"Beyond all Towers Strong and High"

Saturday, 30 June 2012

via Pinterest
(I am linking up my Cup-A-Tea Poetry Corner Post with Elizabeth's Poem of the Week just because in reality I was first inspired by her sharing of beautiful poetry on hr blog to try out this on my own blog!)

I had been reflecting on the poem I should share for this Cup-A-Tea Poetry Corner post, as I know I have been rather slack on them of late. Lately, I suppose things have been going at a really fast pace in life, so that I have had little time to think and reflect, and yet one cannot help noticing with sorrow how much suffering and darkness there is going on around us. Christians in many places are suffering, and are in great trials and sometimes we wonder where is the light and love of Christ in all that we see. How can we sing and hope when the way grows ever narrower and dark before our feet?

As these thoughts have been going on in my heart, I  remembered a beautiful piece of prose from, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (by J.R.R. Tolkien) that I should like to share. It  comes from the scene when Samwise Gamgee was trying to save Frodo who had been captured by orcs and taken to the Tower of Cirith Ungol. Only a little earlier, he had fought and wounded the giant Shelob (who'd stung Frodo), and met the grief of his master's supposed death. He had been met with the difficult choice of what to do with the Ring, and afterwards had pursued and fought with orcs in the tower, searching fruitlessly for his beloved master. It was in the strong and high tower that hopeful and cheerful Samwise Gamgee... Samwise the Brave... finally was overcome with despair.

"At last, weary and feeling finally defeated, he sat on a step below the level of the passage-floor and bowed his head into his hands. it was quiet, horribly quiet. The torch, that was already burning low when he arrived, sputtered and went out; and he felt the darkness cover him like a tide. And then softly, to his own surprise, there at vain end of his long journey and his grief, moved by what thought in his heart he could not tell, Sam began to sing.

His voice sounded thin and quivering in the cold dark tower: the voice of a forlorn and weary hobbit that no listening orc could possibly mistake for the clear song of an Elven-lord. He murmured old childish tunes out of the Shire, and snatches of Mr. Bilbo's rhymes that came into his mind like fleeting glimpses of the country of his home. And then suddenly new strength rose in him, and his voice rang out, while words of his own came unbidden to fit the simple tune. 

"In western lands beneath the Sun
the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run,
the merry finches sing.
Or there maybe 'tis cloudless night
and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels white
amid their branching hair.

Though here at journey's end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell."
-The Return of the King pg. 1188 (J.R.R. Tolkien)

I think we often are like Sam Gamgee in that our struggles and the problems we face feel like "towers strong and high". There may seem like no way out. And in the midst of the difficult situations we go through, we can often feel overcome, unable to go on. It can feel like all goodness and beauty has gone from everything around us, so burdened and weighed down we are by our worries and doubts. And yet, though we may not see the shining of the Promises of God, still they shine. He is eternal, unchanging through the storms and struggles of life. "Above all shadows and beyond all towers strong and high", He is there and His love and faithfulness is like a Shield, our Shelter in the times of storm. His mercies are new every morning, every day. So, even if all is dark and we cannot feel that Light and the joy of the Lord, we can still trust, we can still rest in our Heavenly Father's arms and we can still sing! We can rejoice that the afflictions and fiery furnaces we are facing now are all part of His plan of refining us and making us more like Him. So we may give thanks and, yes, even rejoice and sing a song of hope, just like Samwise Gamgee was able to sing in that great tower "strong and "high". 

May the Lord Jesus grant us to always have hope and never give up; may He give us His Light in a dark world. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. Isaiah 60:2 (NKJV)

I think I have shared this quote before, but I would like to share it here again. It is one that really encourages my faith in the Lord Jesus through times when I have felt struggling. I pray it may bless you too!

Our feelings do not affect God's facts. They may blow up like clouds and cover the eternal things that we most truly believe. We may not see the shining of the promises, but they still shine; and the strength of the hills that are His also is not for one moment less because of our human weakness. Heaven is no dream. Feelings come and go like clouds, but the hills and the stars abide." ~Amy Carmichael from her devotional book, Edges of His Ways)

A Whisper of Beauty Amid Winter

Sunday, 24 June 2012

I have not done a photography post, in a long, long time. Part of that is because I've been really busy, concentrating on school, music and writing. However, as evidenced from the pictures above, I've been snapping away all the same though mostly people-photos, not nature and flowers. Being so busy I had not visited the backyard in a while, and being winter here, I didn't expect to find any flowers in bloom that were worth taking pictures of. But I was wrong. The other day, I went out to the garden, and found amid the bare shrubbery and grass little beauties... little flowers... quite simple and probably not very special and yet I thought them beautiful all the same. They were little glimpses of God's love and care, and the beauty of His Creation. There will always be beauty around us if we look (sometimes, it is just a little hard to find!) but it is there... a whisper and a promise of beauty amid the chill of winter. It is a bit like that with our own lives. There is always hope, always a promise despite the trails, disappointments, worries and difficulties that we go through in life, because Jesus is our guide. He fills us with His Hope, His Promise. It is the promise like that of spring.

How often we struggle and are restless in our souls with all the fears and worries of our lives, yet Jesus whispers in our hearts words of peace and comfort. He calls us to Himself. Oh! May we lay all our burdens at His feet, and may rest in His love and power. Because He is good!

Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands. ~Elisabeth Elliot

"like falling snow over the embers"

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

"You could raise me like a banner in a battle
Put victory like a fire behind my shining eyes
I would drift like falling snow over the embers
But for now just let me lie"
"Show Me," Audrey Assad

Some of you may be familiar with a Christian song called "Show me" by Audrey Assad. I recently came across it on a blog; and as I was preparing this post, this line "like falling snow over the embers" struck me as a good post title, just because words ironically are oft' as icy and clear, and refreshing as falling snow over hot embers, or as sharp as the blade of a sword... All that aside though, it is time for another "Snippet of Story" (hosted by Katie)! I just realized that these snippets ought to be from one's writing written throughout that month... something  I didn't notice in my last snippet *oh dear!*. Well, I have scribbled quite a bit of random bits from The Crown of Life on a notebook (having little time to actually open the word-docu), but of course I've mainly written in A Love That Never Fails those last two months. So... without any further ado, here I am to share little snippets with you all. 

The villagers, upon seeing the crested eagle, the thundering of the horses' hooves, and the glimmering arm of Rome held aloft, scattered like dead leaves before a fierce gale, their Galilean faces etched with hatred, fear and despair. The maidens at the spring, abandoned their jars and fled for shelter, while the mothers gathered their children away from the path, screaming in Aramaic words of caution and fear. - The Crown of Life

A hot wind bestirred the sand dunes beneath Gnea's hooves, remnants of the vicious beast--the khamsin storm. - The Crown of Life

Valerius felt his voice drop to a low tenor as he spoke. "Assassination? You jest, my friend. At the last, you shall rue the day you laid a hand on the Consul-- we all will!"
Flavius smiled wryly, as he fingered the silver dagger in his hand. "If we all live so long." - The Crown of Life

"Centurion Brutus Arius?" Valerius allowed his voice to boom louder then he ever had before. Every person in the tavern turned momentarily to search for the owner of the voice, but when they saw his military attire, and the sheathed sword guarding his side, shrugged and turned away. Let Rome settle its own affairs... its own wars. They were good at it. That was what they were made for. - The Crown of Life

“My child, love never fails.” - A Love That Never Fails

The violent curve of the tawdry motorbike thundering across the path, its brass fittings polished brightly as gold in the early sunrise, caused Jane to halt in her step. Her heart ached as she imagined what Grandmamma would have said of that "rascal gentleman" if she were present. - A Love That Never Fails

The Company galloped in haste, fleeing the terror behind them, when the icy splendor of dawn overtook them unawares, fortifying them with comfort like a flagon of chilled water would to a thirsty soul. - Escape From Vanity

Elizabeth shook her head, tears glistening in her eyes. “You’ve been like a ray of sunshine in our house since you came. I just don’t understand, Jane. How could you be so loving and kind to us in the midst of your own loss?” - A Love That Never Fails

Valerius thought the sound of her laughter was like the joyful bubbling of a singing fountain or like the spontaneous gushing of a spring. - The Crown of Life

Julius heard, even in his sleep, the thunderous gale tearing and whipping through the ancient forest, like the giant crash of an ocean wave upon the jagged cliffs of shore. - The Crown of Life

"All my life has been one great storm, Captain. I wonder... when will I awake to find the waves stilled and my heart at peace at last?" - The Crown of Life

midst the roar of enemy planes, the anti aircraft guns and blasts, the air raid sirens kept on ringing, adding a tone of terror to everyone huddled below in the dark of the shelters.  -  A Love That Never Fails

Grandmamma held her hand, as the train screeched to a halt a midst a haze of steam. Clutching her carpetbag, Jane stood on the platform that swarmed with bewildered children and parents, her  head throbbing like a hammer from all the emotions and griefs she'd experienced in the space of a day. - A Love That Never Fails

He Must Increase But I Must Decrease // Blogoversary

Sunday, 17 June 2012

This past week marked the first anniversary of my blog, Fullness of Joy. It is hard to believe that it has been a year since I started this journey of blogging! That being the case, I think it is only right to share a little with you about that journey, and the lessons I learnt along the way.

And for that, one has to start from the beginning of the tale...

Before January 2011, I had never ever heard of anything called a "blog" or would have known what it was if anyone mentioned it to me. I had started my writing journey only a few years before, and was slowly realizing how important it was to me. My writing experience mainly branched out in such projects like my first story, Escape from Vanity, some ideas for a story set in Ancient Rome (the seeds for my current historical novel, The Crown of Life), and "just a bit of odd poetry and comic rythme", as Samwise Gamgee would've put it :). Besides that, I used to journal my thoughts irregularly in different dog-worn notebooks, and write book-sized letters to one or two of my friends who lived outside the state.

I remember pretending that I had my own girl's magazine, and I'd write "articles" and stuff just for fun. It was thrilling to imagine that I could reach out to lots of people through the use of words, even if it was only in the scope of my imagination!! But it never occurred to me that one could have an online presence, and that it was really possible to reach others through one's writing.

Around the beginning of last year, I became friends with a lovely young lady who had a private (closed) blog. She sent me an e-mail invitation to her blog, and I browsed into it with some interest, though without fully realizing what I was getting into. It was quite intriguing and I enjoyed reading all the posts she had. I also got introduced to other 'open' blogs from homeschooling girls in other countries. The posts that these lovely girls wrote were really the kind of things I had been longing to write and share about for a long time myself. Besides that, I felt suddenly that there were other young ladies out there who shared many of my convictions. My interest was thoroughly piqued. So much so, that I actually made an account with blogger and made a blog for myself (private). I wrote out an introduction and dabbled with the ready-made blog templates and fonts. But it didn't look as exciting as the blogs I saw about, and at that time I wasn't sure if this was something okay for me to try out. So I soon forgot all about it, and it seemed that that was that. 

June 13 changed all that though. My sister, Sarah, made a YouTube account and, despite it sounding irrelevant to it, my curiosity was aroused once again to making a blog, and I found myself opening up Blogger.com. And the journey started!

I went through phases in the beginning, what with trying to find a suitable blog name-- some of the title idea were Streams of Reflection... or Valley of Reflection--, a nice template design and sending invitations to my friends to view it. Finally, I found a lovely blog template, with a new blog title, Joy's Arbour of Reflection. And from then on, I started blogging regularly, the every day things of life: "busyness updates", music, a bit of my writing, photography (it was during this time I realized how much I enjoy capturing life on camera and sharing it on blogger), stories I read about Christians of the past and devotional thoughts and hymns.  It was indeed my little arbour of thought and reflection! Looking back on the posts now, I feel like blushing at how inexperienced and childish some of my earlier posts were. But despite that, I wrote more simply and freely, without feeling the pressure to get more followers, comments etc...it was just for my family and friends, and though limited in its audience, it gave me the freedom to share life happenings and thoughts and things that I would normally have not written if I had had a open blog. During the first six months, I slowly got better at writing blog posts; blogging gave me an added benefit of exploring other types of writing which I've found to enjoy almost as much as writing fiction. Most of all though, it was a blessing to write about the daily things I was learning in my walk with God, and share with my friends in Christ through it. 

It was always in my mind though, that I'd make joy-live4jesus.blogspot.com an open blog one day.  I didn't know when I'd have the courage to go out in the open and write for a wider audience, but I looked forward to it, while gleaning inspiration from different blogs. At long last, in December 2011, I took that step, and opened up my blog. It was then also, that I renamed my blog "Fullness of Joy". 

Calling it Fullness of Joy, had more to do with it, then being a reflection of my name. It is the Scripture verse in the above header which I long to be a reflection of in this blog: "You will show me the path of life, in Your Presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11. Through life's journey, my Father is teaching me and showing me the path of life. How I long to follow it, walking with Him! How I long to do His will and let Him lead me throughout my life. I know from the bottom of my heart that without Jesus, there would be no joy in life... no happiness. Life would not be worth living. How much sorrow, pain and difficulty there is in the world, and how the way the world presents a glamouring scene of pleasures and delights is truly all false. In reality, it is a hell without Jesus! 

He is source of all of life's joy and happiness because through Him we live, move and have our being. It is in Him and His Presence, abiding in His love, that there is fulfillment in life, there is the fullness of joy. And it is in following the path of the cross, following Jesus, that there is true joy; it is at His right hand that there are pleasures forevermore. I am learning this through every day things in life... I so often stumble and fail... but He is always there. He is my constant when everything in life changes. Life as it presents itself usually does not look very epic or heroic... yet, His love shines through even the mundane, the struggles and the difficulties. There is true joy, even in the simple things of life when one has Jesus. His love and joy in our hearts radiates our lives. As the song goes, "life is worth the living, just because He lives!"...and that's what I long to share on this blog. Fullness of joy in Him, in walking in the path of life, in abiding in His Presence daily. That's my true longing.

But like some of you I'm sure, I have gone through some struggles on why I blog, and what I should post about since I started. I have learnt many lessons about the desire of getting a big audience, and writing appealingly... making my blog "successful". That was my temptation, unrealized or noticed when I first made Fullness of Joy public. Just the lure of getting more followers, comments and have a good look on my blog like those special blogs out there was quite strong. I did not realize that fully at the time; but I had felt that pressure to copy some of the other more popular blogs in the post styles to get people to 'notice' my blog. I was looking at how many comments and followers I was getting, and not what God was leading me to write. For a while it was a real struggle. It still is sometimes. But the Lord lovingly corrected and convicted me of this through His Word, as well as through a good talk I had with my parents about all that early this year. 

Through it, I learnt a lot and it was a true growing experience. I realized so much of my pride that was in it all, and how I was compromising for 'quantity' and not for what would glorify Christ and edify and bless my sisters in Christ. I still need the Lord's grace in this, but the Lord is gracious and helps us in our weakness and I am learning this every day. How true it is, and in the depths of my heart I long, that "He must increase, but I must decrease..." (John 3:30) And I pray that my life, and this blog would reflect this.

I know that one of the hardest things in blogging is to find inspiration for blog posts, and then the actual execution of those inspirations on the screen. It can be hard to be authentic, when there are so many blogs out there, but I think if one writes about what he really loves without thought about being genuine or authentic, just being truthful, then it will be authentic. I find the things that most inspire me to write my blog posts are the things that inspire me in real life as well. My love of writing, reading, music, the things I read, listen and watch, photography and nature, my family and friends, being a daughter and sister at home but most of all my life in Jesus all inspire and affect what I write on blogger. Often I've struggled writing posts on what I've read in God's Word or what He's spoken to my heart through devotional/inspirational posts, because I've felt a lack of that deeper knowledge and faith in God in myself. So how can I write and share with others what I am still learning and struggling with? But sometimes we "preach best what we need to learn most", and even though we don't need to preach, just sharing our own struggles and Scripture, quotes, stories, songs helps us in our own walk with God, as well as to others.

Of course sometimes the inkwell does dry out, and then you, my poor long-suffering readers, have to suffer a bit!! But inspiration can be found around us if we look hard enough and ponder in our hearts, and that is what I am trying to learn to draw from in my writing, with God's help. 
To end this long-winded post, I just wanted to thank you all so very much for all your lovely comments and encouragements you've shared throughout my first year of blogging. Your feedback and encouragement makes blogging all the more worth it. Also, I want to thank my followers for following this blog. Wow, I am really blessed. You all are great :). Most of all, it is a blessing to have 'met' you all, as sisters in Christ, and be encouraged together in Him!

May the Lord Jesus bless you all abundantly as you walk on the path of life, dwelling in His Presence, where there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore!

An Invaluable Experience

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

In my last post, I was deploring how little writing I've been doing. I also talked about being in a "period of reflection" and research at this time... a little break before launching out to the second stage of The Crown of Life. Well, I was wrong that I wasn't going to write. If anything, it has been a long while since I did so much writing! There are many new and invaluable experiences to be discovered in being a writer, and I've recently discovered one. 

I have written my first short story! 
And it is entitled, A Love That Never Fails

It has been a wonderful, new experience. And it has taught me so much more about writing. Having written it in a short-time period (a week), and giving myself a word count of 3000 words for the sake of keeping it a short story was one of the biggest challenges in the process (the latter especially). Yet, I have learnt so much about picking out the threads, really forming a story and... finishing it. I've never written an ending to any story/novel before until last week; and it was a thrilling sensation typing out the last word!

To make it a short-story there was this word count to deal with. I learnt for the first time how to make out what is really necessary to the story as a whole, and what is useless "rambling" and repetitiveness in the use of words. This I have not really focused on in my historical novel, due to its depth and largeness. And I haven't reached the ending of course and so I've not bothered about it. Yet regarding the short story, I confess that it felt like pure torture when I had to chop up favourite (though not imperative) scenes and paragraphs for the sake of the whole piece. I recently read something relevant to this from one writer in a textbook called, The Creative Writing Coursebook (that's a great book by the way for newbie and experienced writers alike!). The writer, Ashley Stokes, said, "Even fine work may need to be sacrificed for the overall whole." Hard as it was while writing the story, this is true.

However, now that I've finished the short story, I have this new idea which I am praying about. I'm considering rewriting A Love That Never Fails as a short sized novel, whilst still working on my main book, The Crown of Life. It is still not decided yet... but it is a thought and we'll have to see where it goes from there! So, if you see me mentioning A Love That Never Fails, or making Beautiful People and Story Snippets for it, it should not take you by surprise. With all that, don't fear... I am not abandoning The Crown of Life. It will hopefully will be a side thing that I can work on when I'm low on inspiration or just need a little break. Does that make sense?

Maybe you're wondering though what is my short story about from the first place? Well, I have yet to write a good synopsis and I don't want to give too much away, but briefly, it is about a young girl in London during the London Blitz of World War 2 and deals with such things as the evacuation of children during the bombings in England, love in the midst of sorrow, an overburdened family and the theme of 2 Corinthians 13 that "Love Never Fails".

And here are some pictures of the main characters. Enjoy!

Jane Wilson
(Jane in left picture at 14, Jane in right picture at 19)

Grandmamma Wilson

George Wilson (Jane's father)

William and Elizabeth Miller

Elizabeth Miller

Amelia Miller

Margret Miller

Dick Miller

Matilda Dew
(lady on far right)

Mrs. Helen Burns

There is another main character, but I can't find a picture.
his name is Albert Hunter

You've been like a ray of sunshine in our house since you came. I just don't understand, Jane." - A Love That Never Fails

all images are via Pinterest