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We’re All Evil Stepchildren

Cinderella has never been one of my favorite fairy tales. Maybe that’s because its familiarity through the years has turned it a bit drab for me. Maybe it’s because the danger isn’t fierce enough or the stakes aren’t high enough.

Or maybe . . . maybe it’s because I can’t relate to a girl who is nothing more than a victim. A girl with a princess-like beauty whom never does anything wrong except in the eyes of her “evil” step-mother and stepsisters. A girl whose beauty and mere lack of evil are all it take for her to win not only a prince, but a kingdom.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely do things wrong. A lot. I say the wrong things, I’m clumsy, I’m impatient, I’m unkind, I’m none-too-beautiful. Basically, I’m human. How could I possibly write a story about a girl like Cinderella? I’m not qualified. I can’t understand her. I’ve never even been able to care much about her, try as I might.

So when considering retelling this story, I decided I wouldn’t write about Cinderella at all. Simple as that.

freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net

Instead, I wrote through the eyes of somebody I could understand: the stepsister (in my story, there’s just one). As a teen who went through some rough times, I often felt like the freak, the ugly, awkward girl, the misunderstood girl, the girl who used sarcasm like a shield, the girl people were uncomfortable having around because of her random bursts of emotion and sometimes rather brutal honesty. The girl . . . well, you get the picture.

Evil. Many times that’s how I felt. That’s what I believed people thought of me. That’s how they seemed to look at me. Therefore that’s what I began to believe I was in truth. Evil. Warped.

Then God stepped in. He had had enough.

“You’re not evil,” He whispered to me. “Your heart is beautiful and kind and loving. It is desirable to Me.”

The things I had never been able to see before because of my own blindness and self-loathing became apparent when God showed them to me through His eyes, through His grace. But then, that’s natural, isn’t it? That’s how it’s supposed to happen, the rescuing of our souls. My heart is beautiful because it’s God’s. My kindness and love are really only an extension of God’s own kindness and love.

When I began to think back on my own love story with God, I knew I must make it a part of this story I was writing. I have never been a Cinderella, ready from birth for Heaven. I needed redemption. I need redemption on a daily basis. But not from an evil stepmother or stepsisters. Not from any outside source of oppression. No, I needed saving from myself, and from the person Satan has plans for me to become. Because I am the evil stepsister. Or at least I was . . .

Those are the times God patiently reminds me that I am now His true daughter – a stepchild no longer.

When He took me in I became a princess in truth, and I share in a Kingdom more beautiful than any prince could have offered Cinderella. Right now I can’t always see that Kingdom, though it’s both in me and all around me. Sometimes I catch glimpses of it clearly, sometimes I only feel its nearness. But someday I plan on living there and claiming my happy-ever-after once and for all.

Tell me, what fairy tale could be better than that?

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Why I Kissed Self-Esteem Goodbye

It’s a term you can’t avoid hearing in our culture: self-esteem. Think better of yourself. You deserve the best. Be confident in your abilities. If you believe you can do it, you can.

For years I bought into it, too. Finding myself. Finding my worth. Loving myself despite my faults and the “ugly” things about me, inside and out.

Image courtesy of stockimages at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages via freedigitalphotos.net

That’s what the world tells us to do, right?

But then God nudged me awake. And instead of slapping me on the face with the horrible truth as He could have done, He gently and gradually showed me the lie I was holding so dear. You see, the problem with self-esteem, and even self-confidence, is that, well, it’s all about … you guessed it…

Self.

As a Christian who was searching genuinely for the heart of God, truly wishing to make His desires my own, I couldn’t help but see it.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)

What place does self-confidence have if we are to become weaker, so that God is able to become stronger within us? Shouldn’t it rather be called God-confidence?

What place does self-esteem have for someone who delights in weaknesses and insults? Wouldn’t it better be named God-esteem?

The world takes admirable virtues such as esteem and confidence and even love, and turns them inside out, makes them things of selfishness, small and warped, casting shadows into our souls. We let the world feed us these lies because we so ache to believe them.

But then, the best and most believable lies are always laced with a bit of truth, aren’t they? Because, in fact, we are of worth, we do deserve love and esteem. … But not in and of ourselves. Not because of anything we’ve done or ever will do or ever can do.

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Image courtesy of dan via freedigitalphotos.net

No, we deserve these things solely because of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ blood. God’s grace and overwhelming mercy.

Some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known have had no great physical beauty. God’s spirit filled them so completely that they shone with it. Their kindness was a glittering mantle. Their humility was a peaceful balm. The love that came from their eyes dazzled those around them with the undeniable awareness of God’s goodness.

When I think of it that way, my physical attributes seem so remote. My self-esteem and my self-worth fade to insignificance.

I won’t deceive you, it’s hard to do. But don’t ever think that it’s impossible, because it’s not. Just like any journey of the feet, a journey of the heart takes time. It’s painful and wearying … but oh so worth it in the end. Because it leads us closer to God, closer to who He intends us to become.

Self-esteem? I have no use for it. Not in the way the world wants me to, anyway. With my eyes firmly on God’s plan for me, with my desire for His will alone, my self slips into the place it was created to be…

Within Him.

If I Had One Year to Live

In honor of Nadine Brande’s brand new Christian dystopian novel, A Time to Die, I am taking part in the How Would You Live blog hop. Nadine’s book is truly special and thrilling, and I will be posting my review of it here on my blog on the day it releases (Sept. 23), along with a giveaway.

A Time to Die deals with the theme of living and dying … do we take every moment God has given us and use it for His good, or do we waste our lives, squandering the time allotted to us?  These questions are brought into sharp focus when you consider your life in terms of time – days, hours, minutes. What if the time left to you was only a year? What would you do with it?

Here are my thoughts.

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Five years ago my best friend died.

I’ve never written about her, and only in the last year or so have I begun to speak much of her death, even to those closest to me. Everyone around me knew I was grieving, and they also knew that, for a long time, my grief was too deep for words. She was a part of
me, a sister in all but blood, and I truly loved her. Even now, typing these words, my heart still bleeds a little for missing her.blog hop button

In the three short years that she sickened and declined, we were living far apart. I was able to visit her a handful of times, enough times to watch in awe as she laughed good-naturedly about her surgery scars and cracked jokes about her hair loss. I wondered how she could do that – look death in the face so lightheartedly. Because I myself felt a gripping, paralyzing fear for her and for the loss of her that I dreaded. But she … How could she, who left behind a husband and a young child, take the time out of the dwindling days left to her and spend it at a hospital comforting those sicker than she? How could she bear to take even one precious hour away from her family in order to speak to me on the phone and listen, patient and understanding, while I spoke of my own petty day-to-day concerns?

It blew my mind. And if I’m honest, I’ll say that it scared me. She lived so much life in the little time she had, and an astounding amount of it was for others, though many didn’t even see it until it was too late, and some never saw it at all. She didn’t have much time … a couple of decades and a handful more years … and instead of hoarding it when she knew it was slipping away … she gave it.

When I saw the theme of Nadine’s blog hop, my first thoughts went to my dearest friend, and the admirable – no, the graceful – way she lived the last year of her life on earth.

There are many who would rush to travel, to experience and taste, to live on the edge, perhaps even pursue danger and thrills, knowing their last 365 days lay ahead of them.

Me? I hope that my last days would be days of grace, and of love. Of forgiveness and mercy. Days that reach gentle fingers and touch – and touch again – those around me, whether family or friends or strangers.

A Time to Die quoteI would hope to live my love more acutely than I do now, to find the bravery to speak it, the strength to overcome anything that would stand in its way or distract me from it. I think many of my desires would die, upon knowing I lived my last year. The desires to travel and see and experience … they would fade to nothing in the brighter light and warmth of the things that mean the most – my family, my loved ones, my God.

I may not be able to shake the world or start a revolution or write a bestseller or end a war … but I could touch those few around me. Genuinely, honestly, with utter and unconditional love. And I could hope and pray that my love – God’s love – would pass through me to them, and through them to others, and on and on until a small piece of the world, at least, shines brighter for it.

That’s what my friend did in her last days. She had such strength, even in her youth, such clarity and love. I was confused by it for so long, terrified at the brightness of it, ashamed that if it had been me in her circumstance I’d have hidden myself away like a chastened, cowardly child, fearing death, fearing even the life left to me.

But I see now what I didn’t then. She was a vessel, and though she was strong, her strength was not her own. Though she loved deeply, the love she gave was God’s.

And whether it be my last year, or my first of many more to come, I hope I can learn to live that way, too, a little more each day.

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Now comes my invitation to you … write your own post and join the How Would You Live blog hop. Finish the statement, “If I had one year to live, I would ….” You can simply post it for your followers to see, or if you’d like to officially join the blog hop, send Nadine an email and she’ll add your name (find her info below).

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How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?ATimetoDieCover

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. 

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

This is book one in the “Out of Time” trilogy (subsequent volumes coming in 2015 and 2016).

Find the author here:

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The Grip of Grace: God’s Hand in the Lord of the Rings

the grip of graceAs a Christian who has both read and watched Lord of the Rings for years, I thought there was not much of its deeper meaning left for me to discover. How wrong I was! Brent King takes a classic we all know well and revisits it, bit by bit, uncovering things of value and eternal worth. Tolkien himself may not have had the purpose of “Christian” meaning in mind when he wrote his trilogy, but it is clear at the same time that he wished at least to represent the battle between darkness and light. The author of The Grip of Grace takes those representations and shows us how to apply them to our Christian lives and our walks with God.

I love how the book is split into short 2-3 page sections – so easy to devour several of them in a setting! Each section begins with the author’s (slightly paraphrased) version of a scene from the trilogy (chronologically organized). The section then goes into the application of the scene – how we might use or apply it in life. Something simple, or perhaps something epic, can turn into something so real that I can see it clearly in my own life. It reads almost like a devotional, and I can completely see a group of Christian Tolkien fans using this book for a Bible study! Wish I had just such a group of friends …!

The author weaves and reveals the Christian meaning from Lord of the Rings in such a natural way that it’s difficult for me to believe Tolkien did not intend it to be meant that way from the very beginning. I got great good out of this book – new perspectives, inspirations and blessings from the world of Middle Earth that I never dreamed of.

Are you a Christian? Are you a Tolkien fan? Read this book!!

 

Visit Brent King at his site and find articles on God, fantasy, writing, and more. Also find him on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Purchase The Grip of Grace on Amazon.

King’s newest book, Tempting Jesus, released last month as well!

What’s More Important Than Books?

This is a guest post by Kohlie Stock.

Books. They are enchanting, captivating, and obsessive. I am guilty of getting caught in their drama and storyline. Through books I’ve traveled the world, fallen in love, and at times been emotionally wrecked.

Let’s be honest, when you pick up a book, particularly of the fantasy genre, you escape the real world. Even if it is just for a few books1seconds, you are anywhere but the present. It amazes me to think that literature can have this effect on people. After all, they are merely words on a page.

Books are fun, entertaining, and have changed the world. Who wouldn’t want to travel to Narnia or the Shire? To fight with Katniss and see the Hobbits’ hairy toes? They have a way of drawing us in and holding us tight, embracing us with their perfect plots and witty words.

As much as we adore the fairy tale lifestyle, we do have to come to our senses for one thing: Jesus!

He is not another Voldemort or Percy Jackson. He is real, alive, and working today. John 3:16 really does sum up God’s purpose. It says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If you read on to verse 17, it says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Thousands of years ago Jesus came to earth in human form (Luke 1:31) to save us from our sins. We are not perfect! We mess up, do bad things, sometimes throw our lives away, but God came to rescue us from this. Matthew chapter 27 talks about how Jesus was crucified on a cross, and the painful death He endured. When He walked the hill of Golgotha not only did He carry a huge cross which He would later be nailed to, but He also carried the weight and guilt we have for our sins. Isaiah 53:5-6 (NLT) says “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed…Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.”

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The world will tell you that you need to look inward and always try to find yourself. It’s easy to be very introverted when you read books, but sometimes we have to put our copies of Divergent down and start living in the real world. A place that is craving and crying out for fulfillment and an everlasting love. A love that only Jesus can give. The good news is that God is not dead! He arose three days after His death and He is living today (Matthew 28). This is better than any fantasy story, because these monumental events really are true and did indeed happen!

I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to loving my alone time, with nothing but a cup of coffee and a copy of my favorite book, The Outsiders. However, I want to challenge myself – and you too – to start living more in the present and focus on reaching out to others by showing Christ’s love. Yes, it will require giving up some of my free D.E.A.R. (drop everything and read) time, but I think sharing the hope of eternal life with Jesus is much more important!

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Kohlie StockEighteen-year-old Kohlie Stock is a brave brunette girl from the Midwest. After coming home from a week at CIY MOVE (Christ In Youth) this past summer, she felt God at work in her life. Knowing her walk with Him had become stagnant, she craved to do something more. Christ placed the idea of starting a Christian newsletter to reach out to her family, friends, and community on her heart. From obeying His command came the creation of The Edge, which is proclaiming the mystery of Christ and encouraging others every day!

When Kohlie is not working on The Edge she is busy studying in school and working as a lifeguard. She enjoys growing closer to family and friends, being outdoors, writing, reading, and listening to good music. Some of her favorite things are her baseball glove, journal, aviator sunglasses, guitar, “K” coffee cup, and Spanish Bible. Kohlie’s dream is to be a Spanish teacher and translator. In fact, she is traveling to Costa Rica this summer on a mission trip! This will be a great experience in sharing her faith and practicing her Spanish. No matter where she is, she always wants to shine the light of her Savior and live her life as a kingdom worker. She often says “…without Him, I would be nothing…”

Read Kohlie’s newsletter or sign up to receive it by email by visiting her site at The Edge (www.theedge95.weebly.com)