Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, and Highlights of May 2021

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, and Highlights of May 2021

The end of another month… and so we continue with not-long-standing tradition!

Highlights

  • running lunches to the fieldwork people – bonus when I got to take the four wheeler!
  • chopping off… a lot… of my hair
  • trying to write 1,000 words of my novel each weekday (it didn’t happen every day, but it definitely boosted my progress!)
  • running errands with my youngest sisters
  • doing more a capella singing with my family
  • discovering this playlist
  • enjoying crazy-fun times with friends+siblings
  • studying the Bible with aforementioned friends+siblings
  • surviving (and thoroughly enjoying:) ) a competitive game of Ultimate Frisbee
  • working on a writing project that is (hopefully!) soon to be disclosed to the general public…

What I’ve Been Reading

A Time to Die – Nadine Brandes

This is my new favorite book! Not many books keep me reading way too late into the night anymore, but this one did! Every time the excitement began to die down, something new/horrible/exciting happened. I loved it, and can’t wait to finish the trilogy! I can’t recommend it enough.

A Time to Speak – Nadine Brandes

The second book in the Out of Time series… so far, it’s just as amazing as the first!

The Ascent of Rum Doodle – W.E. Bowman

I’ve had this one on my shelf for so long, and finally determined to finish reading it. It’s absolutely hilarious… thanks for recommending + lending it, Grandma! Don’t worry… I’ll return it soon.:)

To Build a Fire – Jack London

Another one recommended by my grandma… so, so good. And devastating. And good.:)

Journal Snippets

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, not of my circumstances. So… onwards!

God, help me to lose myself and take on the identity You give me – joyfully and with grace. Don’t let me waste my time on worthless pursuits.

Am I willing to offer every aspect of my life to God as a living sacrifice? Will I let You completely mangle my dreams for my life so I can live out Yours? Yes, Lord. Only by Your grace. All I want is Your plan.

Help me to live fully. To have a zest for life. To love fully and extravagantly. To realize the brevity of life and throw myself into making each second count. For good.

Oh, man, life was so much simpler when I was eight. (hehehe…)

God is helping me to see my life the way He sees it – brimming with beauty and opportunity. I see each day as an opportunity to serve God fully and freely, to nurture my relationship with Him, to press into Him and see that He is indeed good, and more than enough for me.

How was your May? What made it stand out to you?

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of April 2021

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of April 2021

Another April has come and gone… “and what will be the proof that it was here?”

Fields greening under the joint effort of thunderstorms and sunlight. Planters and soil finishers emerging from the sheds to work in the fields. Bugs… because… there must be bugs.

Also…

these are the days

we will long for.

live wide-eyed;

live wide-eyed.

a.m.b.

Aagh, the beauty and truth in that. I feel like this month has reminded me to do this. To stare at the world in child-like wonder, while recognizing the responsibility that comes with living life on this spinning mudball. To face down the evil while delighting in the good. To treasure the moments that can slip by unnoticed. To keep my eyes on what matters, and let the rest fade away.

To live wide-eyed.

I guess that’s my little ramble for today.:) On to the rest of the post…

Highlights of the Month

  • holding and binge-reading the proof copy of my novel
  • shoving myself outside of my comfort zone
  • creating a character collage for the first time
  • brainstorming with siblings
  • attending Story Embers‘ Engaging Plots Summit
  • starting work on another novel… more on that in the future!
  • discovering Alan Gogoll’s music
  • listening to Nadine Brandes speak at the aforementioned summit… I love her heart in writing.
  • a trip to the library (this one seriously deserves more than a quick mention on a list. I hadn’t been inside a library for over a year… and the amount of emotion that overcame me as I stared at all the books was very weird. Very. Weird. I now long to haunt the library frequently.)

What I’ve Been Reading

Devotedly: the personal letters and love story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot – Valerie Elliot Shepard

I became interested in the Elliots’ story while reading Shadow of the Almighty, so getting to read more about them in this book is really awesome. I love the humor, genuine love, and passion for Christ that’s infused in their letters. Also, the author’s commentary and perspective on her parents’ story is so sweet.

Courageous – Randy Alcorn

Courageous is one of my favorite movies, so when my sister laid hands on this novelization of the movie, of course I had to borrow it.:) I haven’t finished it yet, but already it’s gone far above and beyond my expectations. The way Randy Alcorn weaves so many more elements into the original plot… i.n.c.r.e.d.i.b.l.e. For mature readers, I can’t recommend it enough.

You Need to Define Your Writing Voice Before You Can Refine It – Daeus Lamb

“Self-discovery is nebulous, so approach it carefully. Don’t allow your culture or subculture to influence you. That may sound as clichéd as Disney’s “follow your heart” gospel, but rather than a call to indulge in your sinful instincts without regard to others, it’s a call to embrace the fragment of God’s image that you most represent.”

I highly recommend this article to any writer who is trying to find their voice! Or to anyone who’s just trying to get comfortable in their skin.:)

Systematic Theology – Wayne Grudem

I’ve been wanting to study theology for awhile and finally started taking it seriously. This book has been so helpful!

Journal Snippets

God, I want to want You desperately. I don’t want to be satisfied with my life and human relationships, though I thank You for making them so sweet. I want to crave You desperately. I want to pursue You relentlessly. I want You to be first in my heart and mind, always. Let me desire to know and love Your ways, and to walk in them faithfully.

Oh, God, it truly is all about You! Not about how I look to the world or what I do for the world… help me to take the focus from me to You and keep it there for eternity.

“Lead, kindly Light amid th’encircling gloom. Lead Thou me on.” Let me bounce that Light into this dark world. Make me patient and faithful in the dark.

God, bare my heart to Your instruction and correction, no matter the cost, no matter the pain. I want to be but a channel in Your hand. Make my life soft clay between your fingers; shape, twist, smash, and form it into proper shape, then hold it to the flame. Remove the dross, O Lord. I say so a bit tremblingly, but know this is what I want… what You want.

Help me to love others extravagantly – to live intentionally and boldly so I may do so to the fullest.


What made this April stand out to you?

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of the links I share in this post, I receive a small commission… at no extra cost to you.:)

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of March 2021

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of March 2021

April… it’s here.

Hooowwwww???

March 2021 was an epic month for me. Some pretty exciting and awesome stuff happened… plus some not so awesome but still exciting stuff. Here ’tis.

Highlights of the Month

  • Watching medieval sword fights in the name of research
  • Reading and writing outside!
  • Trying to contain ridiculous amounts of laughter while alpha reading a slice of life/comedy/romance story
  • Reading with my little sisters
  • Going on a date with my dad
  • Trying my hand at blackout poetry
  • Discovering an artichoke painting at Hobby Lobby… if you’re a YDubber, you might understand.:)
  • Gaining firsthand experience for future writing projects by smashing my toe against a bed frame. On accident.
  • Finding a brutal editor in my youngest sister. Case in point: “Yuck. Why rosy face? … you should delete his third biscuit. … how does that help? Delete that.” Ooookay???
  • In spite of aforementioned editor, completing the first draft of a novel for the very first time!!!
  • Thoroughly enjoying a weekend brimming with cousin craziness

What I’ve Been Reading

Frindle – Andrew Clements

“Who says dog means dog? You do, Nicholas.”

I’m rediscovering my appreciation of good MG fiction with this book. I hadn’t read Frindle in years, so it’s been super fun to read it to my youngest sisters this month!

From the Grave – A.W. Tozer

“Whatever a man wants badly and persistently enough will determine the man’s character.”

I shared about this book in last month’s post, but it’s definitely worth recommending again. It’s written as a devotional for Lent, but honestly it would be amazing to read at any time of the year. I’m really appreciating A.W. Tozer’s no-nonsense way of writing about the hard truth. It’s very easy to understand, and very convicting, as well.

The Bear That Heard Crying – Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and Helen Kinsey

I enjoy reading books that I really enjoyed as a child to my little sisters! This is based on a true story, and I really enjoy the illustrations, too.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear – Audrey Wood

I loved this book as a little kid, and so it was really fun to read it again to my sister the other day. The illustrations are so adorable!

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch – Jean Lee Latham

Elizabeth rolled her eyes gravely from one to the other. “It’s his brain, don’t you think? I mean – it’s awfully restless. He probably reads Latin to keep it quiet. The way girls stitch samplers, you know.”

I remembered really enjoying this book several years ago when I was assigned to read it for school… and when I dug it out of the bookshelf again the other day, I had a hard time putting it down! It’s extremely well-written, and following Nat Bowditch and his ever-present troubles and love of arithmetic is fascinating and enjoyable.

Journal Snippets

Convicted on Sunday that oftentimes when I feel super “Christian” when I’m drawing near to God, I don’t deserve the title. I’m just doing what anyone else in my circumstance would do. But when I seek God when my flesh doesn’t feel needy… that’s truly seeking God.

Christianity has been twisted and melted into this safe, feel-good cure-all. That’s not what it is. It’s a radical, life-defining commitment to God and God alone, and if we don’t treat it as such, we can’t call it Christianity.

What were some of the highlights of your March?

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of the links I share in this post, I receive a small commission… at no extra cost to you.:)

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of February 2021

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of February 2021

Happy March, all!!!

I don’t know if I’ve ever been so excited to see March before… I’m so ready for spring. But we saw what happened last March, so… do I dare get my hopes up?

I do. I most certainly do.

Before we plunge into this new month, however, I’d like to conduct a review of February, and you’re certainly welcome to join me.:)

Highlights of the month

  • Participating in a heated debate about soda during a family game night
  • Suddenly landing in a sitting position on the gym floor after a failed attempt at a throw in dodgeball
  • Having my patience tried during a freezing and eventful excursion with the youngest sisters
  • Appreciating my incredible friends
  • Finding that watching mysteries past midnight might not be the best idea… especially if you’re babysitting
  • Feeding cows without wearing a stocking cap!!!
  • Driving with the windows down
  • Falling in love with this version of The Greatest Showman soundtrack because… a cappella. And the songs.:)
  • Enjoying spiteful and malicious games of Spite and Malice

What I’ve been reading

The Resolution for Women – Priscilla Shirer

“Right now – whether you realize it or not – you’re choosing to treat people a certain way, to stay committed to certain activities, to live a certain life, to be a certain kind of person. You’re already a woman of resolutions.

I snagged this at a thrift store earlier this month, and while I haven’t been reading it voraciously, it’s been really good. I love Priscilla Shirer’s way of drawing spiritual parallels from ordinary stories!

From the Grave – A.W. Tozer

“People must be told that the Christian religion is not something they can trifle with. The faith of Christ will command or it will have nothing to do with a man.”

This book has a devotion for each day of Lent. I haven’t been reading it consistently (that’s hard to do when you misplace the book!), but everything I’ve read so far has been so thought-provoking and convicting.

Time Management Isn’t Enough to Build a Powerful Writing Habit – Josiah DeGraaf

“When you combine time management with mental energy management, you create a dynamic that will supercharge your career.”

Even if you aren’t a writer, I would highly recommend giving this a read! It’s a great resource for anyone who wants to take control of their mental energy and boost their productivity.

The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien

” ‘Drownded?’ said several voices. They had heard this and other darker rumors before, of course; but hobbits have a passion for family history, and they were ready to hear it again.”

The serious tone with which Tolkien treats his hilarious characters is the best. And his descriptions… perfection.

Stuart Little – E.B. White

” ‘Bother arithmetic!’ snapped Stuart. ‘Let’s skip it.’ “

I love how E.B. White’s stories have such a humorous tone, yet touch on deeper issues in a way that leaves you thinking.

Journal snippets

If, in trying to protect myself I disobey God, I will end up having to face the very fears I fled. Oh, God, let me always choose obedience, no matter the cost… my pride, my comfort, my safety. Help me to get out there and follow You in dogged obedience.

Don’t let me waste or misuse my sphere of influence. Help me to be surrendered, Lord… even if I can’t see the fruit of what You’re doing, help me to be faithful.

…help me to love, to seek counsel, to serve, to lose myself in Your love.

“Count my life dear to myself” – I always thought this meant being unwilling to die for Jesus. I think it means more. If I’m counting my life dear to myself, I’m clinging to my own pithy dreams for my life and refusing to live out God’s.

***

What did you get to read/do/consider last month?

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of the links I share in this post, I receive a small commission… at no extra cost to you.:)

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of December 2020

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets,  + Highlights of December 2020

The last day of December. The last day of 2020. Whoa. I’m going to fully enjoy the final hours of this historic year.:)

Highlights of the Month

  • Reading!!!
  • Christmas shopping as a family… or shopping with various fragments of family, climbing in and out of different vehicles and trying to hide certain things from certain people because, you know, Christmas secrets.
  • Walks – alone or with crazy sisters
  • Sneaking peeks and too many pics of gorgeous sunrises
  • Chatting with friends
  • Decorating my bullet journal
  • Writing about a spunky new character in my fantasy novel
  • Making crash potatoes
  • Christmas cookie creation time
  • Playing Balderdash with creative siblings
  • A journal-reading session with my brother

What I’ve Been Reading

Devotedly: the Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot – Valerie Elliot Shepard

Okay, I am loving this one! I’ve always appreciated the story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot’s relationship, so it’s been amazing to read more about it in this book. Also, it is crammed full of journals and letters – something that makes my heart happy.:)

Shadow of the Almighty – Elisabeth Elliot

Best. Biography. Ever. The end.

June Bug – Chris Fabry

It’s been awhile since a book kept me turning page after page way too late into the night (or early morning) but this book is doing that to me. It’s written so well… but due to certain things mentioned/implied in the book, I don’t recommend it for younger readers.

The Prodigal’s Sister – John Piper

This twist on the parable of the prodigal son is beautiful, poetic, and delightful to read.

Journal Snippets

Oh, God, put Your love in my heart. For my family. For my friends. For those I don’t want to call friends. For Your body. For the down-trodden. For those with whom I disagree. For You.

Oh, Lord, may I ever hear Your words, forsake the counsel of my own heart, and turn my eyes from idols, looking only to You. I don’t want to be “profitable for nothing”. (Jeremiah 13)

When I make my goals, Lord, let them not be according to the dictates of my own evil heart [Jeremiah reference], but according to Your pure plan.

I feel battered but sure of God’s goodness and hold on my life. I hurt. I don’t understand… but I trust. And that is enough. God leads me on day by day, faithfully.

Remember… life is not about you.

The biggest thing I see standing in my way is… a disenchantment with the Lover of my soul. Soul, love Him! Desire Him! Stir yourself up to answer His call. Break up your fallow ground – seek and serve Him in the mundane. Though mists of uncertainty veil the way, do something. Stay in shape so that when God throws you into a crisis, you will be fit for the task. Don’t waste a moment.

And there it is… the last post of 2020. What will this coming year bring?

I want to thank you for sticking with me and reading what’s on my heart… I am so blessed to have such amazing support. I hope that this year is simply wonderful for you… that God would bless you through the trials, be your joy in the mundane, and draw you ever closer to Himself in the coming year and each year to come.

-Laurel

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of the links I share in this post, I receive a small commission… at no extra cost to you.:)

The Problem with Christian Fiction

The Problem with Christian Fiction

Shocked you again, didn’t I?

But seriously, though… today I want to share with you about the problem I have with many works of Christian fiction.

They force a message/moral on the reader.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been turned off of a Christian fiction book because of preachiness. A stiff sermon in the form of fiction really frustrates me. If you really want to write an essay on Christianity, please just go do it. ‘Cause that’s what your exposition should be. Please don’t mask it with fiction.

I firmly believe that fiction should not be a platform for preaching. Tell your story and let it do its thing.

Disclaimer: please understand that I’m not knocking sermons or essays… I love them. I’m just saying that they have their own distinct place… they don’t need to masquerade in fictitious literature.🙂

Believe it or not, it’s possible to glorify God through fiction without preaching at your readers.

The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us and talk to us, but those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field, perfectly simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mould [sic] us.Oswald Chambers

I believe this applies to fiction, as well. I can’t tell you how many works of fiction have made me stop in my tracks and evaluate my relationship with God and how I live it out… without being preachy. The writer just let the story play out… and let me, the reader, learn from the natural flow of the story.

In my opinion, writing a story to teach your readers a lesson is stepping into dangerous territory.

A couple of years ago, God was teaching me something amazing. My natural reaction was to share my new-found knowledge with others. And so I thought…

Why not write my (beloved) Civil War story so the main character learns the lesson I just learned?

So I started doing it. I planned to put my main character through a series of disastrous and depressing events (which is something my writer’s heart morbidly enjoys doing), and have her come through this scarring experience with the realization that Jesus was enough for her, no matter what.

Thankfully I set that project aside for a time. When I came back to it, having learned more about the writing craft and just life in general, I realized I had messed up.

I was trying to force my story into a preconceived mold. A preachy mold.

I know people laugh when writers complain about their characters getting out of control and doing things the writer never meant for them to do… but it’s a real struggle. A well-developed character should surprise its creator and do things that it was never “supposed” to do. Annoying as this is, letting the characters live their lives authentically is one of the best things a writer can do.

Trust that your readers can learn from your characters’ experiences without preachy interference.

I’m certainly not implying that stories shouldn’t have themes and morals… they should. True stories have these! In short, I’m saying that the stories you write can (and should!) be meaningful and convicting without being awkward and preachy.

Let your story be just that – a story. Trust the incredible power of fiction… let your story play out and let your readers glean from it what they will… just like they observe real life and glean from it without exposition.

This is my opinion… what’s yours? Do you agree with me? Disagree? A little bit of both? Please share… I always love feedback and discussion.:)

A Month in Review – November 2020 Edition

A Month in Review – November 2020 Edition

It’s crazy to think it’s already time for this again!

Highlights of the month

  • voting for the very first time
  • writing (of course)
  • making an audio drama with cousins
  • a sibling sleepover
  • wearing cozy sweaters
  • sight-reading piano duets with a brother
  • building relationships with people in my writing community
  • cleaning my room
  • making mashed potatoes in a ginormous bowl
  • hanging white lights in my bedroom
  • accidentally winning this giveaway (!!!)

Books I’ve been reading this month

Last month I didn’t read very much. This month I read much more. Thankfully. And each book was in a different genre! Bonus points.

Prophet

I’ve not finished this one yet, but I’ve enjoyed it so far! I’m a huge fan of allegories, and Ela’s conversations with the Infinite help me understand and appreciate the Lord more. Oh, I love the power of fiction.:)

Great Expectations

I mentioned this one last month, but it’s worth mentioning again.:) I love reading this aloud to some of my siblings.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor

I’m reading this one with some family members, and so far it’s been very enjoyable… despite the fact that it’s a romance.:) The plot is so complex, and I love how some of the characters are based off of characters in Dickens’ Bleak House.

I’ve also been able to venture into the dystopian genre while reading/editing a friend’s incredibly amazing novel-in-progress!!!

Journal Snippets from this month

“I have been careless of my ways – letting life fly by while I grasp at bits of it for myself. God, I want to live whole-heartedly for You – nothing held back. God, let me seek You passionately and purposefully. I want to use this season to learn how to be a doormat for humanity. (reference to an Oswald Chambers quote)”

“God’s salvation and righteousness are enough to make me greatly rejoice… and He provides them even on my worst days. I have a reason to worship. Thank You, Jesus.”

“Oh, God… let me choose You and Your ways… first and always. Be the deepest desire of my heart and the love of my life. Be the reason I live and breathe.”

“Oh, God, guidance. Let me listen to Your gentle whisper rather than the wild throbs of my heart.”

And that’s a wrap! How was your month? Did you do/read/write anything you care to share?:)

Gift Ideas for Your Reading and/or Writing Friends

Gift Ideas for Your Reading and/or Writing Friends

Happy happy Monday, all!

Gift idea posts are flooding the blogosphere right now, but for once I’m not gonna go against the flow. Because I love gift idea posts. And giving gifts. There’s just something about thoughtfully choosing the perfect gifts for people you love. It’s amazing.

I’ve developed this particular list with readers and writers in mind. If you’re having trouble coming up with gift ideas for an avid reader or writer, hopefully this post can give you some inspiration.:)

Shout-out to the amazing members of my writing community who flooded me with gift ideas for this post. You’re awesome… thank you.

For the readers

Shadow of the Almighty

Gifting books can be difficult sometimes as people have vastly different tastes… but you can’t go wrong giving this biography as a gift. It’s my absolute favorite books besides the Bible… click/tap here if you want to hear me rave about it even more.:)

Book Nerd – Women’s Shirt

This one looks so cute and cozy!

I Don’t Have a Bedtime Keychain

So true some nights… sadly.

Jane Austen Tote Bag

This would work well for lugging library books home.:)

Cozy Blankets

There’s nothing like snuggling up for a good read in a cozy blanket and

Fuzzy Socks

with a steaming mug of

Tea

or

Coffee.

And

Chocolate.:)

For the writers

G2 Gel Pens

These pens are the best I’ve used so far… and I’m a pen snob.

Novel Journal

This idea is so cool: a journal where the lines on which you write are actually the words of a classic. I just ordered this Great Expectations journal for a Dickens-loving journaling friend, but they have many other classics available in this form, as well.

Vintage Typewriter Pencil Holder

This is soooo cute (okay, handsome if you wanna get it for a guy) and useful! Every writer needs a place for pens, pencils, and chocolate wrappers to stay. Besides, anything vintage typewriter is always a good idea.

Writer Keychain

Yes, we writers do have the privilege and heavy responsibility of creating universes.:)

Blank Books

This would be an amazing gift for a little writer-in-the-making. When I was younger, writing a story in an actual book was so much more exciting than writing in a notebook.

Notebooks

That being said, notebooks are pretty awesome, too.:)

Just a Girl Who Loves Writing – Shirt

This is My Writing Shirt

This one would be great for both guys and girls!

What did I leave out? What are some of your favorite gifts to give to reading and writing fanatics?

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of the links I share in this post, I receive a small commission… at no extra cost to you.:)

Photo by Monika Stawowy on Unsplash