Thursday, May 31, 2012

Campfire: Fourth Evening

The fire is warm, and though the hour is rather late, I have marshmallows and cookies for anyone who is interested! A toasty campfire on a summer night - a perfect place for some story-sharing, wouldn't you say?

I just wrote a short scene for my WIP (Historical Romance), and I thought I'd share a few lines in honor of "writing day" here at Camp Humility:

A shiver racked her body as the wind swept through Seven Mile Canyon. Sally pulled her shawl more tightly about her shoulders, longing to leave the wretched scene but held in place by the rhythmic beating of desert sand and dirt being flung onto a pathetic casket. Joe and John took turns filling up the hole in the ground, neither man saying a word. What could any of them say? John’s wife left this world mere days before his brother brought his new bride to the ranch.

The scene is rather somber - sorry about that!

But now it's your turn! If you'd like an extra entry in this week's giveaway (click the button in the sidebar to enter if you haven't already done so!), just leave a comment sharing a line or a few lines from some writing that you've done recently - a poem, a scene from your WIP, or anything! Let's celebrate writing and get excited about our stories! =)

(P.S. I had a wonderful time enjoying the outdoors today with my mom and a dear friend - so be sure to stop by tomorrow for our hike here at Camp Humility, complete with freshly taken pictures!)

Let's Write!

I suppose it's rather hypocritical of me to put this sort of post together right now, as I'm going to keep this short and sweet, and I'm not planning on doing any other writing at the moment... But here it goes!

Today I plan to go on an outing with my mom and a friend, and I'm hoping this will lead to some beautiful pictures for tomorrow's hike! So, that's kind of my main focus today rather than writing.

However, I encourage you if you have some time to enjoy the lovely scenery of our virtual Camp Humility and maybe let it inspire you to compose a poem or add another scene to your WIP or write a short story. Tonight at the campfire (which might be kind of late depending on when I get back, but you can check in tomorrow, as well!), I'm hoping we'll have some sharing time. =)

I participated in what is called a #wordwar on Twitter recently with a couple of friends, which was about a 45-minute writing session, with the person writing the most words during that time being crowned the winner of the "word war." Afterwards we shared our favorite line (or more) from the writing we had just done. I'd love if sometime today we can squeeze in some writing, and then tonight at the campfire we can share our favorite lines. I'll even throw in an extra entry to the giveaway if you participate! ;)

Also, if we're not already "friends" on Twitter, and if you have a Twitter account, I'd love to meet up with you there (I'm @SeasonsHumility.) Maybe we can do some more of these #wordwars or #1K1HR (1,000 words in 1 hour) to help motivate each other to just sit down and write! (Huge thanks to Krissi Dallas and Allison Duke for introducing me to #wordwars and for allowing me to join ya'll the other day!)

Well, I hope you all are enjoying Camp Humility so far, and I hope you have a beautiful day! See you later around the campfire!

(My mom took the picture of the dogwood flowers in Grants Pass, Oregon, when we stopped there on our way home from graduation. Aren't they gorgeous?)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Campfire: Third Evening

Tonight I've set up an outdoor projector screen so that we can enjoy a movie while we snack on our s'mores and some popcorn! I "previewed" the movie yesterday in anticipation of talking about it tonight. For all you Disney fans out there, we're watching Brother Bear!

(In lieu of posting the whole movie on here, which probably isn't allowed anyway, I'm just going to share a YouTube video I found of a scene that shows the joy of relationships. Enjoy!)



Humility and Relationships

Brother Bear has a lot to say about familial relationships - whether it's blood-related family or love-related family. The three human brothers (Kenai, Denahi, and Sitka) all have different strengths and were given different ways in which they specifically needed to grow in order to become men. In order for there to be harmony and unity between the brothers, appreciation of their differences and a dose of humility are necessary.

Humility, you ask?

Well, Sitka is the eldest, and as such he is supposed to help guide his brothers. But all leaders need to be humble, and it is often shown in their interactions that Sitka doesn't choose to act high and mighty, but instead listens to his brothers, laughs at their antics when they are harmless, and helps them without the need to make himself look good.

Denahi is supposed to be wise. At the beginning of the movie, he often isn't. He mercilessly teases Kenai at times, suggests that he blames Kenai when Sitka dies, and then decides to seek revenge. And yet, he learns from his journey. In order to reconcile with his brother and with his future, he has to be humble enough to realize his errors - and humble enough to share the story with his village later on in his life.

Kenai has a long way to go to learn how to love when the movie first starts. He scoffs at his totem - "the bear of love." He thinks that real men don't need love - they need something much more "manly" like "bravery," "strength," or "greatness." But throughout the movie he realizes how important and powerful love really is. Love, too, requires humility. Kenai had to be humble enough to accept responsibility for his actions, to be open with Koda about his sin, and to choose to sacrifice for another rather than seek his own way. (Jesus Himself gave us the ultimate example of humility in love: "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death on a cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him..." ~ Philippians 2:8-9a)

No matter what position we have been placed in within our family or in our other relationships, humility can help us draw closer to one another. But it all has to start with being humble before our Lord, as our relationship with God is the most important relationship we can have, and it determines how we choose to act in our relationships with others.

Easier said than done, right? This is something I really have to work on! But I hope that on this blog we can remind one another of the value of humility and encourage one another to strive to be more humble. It's a journey, and I'm so glad that you are willing to share it with me!

(You can read more of my thoughts on the movie Brother Bear HERE.)

Vlog: Let's Try Some Archery and Go Canoeing!

So here it is - the surprise activity I mentioned in our itinerary! My parents got our family a Wii for Christmas, and we've been enjoying the Wii Sports Resort games recently - which include archery and canoeing. Well, since this is a virtual camp, we ought to have some virtual camp activities, right? ;)

Archery

I think it's much easier to aim with a remote than a real arrow...

video

Canoeing

This is the way to go - no need to worry about getting wet!

video

I was wrong in that last video - one of my vacation posts from a couple of years ago included a video of me in it ("Beautiful Oregon"). But I think this is my first actual "vlog" where you can really see and hear me... It's not professional by any means, but I do hope the sound and quality are OK. I mean, these were filmed with a little iPod, so they're not too shabby, right? ;) I hope you find the videos fun and maybe a bit humorous - and not too boring, LOL! 

Special thanks to my mom and sister for being willing to do this with me!

See ya tonight at the campfire, where we'll continue today's technology-meets-camping theme!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Campfire: Second Evening

It's been a long (but hopefully rewarding!) day - so let's relax around the campfire with a thermos of hot chocolate (complete with mini marshmallows) and some more s'mores.

Did you enjoy the fishing today? How many of you actually caught fish? And if you didn't, did you still enjoy the experience??

We're going to continue the fishing theme with our devotional tonight. What does fishing have to do with humility? - you might ask...

Well, plenty, if you can't catch any fish! ;)

But seriously, let's consider a story about a fishing miracle:


Humility and Miracles

When you think of fishing in the Bible, do the gospels come to mind? Some of the disciples had been fishermen before Jesus found them, and were still found fishing even after Jesus died and rose from the dead. Consider the account in John 21, when some of the disciples went out fishing, but "that night they caught nothing" (v. 3). In the morning Jesus called out to them and asked, "Children, have ye any meat?" And they responded, "No" (v. 5). So Jesus told them to "cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find" - and "they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes" (v. 6).

The disciples had to admit that they had "failed." They hadn't caught any fish. Having spent hours at a time fishing with my family, I know that it really is disappointing when the fish aren't biting. It's humiliating to go out of your way to catch fish and then not catch any! And to think - we fish for pleasure. While fishing might have been "pleasant" in some sense to those disciples, I'm pretty sure that catching fish meant much more to them. It meant food. For some, it meant a livelihood and a way to provide for their families. So I'm guessing a night of catching nothing was not something to be proud of.

The disciples had to experience what it was like going a whole night without catching fish to truly experience the miracle of catching a ton of fish (153 fish, according to v. 11). Why?


The humbling thing about miracles is that they don't occur because of our own strength or genius or prowess. They occur because of God's power and goodness and love. They occur in order to bring God glory. Not us, but God.

About a year and a half ago I wrote about my very own Christmas miracle - the almost-horrible trip home for Christmas break that turned into an amazing testimony of God's provision. I met a friend who kept me company during the long wait at the San Francisco airport, helped us get a ride back to our hometown when our flight was cancelled, and watched out for me to make sure I was alright. The long delays, the flight cancellation, the late-night drive with virtual strangers... Nothing I could do was going to change the fact that I was not going to be able to fly home that day, nor the fact that unless someone reached out to me and helped me along, I was clueless. The miracle didn't point to my own intelligence or abilities. It pointed to God's mercy and the blessings of friendship that He gives us.

Your Turn!

Can you think of any other connections between fishing and humility? (Feel free to be creative and stretch the connections a bit!) Do you have any miracle stories that you can share with the rest of us that can remind us of how amazing God is?

Let's Go Fishing!

Just look at that view! This is what makes fishing so wonderful.

Let me start off the day by being very clear: I'm rather under-qualified when it comes to teaching anyone how to fish. So today, I'm not going to tell you what bait is best to use to lure a certain type of fish, or how much you ought to spend on fishing gear, or what time of the day is the best for catching fish.

Instead, I'm going to show you how to experience the joys of fishing - with or without actually catching fish. So grab your fishing pole, your tackle box, and some munchies, and we'll head for the lake!


Here are some important things to remember about fishing (according to me, anyway!):
  1. Pick a beautiful day to go fishing. Sunshine on the lake - that's what I'm talking about!
  2. Pick a beautiful place to go fishing. (If you're ever in Northern California, I highly recommend Lewiston Lake - just look at these pictures, if you're not convinced!) Notice that I said the place has to be beautiful. I'm not really overly concerned about where the most fish are. I figure, if I'm going to spend a day fishing, I want to enjoy the view, right?
  3. Bring food. A well-stocked cooler (not the one designated for the fish you catch!) is essential. Consider packing a Subway sandwich, chips, sodas, cookies, and fruit.
  4. Bring a journal/iPod/book. If the cooler is essential, one or all of these are even more so. Want inspiration for writing your latest scene or composing a poem? What could be more inspiring than riding on a patio boat on the lake? Want a nice spot to relax? Music can add to the mood. Want some time to dive into that great summer read sitting on your TBR stack? Umm... The one thing about fishing that is pretty much guaranteed is waiting. So bring something with you to best help you enjoy the wait!



Today we're renting a patio boat or two so that we can all experience the wonder of fishing. By now you're probably wondering how exactly I define fishing...

Well, OK - catching fish is nice, and it does kind of come with the territory. There is a certain thrill in reeling in a fish, and I really like fishing - as most people define it - in theory. But at this point in my life, you won't catch me preparing the fish afterward! And, quite frankly, you probably won't catch me catching much fish either. I'm really not that skilled at it.

So to me, fishing means taking the time to go away for the day. It means spending a sunny summer day on a covered patio boat in the middle of a sparkling lake, writing in a journal or listening to music or reading a book (or all three!). It means enjoying the beauty of God's creation and just sitting in the sunshine, thinking.


Yes, sometimes I get upset when the fish aren't biting. But I'm sad to think that I've helped ruin a wonderful day by being grumpy and having a poor attitude for some reason or another. I much prefer those times when - fish or no fish - I just enjoy a day away with the people I love.

Today, I invite you to come fishing with me, "Amber-style." No pressure. No worries. Just a peaceful day out on the lake together. =)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Campfire: First Evening

Tonight we're having a barbecue along with our campfire - so feel free to help yourself to some steaks or hamburgers or veggie burgers while we get the fire going. Renee brought marshmallows, and there are some graham crackers and chocolate bars over at the picnic table. I won't say anything if you choose to have dessert first. ;) I know this is a bit of a late start to the evening for those of you not living on the West Coast, but I hope you'll still enjoy the refreshments!

Earlier today I attended a Memorial Day service at a local cemetery. This year's service was especially moving, as the group the Avenue of the Flags was dedicated to was none other than our local branch of the Honor Flights program. (I interviewed Vince's sister a year and a half ago regarding her experiences working with this program - you can read more about that HERE.) The determination and dedication given to make sure our veterans get to see the war memorials in Washington D.C. is so admirable and beautiful. My own grandpa, who served in the Korean War, even got the chance to go last year.

I'll pass around some pictures of today's service while I prepare to tell you a story:




The story I want to share tonight isn't actually from today's service, though. It's actually from last year's Memorial Day service. My grandpa was the main speaker, and I was supposed to sing the song "This is My Son" along to the music from the CD "Don't Believe" by the bluegrass band Cherryholmes.

Everything started off great. I sat next to my grandpa on the platform, and I listened to him do a great job giving the speech he had been practicing over and over. At the end of his speech my sister was supposed to read a poem by one of my grandpa's friends who had recently passed away, but I ended up reading it instead. His testimony seemed to really bless the people in the audience, and they gave him a standing ovation. It was a powerful moment.

And then the man overseeing the ceremony turned to the man who was going to play the bagpipes and asked him to begin. But wait... What about my song?? I tried to make eye contact with the man in charge, but it didn't work. I had been forgotten, and the ceremony concluded without me singing a note.

As everyone mingled after the ceremony, I was eager to leave. Yes, I was proud of my grandpa, and nothing was going to change that. But I was also hurt and embarrassed, and I didn't want anyone to see my shame. My name and the name of the song I was going to sing had been written in the program, but still I had been overlooked. (As a side note, the man in charge apologized and was very kind about the whole thing!)

The whole way home I sulked in the car, huddled into myself and my own hurt. But when we got to the house, I spent some time outside thinking and talking with God - and God showed me that the way things turned out had more important things to teach me about humility than if things had turned out the way I had planned.

You see, my poor attitude was because I was embarrassed. I had been overlooked and forgotten, in my opinion. I felt short-changed. But that Memorial Day service wasn't about me. Sure, I think the words of that beautiful song by Cherryholmes could have blessed the audience. But they had already been blessed by my grandpa's story and his service to our country. And I shouldn't have let my embarrassment keep me from wholeheartedly sharing in the honoring of my grandpa and others who had served in the U.S. military.

In a twist of wonderful irony, the last line of the poem by my grandpa's friend that I read went like this:

"This once proud ship will sail no more."

When that realization hit me - how those words tied into what I needed to learn from the experience - I laughed. My "proud ship" really needed to stop sailing!

Oh, laughter really can be such good medicine! =) How can you stay angry and hurt when you can honestly laugh at your own folly and rejoice in the goodness of God?

As the author of Ecclesiastes noted, there is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh" (3:4a).

So now I'll open up the sharing time! Is there anyone else who has had to learn some lessons about humility the hard way? (Really, is there any other way than the hard way??)

"He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility."
~ Proverbs 15:32-33 ~

Camp Humility 2012 Itinerary


Welcome to the Third Annual Camp Humility!


How fun that this is the third year I get to host this! Camp Humility is one of my favorite themed weeks to put together. Why? Because Camp Humility is supposed to be a type of virtual summer camp - a week for us bloggers to celebrate community and humility together.

So don't let the "camp" part scare you! We're not really roughing it... I picture us at a sunny retreat, complete with cabins and bunk beds and a fire pit for our nightly campfires - not to mention that lovely river nearby and plenty of beautiful trails for us to enjoy. =)

Are you ready to begin? As you're getting settled in to your assigned cabin, I'll read you the itinerary for this week:
  • Monday (Today): Welcome/Giveaway announcement
  • Tuesday: Fishing
  • Wednesday: Surprise Activity
  • Thursday: Writing
  • Friday: Hiking
(I think I might have a fun idea for Wednesday, but in case it doesn't work out the way I want it to, I'll wait to announce it, LOL! And Thursday's activity may not seem like a "camping" activity necessarily, but what better time and place to have a mini writing retreat, right?)


There will be two posts here each day. The itinerary above shows what will be going on during the morning on those days, and then each night we will spend some time around the campfire - eating virtual s'mores and sharing devotionals (etc.).

I hope you find this to be a refreshing and enjoyable week!

And for the U.S. residents attending Camp Humility this year (sorry to my international friends, but shipping costs keep me from opening the giveaway to everyone) - we have a fun giveaway! Just read/fill out the form below, and be on the lookout for opportunities to get extra entries throughout the week. Winners will be announced at the last campfire session on Friday, June 1st.

*The giveaway form has been updated!* 


If you have any questions, let me know! And feel free to leave a comment saying you're signing up as a camper for the week. =)

See you tonight at the campfire! (Our devotional will be military-themed in honor of Memorial Day. And you can make a slight detour to The Borrowed Book blog today to check out another post I put together in honor of Memorial Day. Those who have followed this blog for a while might recognize the content...)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Revell Blog Tour: The Ride of Her Life

Here's a description of the book from Revell:

"She's planted firmly on solid ground.

He's ready to sweep her off her feet.

The only man pragmatic Lilly Hart needs in her life is a six-year-old. Widowed for three years, Lilly has decided to leave the home of her intrusive in-laws to stand on her own. However, her in-laws find her new life as a cook at Lake Manawa utterly unsuitable for their grandson. When an argument ensues, a handsome stranger--who designs roller coasters, of all things--intercedes on her behalf. But Lilly is not about to get involved with any man, especially this cocky gentleman. Little does she know she is about to begin the ride of her life.

Filled with the sweet romance of summer, The Ride of Her Life will have you laughing out loud and sighing contentedly as you spend the summer of 1906 at Lake Manawa."

My Rating

Spring

My Review

Lake Manawa is such a fun place to visit through the pages of Lorna Seilstad's "Lake Manawa Summers" trilogy! Just like its predecessors, The Ride of Her Life has a setting that sparkles in the sun and invites you to check out all of its surprises and thrills.

However, this third installment has a different dynamic than the first two, as it features a widowed mother of a rambunctious six-year-old who is ALL boy. Levi is sweet as all-get-out, and I love his innocence and exuberance. He sure has fun finding and taming various creatures! As historical romance, though, since a child is involved, the danger and tension centers mainly around him rather than the heroine - but there are still some tender moments just between the hero and the heroine. And the activities the three of them participate in as they explore the Midway and other attractions at Lake Manawa... So cute!

This story has a bit of a slow beginning, like a roller coaster that has to be pushed uphill before it can pick up speed. Yet, while I didn't love this book as much as I loved Making Waves and A Great Catch, I did find it to be a light, enjoyable read that gently reminds the reader that there are certain things in life that are worth the risks - and you don't have to face those risks alone.

*With thanks to Revell for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Review of Wildflowers from Winter

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"A young architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built a life far removed from her trailer park teen years. Until an interruption from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa. Determined to pay her respects while avoiding any emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. But the unexpected inheritance of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces Bethany to come up with a new plan.

Handsome farmhand Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. So when Bethany is left the land, he must fight her decisions to realize his dreams. But even as he disagrees with Bethany’s vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keeps so carefully locked away.

For Bethany, making peace with her past and the God of her childhood doesn’t seem like the path to freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love and a peace she’s not even sure exists?

To read the first chapter for free, click here."

My Rating


My Review

Emotions run deep and grief is piled on thick in Wildflowers from Winter - but that makes the glimpses of growth and revelations and hope blossom all the brighter. Various types of relationships and the process to either restoring them or giving them a chance are explored within these pages, including relationships between family, friends that have drifted apart, and potential lovers who just need a little bit of understanding and encouragement. Ganshert shows how grief can lead to fragility, and yet she also shows how grief, when treated tenderly and given its due, can give way to a new season of strength and appreciation of life.

Sometimes the darkness of resentment and fear that's portrayed makes it difficult to completely sympathize with the characters. It's easy to get frustrated with Bethany for her selfish choices, and it's tempting to want to rush her through her healing process. While it would have been nice to see more of the positive side of her character, the stories from her past (told in first-person) and the obvious hurting she experiences make it hard to give up on her.

And it's beautiful to see her share the journey to healing with Robin - an old friend who is dealing with a horribly painful loss. The interactions between Robin and Bethany, and between the hero and Bethany, are oftentimes jerky - in a one step forward, two steps back sort of way - and yet the healing and the hope come in a soft but glorious fashion. This is a journey that's worth sharing with the characters, and the focus on life, as well as good coming from difficulties, is bright, indeed.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with an ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

Beautiful Things

The author noted on her website that this song ("Beautiful Things") offered the musical inspiration for this book. I have to say, the song fits so well, and it's so powerful! I had the opportunity to listen to the choir my sister sings with (Messiah School of the Arts - which I used to sing with, as well) perform this song this past weekend, and...wow. What a beautiful performance, and what a beautiful, hopeful message!

 

You can buy the book on Amazon.com today! And U.S. residents, be looking for a chance to win a copy of Wildflowers from Winter next week here on the blog!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Final Problem/The Reichenbach Fall - The End of Sherlock Season 2

And then what had happened? Who was to tell us what had happened then?
~ Watson ("The Final Problem")

If ever a show raised such poignant questions, it's Sherlock. The end of Season 2 was perhaps not a surprise to those aware of the original Sherlock stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, but that doesn't make it any less shocking or exasperating or painful. 

I know I'm not the one to answer those questions about what really happened, so I'm not going to try to do so. If you'd like to read others' theories, I recommend reading the comments on "Sherlock After the Fall" or reading other reviews. Suffice it to say that the ending lends itself to all sorts of discussions and speculations - talk about powerful!

This post will take a look at some quotes from Doyle's short story "The Final Problem" and connect them to "The Reichenbach Fall" (and the Sherlock series as a whole). [Spoilers to follow.] (My thoughts are italicized and in purple.)

  • "He [Moriarty] sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web; but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them." Sherlock makes a similar statement in "The Reichenbach Fall" in the courtroom. Moriarty is not a villain to be trifled with, and he is well aware of anything that touches his carefully crafted web.
  • Moriarty: "All that I have to say has already crossed your mind." Sherlock: "Then possibly my answer has crossed yours." These words between Moriarty and Sherlock were quoted earlier in the show, at another showdown between Moriarty and Sherlock - during the setup of another cliffhanger ending (at the end of "The Great Game"). The question at the end of "The Reichenbach Fall" is...has everything that Moriarty planned already crossed Sherlock's mind? And has Sherlock made the proper preparations to outsmart such a clever, crazy villain?
  • "I have my plans laid, and all will be well." Sherlock reassures Watson that he has set everything up to go according to his plan, at least in as far as making sure the proper arrests are made. All does not seem to be well at the end of "The Final Problem" - far from it. The same can be said for the end of "The Reichenbach Fall." Supposedly, from what I've heard, that's how Doyle wanted it - to be done with Sherlock's character. But he ended up bringing Sherlock back. And from what I've been hearing/reading, it seems that modern-day Sherlock will be back for Season 3 - so will all be well, after all?
  • "It was evident to me that he thought he might bring trouble to the roof he was under, and that that was the motive which impelled him to go." In "The Final Problem," Sherlock was aware of the danger he was in and the danger his presence might bring to Watson. In "The Reichenbach Fall," Sherlock seemed to become more and more aware of the danger he was in and the danger he might bring to those he cared about - like Watson and Mrs. Hudson. But was his supposed suicide a sacrificial act - or was it staged so far in advance that his motives stemmed more from self-preservation and ridding the world of Moriarty? I'd like to think, from the character development throughout the show, that Sherlock has grown in his capacity to care for others and to truly seek their welfare above his own, no matter what led up to the ending of this Season.
  • "It was a lovely trip, the dainty green of the spring below, the virgin white of the winter above; but it was clear to me that never for one instant did Holmes forget the shadow which lay across him." The shadow... There's a scene in "The Reichenbach Fall" (also shown in the intro to the Season 2 episodes) where Moriarty's shadow extends across the floor. His evil certainly cast a long, dark figurative shadow over Sherlock and others!
  • "In over a thousand cases I am not aware that I have ever used my powers upon the wrong side." Is that true? One of the most intriguing parts of "The Reichenbach Fall" is when Moriarty and Sherlock are up on the roof, and Sherlock declares himself on the side of the angels - but clarifies that he is not an angel himself. I think there is a danger in putting Sherlock up on too high of a pedestal. He is a fictional character, obviously, but also a human character at that. Sherlock himself warned Watson not to put him on a pedestal and not to see him as a hero. And yet at the end of "The Reichenbach Fall" Watson claims him to be a hero and the best man and human he had ever known. So who exactly is Sherlock? I hope that, in this version of the Sherlock stories anyway, Sherlock is a flawed (albeit ridiculously smart) character and a "high-functioning sociopath" (to quote him in "A Study in Pink") who chooses to use his talents for good, and who (despite his many blunders and faults and lack of tact) has a profound impact on the lives of those whom he cares about and who care about him. He's not a god or an angel. He's a flawed man who has found friendship and given friendship in return.  

  • So what are my final thoughts on this short story and this episode? "The Final Problem" is an intriguing short story for Sherlock fans, although it doesn't offer much for those who are just jumping into all things Sherlock. It assumes an already-existent affinity for Sherlock and Watson, and thus an interest in their fate. It also assumes a knowledge of Sherlock's character and his quirks. As for "The Reichenbach Fall," I think a similar thing can be said. For Sherlock fans, this episode is intriguing as it messes with your mind and throws everything on its head, shocking as it presents an apparently tragic ending that is rather gruesome and violent, and heart-breaking as it shows the repercussions of that "ending" on Watson - a man who has come a long way from the lost, lonely, and broken place in which Sherlock first found him. 
    Now comes the wait for Season 3. In the meantime, viewers will keep asking, along with Watson from "The Final Problem" - 
And then what had happened? Who was to tell us what had happened then?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Revell Blog Tour: My Review of A Love Forbidden

Here's a description of the book from Revell:

"They're from two different worlds. Can love cross the divide?
Moved by a compassionate heart and the desire for adventure, twenty-year-old Shiloh Wainwright impulsively accepts a teaching position at the White River Indian Agency in northwestern Colorado. Eager to use her skills to help improve the lives of Ute Indian children, she looks forward to a fulfilling, independent life on the Colorado frontier.

But her new job isn't what she imagined it would be, and Shiloh soon finds herself caught in the cross fire between the Utes, their unyielding Indian agent, and a demanding US government. Her unexpected encounter with a half-Ute childhood friend, Jesse Blackwater, only complicates matters as they battle their growing feelings for each other amidst spiraling tensions that threaten to explode into a catastrophic uprising.

Set amongst the wilds of the Colorado Rockies in 1879, this tale from bestselling and award-winning author Kathleen Morgan explores the transformational power of forgiveness, compassion, and God's healing love with artistry and authenticity."

My Rating

Fall/Spring

My Review

After reading and loving the first book in the "Heart of the Rockies" series, A Heart Divided, I was eager to read this second installment. My attention was once again captured by Morgan's portrayal of the American West and her depiction of a conflict-driven romance. However, the various elements of this story didn't quite come together in a satisfying way for me.

The emphasis on faith above romance - and on not changing one's core identity in order to gain a romantic relationship - is admirable. But the way this is emphasized is mainly through words alone. The genuineness behind the words seems to be lost by the lack of real action to back it up. In other words, the faith element feels forced, added in when convenient, rather than relational and fluid.

The characters from A Heart Divided that once won me over (especially Nicholas), now (in their secondary roles in this book) lack the vitality and uniqueness I remember loving about them. The resolution comes across as almost sudden and inauthentic. The emotions sometimes lag behind the plot twists. And the title doesn't quite fit, in my mind - I might suggest A Love Complicated or A Love Uncertain.

All of that being said, I still believe this story has some great discussion points to offer when it comes to prejudices and misunderstandings. And while A Love Forbidden didn't quite live up to my hopes, it's still an enjoyable and interesting read.

*With thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sherlock Double Feature: A Scandal in Bohemia (and Belgravia)

I was reticent to give "A Scandal in Belgravia" a try - not because I dislike the show Sherlock (far from it, indeed!), but because the warnings seemed to indicate that this particular episode was much more sexual in nature than other episodes. And while that is the case, "A Scandal in Belgravia" pushes the limits but does not go beyond them (hinting and suggesting to the utmost degree, and yet never explicitly showing anything). Because a friend took the time to clarify the content of the episode and to recommend it to me, I decided to give it a try after all. And yet again Sherlock didn't disappoint - at least in the sense of offering yet another complex and intriguing episode! Before I watched the episode, however, I read the short story "A Scandal in Bohemia" by Arthur Conan Doyle - so today's post will offer a comparison/contrast between the two. [Warning: Spoilers to follow.]

A Scandal in Bohemia

"To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name." 

So begins "A Scandal in Bohemia," in Watson's words. In the modern-day retelling ("A Scandal in Belgravia"), Irene Adler is already known as The Woman before Sherlock even meets her. But there is still the business of the photograph(s) and protection vs. blackmail. And Irene Adler is still as enigmatic as ever (albeit in a more forward way).

Here are some other similarities (with trademark Sherlock twists) between the original short story and the T.V. episode:
  • Watson observes in "A Scandal in Bohemia" that "Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature." The creators of Sherlock certainly capture this aspect of Sherlock's nature well, showing his constant need to be stimulated by his work and his inability (as well as his lack of desire) to function normally in society.
  • In both versions of the story Sherlock is supposedly working for royalty. Although suffice it to say the older Sherlock's meeting with the King of Bohemia in his apartment is quite different than modern Sherlock's "meeting" at Buckingham Palace (where he is rather humorously under-dressed for the occasion!).
  • In Doyle's story Sherlock steps into a fight and pretends to be attacked, thereby putting pressure on Irene Adler to bring him into her home and help him. A similar tactic is used in "A Scandal in Belgravia," except that the creators of the show use it as an opportunity for an interaction between Sherlock and Watson, having Sherlock ask Watson to punch him in the face... (More on that later!)
  • Watson sounds the alarm in both stories (yelling "fire" in Doyle's story but setting off the smoke detector in the modern version) in order to aid Sherlock's search for the photograph(s).
  • And, of course, Irene Adler manages to outwit Sherlock (up to a point in the modern show, however...).
This short story also has a few lines that rung bells for me in regards to the dialogue in several episodes of Sherlock:
  • "You see, but you do not observe." (In "The Great Game," Sherlock says this same line in frustration to Inspector Lestrade.)
  • "I am lost without my Boswell." (Sounds a lot like, "I am lost without my blogger" - also from "The Great Game"!)
  • "The stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he [Sherlock] became a specialist in crime." (This brings to mind Mycroft's quote from "A Scandal in Belgravia" - "My brother has the brain of a scientist or a philosopher, yet he elects to be a detective. What might we deduce about his heart?")
...to name a few! I think it's safe to say the creators of Sherlock know Arthur Conan Doyle's work quite well!

"A Scandal in Bohemia" is an intriguing short story - and if you enjoyed "A Scandal in Belgravia" (or even if you chose/choose not see it), this is an enjoyable fast read that highlights some unique aspects of Sherlock Holmes' character as it places him in some surprising situations.

A Scandal in Belgravia

Because "A Scandal in Bohemia" is a rather quick story, "A Scandal in Belgravia" simply uses the bare bones of the story as a launching point for another complex, convoluted, and captivating episode of Sherlock. While the show in general is not for everyone, that especially applies to this particular episode. There's a nude scene, that (somehow) manages to keep from being explicit. There are sexual overtones in general, more gay references (not completely serious), and drug references - not to mention the obvious inclusion of violence (although not gory). Yet, there are some intriguing relational elements of this episode that are not to be missed (well, technically they can be, but they're really interesting!). 

There's the humor that comes so naturally as a result of Sherlock's and Watson's friendship. For example...
  • Watson asks Sherlock to clarify something he said... Sherlock: "I said, 'Punch me in the face.' Didn't you hear me?" Watson: "I always hear, 'Punch me in the face,' when you're speaking, but it's usually subtext."
But there's also a seriousness that pervades this episode. Sherlock seems to do a lot more introspection in this episode than in other episodes. At one point he asks Mycroft, "Do you ever wonder if there's something wrong with us?" As Watson notes in Doyle's "A Scandal in Bohemia: "All emotions, and that one [love] particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind." And that certainly seems to hold true in this episode, especially concerning Irene Adler. And yet...

Sherlock ultimately shows deep concern and affection for Mrs. Hudson, the landlady. He apologizes (!) to Molly for hurting her feelings. And it's his friendship with Watson that remains a constant throughout his unusual up-and-down interactions with Irene Adler.

Sherlock becomes more aware of his oftentimes cold and sometimes cruel ways in "A Scandal in Belgravia." But growth takes time, and no one is perfect. Slowly but surely it seems that Sherlock in this show is learning that there is life beyond his work, and that people do indeed have feelings (even if he does not always acknowledge any feelings in himself). We as the viewers can see just how wondrous it is when a person such as Sherlock shows that he is, after all, human (as Watson aptly notes at the beginning of the episode) and makes the effort to care about someone else.

As for the plot of this episode, well... I confess after seeing it just the one time so far, I think I got rather lost. Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a lot going on! I'm sure that, like the other Sherlock episodes, each subsequent viewing will offer plenty of laughs and new insights.

More Sherlock, Please!
  • Read Ruth's thoughts on "A Scandal in Belgravia" on her blog, Booktalk & More.
(Images are from the PBS Masterpiece website.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Litfuse Publicity Blog Tour: Wish You Were Here

Here's a description of the book:

"Allison Denman is supposed to get married in five days, but everything is all wrong. The huge wedding. The frothy dress. And the groom. Still, kissing the groom's brother in an unguarded moment is decidedly not the right thing to do. How could she have made such a mistake? It seems Allison's life is nothing but mistakes at this point. And pulling a 'Runaway Bride' complete with stealing, er, borrowing her best friend's car doesn't seem to solve her problems. Can Allison find her way out of this mess? Maybe she just needs to stop orchestrating everything. Allison prefers being the one in control, and giving it up is not going to be easy. But to find her way again, she will have to believe that God has a plan for her and find the strength to let Him lead."

My Rating

Summer

My Review

What does it mean to truly love someone? What does it mean to be in love? And what happens when the dreams you once held dear come crashing down around your feet? Wish You Were Here explores these questions with touching emotion and endearing humor - a contemporary romance with a wonderful depth of heart!

I loved this book - from the romantic tension to the heart-to-heart chats between friends and the life lessons learned from llamas! The references to favorite movies and Christian romance authors was an extra "real" treat in a story that is a perfect blend of well-paced plot, great characters, and relevant and meaningful thoughts to ponder. Add in the postcard messages beginning most of the chapters, and you've got a marvelous layout from lovely cover to lovely cover.

Allison and the Rayner brothers have some tough journeys to make and some difficult lessons to learn in this book. But what an adventure! So many great twists and turns...and so many important reminders to hold onto throughout the seasons of life. Wish You Were Here has it all, and it's told in such an engaging and enjoyable way. Absolutely charming!!

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion, to be shared during the Litfuse Publicity Blog tour.*

About the Author

"Beth K. Vogt provides her readers with a happily ever after woven through with humor, reality, and God's lavish grace. She's a non-fiction author and editor who said she'd never write fiction. She's the wife of an Air Force physician (now in solo practice) who said she'd never marry a doctor-or anyone in the military. She's a mom of four who said she'd never have kids. Beth has discovered that God's best often waits behind the doors marked 'Never.' She writes contemporary romance because she believes there's more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us. Beth earned a journalism degree from San Jose State University and met her husband Rob when he knocked her down at a karate studio. They've been married for 31 years. They have four children, ranging in ages from 28, 25, 23 and - thanks to a funny thing happening on their way to the empty nest-a 10-year-old. The Vogt Team, which now includes a 'daughter-in-love' and 'son-in-love,' enjoys hiking and camping in Colorado. Read more about Beth at her website: http://bethvogt.com."

To Buy the Book: click HERE

Blog Tour Schedule: Check out all of the other reviews scheduled by clicking HERE.

Contest 

Win an iPad2 from @BethVogt! Celebrate with Beth by entering her Wish You Were Here Giveaway!


One "happy" winner will receive:
  • A brand new iPad with Wi-Fi (The must-have, do-everything gadget!)
  • Wish You Were Here by Beth Vogt (Swoon worthy.)
  • $15 iTunes Gift Card (Music, books, apps, & more.)
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 6/4/12. The winner will be announced 6/6/12 on Beth's website!

Just click one of the icons below to enter! Tell your friends about Beth's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Hounds of Baskerville (Sherlock 2 Review)

Sherlock is back, and boy, am I glad!!! Since Season 2 of Sherlock was scheduled to air here in the United States this month, I've long been telling myself (and others) that watching this would be my graduation gift to me. (Do I sound like Kuzco on The Emperor's New Groove? "It's my graduation gift to me! I'm so happy...!")

Well, I was disappointed with what I'd heard about the first episode ("A Scandal in Belgravia"). I started watching it, but with the warnings I'd been given and the "viewer discretion is advised" note at the beginning of the episode, I opted not to finish it at this time. I did see how the cliffhanger ending of the first season was resolved, however, but don't worry - no spoilers here! If you want to find out, you can watch the first five minutes (and the whole episode, if you wish) of "A Scandal in Belgravia" online for free until June 5th on the PBS Masterpiece website! After that, well, I can't recommend or not recommend the rest of the episode to you. Just be warned that from what I've heard and the small amount of the episode I've seen, it appears that there is quite a bit of sexual content.

(Update: I ended up watching "A Scandal in Belgravia" after all - here's my post about the movie and the short story it was based on.)

But "The Hounds of Baskerville" - now this is an episode I can rave about!


My Thoughts

After reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles back in December and seeing a play based off of the book at Corban University a couple of months ago, this was the episode of Season 2 I was most excited/curious to see. And with the solid characters-foundation supporting the creativity I have come to love about this show, I was not disappointed!

It may seem out of place to quote this, but the phrase that comes to mind in defining my reaction to this episode is "deliciously scared" (from the first Anne of Green Gables movie, as Anne and Diana are walking through the "haunted" woods). Once again this show had me alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) peeking between my fingers as I covered my eyes and covering my mouth to hold back my shrieks and squeaks of fear.

For those of you who don't like horror or super-violent movies (like me), don't be alarmed! What I love about this show, generally, is that it isn't about gore - it's about the mystery and suspense (the chase). And there are some great "chase" scenes in this particular episode!

The creators of the show have taken a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery and made it into something entirely new - as they are so good at doing! They build on the timeless brilliance of the duo of Sherlock and Watson, keep a few tidbits from the original story, and then fit those tidbits into a modern-day setting like putting pieces of a puzzle together. Some of those tidbits this time include the name "Baskerville" (now a military compound rather than a "cursed" family) and the Grimpen Mine Field (rather than the Grimpen Mire).

Combine the fun references to the original story with a clever plot, those thrilling "chase" scenes, a good mix of excitement and seriousness, and (most importantly) Sherlock and Watson - and you've got the kind of mystery movie I've been craving more of ever since I saw "The Blind Banker" (yes, I watched the first season's episodes out of order the first time I saw them). I loved seeing how far Sherlock has come in showing that he does indeed have a heart and *gasp!* feelings (maybe...). One of the great things about this show is seeing the character development - and Sherlock Holmes is one unique character! He still has a long way to go in genuinely caring about others, as he is very much absorbed in his work to the detriment of his relationships, but he obviously values his friendship with Watson. Watching them interact in this episode is surprising and intriguing. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman do such a great job at bringing Sherlock and Watson to life!

If you want to be "deliciously scared," "The Hounds of Baskerville" might just be your ticket to an hour and twenty-ish minutes of thrills and chills!

A Few Quotes
  •  Knight: "How did you know it was disappointing?" Sherlock: "Is there any other type of breakfast on a train?"
  • Watson to Sherlock: "Funny doesn't suit you - stick to ice."
  • Sherlock: "...if I wanted poetry I'd read John's e-mails to his girlfriend."
  • Watson: "Mycroft's name literally opens doors."
  • Sherlock: "Get out. I need to go to my mind palace."
Want more Sherlock?
  • Did you miss "The Hounds of Baskerville" when it aired on Sunday? Me, too! But I watched it online for free - and so can you! (Now through June 12, 2012 on the PBS Masterpiece website.)
  • The Sherlock soundtracks are now available - both Season 1 and Season 2! (I have the Season 1 soundtrack, and while it's not for every occasion, it's pretty epic/cool stuff! Listening to it right now as I put this post together...)
  • The DVD of Season 1 is available for purchase, and Season 2 is available for pre-order on Amazon.com (releases May 22nd)! (Having Season 1 on DVD so I can watch it over and over and over again - yep, that was a fabulous Christmas present from my parents about a year and a half ago!)   
  • Don't forget - "The Reichenbach Fall" (the third and final episode of Season 2) airs this Sunday on PBS Masterpiece!
(Images are from the PBS Masterpiece website.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Revell Blog Tour: The Pursuit of Lucy Banning

Here's a description of the book from Revell:

"She has a secret to keep. But will she give her heart away?

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work and squeeze herself into the mold of the well-dressed wife who spends most of her time and money redecorating.

When she meets Will, an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Get swept away into the lavish world of Chicago's high society as Olivia Newport brings to life an age of glitz and grandeur, stark social contrasts, and one woman who dares to cross class lines for what she believes."

My Rating

Spring

My Review

With an intriguing setting and great writing, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning is an enjoyable read. The glimpse into early 1890s Chicago is interesting - especially seeing it through different eyes, from the perspective of wealthy and confident Lucy to that of burdened and caring Charlotte. Despite their differing positions in societies, both girls show spunk and servants' hearts, and they both have many secrets to help each other keep.

Because of Lucy's and Charlotte's characters and the historical tidbits, this book makes for a neat historical fiction piece. As far as being historical romance...well, the romance just fell flat for me. There's just enough sweetness and conflict to hold a romance-lover's interest, but I would have liked to get to know both suitors better. As it is, Lucy generally shines and the boys just follow in her shadow, for better or for worse.

Also, there are times when the reader is privy to the set-up or beginning of an event, but then most of the event is skipped over - which can be clever in showing the importance of "ordinariness" and in keeping the story moving, but also disappointing and frustrating to the reader who wants to witness what happens.

All in all, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning has promise - it might not always follow through, but it nevertheless offers a clever and engaging visit to the past.

*With thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Review of An Uncommon Grace

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"Grace Connor, a military nurse formerly stationed in Afghanistan, hopes that moving to a farm in rural Ohio will help her recover from the ravages of war. Levi Troyer finds his pacifist beliefs challenged when he discovers his stepfather has been killed and his mother wounded by an unknown intruder. Levi and Grace are thrown together when she comes to his family's rescue and saves his mother's life. A deep attraction develops-even though a relationship between them is strictly forbidden.

Levi belongs to the most conservative and isolated of all Amish sects-the Swartzentruber Amish. Even before meeting Grace, Levi had begun to question some of their teachings. He has considered leaving, but knows he will be banned forever from contact with his younger siblings and widowed mother- who need him to survive. He is torn between his love for Grace and his responsibility to his family.

Grace considers leaving her beloved farm and reenlisting rather than continuing to live near the man she loves but cannot have. Levi must confront the Bann if he pursues Grace. And a murderer must be caught. When lifelong allegiances are tested, can love and justice prevail?

Click for a sample! Order now from Amazon or Barnes and Noble."

My Rating

Spring

My Review

An Uncommon Grace starts out with a "bang" (literally and tragically), and then settles into a slow simmer that eventually builds up to an intriguing romance. Miller's writing style is easy and enjoyable - and she knows how to tell a great character-driven story! While the slow pace of events after the opening of the book didn't wholly capture my attention, the latter portion of the book did, and overall the story is a thought-provoking and well-told one.

Grace and Levi's developing romance is interesting and unique. Grace is such a strong and honorable and likeable character. Levi has his own strengths, as well, but he has a lot more to settle and decide within himself. His growth and his interactions with Grace make for some great reading!

The suspense is well-incorporated into the story, but it's the relationships that make this book meaningful. An Uncommon Grace is told with "an uncommon grace," indeed!

*With thanks to Howard Books for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion. My apologies to the publisher for the delay in posting my review.*

P.S. I have to agree with my blogging friend Kav over at Best Reads - the cover doesn't really fit with the story at all! I think if they wanted someone Amish on the front, they should have definitely gone with Levi's character. Either that or just kept the Amish backdrop and put Grace's real character on the front!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Step Enough for Me: Graduation and Beyond

Last week I attended a poetry reading and Corban University's English department dessert one evening amid all of the craziness of finishing projects and studying for finals. While there, one of my professors gave me a beautiful and timely piece of encouragement. Want to know what he told me? Well, first let me share some pictures from graduation, and then I'll finish the story - it fits with where I am right now, after graduation has come and gone...

Here I am, walking to the car from the hotel in Salem where my family and I were staying this last weekend. My mom was getting ready to drop me off at the Salem Armory for the graduation rehearsal.

Tassel on the right? Check! Honor cord with the knot in the back? Check! We are ready for take-off!

After rehearsal and the long wait, it's finally time! I'm seated in the first row up there somewhere...

I'm now somewhere in that line getting ready to go up on stage...

And it was done in a flash. Here I am as a college graduate, with my sister on the left and my parents on either side of me. They have been so supportive of me these past three years, and my whole life long!

And my grandparents - it was wonderful to have them there with me and to finally get to show them the college (on Thursday)! I couldn't have made it this far without them. They are so good to me!

Me with my dear, sweet friend, Adrienne. She was my roommate last year, and I am so very grateful to know her! She graduated last May and got married last summer, but blessedly she remained in Salem this past year, and my senior year was all the better for spending time with her and her husband.

And speaking of Adrienne's husband - here he is now! He graduated back in December, but had to wait until the spring to be a part of the graduation ceremony. Brilliant and kind - Adrienne and Evan are a fantastic couple!

I didn't find all of the professors I wanted to see at graduation, but it was awesome to introduce my family to Professor Baker! He was my Teaching the Bible instructor last year.

Rachelle was my RA - the person in charge of my hall in the dorm - this year. As you can see, she is lovely - but not just on the outside! She is so sweet and talented and fun.

Christa was my RA's roommate. She is a super-smart mathematician who was sweet enough to answer my questions regarding my Statistics & Probability class this year. And she is an awesome friend!

This year I got to go to the Sadie Hawkins dance - Abel was kind enough to go with me even though I asked him the day before the dance! He's a gentleman, and we had a great time, so it was fun to introduce him to my family at graduation.

 My godparents, Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, were generous enough to come all the way up to Salem to see me graduate, as well! We had such an awesome time together on Saturday...

...including a visit to the Riverfront Carousel!

Yes, it was another Jolly Holiday at the Carousel! ;)

 And we couldn't end the day without a trip to Olive Garden. By the end of the night, I was stuffed!

Getting ready to leave Olive Garden - we will miss you!

One last picture from the day after graduation. May I still continue to learn even when I'm not in a classroom!

And now I can finish my story! So many people have been asking me what my plans are now that I've graduated from college (with a Bachelor of Science degree in English). When I told Professor Hills last week at that poetry reading/dessert that I was planning on going home and seeing where God would lead me from there, he told me about a time when he was reading the book of Acts (not in these exact words, but you get the idea!)...

He asked me, "Do you know what God told Saul to do when Saul encountered Him on the road to Damascus?" 

I shook my head. 

My professor answered, "Go to Damascus. When I read that, I had to look again. But sure enough, that was all God told Saul at that point. He didn't tell him that he would be used to preach the Gospel to Gentiles in different countries or that he would be in a ship wreck or that he would be put in prison or that he would write so much of the New Testament. There was a lot that was going to happen to Saul/Paul in the years to come, but God just told him to take that next step, and he would get guidance from there."

Here is what Acts 9:6 says:
And he [Saul] trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."
My professor encouraged me, reminding me that sometimes we just need to take that first step and trust that God will guide us when the time comes for us to take another step.

Max Lucado, in his devotional book Safe in the Shepherd's Arms, quotes part of a hymn called "Lead Kindly Light": 

Lead kindly Light...
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
the distant scene; one step enough for me.

I want to remember that in the days ahead, when my pride might be a bit battered by not having my future all planned out - when people ask me what I'm going to do next, and I can't say that I have a job lined up and a path to earthly success set out before me. It feels strange to not have an expected answer to the inevitable question that comes to all new graduates. But I hope that God uses this time in my life to humble me, to strengthen my faith, and to help me trust in Him more and more. 

In this moment, I am home. This summer, maybe I can learn how to cook better and how to drive and how to garden. Maybe I can spend a lot of time with my family and make more precious memories with them. Whatever comes next, I am beyond blessed to know that God will be right there beside me. With the assurance of His never-failing Presence and His grace, may I say with confidence that this one step is enough for me.