited to their literary style and voice.

I see you’ve included a lesson on plotting. Is this based on your “Plot Shots” teaching, which you’ve offered at conferences?

Yes! I’m so tickled to finally be able to offer this teaching in a course format. I’ve become known as “that Plot Shots lady.” That’s okay. I can live with that! I’m a firm believer in laying out a great plotline. Why? Because every story needs a beginning, middle and end. Careful plotting will lead the reader on a satisfactory, realistic journey through each of those stages, creatively weaving in and out, up and down. The "Plot Shots" method gives writers the tools they need to plot their novel in twelve easy snapshots. It’s a fun and easy approach to plotting that won’t confuse or complicate the story.

Characterization is such an important component of fiction writing. Can you tell us more about your characterization lesson?

Years ago I developed a teaching that I call “Pandora’s Box.” It’s a layered approach to characterization, which uses the illustration of multiple boxes, one inside the other. In this lesson, I lay out the need for great characterization, then present the Pandora’s Box method. After presenting the method, I take the student through the process four times, using four fictional characters as a foundation. (Each character has a different personality, so the student learns how to apply the technique to the various personalities.)

So many writers struggle with P.O.V. (point of view). Is that why you included a lesson on that very tough subject?

Point of View (P.O.V.) is a critical fiction component. Employing to your best advantage is tough! Most of the young writers I know struggle in this area. The head-hop. Oh, they don’t mean to. . .but they do! My detailed lesson on Point of View offers students a thorough teaching on the various P.O.V.s (omniscient, third person, second person, first person), and gives specific examples and tips so that writers can become P.O.V. purists.

What is passive writing? Why have you included a lesson about it?

Many of the manuscripts I edit are written in passive voice. They’re loaded with passive verbs and include huge sections of “telling.” The author “information dumps,” which stops the flow of the story. Knowing the difference between active voice and passive voice is key to writing a great novel. Conquering the art of "showing" instead of "telling" will give writers an added advantage. This detailed lesson--filled with nuggets of wisdom from published authors--will give writers the tools they need to strengthen their stories and pull them into active voice.

Ack! Backstory! It’s so tough to add to our novels. Is that why you included a lesson on the subject?

Backstory. We all struggle with it, don’t we? In so many ways, it's critical to our story. After all, the reader needs to know where our primary character has come from--what she's been through--why she acts like she does. So, do you add the backstory or not? If so, can you do so without resorting to author intrusion? And where will you place it? At the beginning of the story? Elsewhere? Will it come out in lumps or snippets? This lesson offers students an intense look at backstory and includes tips for interjecting it without stopping the action.

Many writers struggle with finding their “voice.” Can you tell us more about that?

A writer’s “voice” is her/her “stamp.” It’s the author’s “personality on the page.” And many young writers haven’t “found their voice” yet. This lesson delves into the topic, in detail, giving perspective on this very personal issue. The lesson (titled “Themes, Style and Voice”) also covers the various themes found in popular books, as well as style components.

Can you tell us some of the top fiction mistakes?

Sure! After editing hundreds of manuscripts, I can point out some of the “top” fiction mistakes: Lack of a good hook. P.O.V. issues. Passive writing. Weak characterization. Poor plotting (no “belly of the whale” scene). Overuse of adverbs. On and on the list goes. Many writers simply don’t realize they’re making these mistakes until someone points them out. They wonder why the book keeps getting rejected. This lesson offers writers a thorough list, detailing the top twenty mistakes novelists make.

Why did you decide to add a lesson on humor writing?

I’ve been writing comedies for years and have learned so much along the way. Humor writing is tough stuff! Some writers are born with an overactive funny bone. Others have to work hard to be funny. (Ironic, isn't it?!) If you're interested in adding a little har-de-har-har-har to your novel, then you've come to the right place. In this light-hearted lesson on humor writing, I share my top ten tips for adding humor to your writing. The bonus feature contains another twenty tummy-tickling techniques, so hang on for the ride!

Putting together a book proposal is tough! What have you learned over the years?

Book deals are won or lost based on the proposal. If you've got a completed manuscript and you're ready to pitch it to an agent or editor, then this exciting lesson on query letters and book proposals will point you in the right direction, giving you all the confidence you need to submit, submit, submit! Students who use the information provided in this lesson can compose polished query letters and dazzling book proposals, sure to impress both editors and agents, alike.

Thanks so much for joining us, Janice. Where can people learn more about your courses? And where else can they find you on the web?

They can learn more at http://www.freelancewritingcourses.com/. On that site, they will also find my “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer” course, which many students have already taken. Folks can learn more about that one by clicking on this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-5IZSNaZFU. I offered a free webinar on the subject about six weeks ago, and it can be found here: http://www.freelancewritingcourses.com/?s=webinar. We’ll be adding to the course list every couple of months, so stay tuned for more announcements!

Other places to find me on the web:

My website: http://www.janiceathompson.com/

My blog: http://janiceathompson.com/blog/?cat=1

My facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/jhannathompson

We're not going to be doing any formal homeschooling in July, so I think this feature is going to take a summer break, too.

What are your summer plans?  Are there any special activities you do annually with your kids in the summer?

Clearly the response to my post on depression indicates that there is a need for tackling of this sensitive subject in a loving way in the Christian community.  If you shared your struggles, thank you, and know I am praying for you, too. I think one thing that's most important as people who struggle with depression its to focus on the good that's going on in God's kingdom.  Thank you, Lisa for reminding me of that.  Lisa is doing an excellent series on Ordinary People, Extraordinary God.  It so helps to meditate on these things.

My July project: I've decided to participate in Novel Track project in July through ACFW.  This involves setting a goal of at least 10,000 words.  Since we are taking July off from homeschooling I am setting a goal for myself of 10,000-20,000 words.  My novel is women's fiction about a woman leaving a cult...dealing with depression is going to be a major part of the novel.  I'm sharing this because I feel writing can be therapeutic.  Maybe I will explore this here at some point.

Title: Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild
Author: Mary A. Kassian
Publication Date: 2010

My rating: 3/5

**Special thanks to Andrew Allen at Moody Publishing House for providing a review copy.**

After a series of great reads, I seem to have hit a reading slump.  I've read three books in a row which have been two or three star books (including one I was expecting to be an influencer for and had been really looking forward to reading). 

I've also decided to post a number rating on my reads.  I'm not sure why I have not done that before. 

With authors Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Kay Arthur endorsing this book I was really looking forward to reading it.  I have enjoyed both Revive Our Hearts radio and Kay Arthur's Bible studies.  The premise was to me unique: a compare and contrast between the Proverbs 31 woman and the Proverbs 7 wild woman.  In my opinion, Kassian made some excellent points and there is little I can quibble with biblically in this book.  She lays out some good guidelines on everything from male/female roles to boundaries to habits to neediness to possessions...Maybe you get part of my picture here, I think while a good premise, her scope was so broad that she touched briefly on 20 topics.  Twenty topics on biblical womanhood is just too many in a book of 200 pages. 

My second issue with the book was Mary's tone.  For instance, Mary discusses her response to a girl who was calling her teenage son (in her mind, this is a clear crossing of the boundaries between male/female roles).  In my opinion her response was less than loving and this is a general tone I sense throughout the book.  I gleaned some insights from this book, but wonder if Mary's tone might turn off some (especially teenagers) who could benefit from Mary's advice.

Notice: I received this book in exchange for a review from Moody Publishers.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Title: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Family Favorites
Author: Beth Hensperger
Publishing Date: 2009

**Special thanks to Howard Stelzer at Harvard Common Press for providing me with a review copy.**

My Rating: 2/5

How do I transition from depression to crockpots??  I'm not entirely sure, so I'm just going to go with it here. 

As a homeschooling mom, the crockpot is definitely a favorite appliance, so this cookbook looked like a fun way to broaden out my reviews into a new genre.  I have discovered that reviewing a cookbook is much more work than reviewing fiction.

My love of cooking stems from my father, who was definitely a night owl and was known to cook the occasional 3 a.m. omelette..  Raymond Carver once said "eating is a small, good thing."  Now I'm not necessarily advocating his writing...nor do I intend to suggest eating should be our form of comfort.  However, sometimes its the little daily routines like mealtimes that can bring comfort to our days  and someone shared this very quote at my father's funeral.

When I stated on Ann's blog (I hope she won't mind me repeating this, but I honestly don't think she would) that I can never reproduce my dad's cooking because it was a pinch of this and a dab of that, never written down, she suggested that the memories of my Dad sharing the food with me were perhaps the missing pinches that kept it from being as good as I remembered.  That gave me a smile today and puts me further in the mood for reviewing this cookbook.  Hat tipped to Dad and the inimitable other Julia we both loved so much.

In order to review this cookbook, I decided to make a sampling of recipes from different sections of the book.  My one regret is that I did not take pictures, as I know I am far more in the mood to cook an appetizing looking meal.  That's one thing this book is also missing, pictures.  I love the glossy sections of cookbooks, not only for pictures of the food but the tableware...yes I know, I have issues.

Now we will discount my children's opinions of the recipes, simply because their major food groups are: chicken nuggets, PB&J, Kraft Mac & Cheese (and yes, they have told me they prefer the boxed kind to mine), and hot dogs. 

We made 4 recipes from this cookbook which is a small sampling.  Our results have been mixed.  We started with the intriguing sounding Chianti and Cherry Beef Stew.  It sounded interesting, but even the adults didn't finish their bowls.

Next, we made Thai Beef and Pasta Salad.  This was probably the favorite of both adults.  This dish combined sweet, salty, and spicy and is definitely a make-again recipe.  However, I will mention that this dish was also more time consuming than most crockpot recipes.

The third dish we made was Italian Sausage Soup with Spinach Fettuccine.  The kids enjoyed this dish, as did Chris...but shall we just say some of our stomachs protested the dish a bit later. It was a good way to sneak in some veggies though.

Lastly, we made Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna.  This dish was rated fair by both adults.  We would eat it if served, but wouldn't go out of our way to make it again.

Though the results of some of these recipes were disappointing, we look forward to making Thai Beef and Pasta Salad again and I intend to try more recipes, because it is difficult to get a feel for a cookbook based on just a few recipes.

If you are coming here from Elizabeth or Sarah Mae's blogs, thank you for stopping by.  Since my small blog is seeing more hits than it's used to, I thought it might be a good point to let readers know what I'm all about again.  I started this blog as a Christian book review blog in March of this year, but I would like to hope my blog has become something more.  I desire to share from my heart as led, even if it is painful.  I am a wife of 10 years, a homeschooling mom of 2 children, and an aspiring writer.  Most importantly, I am a servant of King Jesus.  Although I am far from perfect, I would like my blog to be a place where Christ is honored.  I would like it to be a place where grace is a part of the dialogue.  I like the title of Sarah Mae's blog because I think the blogosphere should be a place where we can share and minister as we might at Starbucks over a cup of coffee, or as we might over a cup of Chai tea in antique rockers in my living room.

I have been so blessed by all of you that have been bold and have shared your struggles, a struggle we face in common, depression.  As I've stated in the previous post, I'm not here to dole out answers that come only before the face of our King.  Though we share this in common, each struggle is unique.

My blog was entitled Dark Glass Ponderings because the more I sit before a holy God the more I realize my own lack of wisdom and my need to throw myself before his throne.  I'm so grateful that although we don't always have the answers we serve the God who does, who is the Great Answer.  I look forward to the day when I stand before Him and the reflection of His light penetrates completely, making all things known.  I can't wait to meet you worshipping before the throne...Until then...

Title: Courting Morrow Little
Author: Laura Frantz
Publication Date: 2010

My rating: 4.5/5

It's rare to meet an author who thinks of her readers as friends and will take the time to encourage them or share a Scripture.  Laura Frantz is such a ray of encouragement spreading Christ's light wherever she is on the internet.  (And she loves The Blue Castle and Andrew Murray, which makes her most definitely a kindred spirit).

I love the cover of the book for starters.  The colors are gorgeous.  The  words lush and evocative also speak of Laura's words, though.  Every sense is engaged in this novel.  The reader immediately enters Morrow's world in the prologue with an intensely heartbreaking scene.  I read this book in two days.  As the mom of several young children, that means this book was good enough to keep me up nights...and that takes a lot.

Morrow's world is shattered when her family is attacked by Shawnee warriors.   Morrow returns to the frontier to take care of her ill father who desires for her to marry before he dies.  She is torn between several different suitors.   How will she make this difficult choice?

Laura has written a beautiful love story that shows that love transcends boundaries.  In reading I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13, as Morrow learns the true meaning of love that forgives completely.  Laura has dealt with the theme of forgiveness in a way that is never preachy, but breathed throughout the story. 

Laura has paid careful attention to every detail.  As a result, the reader is transported back to the Kentucky frontier and I found it hard to believe that it was written in this current time.  After reading this book, I am longing to visit Kentucky and learn more about its history. 

If you are a historical fiction fan, I highly recommend Courting Morrow Little.  I'm eagerly waiting for Laura's next release.

Meanwhile, be sure to visit Laura's blog, breathtakingly beautiful in word and picture.  She is giving away copies of her book, too, so you may have a chance to win her novel.

Those of you who know me personally can probably attest to two facts about me: 1) I'm a very private person who is not accustomed to opening up to strangers (nor often to those I know well) and 2) I hate controversy and confrontation.  In fact, I have a difficult time even writing a negative book review...I will do it, but its a struggle.  So even I am surprised to see myself addressing this topic here.  I think it has more to do with the Holy Spirit :)

There has been recent controversy among several larger Christian blogs about the topic of depression.  I am not going to attempt to address the controversy as this is not the place for that.  What I would like to do is address this subject as one who is in the trenches and for whom depression is a daily battle.

I'm not even going to attempt to address the causes of depression, for they are so varied in scope.  Nor am I coming to you as someone that has the answers.  Nor am I coming to you with a miraculous healing story, even though I know God can and does heal in miraculous ways.  I'm writing to you as someone who is in the trenches of a battle that I am now finding more and more women fight with...and as someone who has walked in the trenches with girlfriends, family members, and others.  The other reason I'm not addressing causes is that God is an individual God.  His Spirit can speak to each of our hearts and show us the right path for us.  I would simply like to share some things that have helped me (not as someone who has arrived, but in the hopes they may help someone else).


-Stay in the Word everyday.  Listening to an audio Bible can be a great way to do this throughout the day, putting little nuggets of the word into your mind.  Reading the Psalms can be very soothing.  Sometimes you may not think you are absorbing anything, but keep at it.

-Pray, pray, and pray.  Pour it all out to the Lord.  Sometimes it helps me to have my husband take the kids so I can take a walk.  When you have young children, it can be harder to concentrate, so this helps.  Combining two benefits in one.  God will bring anything to the surface you need to bring to him if you are quiet before him.

-Mornings can be the hardest for those who struggle with depression.  Starting the morning with praise music helps me even if my mind isn't clear enough to pray yet.


-Consider keeping a journal of thankfulness, listing all the good things in your life.

-Doing something for someone else, I think if its a surprise its an extra added boost.

-Sometimes crying out before the Lord can be a beautiful thing, even though it hurts deeply.

-Find a strong Christian woman you can talk to when you are struggling emotionally.  This has also helped me so much as I've realized pastors, pastor's wives, elders, etc are not immune to these battles.

-Get out of the house a bit every day, even if you don't want to...added benefit if this involves doing something nice for someone else, such as taking your children to a bounce house.

-Watch children at play.  I personally find so much joy in watching my children play.


-Take walks daily or find another form of exercise you enjoy.  This has an added benefit if you do something outside.

-Take a multi-vitamin.  This is simple, but I'm amazed how much my energy has increased.

-See a doctor to find out if there are physical causes.  The Lord is the great Physician and sometimes I believe it is beneficial to take medication.  We all have to seek the Lord individually about the path he would have us take.

-Forgot to mention a biggie: sleep.  Lack of sleep can make the struggle more difficult.

Felt led to add this: We cannot play the Holy Spirit in someone else's life.  God has a plan for us alone.  For me there are four generations of mental illness in my family, indicating that there may be a presence of hereditary issues.  For me, God's plan involves taking medication daily.  I struggled with a legalistic attitude which kept me from these same medications that have been life-changing.  Please don't let the enemy keep you from medication if this is an avenue that God wants to use to heal you.  Seek out what's right for you...that may be somewhat different than what's right for me.  

Led to add yet again, I think:  If you are pregnant or postpartum (many have been there including myself) please pay extra attention to the physical end of things.  Depression can lead you to have changes in appetite, a very dangerous thing at this point.  Make sure you see a physician immediately.  

Most of all, don't struggle alone. I would like to invite you if you need prayer please email me at julesreffner@gmail.com.  It would be my joy to pray with you!


As I sit here, I feel your soft words flow through my veins...

Bleeding for paper...

My children's scrapes and cuts washed clean, bandaged...
Stained popsicle mouths...

Beyond the popsicles...I have brokenness and prayers...
Hands only can speak what words leave empty...

Pages I could fill with sentiment
Only this offering can I give to you, this communion of peanut butter sandwiches

My heart shattering shards of crimson glass inside your body
My feet moving to endless soldier drums


But needing to breathe your words as each cleansing breath washes me
I exhale his word into your mouth
but only He brings the breath

These two songs have really blessed my heart recently.

We're experiencing a minor family emergency, so I might be kind of quiet in the near future.  On the other hand, my blog is often an outlet for emotionally so I may post.  I'm not really sure.

In the meantime, I've been cooking from a new cookbook, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Family Favorites by Beth Hensperger.  I wanted to attempt a cookbook review to broaden my genre scope.  I enjoyed playing the other Julia in the kitchen and hope to post a review this week.

I've also been reading Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian and Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz.  I always like to have a fiction and a nonfiction read going, but I'm not one of those who can have a whole bunch of books going at once.  My mind is so scattered since having children, I just can't seem to keep more than two books straight.  I'll probably be finished with both in the next few days.

I've found a new blog that I think is just beautiful: Writing the Heartache.  Be sure to keep your tissues handy, though if you read "When Fathers Weep at Graves", a heartbreakingly beautiful poem by Alice Wisler.  Alice is a brave author who advocates "writing the heartache" for those who grieve.

Sometime soon I hope to check in with more reviews.  Blessings and happy Father's day to all!

Title: Texas Roads
Author: Cathy Bryant
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: WordVessel Press

**Special thanks to Cathy Bryant for providing a review copy of this book.**

My Rating: 4.5/5

I've been heading to Word Vessel for quite a while.  I first heard about her site and its giveaways (Cathy is very generous).  After visiting Cathy's website for a few weeks, I began to love Cathy's blog because of the depth of her posts and the heart that shines through them.  God has used Cathy's devotions to speak into my life, particularly her recent series on Hearing God's Voice.  I encourage you to stop by, I believe you'll be blessed.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Cathy's book!  I devoured Texas Roads in giant mouthfuls.  Cathy's book will appeal to readers in a variety of different genres.  Its a beautiful romance not only between a Texas cowboy and a schoolteacher, but at a deeper level the romance between a hurting young lady and the God that courts us so tenderly.  Its a novel about the hurts that cut us deeply and the Savior that tenderly patches  us all, leaving us better than new.

Each character is painted with the most masterful of brushstrokes. As a result as I put down the novel I felt as though the characters had become friends.  Just as real as any other character in the novel is the Texas landscape reflected as clear as a photograph in my mind from Cathy's words. The only drawback to the realism of this novel's characters is that at times I found myself devastated at the pain the characters went through in the novel.

Beautiful description, poignant characters, chuckle-worthy humor, and a heart-healing message make Texas Roads a not-to-be missed read

As a bonus, Cathy has graciously granted me permission to reprint one of her recent devotions.  I pray it
speaks to your heart and I hope you will head on over to WordVessel for more to whet your spiritual appetite.

Hearing God's Voice, Part I
Posted by Cathy Bryant at 5/30/2010 06:00:00 AM

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." ~John 10:27 (NIV)

Our last series about knowing and doing God's will opened another door of Bible study for me on hearing God's voice. After all, if we don't hear His voice, how are we supposed to know how to live a life that pleases Him and stays in the center of His will?

My own personal issue with all of this is that while I trust God's ability to speak to me, I often mistrust my ability to hear Him correctly (which I'm convinced is yet another tactic of the enemy). So I hope you'll join me during this study of hearing God's voice and add your insights. I always learn from you.

Listening Through His Spirit

"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come." ~John 16:12-13 (NIV)

Each of us believers are filled with God's Spirit. That Spirit within us is God's voice. The Spirit speaks what God speaks and tells us what is to come. The problem comes with the other voices that clamor for our attention: the world, our own sin nature, the enemy, sometimes even well-meaning, but misinformed, friends.

Listening Through His Word

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. ~Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will never pass away." ~Matthew 24:35 (NIV)

I know I shouldn't be, but I'm constantly amazed at how God's Word speaks to me. Sometimes a verse I've read a million times will jump out at me with truth and relevance to a particular season in my life. Praise God for His living and active Word that never passes away!

Faulty Hearing?

"He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." ~John 8:47 (NIV)

These heart-chilling words spoken by Jesus were directed at the Pharisees, but they also serve as a warning to us. The word "hear" has with it the implication of obeying what is heard (James 1:22, Luke 7:46). If a person continually closes their ears to what God says they don't belong to God.

The scary part of this verse is that the Pharisees believed they were serving God, and not only serving Him, but acting as His agents on the earth. This shows that it's possible to believe you're working for God, but be totally opposed to Him and His work. (John 16:2) Organized religion is not a substitute for being a part of the body of Christ; be aware of the difference.

If you are reading this and unsure of where you stand with God, I plead with you to search the sidebar for the red "Ready?" button. Also feel free to contact me at catbry1 at yahoo dot com. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Heavenly Father, How blessed we are to be Your children, to be the recipients of Your grace and guidance. Thank You that You don't leave us to wander through this earthly maze alone, but give us Your Spirit and Your Word as living, active agents in our lives so that we might live lives worthy of You. May we be so tuned in to Your voice that all other voices become a mere whimper. In Jesus' Name, Amen 

Disclosure: I received this book free from the author in exchange for a review, but the opinions expressed are my own.

I have a legacy of writing in my family.  My grandfather was a printer for the local paper for many, many years.  This was before everything was computerized.  He used to set the type and my mother grew up playing with the letters.  To this day she can be found carrying a labeller around to organize everything from spices to DVDs. 

My uncle inherited that same love for words.  He has worked as a columnist for various papers and is currently an editor and columnist at the Detroit Free Press.  

As a child I finished reading a novel every single day.  I remember my bout with chicken pox in the second grade and how I enjoyed the time, as I sat in a tree and wrote 40 short stories in my binder.  My first book reviews were in my sixth grade notebook and I loved writing them, until the teacher told me she couldn't keep up with my book log and I didn't need to write about every book I wrote (no teacher should ever limit a child's interests in that way, by the way).  I remember my fifth grade teacher, who was my inspiration, telling me to keep at it and I was going to be a writer someday.  All students need to have a teacher who will dream big dreams with them.   

I was a painfully shy high schooler.  I was the kid who sat in the back of the classroom.  Then my English teacher sent me for a "career interest" program at the local paper.  Pulling me out of my comfort zone, I had to interview people around the community.  It was horrifying.

Then my parents sent me to a Dale Carnegie course at age sixteen.  That was the same year I came to know Christ and he refashioned me, asking me to please let him stretch me into shapes I didn't trust.  That was writing in a different form he used to stretch me, as I composed speeches I would shakingly recite to a group of adults.

I came to college as an English major.  Then I graduated college and a few years later put writing away.  There was no space for quiet mindful writing in the sleepless, back-stroking nights of early parenthood.

I joined ACFW reading list to learn about Christian fiction.  I was sick of throwing down 80% of the secular books I read because of content, but was also tired of reading less-than-stellar Christian fiction. I heard about many great books and started reading a few of the authors blogs.

I felt this itching deep inside.  God longs to use everything we will offer him.  I felt the Holy Spirit's longing that I wasn't using everything He had given me.  

I don't know where this journey will lead.  I only know that He is using my writing once again to stretch me.  

I started a blog and I love every minute of it: the reading and reviewing books, writing my heart (however clumsily that might be).  How he uses even this to sort out the wrong motives in my heart, the things that keep me from giving Him my everything.  

Then I started a novel.  Then I put away that novel as I felt a different tug entirely.  Now I sit shaking as the stretching happens.  

I'm preparing for interviews for research.  God has lined this up to be part of the slow inch-worm stretching process.  I am at once excited to hear the fascinating stories, yet terrified at this pulling.  There have been so many unexpected surprises on this journey.  

Its the doors I don't knock on that open freely.

I puzzle at this season.  I don't know how I will even finish this novel as it comes in bits and snippets in the midst of my life as a homeschool mom.

So I practice unclenching my hands, loosening my grip.  He longs to pull my upturned arms to the sky.  

Again, I see through the darkened glass...his shadow.  He simply calls me to reach out through that darkness and I feel his tender touch.

It is enough.

I apologize for not getting this feature completed yesterday.  I thought things would calm down when we finished the formal homeschool year, but this week has been a bit crazy.

One of the best parts of summer homeschooling is nature study, in my opinion.  We live in a town in upstate New York that is known for its trails, so we have lots of great places for nature study.  But even your own backyard provides so many opportunities.

Several times a week we walk through a nature path that is located close to our house.  If you have preschoolers and take walks you are familiar with the concept of collections.  Collections can be irritating for the mom who wants a clutter-free house, but are ripe with creative opportunities for exploration and great for working on comparison skills.

One of my favorite homeschooling books is A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.  It is filled with loads of ideas for nature study, among other things.

Nature Study--Charlotte Mason Style is a great blog chock full of ideas.  The great thing about nature study is its simplicity.  It merely involves doing and documenting.  Documenting can take a variety of forms.  Sketching and labeling a variety of leaves, preserving flowers, and taking photos are all great ways to document.  My daughter is five years old, so we do most of our documenting verbally.

Nature study teaches children patience.  We will sit and observe ants as they carry food back and forth.  We must learn quietness and stillness to observe birds in our feeder.  On several occasions we have found multiple deer standing at our pine trees (and we live in a suburban cul-de-sac).  We must learn to celebrate these small miracles of nature.

Charlotte Mason suggests time outdoors everyday between April and October.  I'm not sure that standard is quite realistic with upstate New York weather, but we try to get outside as much as possible.

Donna Young's site has printables in a variety of areas.  Her glimpse into her family's nature journals is very helpful and nature journals are a beautiful way to preserve your documentation.

Nature study is easy to implement because children are so naturally curious.  I think its a great way
to teach them the scientific skills of observation and comparison.  It can also be an excellent integration of art and mathematics.  It teaches patience quite naturally as children are enthralled by observing animals and are willing to sit quietly to watch things happen.

A few more sites:

19 Can Do Nature Walk Variations
Find Trails Close to You
But I Live in the City
Houseplants You Can Grow from your Kitchen
Tree Identification
Insect Idenfication
Bird Identification
Flower Identification

Most of all: enjoy!

Title: Family-Driven Faith: Doing what it takes to raise sons and daughters who walk with God
Author: Voddie Baucham
Publication Date: 2007
Publisher: Crossway Books

Rating: 4.5/5

**Special thanks to Amy Stephanson at Crossway Books for providing a review copy as part of the Homeschool Book Review Program.**

Simply stated Baucham's thesis is: "Our children are falling away because we are asking the church to do what God designed the family to accomplish" (7).  I've been reading Family-Driven Faith for a few weeks, because quite frankly this isn't a book to rush through.

After reading this book I would love to be able to hear Mr. Baucham in person.  His tone is unapologetic, honest, bold.  Although I haven't heard him speak this is a book to be preached from the pulpit.  At times that would turn me off, but in this case its very appropriate. 

Mr. Baucham boldly asks us, "Do you know where your children are spiritually?" Baucham has some opinions that are very unpopular in the culture and even at times among the church.

On dating: "Unless your child is wiser than Solomon, stronger than Samson, and more godly than David (all of whom sinned sexually), they are susceptible to sexual sin, and these premature relationships serve as open invitations." (21)

On idolatry: "We do marriage according to Dr. Phil, raise our children according to Dr. Spock, govern our sex lives according to Dr. Ruth, and only run to Dr. Jesus when things have gotten so bad we can't find another doctor to help us." (33)

On Christian homes: "Those who visit us should notice immediately that they have left the world of self-serving egocentric narcissism and have entered a safe harbor where people value and esteem others above themselves" (51).

Mr. Baucham begins the book by describing the problem.  More and more of our young people are walking away from their faith.  Why?  He argues parents are to blame.  We are the ones who should be discipling our children, not the pastors and youth leaders.  The church should merely be supporting parents in their role.  I am in resounding agreement with Mr. Baucham. 

He issues a fighting call to the church.  We cannot accept defeat, we cannot sit idly by as our children leave the church.  We must fight for our children!  We must live out an example for them.  We must teach our children worldview, so they can answer why they believe what they believe.

Mr. Baucham ends each chapter with a call to action, several suggestions for how to implement the chapter's teachings.  I leave you with a few of them to consider:

-Make a list of potential idols in your life.  Determine what you need to get out of your house and out of your schedule.

-Consider your relationship with your spouse from your child's perspective.  As they watch you and listen to you do they see a picture of biblical love?

-Try to carve out a time when your family can read the Bible together daily.  (We are currently reading the book of Matthew, with a five year old most of the time is spent answering questions...but I wish we all
had the curious minds of five-year-olds when it comes to God's word).

-Think about a weekly meal that will mark Sunday as the Lord's Day. (I had never even thought of this, but its a neat idea and I'm considering what I can do to make Sunday dinner more special in my family.)

In short, I LOVED this book!  I think it has so much to offer any family who desires to disciple their children, but may lack the know-how.  I hope I've whet your appetite for this excellent tome.

Disclosure: I received this book as part of the Crossway Homeschool Blogger Review Program.  My opinions are entirely my own.

Crossway's Blog: http://www.crossway.org/blog

We have a winner for the box of books!!

Random Number Generator has chosen comment #20: Carrie at In the Hammock.

Congratulations, Carrie!  Out to send you an email.

We had a busy and fun weekend celebrating end-of-school with a trip to a local bounce house and ice cream parlor.  The kids also got some new pets this weekend, 3 fiddler crabs.  They are now named: Nemo, Bigger, and Ferdinand.  The other surprise we're passing is a cold...pretty typical with two preschoolers I guess.

Coming up: Reviews of Family-Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham, Texas Roads by Cathy Bryant, and my first cookbook review.

Ozark Weddings Q&A with Anita Higman and Janice Hanna Thompson

Your Barbour Heartsong 3-in-1 collection is entitled, Ozark Weddings. Tell us a little bit about the three stories.

Anita: All three stories are set in Arkansas—Eureka Springs, Little Rock, and Hot Springs. Larkspur Dreams and Castles in the Air are romantic comedy, while the middle story, The Love Song, is more dramatic in tone.

Janice: Larkspur Dreams is a lighthearted, whimsical tale that will appeal to inspirational romance readers, particularly those with artistic leanings. The Love Song reaches into the depths of the reader’s soul, dealing with the topic of overcoming past hurts. Castles in the Air provides a humorous look at the way we are perceived by others, and teaches us that our prejudices (comical as they might be) often keep us from the very thing God has planned for us.

Anita, you and Janice co-authored the three stories in Ozark Weddings. How do writers go about co-authoring?

Anita: There are a number of ways to co-author a novel. One writer might do the research and the other writer may actually write the story. Or co-authors may each choose a character and write from that character’s POV. In the three novels, I guess you could say I wrote the body and wings of the stories, and Janice helped to make them fly. She has a gift for critiquing.

Janice: Working with Anita is a breeze because she conceives and fully plots the stories then lets me add my thoughts/tidbits to give them flavor. She is so quirky and fun to work with, and I am very proud of the stories we have co-produced.

Were there times when it was hard to work together?

Anita: Janice is not only talented, but easy to work with. There were a few times in one of the novels that I found myself writing in a way that strayed from the general concept of a Heartsong romance. Janice made some good suggestions, which steered me in the right direction.

Janice: I can honestly say that I’ve never worked with anyone who was so willing to accept critique and/or take suggestions as Anita. She is a precious friend and collaborative partner. I already knew she was talented (even before we began this project) but had no idea how gracious she would be. Since I’ve written for the Heartsong line for years, I was able to “teach her the ropes” (as it were) and she was a ready learner! That’s not to say she hasn’t taught me a thing or two. I’ve learned much from her throughout this process, particularly as it applies to romantic tension. She’s far better at that than I am, and I’m happy to admit it.

Why did you choose to be a writer?

Anita: Ever since I was a little girl, I had this need to express myself in some sort of artistic medium. I’ve tried a number of things: piano, painting, decorating, and acting. But I’ve never been very good at any these endeavors, except writing. I guess really then—writing chose me.

Janice: Like Anita, I’ve always been artistic. As a youngster, I sang, danced and played the piano. I was also very involved in theater as a young person. I’ve been writing since childhood. I wrote my first novella in 6th grade, then went on to write musical comedies for the stage before turning to books in the mid-90’s. Like Anita, I can truly say that I didn’t choose writing; it chose me. Or, perhaps I should say that God chose it for me, as a gift.

When did you have your first success as a writer?

Anita: After several years of writing, I had some gradual success—books for children, books of one-act plays, and nonfiction for women. These successes were enough to keep me going toward my ultimate goal, which was to write novels.

Janice: This may sound a bit silly, but my first real writing “success” happened my senior year in high school, when I was chosen to help write the senior production. I had a blast, and the scene I crafted (a 1930’s/Busby Berkeley-esque “The Show Must Go On” scene) was a huge success. I can’t tell you what fun I had, or how great it felt for people to respond as they did.

Do you have any special methods of getting into the writing zone, such as favorite scents, music, or certain foods?

Anita: In the past I used to go to a French café, order coffee and scrambled eggs, and then write a rough chapter. The noise, music, and bustle always energized me creatively. But now I’m more of a homebody, so I sit for long hours in my office, working on my stories.

Janice: An "ideal" writing situation for me would involve someplace like Starbucks (or otherwise) with a cup of my favorite hot beverage in my hand (to be discussed below). Ironically, when I'm at home, I can't stand having music going. I find it terribly distracting... something about the "beat" drives me nutty. Having the television on is okay, but it's often muted. Crazy, I know. I'm a fanatic about my Diet Dr. Pepper and several flavors of hot tea. I particularly love Earl Grey and Chai Latte, among others. And I'm nuts about hot chocolate in the wintertime. I'm also crazy about my puppies. I have two red mini-dachshunds named Sasha and Copper. They usually settle in next to me on the sofa, Sasha on my right, Copper on my left. When we're all in place (with a cup of tea or a Diet Dr. Pepper on the end table, depending on the season) I'm ready to begin. Of course, I usually have to weed through several emails (clearing a path) before I can actually start writing. Whew! Sounds like quite a process, doesn't it?! It's a wonder I get anything done at all!

What is your best advice for aspiring writers?

Anita: If you feel called to write, don’t let people discourage you. I’m sure they don’t realize the impact of their words, but negative remarks can undermine our courage and joy. Comments similar to: “Maybe you weren’t really meant to be published.” Or, “Are you making any money at this yet?” Perhaps you’ve heard, “Why can’t you write like my favorite author?” Honestly, I could go on and on here. Writing is a great and honorable profession—one that can challenge, inspire, and change people’s lives. If you love words and love arranging them into stories, then don’t let the battering influence of dispiriting comments shatter your dream. Keep pressing on!

Janice: I often say this to young/new writers: Learn the craft, but don’t necessarily write what the publishers/agents/houses tell you to write. Trends change. Stick with the stories God places on your heart and if He intends them to be published, He will find the right publishing house in the right time.

What are your writing plans for the future?

Anita: I’d love to just keep doing what I’m doing. But I think I’d also enjoy writing novels for the young adult market.

Janice: I’m open to whatever God wants (and I really mean that). If He shifts me in a new direction (women’s fiction, for example) I’m following His lead! If He asks me to lay the writing down for a season in order to accomplish a different task, I’m open to that, too.

We’d love for you to visit our websites at www.anitahigman.com and www.janiceathompson.com. If you’re interested in our Heartsong collection, Ozark Weddings, it can be purchased in bookstores or ordered online at www.amazon.com.

Thanks for inviting us to your blog!

Friday marks the big day for Liz and I, the completion of our first year of homeschool.  I began the year with a fair amount of trepidation.  Was I organized enough to homeschool?  Would Elizabeth fall behind?  What about socialization?  We moved in November to a town that is roughly an hour away from where we were living.  So it was a new beginning for us in so many ways.

Its been a journey of trial-and-error which I'm sure will continue for many more years.  Its amazing the ways God finds to help us through our trials.  For instance, right in the midst of these struggles with organization, I won a personalized planner from a professional organizer.  I was overwhelmed by the choices for Kindergarten curriculum in my phone book sized catalogue, yet God guided us to the right programs.

I worried about what  to do with my younger son while we were homeschooling...let him learn right alongside Elizabeth was the answer.  At two years old, he has learned counting objects, many of the letters and their sounds, and has an amazing vocabulary.

As we finish up the year I feel an increased self-confidence.  As we finish up (although we are year-round homechoolers, we will just change our pace), we are planning a celebration.  Saturday we will be going to a local "bouncy" house and having ice cream at our favorite parlor.

How about you?  Whether you homeschool or your children attend public or private school...how will you celebrate end-of-year?

For my first giveaway I would like to share some of my favorite reads of 2010.  A few years back I was involved in an online group entitled book boxes and remember the excitement of getting that first box of books.  I'm not sure if that list is still around, but in that spirit I would like to give away a box of books containing some of my favorite reads of 2010 so far.

1) Answer the question: What are your favorite reads of 2010 so far? in the comment box.
2) Include your email address in the following format:
3) The random drawing will be held June 13th and the winner notified by email.  Good luck!

This box includes:

Virginia Smith's Sister-to-Sister Series:
#1 Stuck in the Middle
#2 Age Before Beauty
#3 Third Time's a Charm
  Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer
The Anonymous Bride by Vickie McDonough
No Dark Valley by Jamie Langston Turner
How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom (signed)

Thank you to Blue Rose for awarding Dark Glass Ponderings the Beautiful Blogger Award.  I would like to award this blog to several people who I think are not only extraordinary bloggers, but also spread beauty through their blogs.

Thank you to Laura Frantz for awarding Dark Glass Ponderings the Versatile Blogger Award.  I would like to award this blog to several blogs that I find unique.

Andrea at Ask Andrea

I encourage you to check each of these out.  Each is unique and well-worth following in my opinion.  Make sure to also check out Blue Rose & Laura's blog as well!

"How did you guys meet?" my 5-year-old asks us, giggling.

"Well, Daddy used to be a gardener.  He was digging and hoeing, and making sure everything was well-watered.  Then up came one cabbage that was more beautiful than the rest.  Daddy watered it and made sure it was kept warm.  That cabbage turned into your mother."

This is the story my husband tells my daughter, always leading to the unstoppable giggles.

The real story is my husband and I met the first week of my freshman year at a small college.  He was friends with my college roomate.  We became friends, but knew very quickly it would become something else.  Then we began dating, and knew very quickly we would get married.  We were married two weeks after my graduation.  Ten years ago today.

But I think there is a lot of truth in my husband's story in a strange way.  Marriage takes constant care.  We must guard our hearts.  Daily we need to pull the weeds of sin and selfishness out of our heart.  We need to keep the warmth in our hearts.  

In some small way I think it is the little rituals that make our marriage.  Walks, teatime, reading aloud, snuggling with our Bibles in the morning.  These are the "small, good things."  

For this union I praise one holy God who encircles us together with a thousand entwinings year by year as we become one. 

Title: The Fruitful Life
Author: Jerry Bridges
Publication Date: 2006

**Special thanks to Stephanie Chalfant at NavPress for providing me with a copy of The Fruitful Life for review purposes.**

My rating: 5/5

After seeing rave reviews of Jerry Bridges books on Tim Challies site, I was anxious to get my hands on a copy of one of his books.  I don't always agree with Challies viewpoints but his reviews always get me thinking.

I was not disappointed with Bridges' Scripture-laden study on the fruit of the Spirit.  Devotion to God is the only reason we can and should seek to bear fruit.  I agree with Bridges statement that all too often our motives are self-centered: worrying about what others might think of us, or feeling good about ourselves personally.  We can even be acting on ethics or morals, yet not truly out of sole devotion to God.

One lesson that God has been teaching me personally over and over again lately is humility.  Bridges starts his book off with the virtue of humility, stating that bearing fruit starts with an attitude of humility.  The more I think about his hypothesis the more I agree that humility is the central virtue necessary for bearing fruit.  In order to act in love, we must put others before ourselves.  In order to live a self-controlled life, we must realize we have no power to do so in and of ourselves.

Bridges also shows the never-ending cycle between conduct and character.  Which direction are we training ourselves by our actions?  Are we training ourselves to wait patiently for God's timing?  Are we cultivating thankfulness that will create a joyful character?

Devotion to God, according to Bridges is based on fear of God, love of God, and desire of God.  I definitely agree with Bridges' assertion that all three need to be in balance.  He states that the church today is strongly lacking in the area of fear of God.

Bridges' proceeds to devote a chapter to each of the fruit of the Spirit.  My favorite part of The Fruitful Life is the fact that Bridges provides meditation verses for each fruit of the Spirit.  I have found in my own life, meditating on Scriptures is a great way not only to fight sin but also to build the corresponding virtue.  I want to return to Bridges' list of Scriptures for each of the fruit.

Bridges also directs the reader to prayer giving ideas for Scripture the reader can pray in building fruit in their lives.  He provides applicational questions about each fruit, centering the reader on honestly evaluating him or herself in regards to struggles.  For instance:
"Review the last couple of days, looking for situations in which you were tempted to act in a self-centered way instead of putting others before yourself.  What did you do in each case?  What do you observe about yourself." (60).  Ouch, Bridges asks some tough questions of the reader. 

The Fruitful Life is a book I will find myself "chewing" on for weeks to come.  I plan to spend more time meditating on the Scriptures and questions Bridges shares.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

There is one thing I really want for my children above everything else.  I desire for them to have a living, breathing relationship with the Christ and to live surrendered lives to Him.

I am so blessed to have a wonderful mother-in-law who loves the Lord.  Its such a blessing to have family members with whom we can have edifying discussions about spiritual things.  Further, I have so much respect for the parents that have raised my husband, who is a man who fears and loves God greatly...and lives with integrity. 

Recently we were talking about children leaving the church and moving away from the Lord. Ken Ham has written a recent book on the topic that I am interested in reading.  We have seen godly parents in our church who have struggled with children walking away from their faith and leaving the straight path.  I know its happening everywhere.  It breaks my heart.

I am currently reading a fantastic book by Voddie Baucham entitled Family Driven FaithReview will be forthcoming. Baucham reiterates what I already believe...it all comes down to family.  

The Lord keeps showing me again and again, this is why I am called to homeschool.  This "one thing" of my children's walk with Christ is too important to not pursue as a full-time calling.  Even if you are not called to homeschool, if you walk with the Lord and have children...this is your full-time calling.

I know I don't have it all together.  Not even close.  Even my two-year-old has figured out that truth.  I hope even through my imperfections I can teach my children wholehearted surrender to Christ. 

It all comes down to coming down on my knees again and again.  Sorry can be beautiful.   Children's face down, oices loud, hearts surrendered...one heart can change the world. 

Julia M. Reffner

About Me

My photo
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:


FeedBurner FeedCount