Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Special Christmas Gift

On my way to work last week, I heard a warm story about a special Christmas gift.
To make a long story short, a wife who never knew what to get her husband for Christmas donated some items to a group of inner-city children who had very little. She wrote it in the form of a letter and put it on their Christmas tree. The gift lit up her husband just as much as the lights illuminated the tree.
"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 (Wikipedia)
This story made me examine my own gift giving and receiving. Most of us are able to buy whatever we want --within reason--throughout the year. That's why we scramble around like crazy people trying to get the perfect gift for friends and family.

Wouldn't giving to those really in need be much more meaningful to us--and to Jesus? Isn't He the ultimate gift to us all? What more do we need than a savior?

Next year, I may just adopt this new gift-giving approach. And ask for the same gift for myself.

Merry Christmas!

"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh." - Matthew 2:11

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Walk with Jane Austen Book Review

Rating: 4 out of 5
Since I am a Jane Austen fan, a friend loaned me her copy of A Walk with Jane Austen, which she carried while touring the U.K. After reading the back of the book synopsis, I was intrigued but didn't really know what to expect between the pages. I rarely read nonfiction but since Jane Austen was the main topic, I was drawn to it.
A Walk with Jane Austen not only follows the places Jane lived and visited, but also explores the characters and locations where her stories take place. During this journey Lori Smith tells her own personal tale of physical and emotional challenges that she experiences and her faith in God.

I found her honesty at revealing her own personal struggles to be comforting to those of us with similar conflicts. Many times throughout this book I could feel her pain and identified with the inner feelings she revealed. She articulately formed some of my own thoughts--thoughts I have never been able to put into words. One in particular stood out. I underlined the part that I feel applies to me.
When Jane wrote 'Emma,' she told her family that she was creating "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." I think she was wrong. Fanny Price in 'Mansfield Park' is the one I have a hard time loving, with all her timidity and fear. She always seems to feel that she really shouldn't be in the room, that she is unworthy of notice, that she is not worth talking to. Perhaps I don't like Fanny because in some ways I share her weaknesses. I have more humor and strength, yet I manage so often to be queen of the socially awkward moment. 
Lori Smith has many other thought provoking moments to share in this book. This travelogue of sorts is not about finding a husband--as another reviewer stated--it is about relationships, faith, and emotional and physical healing. Her descriptions about people and places are enchanting and enlightening. There is plenty of humor--from Jane's life--as well as in Lori's travel throughout England. She gives insight into Jane's life that had never occurred to me.
I found A Walk with Jane Austen to be a delightful and inspiring read. I highly recommend it. To learn more about his book, click here. To learn more about the author, visit her website here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't Let Fear Stop Your Dreams

A fellow writer recently told me that she didn't worry about whether anyone disliked her writing or not. She merely feels compelled to write--so she does it. While I have felt compelled to write since I was a child, my feelings about others liking or disliking my work stopped me in my tracks. My feelings that I didn't have anything worthwhile to say/write and that no one really wanted to hear/read it, kept me from pursuing this craft publicly.

My writing partner Morgan Tarpley
Then God brought a very good friend into my life. We met by what I assumed at the time was happenstance. It wasn't--it was God at work. That was five years ago. Since then, she has been an encouragement to me and we have pursued writing careers over and above what we do for a living. She is a newspaper journalist and I am a thirty-plus year travel consultant currently working in the Genealogy Department of my local library.

The most recent positive reinforcement to push me further into my new writing career was the acceptance of a travel article with photo, in International Living Magazine's Members Only Communique. In addition to my wonderful friend's encouragement, advice, and technical support, it was a tremendous boost to have a professional publication actually pay me for my work.

I said all that to say this--don't let anyone deter you from following your dream. While my family has always been supportive of me, they never pushed me out of my comfort zone. Some of us need that extra shove. In 2007 my son was determined to go far, far away to college. While I was not too keen on the idea, I never tried to deter him from his dream. I gently reminded him of the consequences of making such a move--about 1,500 miles from home! 

My son Daniel and I after his graduation from Boston University
Even when he called me the first week of college, homesickness strongly evident in his voice, I encouraged him to follow his dream. I told him to stick it out for one semester and then if he really wanted to come home, I would be more than happy to make it happen. Within a week he was making new friends and loving his new school life. I am so proud of him. He has since graduated and is settled into a wonderful job for over a year--in that same city--Boston. Far away from his Louisiana upbringing.

If your dream is a writing career, go for it! Don't think it will happen overnight. I walked into a writers conference in 2011 with my dear writing friend. We spent one year learning the industry--and it has been an experience. I didn't know I knew so little about something--other than brain surgery! I am still in the learning the process, but I have come a long way.
Currently, I am seeking representation for my completed manuscript, but I am not giving up. Perseverance is the first and foremost component of success. God is still revealing to me whether my writing is a calling by Him or a gift (or sacrifice) to Him. Either way, I feel it's something I should do.
Do you know someone that could use some encouragement to persevere? How have you encouraged others or been encouraged on your writing journey?

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement...” – Philemon 1:7

“If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that
voice will be silenced.” - Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Cottage by the Sea Book Review

A Cottage by the Sea
By Ciji Ware

1 out of 5
Historical Romance

Blythe Stowe has been jilted by her famous movie director husband. After years of marriage—and their successful business relationship—Blythe’s marriage is over because of her husband’s infidelity with her younger sister. Following a bitter divorce settlement, she goes for a sabbatical to a picturesque cottage in Cornwall where her ancestors were thought to have lived before immigrating to America.

Blythe’s summer cottage by the sea is located on the property of Lucas Teague’s centuries old estate. During a visit to Lucas’s manor, a framed genealogy chart generates a strange sensation as Blythe touches it while thinking of the first Blythe in the eighteenth century. Instantly she finds herself in the past as the now long deceased Blythe. The story weaves back and forth, telling the tales of these two kinswomen and the struggles they experience.

When I read the book synopsis I was intrigued. I am all about British-based historical fiction, especially if there is a little romance thrown in and a cottage. Even the cover reached out to me. Thinking I may have found another Susanna Kearsley/Kate Morton-type book, I jumped on it without reading any reviews—big mistake. The cover art was the most attractive thing about this book.

I grew weary of the Wyoming rodeo slang vocabulary and the main character’s references to her grandmother’s wisdom-sayings. This could have been an enjoyable read but I had to skip over all the detailed sexual encounters of both ‘Blythes.’ And—of course—all the main characters were Hollywood perfect in appearance.

Ciji Ware is a talented author with her historical storytelling, but I will not read any of her other works mainly because of the many physically intimate scenes. I could even put up with all the overkill cowgirl references. Before picking up any of Ms. Ware’s books beware and read all the reviews first.