Three Forms, One Story

It isn’t often that I can embrace other forms a book I love, though on occasion, it happens. Such as Emma by Jane Austen and the movie Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow. Or the book Les Miserables and the musical Les Miserables. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a story in its shorter form when time doesn’t allow for re-reading the entire book. And that is especially true when it is a book that inspires.

Like Little Women. I love that book, but don’t often have the time to sit down and re-read the whole thing. That’s why I love the movie, the Wynona Rider version. But in times such as now, as I’m editing like crazy, two hours is a precious commodity. That’s why it was so wonderful the other night, as I traveled to a business dinner with my husband, to put in the cast recording of Little Women: The Musical.

We saw the show a few years ago when it came to Dallas Summer Musicals. I went with trepidation, afraid I would hate it. But I didn’t hate it. In fact, I really enjoyed it! Then last year, my daughter’s school performed it. We bought the CD the minute it was announced, and I remembered again how much I loved the music. The songs not only capture the characters, but they are songs you will sing in your head, the music as inspiring as the story.

It’s nice to have different, sometimes more convenient ways to experience a story as timeless as Little Women. But then again, each of the other makes me long to experience the book once more.


Connection Interrupted

We made some changes to our Internet service last week. No provider change, so no big deal.

“It’ll go off one afternoon and come on again the next morning,” he told me. “Is there a day that would work best for you?”

I picked a Friday, because I knew I’d be gone all evening. It would be painless. Or so I thought.

Thursday morning I woke up to no Internet. No a good day. I had posts up at two group blogs and I needed to respond to comments. And I moderate an email loop on Thursdays. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy.

Long story short, it came on again about Friday noon. A day and a half. I thought I’d lose my mind—even with email on my phone! And as I stewed, I remembered the birthday my husband decided to “give” me AOL service, probably 12 or 13 years ago. This Internet thing was all brand new. We put the kids to bed then dialed up via the free trial CD. After an hour or so of trying to figure out what in the world we were supposed to do “on line,” we gave up. I told him, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

It took another two or three years—until my sister moved overseas—to get us connected, first via dial-up, then cable, then DSL. Now we have it our phones, can find it in various places with our laptops. In a few short years it has gone from enigma to necessity.

I’m just glad to be connected again!


A Sweet and Bitter Providence

If you’ve been hanging around here very long at all, you know that I seldom do non-fiction. Long ago I realized that my mode of learning is through story. I can name several novels that have changed my life because I “saw” the spiritual truth illustrated by the story. It’s also the reason I love history (the “story” of God and man.) But last week, when mulling over how to spend a Barnes and Noble gift card, my friend Cheryl posted on her blog the book trailer for John Piper’s new book—and I was hooked.

My husband has read John Piper for years. I confess I have not. But this book, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, caught my attention because it expounds on the Biblical book of Ruth. I love the Word of God, especially when it is combined with story. And his premise, that the story of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi shows how God’s providence in our lives, personally and globally, is both sweet and bitter, intrigued me. So I bought it.

It’s a small book. After all, Ruth only contains four chapters. But the truth packed into this “little” story is amazingly big. Some things I’d never considered before. Some things I’d felt but never been able to put into words. A Sweet and Bitter Providence is a book I wish I’d read when starting out in life, instead of coming to learn things the hard way. It’s a book I intend for my children to read, to at least plant in their minds the truth of how God works in our lives, for our good and His glory.

Pick this one up. I think you’ll be glad you did.


The Prayers of My Heart

I have a tough two weeks coming up. I need to finish editing a book before it heads to the final evaluation. That presents two problems: time and confidence. And each of those affects the other.

But last night I walked into the church service, the first one in several weeks due to travel and school events, and the Lord met me in the music. I was able to sing the prayers of my heart. Things like:

            Take my life and let it be, all for You and for Your glory,
            Take my life and let it be Yours


            I need you, Jesus
            I need clean hands, I can’t, You can,
            I need you, Jesus

Or even:

            In Your presence we find strength to face the day,
            In Your presence all our fears are washed away

I know I will walk a fine line over the next few days, balancing writing tasks, physical well-being, and others’ needs. But my prayer is that the Lord would manage those through me. That when each day is done, He would be glorified and I would be changed.  


The Raven Saint

Don’t you sometimes just get in the mood for a swashbuckling, adventurous, romantic tale? I do. And when that happens, I reach for M. L. Tyndall. I have especially enjoyed the Charles Towne Belles series, which culminates with the recent release of The Raven Saint. This series began with sister Faith, the lady pirate in The Red Siren. Then sister Hope stowed away on a ship chasing after a man in The Blue Enchantress. And while I have loved those stories, I have to admit I’ve been waiting to see what happened to sister Grace.

Grace was the “good” sister, the one concerned with the things of the Lord and with her care for the poor and downtrodden. But when she is kidnapped by the French rogue Captain Rafe Dubois and learns she is to be sold to a Spanish don as revenge on her father (a British admiral), her faith endures its greatest test.

In a romantic adventure worthy of her sisters’, Grace discovers grace—what it means to give it and to receive it. And along the way she finds she has the heart of a woman, as well. I loved this story for exploring what we seldom like to talk about, our own pharisaical attitudes and actions. But as God loves the “sinner,” He also loves the “saved,” and will not let us remain in our sin, whether overt or disguised.

The Raven Saint provides a very satisfying ending to this trilogy of adventure on the high seas of the eighteenth century.


My Civic Duty

My husband has been a lawyer for twenty years now. I’ve never really known what he does. In the courtroom, I mean. He is a litigator and spends a good bit of time on that stage. But today I received an inkling. I got called for jury duty and, for the first time ever, didn’t qualify for an exemption.

Granted, this was a criminal case and my husband does civil cases, but I still saw the process from the other side. And what did I find? I found it boring! We sat there while both the assistant DA and the defense lawyer droned on and on, occasionally asking a question to which we must respond. They nitpicked words and other things, sometimes twisting the meaning of someone’s answer, as lawyers often do. (I know. I live with one.)

The most interesting part was watching the others on the jury panel. I noticed that some people liked to talk and were more than happy to jump in with a whole story in response to a simple question. I also noticed those determined to be argumentative. Not sure if those were trying to get on the jury or get dismissed from it! But mostly I watched a group of normal citizens (and one police woman) trying to do their civic duty to the best of their ability.

No, I didn’t get picked. I think it never quite got to me, but if it had, I feel sure I would have been stricken by the defense for my answer to the question (specifically directed at me): So you are telling me that if a police officer knocked at your door and said they’d come to arrest your child, you wouldn’t assume your child is innocent? I took an oath to answer truthfully, so I said no. I’ve never assumed innocence. We are all sinners and given the right circumstances and state of mind, can do things we never imagined we’d do. Besides, while my child might not be guilty of the charge, I’m sure I would find them almost certainly guilty of something—even just of poor judgment.

Doing my civic duty was an interesting though not altogether pleasant experience. In the end, I find myself hoping I don’t have to repeat it soon. Then again, maybe it would be different on the civil side of the courthouse.


Out of My Comfort Zone

Usually when we talk about “comfort zones,” we mean doing something we wouldn’t normally do. We aren’t really talking about physical comfort—the kind of bed we like to sleep in, our favorite pillow, our personal space. But lately it seems that the Lord has been prodding me from my physical comfort, and it hasn’t been, well, comfortable.

Besides the discomfort of the body, though, I’ve discovered that I don’t like being uncomfortable. I’ve gotten used to things the way I like them, and I don’t enjoy when they get disturbed. And yet, when things have required enduring less than ideal conditions lately, every situation has been tied to relationships.

I know the Lord desires me to sacrifice my personal, physical comfort in order to love others, but that really came home to me during a church service during this past Advent season. As we sang a hymn about baby Jesus in the manger, the fact of his physical discomfort struck me. We know He gave up the glory of heaven to walk with us in the dust of earth. But He gave up the comfort of heaven, too. Gave it up to be wrapped in a coarse blanket, laid on prickly hay in a hard manger. Not my idea of comfortable! But He considered His comfort of far less importance than our eternal souls.

People are important to the Lord. And they should hold the same importance for me if I am growing to reflect His nature. I know that. So I sacrificed my comfort in several very different situations over the past few weeks. And while I congratulated myself for enduring, I did not endure with grace or joy, as Jesus did. Yes, I didn’t throw a fit and demand my definitions of comfort be met, but I sacrificed with many sighs and much complaining. I have a feeling I’ll get to do this lesson over again until I get it right.


When My Mind Works Best

Picture the scene:

The blue sky deepens to black. The house darkens, room by room, and grows still. Quiet settles. It is time to sleep.

Or is it?

Precisely at that moment when everyone else in my house drifts into dreamland, my mind kicks into high gear. I’ve thought out amazing plot lines in those hours. Written countless blog posts that wax eloquent on a myriad of topics. Met characters. Created the perfect opening or closing line of a story. Finally, deep into the night, my mind shuts down, my eyelids shut, and I sleep.

The tragedy comes in the morning, when I can’t remember a single thing I thought out! I know, “get up and write it down, silly!” But that is easier said than done. There’s the eye thing. My contacts are out. My glasses don’t correct well enough for me to see words on a page (or screen) unless it is just 2-3 inches in front of my face—and even then they aren’t clear. And there’s the fact that I invariably wake up my husband as I slip out of bed or back into it. He hates that. He needs his sleep. And in the winter there’s the whole cold issue. I hate getting up once I’m toasty warm.

So there you have it. My mind works best when I can do the absolute least about it. I guess I’ll just have to keep muddling through.


Help Me, Lord!

It occurred to me recently that I spend my days sending up “Help me, Lord” prayers. Help me, Lord, to be patient. Help me, Lord, to know what to say. Help me, Lord, to hold my tongue. Help me, Lord, to endure this circumstance. And so on, and so on, and so on.

As I pondered this situation, I found an uneasy guilt creep in and tangle around me. Shouldn’t I be worshipping more than petitioning? Praying continually for others instead of myself? I considered these questions, anxious for the Lord to search and know me, to reveal any wickedness and lead me in the way everlasting. Then other questions surfaced in my mind. Isn’t this a good thing? Isn’t a lifestyle of “Help me, Lord” prayers a far different thing than the occasional “Help me, Lord”?

Yes, I believe it is. When moment-by-moment my first response is “Help me, Lord,” it is an indication that I recognized His continual presence in my life and that I realize my complete dependence on Him. Conversely, when I shoot a “Help me, Lord” prayer only on occasion, it reveals that I only look to the Lord in a crisis and think myself sufficient for the living in-between times.

So I’m content with my “Help me, Lord” lifestyle. In fact, I can now pray: “Help me, Lord, not to forget to ask Your help in everything, everyday.”


La's Orchestra Saves the World

Alexander McCall Smith’s newest book doesn’t go with any of his previous series, but as is his signature strength, he drew me into a specific time and place with strong, memorable characters.

La’s Orchestra Saves the World is a charming story of La, who moves from London to a small village at the beginning of World War II. Her life has taken turns she never imagined and she suddenly finds herself living a rural life with very little to occupy her time. The things she finds to do seem very small and insignificant in her eyes, and yet by the end of the book, we understand, along with La, that what seemed small to her meant the world to others.

This charming, poignant story should definitely be on your “to read” list for 2010.


A New Year Awaits

Sometimes I think New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday. I guess maybe that’s secretly true for all of us list-making, record-keeping types. I love the totaling out of my writing work for the year, and the blank spreadsheet set up for the coming one. I love slim, empty file folders, waiting to become the bulging ones of December. Everything is fresh and new, full of promise and possibility.

Maybe that’s why I never get into a spring-cleaning frenzy. That itch tends to arrive for me in January, too. Wanting to rid my house of the useless or worn out. Seeking order in closets and cabinets. I don’t always get to these tasks in January, but the impetus begins then.

The New Year also brings the anticipation of return to schedule and routine from the freewheeling holidays, and a time to reevaluate the structure of my days. And while I am ordering the my exterior world, I can also look ahead to new vistas in my relationship with the Lord, especially as each day brings us closer to a new season in our lives. Just 3 ½ years left of children in the house on a daily basis. And I know how fast those years will pass by.

So I welcome 2010, with its fresh, innocent face, as I clear out the old and arrange the new, as I prepare to meet each new day with its joys and challenges. And though only the Lord knows what the days of 2010 will bring, I love that I can be sure of this one thing: Jesus will hold me through them all.