Pillar By the Night

Frozen is this heart of stone, plastered to the sphere

Where is my solitude?  Where is my fear?

Fortune’s telling seems afar, nigh for truth and light

Contraband to silence, taken in the night

Chains that bind by depth and blood, fixed to ships at sea

Floating in the ceaseless pain, soul’s first noiseless plea

Fortress floats towards land’s swift shore, buttressed in the flight

Cloud by the light of day, pillar by the night

Glinting eyes of silent shouts demand my acquiescence

What is the safest way to claim my soft defiance?

You don’t hold my freedom song, wrought in tears and toil

Standard flies in rippling wind, planted in the soil

Cast aside your ardent lies, they have no hold on me

Burn your demanding subterfuge and persistent trickery

Fling my prose into the wind, leap for battles won

Shadows lay to wasteland’s floor, step into the sun

fire by nightExodus 13:21, “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light.”

Freebie Fridays

One marketing strategy for indie authors is to offer free books or novellas.  I like to take advantage of this, not only to find new authors to enjoy, but to help boost their sales and participate in their success.

Here are some various freebies you might want to check out in the indie author world.

Revelation by J.E. Purrazzi.  This happens to be my critique partners debut novella, and I can’t have enough good things to say about it.  If you like dystopian science fiction, with both an adult and a YA feel, this on is for you.

The Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson is free for kindle unlimited subscribers.  This fantasy tale was everything I love about the genre (and I’m super picky when it comes to fantasy!)  Great plot, engaging characters, a well built world…looking forward to the rest of the series.

Darkness Reigns by Jill Williamson.  I’ve mentioned before that I am in the middle of the this series.  Her marketing strategy is excellent, for one thing.  Structured like a mini-series, the first book is free, and the next five are only a little over $3.  They are short, so you don’t feel like you get totally lost in the world.  But they are long enough that you don’t feel like you are being cheated.  Her strongest point, I think, is her incredibly endearing and interesting characters.

Enchantress by James Maxwell is free for kindle unlimited subscribers.  This was another good fantasy read.  The characters were pretty well-rounded, with maybe a little too much cliche for me, but that’s a minor complaint.  The world was unique, and the magic original.  I’m getting ready to read book two in the series.

The Traveler’s Gate Trilogy by Will Wight is free for kindle unlimited subscribers.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a series this unique.  The magic system is complicated and unusual, something I’ve never read, which is high praise in the fantasy world.  His characters are entertaining and compelling.  This was my introduction to the indie fantasy world, and he set the bar high.

Worlds Yet Explored

I’m pretty much losing my mind.  Maybe you feel the same…between my day job (haha! Day job!  As if being a stay at home mom stops when 6pm hits!  I’m cracking myself up…), between sickness, cooking, cleaning, running my kids around to appointments, trying to find time for my husband…sometimes I wonder if I really am cut out for this whole “writing” thing.

But then the itch starts.  That “must-write-or-go-insane” feeling creeps, and then grows stronger, until the characters are shouting at me to get their story on paper.  It’s both wonderful and tiring.  Beauty with the mayhem.

Go with it, fellow writers.  Ride the storm where it takes you.  Nothing is quite as invigorating at the end of the day then knowing you got the words out.  That you have your characters their voice.  That your thoughts escaped the confines of your mind.  Who would benefit, otherwise?  Try to imagine a world without “Gone With the Wind” or “Aesop’s Fables.”  What if we didn’t have classics like “Huckleberry Finn” or “Jane Eyre”?  What if CS Lewis never dazzled our young minds with Narnia, or J.K. Rowling never gave Harry Potter his chance to fly?

Maybe your, or my, story is not the next Middle Earth or Wheel of Time.  But there are thousands of worlds still to be explored, millions of characters who wait to be given life, and you and I might be their only way of coming forth from obscurity to the written page.

So stop reading this, and get writing.

fantasy world

“Hidden Queen” Blurb

Like all indie authors, blurbs are the bane of my existence.  I have several WIP’s going, but the one closest to being ready for publishing is my women’s fiction/Christian fiction/fantasy book called “The Hidden Queen.”  The blurb is below…help a sister out and let me know what you think.

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Book one in the Rodasian Chronicles follows Gwyneth, a simple farm girl who wants nothing more than to live her life in peace. But when her country of Rodasia is threatened by the powerful Devinians to the north, her life takes an unexpected turn.  Forced to head south to the capital city of Parr, she must face bigger questions than she ever imagined.  Can she step up to the new tasks ahead?  Will her doubts keep her from accomplishing the task she has been given?

Protected by the duty-bound soldier Charles, and joined by a strange old man who forces her to confront the bigger questions of her existence, Gwen travels the road to Parr.  But in the end, who can she trust?  And can she overcome her worst adversary…herself?

Short Story Tuesday: Victory Dance

The challenge: Write a short story every Tuesday in 500 words or less.  Post on your blog, share on twitter with the #shortstorytuesday hashtag.  Tag two friends to do the same.

Victory Dance

You can see the dance in nature’s victor circle.  A stallion stamps his hoof in triumph over a rival, tossing his head and snorting his defiance.  A peacock spreads his feathers wide, dazzling the onlooker with his prowess, marching to the beat of his own drum.  I win, they say.  I triumph.  I defeat all comers, slaying their pride and elevating mine.  See my victory?  See my attainment?  See my beauty?  See my power?

stallion

I can’t say the same for my type of victory dance.  It isn’t shown in the strength of a muscled stallion or the feathered display of the eyes of the peacock.  Sometimes, a victory dance is in muted silence of suffering alone, where the dance is a ragged breath of one more day of defiance.  A chest rising and falling, pushing the limits of expectation.  A feeble hand raised, or maybe just a finger, because the exhausted limit has been reached in days of floundering pain.  Where is the solace in trivial battles won, where age and decay eventually drag you down to the depths of mortality?  Or maybe the battles aren’t trivial.  Maybe they seem so to me, in this listless existence of mine.

A light breaks the darkness, a shaft of brilliance underneath a door.  A tiny hand grabs mine.  A pink bow drapes the cheek of an angel, with brown eyes and pigtails.  Her dance is one of life, a victorious fist raised in rebellion to natural law.  Death and decay only enhance the beauty of youth, and for her, I would die a thousand times to show the world her brilliance.

“What shall we sing today, Papa?” she asks.

I cannot answer, but the beep of the ventilator sets her rhythm.  It always does.  Voice raised, fists clenched, eyes bright, my angel sings.  If Heaven could peer down to the affairs of man, surely it would look and listen for such a time as this.  Purity in word, purity in motivation, purity in heart…these mean everything to the child who sees the pallor of death up close.  They instinctively know that it wasn’t meant to be this way.  Immortality was the intention, but death sprung from the deeds of audacious independence.  One that spurned life, craved autonomy, and now leaves me a broken shell on a cold, hostile bed.

Where once my purpose was sure, now I am irresolutely clinging to a past of shredded memories.  The surety is gone, replaced with uncertain confidence, the type that says I know my life meant something…but now, was it worth the heartache and the bliss?  Was it worth the tears and the laughter?  Was it worth the turmoiled storms and the smooth waters?

The angel silences her song.

“Did you like it?” she asks.

If only I could answer.  I would say, You are my victory dance.  And take another breath, my chest rising and falling.

Modest is Hottest, or Something Like That

“Oh, great,” I can hear you say. “Another post on modesty.” And you click away from our blog and go read something more interesting.

I’m not saying there isn’t something more interesting to read on the Internet (including more interesting posts on this blog, even) and I actually I agree with you. A lot has been said, blogged or preached about this issue. I grew up with a “modesty checklist” some people I deeply respect came up with that included guidelines about how short a skirt should be or how low a blouse should plunge. I vividly remember having a discussion in ninth grade with two of my best friends; we were talking about how awful it was that girls wore bikini’s in middle school (we really were utterly scandalized.) On the other end of the spectrum, I came across a meme a few days ago with a bare-chested woman painted with the phrase “Still not asking for it.” It was obviously a take on the rape culture, but the discussion following it was one on modesty. One person was talking about the necessity for modesty in how women dress to make it easier on the men around us, while the other side was saying apparel should always be a personal decision.

And what about the men!!!? Men should be modest, too! Why is the impetus always placed on the women? Why shouldn’t a man have to wear a shirt at the beach or pool? Women struggle with lust just like men do. Sheesh.

The pendulum is always swinging. It swings so far one way sometimes it is in danger of flying across the room. Just fifteen years ago my friends and I were appalled that girls even younger than we were wearing bikinis. Now most of my friends have no problem with it.

So who is right?

In danger of sounding like Switzerland, I won’t say, “both sides are right.” I will say it like this: modesty checklists and nude women aside, a modest disposition of the heart will show in the way women AND men dress, interact and live. It really is a heart issue…and always will be.

Modest dress is a worthy discussion (after all, the Bible does talk about it!) but modesty includes far more than what can be seen on the outside. In fact, the definition of modest is not “Women who dress culturally appropriate.” Rather, the definition is “the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.” I didn’t see “Modest is hottest” anywhere in that definition either. The definition goes on to say, “regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.”

Ultimately, modesty is an issue of self-control. Titus 2:11-14 says:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
In essence, self-control is wrapped up in the gospel. We are to live our lives renouncing what the world says, and live for our Blessed Hope to return to us, which involves living in self-control and not self-gratification.
Our behavior, speech, and dress should reflect this truth: a modest, self-controlled approach to how we adorn the gospel. Jesus was humble, self-controlled and modest. Philippians vividly paints with this looked like…the Son of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing. That is our model for behavior, not what our friends or culture do or say.
My friends who are comfortable wearing bikinis at the pool or beach are not my standard. I shouldn’t strive for that type of self-expression. My family members who are more outspoken and confident in their opinions than I are not my standard. I shouldn’t strive to express myself as well as they do. My co-workers who go out and jump out of planes, climb mountains, and travel the world aren’t my standard. I shouldn’t strive to be fearless like they are. My standard should be Christ, the ultimate standard, who demonstrated in public nudity what our lack of self-control cost: his own brutal death. The only perfectly modest One who ever lived has clothed our immodest nakedness and shame with his robes of righteousness.
That is what modesty is about. So the pendulum can swing as far left or right as it wants to. Debate away, but remember that where we fall on this issue will either adorn the gospel or show a watching world that we are compromising — and that the power of Christ only goes as far as our “personal preference.” The fact is Christians shouldn’t be pursuing whatever is hottest but whatever is most holy.

Social Media and Jealousy

This post is not directed towards you.  It’s about my heart. My motivations. My jealousy. My discontent comparisons. Gratefully, I know others struggle, too. And so here I go wading into waters others have covered better than I. Yet I pray my journey touches something similar in your own.

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cell phone

The power of social media to tempt me to discouragement as a wife and mom is sometimes overwhelming; so much so that sometimes I wonder why I even use it. I log on to Facebook and it’s not just my friends statuses and pictures that I’m bombarded with…it’s articles and ads that claim to have the 5 steps to being a better homemaker and wife, a better mom to sons, or a new and better way to discipline them. As I am inundated with these images, if I’m not careful, I begin the comparison game.

Look, there’s my single friend posting a selfie of her working out in the middle of the day. Man, if I didn’t have kids I would be able to do that.

Wow. She’s really skinny, and her baby is only 6 months old. If only my body responded to post-birth like that!

Oh, look. So-and-so just had Starbucks for the third time this week. 

Gosh, I wish Eric sent me flowers every once in a while “just because”. He doesn’t do that anymore.

Man, I wish I made as much money as that person apparently does doing their MLM. Another cruise. Yay.

And then self-righteous judgment sets in.

Stop posting workout selfies! OMG, do you post a selfie EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU WORKOUT?

Why do you keep showing off your baby body? Put some clothes on, for crying out loud.

I mean, how much money can someone spend at Starbucks!?? Go buy a book instead.

Wow, your husband is just SO WONDERFUL. Way to make everyone else feel jealous.

Seriously, you want me to believe that joining your MLM will make me money all the time? I guess Eric should start posting about the raises he gets at work and take a picture of his paycheck, telling everyone to come work with him…

Admitting something like this is humbling and risky. I know, however, that others share these thoughts and feelings, too. Not being alone in my sinful attitudes doesn’t make them any less wrong, but I admit it, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I’m not saying #fitmom or #tbt or #myhusbandisthebest or #crunchymom or any other hashtag we use should be banned. I know ladies who have worked really hard to get the job, or body, or organic foo,d and if I had your body or money perhaps I would post about it on Facebook, too. I’m also not saying we should get off of Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.

And I’m not really trying to join the bandwagon that goes in the opposite direction and glories in the fact that my life is messy and hard and “authentic” (as if being in great shape, working hard and keeping your house and children clean somehow makes you fake).  The fact is, the image of a beautiful mess is usually just as crafted as the image of having it all together. The reality is, it’s not the fault of my friends for posting things that fire up my tempations. In fact, the only solution to my problem is to evaluate what filter I use when evaluating social media. Do I filter what I see through a secular worldview that calls me to compare myself to others and judge them based on my own idea of what is good and right? Or do I evaluate what I see through a biblical worldview that interprets everything through the lens of Scripture?

It’s one thing to ask these grand questions, but another thing completely to answer, and  then respond to the truth found in the answers.

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What does it say about my heart when I think ‘Man, if I didn’t have these kids I would have so much free time!’ “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3). Sometimes all it takes is looking at my adorable boys and the thought of their not being born runs hurtling from my mind. And sometimes, when they are screaming and fighting and disobeying, I have to remind myself that they truly are a blessing. A heritage and reward is strong language. It reminds me that, in reality, the privilege to be their mother is far greater than the selfishness I seek.

What about the heart issues related to body image? “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). I don’t know the heart motivations of a person that posts a picture of them not fully clothed. In fact, maybe it’s in the right place. What I do know is that my heart is not in the right place as I compare or judge. The Lord is not as concerned with appearance as He is with the heart. (He IS concerned with appearance, but only insofar as it reflects the heart. More on that in another post.)

What does it say about my inordinate desire to have more money for things like Starbucks or books, or my judgment that someone spends too much money on those things? Now, the Bible has a lot to say about money, but the verse that particularly seems to fit this one is, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). The more I have, the more I want. I wouldn’t be satisfied with just one Starbucks a month. I would continue to want more and more…and never be satisfied. It would turn into something else; wanting Starbucks everyday, a pedicure every month, a haircut every six weeks like the stylists say, and oh, I have to have a cute new outfit every month too…and then, I’m in a cycle that I can’t get out of.

What does it say about my heart when I wish my husband was more thoughtful or romantic, more attentive, or more…fill in the blank? “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast.” Everyone is a better husband online.  My desire for my husband to be like someone else’s is dangerous ground. Envy leads to all sorts of evil desires, and the fact of the matter is, where my husband is lacking in one area, he far outshines in others. And so does your husband.

As you can see, the practice of applying Scripture to all of life really is the answer to my struggles. As you and I change the lens of our worldview filter and no longer see what we wish we could be, we will see what we are and be reminded of how wonderful it is to just be a child of the living God. A child of the One of who takes all our shame and clothes us in perfection. A child of the One of doesn’t view us based on what the scale in our bathroom says, but on the scale that has been tipped in our favor and has “Grace, mercy and justice” on the weighted end, and “sin, shame and sickness” on the other.

The answer isn’t necessarily to get off Facebook and Instagram or to skip any post with #fitfamily or #starbucks in the status line. Perhaps the answer is to change the way we view social media to begin with. And (shocker) ask what Jesus thinks about it. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t care how much money we make, except to care about how we use it. I’m fairly confident He doesn’t care that I don’t work out everyday, except to care for the temple the Spirit lives in. Friends, before we log back in to social media, let’s open our Bibles and see what God has to say both about about what we post and how we respond to what others post.

Originally posted here.  Edited for this blog.