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Autumn Reads!

Autumn

Autumn is officially here! It’s time to curl up with a good book, a cup of steaming tea, a cozy blanket, and a roaring fireplace (if it’s not already too warm where you live). Here are a couple of books to read this season!

The Thorn Healer

1If you are a historical romance reader, you’ll want to check out this final book in the Penned in Time series. While this is part of a series, it can stand alone.

Jessica Ross’ scars run much deeper than the wounds of a world at war. Determined to escape the ghosts of her past and the German influence on her nightmares, she returns home to the sleepy Appalachian town of Hot Springs, NC, only to find the renowned Mountain Park Hotel has been converted into a ‘prison’ for displaced Germans and, much to Jessica’s dismay, her grandparents have befriended one of them.

Amazon

A Twist of Faith

Fall.pngIf the contemporary genre is more your speed, maybe Reese and Adelina’s story is for you!

Dr. Adelina Roseland has worked ten years in research as an accent reduction specialist to attain her dream job. But a secret wager to transform Appalachian cattle farmer Reese Mitchell into corporate material challenges Adelina in ways she never expected, threatening her new position.

Amazon

 

Happy reading my fellow bibliophiles!

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Faith is…Putting Your Boots On

My family and I are big fans of The Chronicles of Narnia. The book series is a powerful set of stories with one bigger theme from the first book to the last, but there’s something extra-magical about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We are introduced to the Pevensies and Tumnus, the story of Narnia, The White Witch, and, of course, Aslan.

tom-skarbek-wazynski-226342-unsplash (1).jpgWhen the movie adaptation of this book came out, my family was excited and a wee bit skeptical. Would the movie-makers be able to capture the magic in C.S. Lewis’s classic? So many times, movies just don’t match the novels as clear representations.

Well, I feel this first installment of the beloved series was well-done, even capturing a few things the books didn’t show, such as Peter’s protective nature toward his sisters, particularly Lucy. That was so SWEET!!

Tilda Swinson was BOSS as the White Witch and I think all four of the Pevensie kids were fabulous. AND how can you go wrong with using Lian Neeson’s voice for Aslan? Really? 😊

While watching it again last night with my kids, there is a teeny tiny moment in the movie that always hits me with such power. Don’t get me wrong, there are sooooo many amazing moments that I love in that movie, but this specific one stood out to me last night.

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After Lucy has already gone to Narnia once, and no one believes her, she wakes up in the middle of the night. She swings her legs around the side of the bed and there are two pairs of shoes there, her slippers and some wellies/boots.

She doesn’t even hesitate in her choice. She chooses the boots.

What does that say about Lucy? She’s certain that Narnia is so real and it’s going to be there for her again, that she doesn’t even think about slippers. She needs her boots for the snow of Narnia. Even when they checked the wardrobe earlier and only saw the back of a wooden container filled with coats, Lucy believes in something she hasn’t seen – that Narnia will be there THIS time.

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Faith.

Certain of what we cannot see.

There are lots of things we ‘see’ in this world which could really shatter our hope, but faith sees through the spiritual lens of God’s Word.

We haven’t seen God’s plans for our future.

We haven’t glimpsed Heaven.

Faith isn’t wishful thinking – it’s a spiritual change of perspective based on a real act of God..pngWe haven’t fully experienced the complete redemption of our souls.

But…we put on our boots because we believe God’s promises.

Faith isn’t wishful thinking – it’s a spiritual change of perspective based on a real act of God.

We once were blind but now we SEE what hope really looks like.

Life is hard.

Don’t forget to put your boots on 😊

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Your Days Are Numbered

Your days are numbered.

Did you know that?

As in:

1

45

16,782

Numbered.

And not ONE of them is worthless or unimportant.

Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Whoa. So, how do we number our days? Well, the first few verses in that chapter give us some clues. It’s basically this:

Realizing who WE are and what We’ve done in the light of realizing who GOD is and what HE’S done.

Moses starts the Psalm by talking about the greatness and eternality of God.

v. 2 – “Before the mountains were born
   or you brought forth the whole world,
   from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

So, basically – we must try to see our lives from God’s perspective, since He’s been around a bit longer than we have, and knows a whole lot more than we ever could.

To make sure we get the point, Moses goes on to describe our humanness and mortality.

v. 5 – Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
   they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
   but by evening it is dry and withered.

Or

v. 9-10 – All our days pass away under your wrath;
   we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
   or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
   for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Pretty gloomy sounding, isn’t it?

Almost in one breath – life is here, then it’s gone.

Does it matter to us?

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with being my own god.

By living my life as if it is going to go on forever, and forgetting why I was created.

I forget that by original design, this world is not my home and the things of it are as frail as a snowflake.

I live my life as if I am the author of my future, the keeper of my past, and the conqueror of my present, but I deceive myself.

The eternal Time Keeper sees the big picture of my life – the good, the bad, and the ugly- and weaves them all together to make me into a child fit for Heaven.

The troubles, the trials, the heartache, and pain, serve a grander purpose. Moses’ words help us put grief and trials in their proper place:

See verses 14-17, particularly verse 15:

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
   establish the work of our hands for us—
   yes, establish the work of our hands.

It’s really all about seeing things from the right perspective. Who we are and who He is.

If his ‘unfailing love’ truly satisfies us, then whatever the ‘affliction’ or ‘trouble’, we can ‘sing for joy’ and ‘be glad all our days’, because we recognize the extravagance of the Father’s love.

When we are satisfied with His ‘unfailing love’ – then everything else falls into its proper place. Our deeds and our ‘works’ no longer control us but are controlled by the Holy Spirit in us.

The number of our days no longer matter – it’s how we fill each one of those days that begins to shape our points of view.

I don’t know about you, but I really need to get my mind off of me – and onto Jesus!

Blessings,

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Back To School Reads

We are all settling into our new school year routines. What’s in your backpack for school reading this year? Here are a few from my family…

From my 6th Grader’s reading list:

Wonder

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Goodreads

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse. 

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. (Goodreads)

Out of My Mind

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Goodreads

Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom – the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it – somehow.

In this breakthrough story, reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability. (Goodreads)

 

Mary Poppins

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Goodreads

By P.L. Travers, the author featured in the major motion picture, Saving Mr. Banks. From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house is forever changed.

It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial? A day with Mary Poppins is a day of magic and make-believe come to life! (Goodreads)

 

From my 7th Grader’s reading list:

White Fang

White Fang.jpg
Goodreads

White Fang is part dog and part wolf, and the lone survivor of his family. In his lonely world, he soon learns to follow the harsh law of the North–kill or be killed. But nothing in White Fang’s life can prepare him for the cruel owner who turns him into a vicious killer. Will White Fang ever know the kindness of a gentle master? (Goodreads)

 

 

 

 

 

The Hobbit

The Hobbit.jpg
Goodreads

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent. (Goodreads)

 

From MY own personal reading list:

The Royal We

the Royal We.jpg
Goodreads

“I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they’ll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next.”

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing. (Goodreads)

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home

The Last Castle.jpg
Goodreads

The fascinating true story behind the magnificent Gilded Age mansion Biltmore—the largest, grandest residence ever built in the United States.

The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton.

Orphaned at a young age, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser claimed lineage from one of New York’s best-known families. She grew up in Newport and Paris, and her engagement and marriage to George Vanderbilt was one of the most watched events of Gilded Age society. But none of this prepared her to be mistress of Biltmore House.

Before their marriage, the wealthy and bookish Vanderbilt had dedicated his life to creating a spectacular European-style estate on 125,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness. He summoned the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to tame the grounds, collaborated with celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to build a 175,000-square-foot chateau, filled it with priceless art and antiques, and erected a charming village beyond the gates. Newlywed Edith was now mistress of an estate nearly three times the size of Washington, DC and benefactress of the village and surrounding rural area. When fortunes shifted and changing times threatened her family, her home, and her community, it was up to Edith to save Biltmore—and secure the future of the region and her husband’s legacy.

The Last Castle is the uniquely American story of how the largest house in America flourished, faltered, and ultimately endured to this day. (Goodreads)

What’s on your reading list?

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God and “Ships” in Lego Batman

people-3281583_1920If you haven’t seen The Lego Batman Movie, it’s certainly a movie worth your time. It’s so funny and gives all sorts of nostalgic/clever hints back to Batman movies from days-gone-by.

All of your Batman favorites come out to play – Joker, Harley Quinn, Alfred, Robin, Barbara Gordon and even Tom Cruise…. oh wait, he’s not a usual feature in Batman…but yep, he shows up.

Along with the typical silliness and humor that Lego movies have brought in the past, this one also adds an important storyline. The main story problem – well, Batman tells Joker within the first few minutes.

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GIF found on I Have a Bad Feeling About This

Batman works alone. He doesn’t ‘need’ anyone His focus and identity is in the fact that he can make it on his own, doesn’t have to share the glory of his successes, but more than any of those things, he doesn’t have to become vulnerable.

Throughout the movie, we get to watch circumstances force Batman into being…gasp…introspective. He begins to see (and fight against) the value of building relationships with a variety of people, including his comical nemesis, the Joker.

james-baldwin-276255-unsplash.jpgLiving in community with others makes his life complete.

Relationships are important in making Batman a better…Batman.

The Bible is a beautiful story of relationship.

First its God’s relationship within the trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit, but from the Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells of story of God’s relationship with his people. Scene upon scene shows his pursuing, faithful design to mend a broken relationship between him and his people.

He totally does ‘ships’ – so much so, that he pursues people who are as indifferent to him as Batman is to little Robin in the movie.

Batman 4
GIF found at tenor

We’re probably even worse!

Yet, because of God’s love, the relationship that once was irrevocably severed has been restored through the faithfulness and obedience of Jesus Christ.

The only way for true relationship is in Christ.

He completes us.

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen   Hebrews 13:20-21

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Writing with Readers in Mind

Original Post Published 7/7/13

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Amazon

I’m re-reading through Sol Stein’s book, How to Grow a Novel, and the first chapter begins with the perfect topic:

Readers

Not characters, plot, setting, internal angst, romantic tension…none of those, but at the very source of why books are still popular in the 21st century. Readers.

We write to give the readers an ‘experience’; to take them out of their rocking chairs, couches, beds…or wherever, and guide them – no push them into the skin of someone else. The reason they purchase the book they picked up in the bookstore is because they had an immediate emotional reaction to the first page, or back cover, or somewhere in between.

 

When we write, we must think about who is reading and be thoughtful to their reading ‘needs’.

My BEST ‘editor’ is my best friend. She isn’t a writer and doesn’t know the roots and twists of characterization and plot – BUT she knows a good story. When I send her a chapter to read, I pay close attention to her comments and question. Why? Because someone else, like her, will be reading my book and I need to be thoughtful to the process of reading. Stein calls it ‘etiquette’, and I think that term sums it up pretty well.

Now – I want to make a mental shift here:

aaron-burden-238711-unsplashWho are the readers of the Bible?

Well, if we’re Christians, hopefully, you and me. God, the Ultimate Author, designed a book that is chock full of all those fringes – characterization, unexpected events, angst, CONFLICT, – but God was thoughtful to his readers.

He speaks in a language we can understand & He told STORIES.

He paints pictures with words – Parables

He gives us adventure, romance, suspense, heartbreak, and terror.

He doesn’t always take us where we want to go – in fact, the Bible is filled with unexpected choices/events and contrasts.

He shows us the lives of real people with real struggles (some larger than life, some simpler), and we see them fall, succeed, respond with superhuman strength and will – because they serve a superhuman God.

Let us take our examples from the Author of our Faith and keep our readers in mind when we write.

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Happy Book Lovers Day!

In celebration of Book Lover’s Day…I am sharing a couple of stories that feature book lovers. I hope your day is fabulous fellow book lovers. Treat yourself to a good book. Here are some suggestions:

Jane by the Book

Of course, I have to recommend my own story. Hehe! You can find Titus and Jane’s story as part of the Once Upon a Laugh Collection. Available on Amazon for just $0.99!!!

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Four years ago, Jane Warwick escaped the shame and heartbreak of being jilted at the altar by becoming a housekeeper at the secluded Inn at Simeon Ridge. Predictable and quiet, the inn helps Jane find a place to heal and celebrates her strengths, where she is promoted to head housekeeper. But an unexpected visit to Bath, England, upsets Jane’s plans and sends her out of her comfort zone, directly into the harrowing path of historical detective author, Titus Stewart.

The only plans Titus sticks to are family holidays and the ones that send him careening into his story worlds, but when an uptight and nervous innkeeper stumbles into his life – and his latest novel – nonfiction begins to take on a much more interesting gleam. 

As the unlikely pair delve into the mystery behind a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old letter, will they both uncover a romance that stands the test of time?

Now Available

Click on the images below to learn more!

                              Bookishly Ever After  True to You  The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

A Name Unknown  Lady Jayne Disappears  Head in the Clouds

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A Phineas and Ferb Approach to the Sovereignty of God

(I’m talking about a show on TV that’s ALL about summer break…since I just started back to my school job yesterday)

Phineas and Ferb!! All the WAY!

Story creating of any kind usually requires a cast of characters to really bring the narrative to life. Sure, there are VERY FEW monologues out there that might appeal to a subset of individuals, but for more mass appeal…and a more real-life feel, life is a journey with a group of people. Besides, a cast of characters gives the story varying dynamics and perspectives, and if done well, the characters learn, grow, shape, and build off of each other.

people-2569234_1920.jpgOne of my all-time favorite cast of characters (besides the Fellowship from Lord of the Rings) is from the wonderful animated series, Phineas and Ferb. (On a side note, I just watched Mission Impossible: Fallout and Ethan Hunt may be the lead character, but he still needs his team).

Back to Phineas and Ferb… If you’ve not watched it, I suggest you check out a couple of episodes because they’re not just for kids – they’re for the whole family.

Some of the things I love most about this animated series is the variety of characters, the uniqueness of each one, and how they all fit together so well in a grand example of storytelling.

Within one episode there are usually 4 solid storylines:

www.pepperdbasham.com.png1 – Involving the basic ‘classic’ team of friends (Phineas, Ferb, Isabella, Buford, and Baljeet)

2 – Involving Phineas and Ferb’s sister, Candace, who spends the majority of the episode trying to ‘bust her brothers’ in one of their extravagant inventions…also while trying to secure her relationship with her teen-love, Jeremy.

3 – Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus, Perry, is also a secret agent who is trying to keep the ‘evil scientist’ (who is often mistaken for a pharmacist or a yard gnome) from inventing some device that will destroy the Tri-State Area.

scientist-762627_1920.jpg4 – One more side story involving either Dr. Doofensmirtz’s personal life with his ex-wife, daughter, or childhood past, OR Candace’s friends – Jeremy (her love interest), Stacy (her best friend), and Suzie (her nemesis who also happens to be Jeremy’s little sister)

The coolest part is that in some way or other, all of these side stories end up working together in unique ways to make the overarching storyline cohesive. It’s incredible. AND each character is unique, with their own personality to add to the plot.

Seriously, if you’ve never watched it, you should really give it a try. 😊 The parents and Dr. D CRACK ME UP!!!

Do you realize that our lives are like this?

There is an overarching story to our lives, but we’re not on a lone journey. God has interwoven different sets of people into our lives to contribute to the great ‘story’ He’s written for us, and…the even crazier part? ALL of those stories are interwoven together in God’s overarching storyline to make a cohesive view of His redemption from beginning to end.

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I’m not sure what you think about that – but to me, there’s a great deal of comfort in knowing the ‘characters’ and their stories in MY life, as well as the situations or ‘scenes’ we go through,  are all part of a Master plan in the grand story of God’s love for His kids.

There is not ONE character out of place. And each are contributing individual parts to the whole story in a unique way.

There isn’t one mistaken scene. Somehow, each one is fitted into the story of our lives to mold, shape, and build us into what Christ is making us to be AND for His overarching purposes.

Somewhere in the big movie-making mind of a loving Father, each exclusive subplot braids into God’s greater purpose for each character.

It’s amazing.

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Anticipating the View

jeremy-ricketts-9573-unsplash.jpgMy family and I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the beach last week.

Now, we are not necessarily “beach people”, but we enjoy the beauty of the ocean and the occasional sandcastle, and particularly liked exploring Charleston with its architecture, history, and great food.

I LOVE vacation, but there are things about ‘vacation’ that have their own challenges. Change in routine. Beds that aren’t ‘quite right’. Space issues. Food differences. Sunburns…anyone else understand these at all?

We seem to overcome these minor struggles to enjoy the awesomeness of something new, relatively relaxing, and fun.

Then…we leave and that’s when the coolest thing happens for me.

averie-woodard-111831-unsplash.jpgAs we drive back toward home, and those blue mountains start to appear on the horizon, the most amazing feeling swells in my heart. A comforting feeling. A strange kind of anticipation.

Those mountains have been a part of me my whole life. A ‘sign’ of home. A sort of fence around my world and I love seeing them welcoming me. I guess, those Blue Ridge Mountains provide a sense of belonging.

Don’t get me wrong, Charleston is a beautiful place, and for someone else, those lovely houses lining the cobblestone streets provide the same sense of belonging to them that the mountains do for me.

It’s a strange sort of feeling that really doesn’t have a clear-cut definition, I guess.

Well, today, as those mountains appeared in my view again and the same sweet welcome flooded through me, I had the sudden thought…“What would it feel like to glimpse my TRUE home? The home for my soul?”

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”.pngIf my heart glows with excitement over just the view of those mountains, how much more amazing will it be to glimpse into the ultimate place of belonging. Heaven. God’s presence.

As Christians, our hearts are in a constant state of ‘looking to the horizon’. C.S. Lewis put it like this, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

If our hearts belong to Christ and we believe the beauty of what He’s told us about Heaven, then I can only imagine what anticipation we’ll experience when we glimpse up to the horizon and see our forever-home.

It can certainly be a great reminder when this world wounds or wearies us to remember there is something…and Someone greater than this world – and we belong with Him.

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