'You Will Make Me Full of Joy'

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

I know some years ago, I wrote a post with some of the thoughts I'm penning below, but  considering the length of time since I did so, I guess there is no harm in sharing it more fully now. Possibly, I am am in the need of a fresh prompting of what the true meaning of joy is as the year comes to a close and a new one dawns. I always need to remember, after all.

One of my 'favourite' (if one can ever have a favourite) verse in the Scriptures has been Psalm 16, verse 11. Not only does it speak of 'fullness of joy' which resonates strongly with my desire and longing for 'joy', but also in Acts, we see the Apostle Peter take this passage of Scripture as a fulfillment of prophesy in regards to our Lord and His Resurrection - what a glorious mystery and Hope! 

'I foresaw the LORD always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 
You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your Presence.'
Acts 2: 25-28 

Over the months and years since, I titled my blog 'Fullness of Joy', the title and verse accompanying my blog has helped me keep in perspective not only what I share on my blog about my writing, the books I love and the things I love to do and be, but it also has been a beneficial reminder of who and what I am in Christ, and His Providential purpose and destiny for my life, to walk the path of faith and joy with my Lord, looking towards my eternal Home (and not getting entangled in every Vanity Fair of life). We're just passin' through. 

I am Joy, and as to my temperament, ironically, I am (generally!) as happy a person as my name would imply. In many ways, life seems brimming chock-block-full of so many joys, laughter and glorious beauty. It can be overwhelming at times! And yet, it is also filled with greater sorrow and sadness, pain, agony and sin. That kind of fearfulness and darkness that can not be easily shut out. Once I thought differently, but now I am realizing just how much life is filled with gritty sorrow and burdensome toil. Once I used to think the book of Ecclesiastics and Job really did not belong in the spiritual journey of a Christian who has Hope in Christ. Now, I am starting to glimpse something of an affinity to those passages of Scripture. Life is difficult to understand especially when you're hurting and when you find that you cannot be happy of and in yourself. Of myself I know I cannot ever be happy... I cannot be a 'joy' to others, to the Lord, or a joy in my own life. My selfishness, my sins, the troubles and sorrows around me, robs me of any beauty and ecstasy over the glory of Creation. All I see, these days, is the Fall.

And it is so, so hard... to see the Resurrection

...in the world, in Creation, in the church-family and in me. But then I look to Christ. And like through a mirror, not dimly, but truly, I see it in Him. It is in Him that all my Desires and Joys abide. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Where everything else fails, He does not. Friends, loved ones, hopes and dreams, ambitions, pleasures... they all disappoint. He does not. I am not saying that following Him is easy, or that life's problems fix themselves over. Oh, no! It is the way of Calvary, after all. But - it is worth it. Because He is there, His Spirit abiding in us - we die to self, and live in Him! And like the Apostle Paul, 'as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing...'

And so, the verse in Psalm 16 has become very dear to me over the years; over and over, the Lord keeps showing me how there can never be true joy in life apart from Him. It is in His Presence that there is fullness of joy. And that 'joy' is unlike anything the world offers. It is a joy, oh far more precious! It is a joy that comes from abiding and living in the Presence of our beloved Saviour, in repentance (which is the joy-filled life!). Jesus said “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15: 11 NKJV) It is the joy of the Lord. During the season in which I was born (Christmas), there is a sense of celebration and jollification, but  in those special joyous occasions you and I may be suffering or hurting... or maybe, just struggling with doubts and don't feel any joy, or anything of that kind of happiness of the world that is both cheap and so transient. But there is a joy far greater, true joy... and you know what? That joy, no one... NO ONE! can take away from us, even in the midst of weeping and great inner turmoil and darkness. Jesus promised us His joy...

"Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy... Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you."
John 16: 20, 22 NKJV

No one can take that away. Seeking the Lord Jesus, dwelling in His Presence, that's where there is 'fullness of joy' and inner peace. That's the desire of my heart. To dwell in His Presence and abide in Him. A part of abiding in Him, dwelling in His Presence is listening to His voice and obeying. When we stop choosing our own way, and the passing "pleasures of this world", "He will show us the path of life..." and in dying to self, abiding in Him, then there is true fulfillment and joy in life - then there is Joy and Resurrection! That is one big lesson of my life that I know I will continue to learn and grow in for the rest of my life: walking the path of life with Him in the everyday things of life, and also the big things: in home-life,  schooling, reading, writing, music, art, homemaking, cooking, sewing, family-time, friend-time, quiet times with God... the list is endless. He gives the joy with which we can see life and enjoy it, and take all these joys of life and give it back to Him in thankfulness. It is a life surprised by signposts of joy - our final joy will be in reaching Glory Land when we will continually be with Him in utter joy and bliss; but until then, as we walk the path of life, His joyful Presence surrounds us. He is with us. Oh!  So, may we seek His Presence always- for in His presence is fullness of joy! 

'When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries 'Look!' The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver  and their lettering of gold. 'We would be at Jerusalem.' 
- Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis

God bless, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

'God bless us, everyone'

Thursday, 26 December 2013

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." 
-Luke 2:10-11

Merry Christmas, Everyone!! =}

Thrice, I Greet Thee

Monday, 2 December 2013

#A Dance of Skirts, Ruffles and Lace
Da-da-da... I am back, with a blinding whirl of activities done and dusted, and a fresh batch to meet! My, how I missed you all so. I missed writing on this blog too, but I have to say that the guest-posts shared by Leah, Bree, Schuyler and Annie more than adequately tossed aside all notions of nostalgia over being away - each post was so encouraging and inspiring! Thank you all so much ^_^.

First of all, I must tell you how NaNo went. W-e-l-l, I wrote thirteen thousand and thirty words precisely. Considering the fun family music concert my sisters and I participated in during November--we did a plethora of practice night and day in preparation for it--, and choosing on the last day of NaNo to learn to knit a scarf as a Christmas gift for Dad instead of write, I actually did not do badly I think. I had planned on reaching the 20,000 mark, but I am still pretty happy with how things have fitted in. It was so good to just sit down every day and write. Sometimes I worried over writing enough words, sometimes I freaked out over how horribly the scenes were coming along (why are stories ever so much more inspiring in one's mind than in written words?), and at other times gloried simply over seeing the story and characters display themselves and reveal their colours with vibrant flashes of orange and deep blue and soft lavenders (mostly in seeing what works and what doesn't). The story of A Love that Never Fails is only just beginning - I have such a long way to write yet, and even what I did write needs major edits. But considering school and busyness of family, that's perfectly okay. I see now how the story will play out, the characters are peeping their shy darling faces and I am just as eager to continue writing now as during November. That is a good thing, isn't it? And since the Christmas/Summer holidays are fast approaching, I have that to look forward to!

On that note, Christmas is fast approaching. Now that is exciting. I love this season so, so much! Who doesn't? I always look forward to this time to especially celebrate the Advent of Christ's birth, of His coming to save us from our sins... it is a beautiful time. And I pray that this special season will be a really blessed one for all of us. May our eyes be fixed on Jesus, our Saviour and Lord! May He fill us with His joy and peace even through trials and difficulties during this joyous season and always.

#photo source

So far, I have so many plans and projects for this month I don't know how I'll be able to fit them all in! But, it is exciting anyhow and I am enjoying every bit of it. So, I thought perhaps I will share some of the little tid-bits of things I am looking forward to/doing Lord willing these days :)

I want to spend more time reading God's Word, dwelling in His Presence, pausing to listen to His voice and simply to sit at Jesus' feet, to pray and worship. I haven't done enough of that in the last months, and I miss that special close communion with Him so!

Hopefully, I would like to finish a few books before the end of the year - (I am nearly done in With Christ in the School of Prayer, I sobbed through Sutcliff's Shining Company, and Goddess Tithe by Anne Elisabeth Stengl; so now I hope to try and read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in time for Christmas, perhaps squeeze time to read Tales from the Perilous Realm by Tolkien, reread bits of The Hobbit, and the rest of Rosemary Sutcliff's Dolphin Ring Cycle novels like The Shield Ring and The Shining Company.)

The family music concert last week went splendidly - it was such fun! I played with Mary and my violin teacher a violin trio Medley of The Lord of the Rings (SUCH FUN!), then my sisters and I performed a Sound of Music medley, and with Mary playing the piano accompaniment I played songs from Les Miserables on the violin. Last of all, my sisters and I sang a Christmas song, Thorns in the Straw together - a family favourite by Graham Kendrick... and at the end Mary and I with the other performs played an ensemble of the Cannon in D Major. It was an exhausting but fun day to be sure! Now, I am back to playing dreary scales and arpeggios :), with a few Carols thrown in for good measure...

Knit and Quilt ('cause they rythme)
I am hoping to create some craft-y homemade Christmas gifts this year - like with knitting and cross-stitch. I just hope I have enough time, with still two weeks of schoolwork left.

Fun and Hobbits 
  A day before Christmas will be my 18th birthday and a day after Christmas here in Australia, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug movie will be coming out. *squeals* I CAN HARDLY WAIT!!!!! 

Scribbles and Ink
With God's help, I plan to keep writing on A Love that Never Fails during the holidays, and also maybe on a few other projects, do some letter and long emailing writing to my sweet friends and also blog regularly, hopefully. Writing will be a big part of Christmas 2013, I think ^_^. And yes, I will try to finish those questions I received on my blog-party earlier this year, do more reviews and share more writing-tid-bits with you all on A Love that Never Fails and its progress (aka. snippets, beautiful people...)

With the number 7 (completion), I have still a bit of school-work to finish up. Algebra for one thing. Ho hum! Maybe biology too. I am enjoying my Successful Living Course though which is an elective study on the book of Proverbs. It's looking to be very encouraging and challenging!

 What are you looking forward to this Christmas season?

Right now, it is 10:21pm, I am listening to the Desolation of Smaug soundtrack (EPIC HEART-BREAKING BEAUTY!) and I really ought to be heading off to bed; but first, I have to share about a Christmas Read-along Anne Elisabeth Stengl (author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood) series is hosting on her blog. It is a lot of fun where Stengl shares articles about her books and 'behind the scenes', plus there are giveaways too! So, why don't you check out her blog and join in? This time she is sharing about her second novel, Veiled Rose which I really want to read one of these days. Check out her event here!

'...and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.' -Matthew 1:21

In which we speak of Happiness – a guest post by Annie Hawthorne.

Monday, 25 November 2013

(This marks the 150th post on this blog - congrats, Annie, and thank you for this lovely post ^_^.)

Since I’m fond of scribbling up blog posts (in my head) I was thrilled when Joy asked me if I could guest post on her blog whilst she’s away in the Land of NaNo. The last time I guest posted for her I had a grand time. So, I happily agreed …and then promptly forgot all about it (Blame NaNo). At any rate, this morning I realized that I still had to type up the post. I knew what Certain Subject I wanted to talk about, but I had no clue how to express it. Which means this might end up being somewhat higgledy-piggledy. Ho hum. Moving on.

The Subject I wish to discuss is Thankfulness. Yes, yes, I know it says ‘happiness’ in the title. But thankfulness and happiness go hand-in-hand. I once read a quote somewhere that said, “It isn’t happy people that are thankful, but thankful people that are happy.”

I know from personal experience that this is true. People who haven’t learned to be content and thankful with where they are in life, their circumstances, etc. will likely never be truly happy. They’re always wanting something more, something else; they don’t like their job, or where they live. And because they weren’t content or thankful for what they did have, generally when they are given what they wanted, it never ends up making them happy like they thought it would. But, if you learn to be thankful where you are and with what you have, you can be happy and contented right now.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” ~ 1 Thess 5:18

This is a lesson that God has been teaching me over the past few years. My family’s gone through some rough times financially and medically. Because there’s been times when--due to Daddy’s paycheck coming in late--we’ve had little food or soap in the house, or our well went out and we couldn’t afford to have a new one dug right away, or our washer stopped doing the spin cycle and we had to stir the clothes around by hand (and let me tell you, the water going to our washer is not warm), because of all that, and more, I’m learning to be thankful for what I have right now.

Several years ago my older sister, Holly, had a severe medical condition where the membrane of her throat was damaged and she could only have liquids. She was becoming malnourished, literally starving to death. There were several times we thought she was going to die. But, God was there with us all the way, guiding us, showing us what to do. Holly survived. Now she can eat most any food (save nuts), her hair has grown back (a lot of it had fallen out), she’s not as skinny as a twig anymore, and she is healthy again. Through that trial I learned to appreciate her more and be thankful for her…for every day that we have with her. I think this also helped me be more thankful for life itself. Because when you think about it just the fact that we are ALIVE is enough for us to be thankful and happy about. We have no right to be ungrateful when a loving God has chosen us to be his children. The very fact that we are washed clean by Jesus’ blood is enough and more than enough to be thankful for… to make us content with what he has given us, and with our lot in life
“I have everything to be thankful for…everything to be happy about. And God is good. I’m alive, truly alive, and I am a child of God. I am loved by the King of Kings, and Saviour of mankind. I am loved by the Creator of the Universe. And I am in his hands.”
~ an excerpt from one of my Journals.

Sometimes when I stand outside under the night sky and tip my head back and look at the stars, with a breeze rippling my hair and the sound of wind in the pines, I am so full of gratitude and happiness that tears run down my cheeks. Sometimes all it takes is a smile on a stranger’s face, a giggle from a tiny baby, the smell of coffee, the sharp black silhouettes of trees against the deep blue of an evening sky, a bird chirping, a tight, never-let-you-go hug from my brother, a flash of vivid colour, the clink of heeled boots on a wooden floor, teardrops from the sky splashing against the glass panes, the feel of satin, or the smell of rain to make me remember again how much I have to be thankful for, how good my Saviour is, and that life truly is beautiful.

Count your blessings. Be thankful for everything. It won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it.

"Gratitude is all-important. Everything is a gift. Every smell, every second, every ice-cream dollar. Gratitude for the whole story, from beginning to end, gratitude for the valleys and the shadows that lead us to the novel's final page. Take a step and thank God, for He holds you in His hand. Never ask to be put down. Never struggle for separation or for worth apart from His gifts. Breathe, taste His world, His words, and marvel that you are here to feel the blowing swirl of life. To be blown by it. Enjoy your ice-cream." - Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, N.D. Wilson (Disclaimer: I’ve never read this book, thus cannot recommend it. But, I’ve heard it’s quite good)

“It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones--I've discovered the true secret of happiness, Daddy, and that is to live in the now. Not to be forever regretting the past, or anticipating the future; but to get the most that you can out of this very instant... I'm going to enjoy every second, and I'm going to know I'm enjoying it while I'm enjoying it. Most people don't live; they just race. They are trying to reach some goal far away on the horizon, and in the heat of the going they get so breathless and panting that they lose sight of the beautiful, tranquil country they are passing through; and then the first thing they know, they are old and worn out, and it doesn't make any difference whether they've reached the goal or not.” ~ Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster.

“Happiness isn't something that depends on our surroundings...It's something we make inside ourselves.”
~ Corrie ten Boom

Annie Hawthorne is a homeschooled young lady between the ages of fifteen and twenty. She is a saved by God’s grace. Daughter of the King of Kings. Multi-genre writer. Avid Bookworm. Knitter. Seamstress. Whovian. Singer. Country girl to the core. Beauty in any form thrills the very fibres of her heart and music is the unspoken language of her soul. A writer by blood and child of God by grace she strives to live life with joy no matter the circumstances

Feeding the Soul: Balancing Busyness and Times of Rest - A Guest Post

Monday, 18 November 2013

I'm so grateful to Joy for giving me the opportunity to guest post while she hammers out her novel during NaNoWriMo. :) Wishing all success to you in your endeavor, Joy, and we look forward to hearing about it when you return!

#via Pinterest
I'm thrilled to share on today's post subject. In fact, when I asked Joy for her approval, I had rather ulterior motives. The practice of balancing work and rest is one I'm far from proficient at, so it is a blessing to discuss this with all of you while receiving a fresh reminder for my own life as well.

Overachievers don't have it easy in today's culture. Not only do we have internet available twenty-four seven, so that we're constantly connected to an inflow of new information, but in that specific sweet spot between highschool and marriage there's simply so much to do. Education (whether through college or independently), caring for family needs, pursuing money-making ventures, and taking time to grow in the Lord turn our days into a hectic spin of running from one deadline to another.

When we're at all equipped for ministry in the Church, the problem compounds exponentially. Truly 'the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few', and those of us who are able to teach and disciple others are sadly outnumbered by baby Christians who clamoring for spiritual food. Ministry leaders, on top of living their everyday lives, often feel so pressed to provide for needs in the Church that our mental refreshment is for the purpose of pouring it into someone else the minute we've swallowed it.

I'm an overachiever, and have been for years. I try to say yes to every need, meet every deadline, and go as deep as I possibly can with every assignment. Many of you are too; and in the thousand varied tasks that fill our days, we try to solve our problem of too much to do and too little time by making our first and biggest mistake. We stop taking time to feed our own souls.

There are no margins. There are no five minute breaks. There are no times to sit and rest. Bedtimes creep later and rising times get earlier to compensate for the fact that we are needed, and we only have twenty-four hours in which to fill those needs. Oh, granted, we take the obligatory food to keep our souls alive. Many of us still catch some Bible reading every day. Occasionally we'll scarf down a few pages in an inspirational book, chat with a friend, or watch a movie when we're tired. But I think if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that a lot of us have been living on spiritual and mental protein shakes for a very long time. Fun is a hazy concept, and relaxation must have been in with the Victorian age for the rich folks who could afford it. The projects never stop. The emails never end. The needs always press.

And some days, if we could really see ourselves, a lot of us overachievers would be a bunch of weak, anorexic souls who are crying inside over the things we can't let go, too hungry ourselves to feed others much longer, and desperate for someone to tell us that they'll understand if we don't get everything done.

So what can we do to escape this trap that we've created for ourselves?

If We Can Stop
Maybe for those of us who struggle with this work balance, the greatest gift we can give to ourselves, and the people we minister to, is the gift of taking a rest.

Taking a break. All right, we'll go along with that. But somehow that never works out for us either. We work double-time before and after to make up for it, and the breaks are only long enough to relax, but never quite enough to restore. That's not a break, and it leaves our souls just as hungry and desperate as before. 

To truly take a break, we must let go of the idea that we are the only people available to save the world.

The  fact is, the stories will stay in the Word Document while we refuel. People will find another article to read if we have to break on our blogs for a (reasonable) amount of time. God is able to disciple his little children even if we aren't there. It isn't our willingness to minister and refusal to rest that keeps the world spinning.

Go read a book. You know, that one book that you've been holding off on because it doesn't fit in your reading schedule. Take a nap and don't set a timer, just for the dare. Watch a movie, and sit still until you finish all of it. Make an extra-special treat for supper, curl up and have a long phone chat with a friend, paint your nails, get out that craft you've always wanted to do but never had time for. Spend a half-hour just praying and talking to the Lord, and if you tend to create a side-commentary and analysis on how you could have prayed better (some of us do), then give it a rest and simply pour out your heart to Him.

And can I add a side note? Checking blogs is not a break. Spending ten minutes on Pinterest will only make your soul feel yucky if you needed the time to close your eyes instead. The email will be there for you later. It will. And you just checked your Blogger feed two minutes ago; let the poor thing have a break too.

The fact is, any of the above activities is not an unnecessary frivolity. Play is just as vital as rest in the Christian life. R.C. Sproul Jr., in a dynamic message about balancing work and rest, said, "Play is a tithe on work. Failure of paying a tithe is robbing God." In the words of Psalm 127:2,"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." Some scholars say the Hebrew should be translated "he gives to his beloved even while they sleep".

If play is a tithe on our work, I'm an overachiever who's been robbing God for a very long time, and may He forgive me for it.

Sproul Jr. continues, "Our work lasts into eternity. Our rest touches eternity."

Our work lasts into eternity. Our rest touches eternity. And too many of us workaholic Christians don't realize that in our haste to get our work done, we are living as strangers to Heaven. For we have the joy of eternity starting now, but only if we embrace our rest in Christ and realize that "Jesus did it all."

If we can stop, then we need to take appropriate times of rest to nourish our own souls so that we can be even more ready to feed the souls of others.

 If We Can't Stop
I realize that some people can't just up and take a break. There are health crises, relationship difficulties, and situations that require care every day, all day. Even for the overachievers, there are some circumstances that just don't allow us to drop what we're doing. And in this case, there is only one option. We must abide so deeply in the Lord that He pours in faster than we can pour out.

1. We must ask the Lord to help us number our days aright.

On Sunday nights I line up my sticky notes and divide up the tasks between each day for the following week. And no matter how much I have to do, whether it's manageable or not, it all gets written down, and I expect myself to get it done. Instead, I should be asking the Lord what He would have me do, and realize that the other things are not important. "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1). And if I'm laboring in vain on projects that the Lord does not have for me, then I'm missing precious rest and soul-food I could be receiving.

Moses, in Psalm 90, laments the frailty of mankind, that our lives are so short and so feeble. "The years of our life are seventy; or even by reason of strength eighty." And further down, in verse 12, he says, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." Teach us to realize our human frailty so that we may wisely direct our days.

We may be busy and unable to rest, but we must make it our plea to our Savior that we are not busy in vain endeavors.

2. Get some really solid support partners.

If we're so busy that we can't take a break, then we need some support partners to be there for us. To remind us to take time to feed ourselves as well as others. To pray their hearts out that the Lord will strengthen and encourage and direct our paths. To help us whenever they can, just as we help people. Even the shepherds sometimes need shepherding, and the teachers sometimes need to be taught. It's the rule in all of mankind that two are better than one. Take the Lord of the Rings, which I've been reading again recently, and which all of us here are rather fond of. ;) Frodo was given the burden of the Ring, and until he died or reached the end of his mission he could not stop or rest or pass off his burden to anyone else. But he had his faithful Sam to encourage and take care of him and carry him when the going was beyond his strength.

Take a break if you can. Pray that the Lord will preserve you from tasks you should not be undertaking. And find a Samwise to help share the load.

When Jesus was on earth, he must have had the greatest pressure to achieve that any of us have ever faced. Think of it: if you had the power to heal, wouldn't you be touching people every waking second to ease their distress? If you could ease minds and forgive sins, and give the perfect advice, wouldn't you be trying to help people with every minute you had on earth? But Jesus, even though he had the power of the all-powerful God, was only given the same energy and bodily strength as the rest of us. And he chose to take his disciples aside time and again and retreat from the busyness of life. He wasn't always able to. Sometimes he tried, but the crowds followed him, and he chose to have compassion on them. Sometimes we do as well. But in spite of the amount of work he had to accomplish, he realized the necessity of ministering to himself so that he could minister with renewed richness to those around him.

If we starve our souls, my friends, then we will be forced to offer less and less to those we are trying to reach. Take time to feed your soul. Take time to rest. And leave everything else up to the One who cares more for his needy people than we ever could ourselves.

Schuyler M. is an avid bibliophile, a young ladies' ministry leader, and an aspiring novelist. Styling herself as Lady Bibliophile, she runs a book blog, My Lady Bibliophile, where she posts Tuesdays and Fridays with book reviews and Christian evaluation methods of classic literature. In her spare time, she likes to listen to Celtic music, study Lord of the Rings trivia, and day-dream about what her growing manuscript would look like on the silver screen.

Goddess Tithe Novella Review

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Well, here I am, taking a little break from NaNo to write this novella review of Anne-Elisabeth Stengl's latest book release, Goddess Tithe. I am not all as savvy with book-reviews as I should like to be but when Anne-Elisabeth sent me a digital copy of her novella to read on the condition that I review it, it was really quite hard to resist! I know a while ago two of my friends asked if I could write a review or something of the kind here on Fullness of Joy for Heartless, the first book in Stengl's Tales of Goldstone Wood fantasy/allegorical series which I got to read earlier this year. I also got to read one of the later novels in the series, Dragonwitch which I perfectly loved! So far I have not had the opportunity to review either of them, but I hope to do so soon, Lord willing, when I come back from my NaNo-break :). At any rate, here is my review of Goddess Tithe... 

P.S. I have a feeling that you'll hear me talk about The Tales of Goldstone Wood and Stengl's books a bit more in the future on Fullness of Joy!

Goddess Tithe
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

(synopsis taken from Goodreads)

THE VENGEFUL GODDESS DEMANDS HER TITHE. When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya's only hope to return safely home. Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown's garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe. Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend?

"Fans of Tolkien and the darker tales of Faerie will be drawn into Stengl's effusive prose and wonderfully scary worlds." 

-USA Today

My Thoughts:
First of all, I have to admit that I am viewing this novella of The Tales of Goldstone Wood, from the perspective of having only read two books before in the series (the first and last novels only). Heartless was a enough of a 'background' for me to help me grasp the story and setting and Dragonwitch added the depth that made me connect with many elements in the tale, but I think full appreciation of it can be best acquired from reading the second book Veiled Rose first (that's my presupposition anyway since I have yet to read the full series).

But back to Goddess Tithe... 
This story is beautiful. It is touching and exciting and full of faerie-beauty and sea lore! One of the favourite things I enjoyed about this story (just as in Dragonwitch) was the cast of characters. They were very real and interesting. They were characters that endeared themselves to me and pulled me along with them into the thick of their lives and dreams: the sailor Munny with his boyish dreams of returning to his mother -- he is such a courageous little fellow! , Tu Puch who teaches him to tie his knots and made me cry (sob!), Captain Sunan--such a fascinating and heroic character, Leonard the stowaway who I have met before and makes me so curious to know his full story (he's quite funny in Goddess Tithe), and Risafeth the goddess of Vengeance; she reminded me a great deal with the Sea Serpent in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The plot was captivating and well-written - the ending was so heart-wrenching and bittersweet, and yet it was the perfect type of ending. I loved the dialogue-- I think Anne Elisabeth Stengl excels when her characters do not understand each other's languages and try to interact and communicate!! But perhaps what I loved about Goddess Tithe the most was the themes that were woven through the story so beautifully -- ones such as courage and faithfulness, justice and grace and sacrifice. While not being explicitly 'Christian' in plot, this story is full of the transcendence and hidden beauty that poignantly reflect the authoress' Christian perspective and worldviews. One of my favourite lines in the story would be that moment when the Captain tells Munny, "Vengeance cannot abide the agony of grace."

I have to say the more I read of Stengl's writings, the more I admire her work! She's very good.  I should hate to ruin the story for you, so all I'll say is I highly recommend Goddess Tithe and that you really ought to read it! I also very much enjoyed reading Heartless and Dragonwitch and look forward to reading more of her books by and by.

Rating for this Book: five stars!
I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Spiritual Ellipsis - a guest post by Bree Holloway

Monday, 11 November 2013

#Branding - Bree Holloway
When Joy asked me to guest post and mentioned a devotional as an option, I knew almost immediately that was what I needed to do. It wasn't perhaps what I felt properly equipped to do, but God has a lovely way of filling in the holes when I offer all I have, dontcha know. :) 

I've always struggled to keep myself inspired. Naturally, inspiration is not a friend who sticks around for long, but I have this notion that every other writer has figured out their unique way of staying inspired even for the more dry periods and I'm over here twiddling my thumbs. This, of course, is wrong, but I'm human and my ways of thinking can be frightfully twisted at times. Either way, I still for a time had no particular method for keeping inspiration flowing. Because of this, I spent a lot of time on the internet, piddling away the hours looking at cutesy things on Pinterest and reading other peoples' tweets on Twitter. I was wasting my time and then when it came to writing, I wondered why I didn't feel "inspired."

It wasn't until recently that I truly understood the connection. More internet = less time reading, living, worshiping. There ya go. It was the worshiping that I had most neglected, and it was what was most needed, and when I noticed that, the dots began to connect. Because I was still reading for school, that aspect couldn't be drastically changed at the present. Living was debatable - I was spending so much time on the computer that I didn't get outside too much, but I was still interacting with my family and friends (face-to-face) on a regular basis. 

But it was the worshiping that I was struggling with. My actions towards my family were blunt and short; because of the time I had wasted on the internet, I would be behind in my schoolwork and moving quickly to make up with it. I was forgetting to pray - neglecting, really. It had been more than a few days since I'd last read my devotional and/or Bible. 
"But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul." -Deuteronomy 4:29
I sought God, I prayed, and I felt richly renewed; I felt blessed. This isn't to say that spiritual renewal is the "instant fix" to your problems - but it's a precious balm, and the knowledge of healing is a "fix" in itself. 
Isn't it fantastic that our God will find us where we are, and take us to where He needs us to be? (Where we need to be?) It had only been a few days that I'd been off focus, and how quickly I'd fallen! It was a reminder that we all need daily: we must be renewed each morning. We are human - fragile and petty - we must constantly seek Christ and His grace. We are lost on our own.

I don't want to say that the internet is solely sinful. We all know that it can be used for a plethora of beautiful, wonderful things. But like the heart, it can also be deceitful, and draws away from our time with our family and - more importantly - our time with our Savior. 
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." -Jeremiah 29:12-14
Let us seek not only with our hearts, but our minds, our souls, our work. My heart may seek the Lord, but are my actions carrying that out? Does everything I say and do proclaim the life and death of Jesus? I feel like I'm constantly stressing that as bloggers, I want to be part of a community that constantly lifts and prods each other up; that points to Christ in all we do. That perhaps if another blogger drops by she'll see how we encourage and love each other, and want to know why. The Lord is our inspiration, girls. Let's be a strong, God-honoring community of writers, artists, creators of any kind, pointing to our Divine inspiration. I want to be a part of something beautiful like that--don't you? 
Bree Holloway is a young dancer, graphic designer and authoress-in-training. She'd tell you more about herself, but that's better done over a cuppa at her blog, Tea & Bree. Because let's face it - who's story is short enough to sum up in a bio?

Of Betsie Ten Boom - A Guest Post by Leah Good

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

via #GoogleImages
“If God shows us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that he knows about them, that’s why he sometimes shows us things you know—to tell us that this too is in his hands.” ~Betsie ten Boom
The other day, I started thinking about Betsie ten Boom. Even now that WWII has become part of history, Corrie ten Boom remains a household name for Christian families. I bet most of you reading this have read, watched, or listened to The Hiding Place. Maybe you’ve even done all three or read some of Corrie’s other books like Tramp for the Lord. But back to Betsie. 

Because she didn’t survive the war, or write books, or have a movie made about her life, Betsie is often remembered only as “Corrie ten Boom’s sister,” but I think she deserves more recognition.

This thought came to mind while listening to a message recently. The speaker mentioned how Betsie would pray for the poor, lost souls of the Nazi guards while they beat her. Betsie often gently reminded Corrie of God’s plan when Corrie became frustrated or began to lose hope. Betsie was the one who, in faith, thanked God even for the fleas that later kept the guards away so they could hold Bible studies.

We can learn a lot from this woman who died without gaining much (if any) worldly recognition before her death. She remained faithful until she died, and she didn’t do it for other’s praise.

It’s easy for us to do the right things for the wrong reasons. Following in God’s footsteps will sometimes earn us ridicule in the US, but more likely it wins us praise. People aren’t used to hardworking, polite youth. They’re eager to compliment these traits in us.

Even if we never have the opportunity to point the praise to God, it’s important for us to always internally realize that the praise should really be attributed to the Holy Spirit working in us.

Matthew 6 stresses the importance of not doing things for others to see, saying that those who do things for men to see have already received their reward. Humble people like Betsie have their rewards stacked up in heaven instead of down below. I’m guessing she’ll be one of those people who Jesus was talking about when he said the last will be first. The time may come when following our Lord will bring us ridicule and pain instead of praise. But whatever other people’s reactions, we should follow Betsie’s example of quiet, faithful obedience when no one sees but God.

Leah Good is an eighteen year old daughter of God and homeschool graduate. She recently completed a bachelors degree in Marketing from Thomas Edison State College. She now spends her time pursuing her dream of being a writer. When she's not writing, editing, or dreaming up new stories you can find Leah blogging at Leah's Bookshelf and Teens Interceding for Orphans or writing book reviews on Goodreads.

NaNo, Here I Come!

Friday, 1 November 2013

But perhaps there is neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying.
The rest is not our business.
East Coker, T.S. Eliot

Well, the wheels of time have yet again turned to this inky scribbling mad-dash time of the year: 'tis November! And yes, I have decided to join in NaNoWriMo again. It was such a delightful experience last year, and though I was unable to finish a full novel then, I still got a lot of writing accomplished which I normally don't get a chance to do. This year I will be working pretty much from scratch on my novel, A Love that Never Fails. My aim will be to try to reach those 50,000 words - but all we can do is try our best. That's what I will do, since this November is rather chock-block full with things, including lots of end-of-year school goals and a family music concert at the end of the month that is taking a deal of work and practise beforehand. But I am really excited to finally get the chance to dig my heels into this story and simply WRITE! 

So, like last year, I will be taking an Internet break for the space of November. That includes: facebook, google+, pinterest (except for a few pins for my ALTNF storyboard), goodreads and of course blogging (posting and commenting). I have one pre-scheduled post in mind, plus a couple of wonderful sweet guest-posters who will be filling up my space on Fullness of Joy during November; I hope you will enjoy their posts just as I am/have! They're quite thought-provoking ones actually. So hang around this blog still - it won't be abandoned!

If any of you would like to contact me I will be still checking my email inbox, and occasionally replying throughout November though at a leisurely pace: fullnessofjoy16@gmail.com Oh! And if you are joining NaNoWriMo too - will you please buddy me? My user-name is Joy C. and I am buddies of Bree Holloway, Elizabeth Rose, Jennifer Freitag, Emily and Abigail Hartman if you wish to find me there :-). Lastly, I would appreciate if you could remember to pray for me that I will remain inspired and write for God's glory. Thanks... ^_^ See you in December, Lord willing!
And this is for your enjoyment since you all have been so nice in liking Ernest Gilford!

A golden touch of afternoon sunshine seeped through the black-out skylight of the room, and dust speckles floated like fairy dust about. Jane glanced about her. Even the nursery felt and looked different – upside down and out-of-place, like a crab in a forgotten forest. It was almost... lonely. 
                      A Love that Never Fails

A Tale of Two Cities Book Review

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...' 
Thus wrote Charles Dickens in the opening lines of his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities. That opening paragraph was my earliest introduction to this beautiful story set during the tumultuous era of the French Revolution. I remember from my childhood how my parents used to quote those lines to my sisters and me when we were discussing topics of faith and politics and the world as it is in the twenty-first century on the dinner table. I can vividly recall just how much it intrigued me. For, in a sense, we live even now in the best of times and in the worst of times, and these iconic words written for a different age echo with us all in our own lives. Some years ago, I watched a 1980s movie adaption for A Tale of Two Cities starring Chris Saradon and Alice Kirge (which I shall refer to later on in the review) that really made me fall in love with the tale, and with the characters and with the beautiful, beautiful themes reflected throughout the story's pages. It was through the movie actually, that I decided to read the actual, unabridged book. Here is my long belated review. 

Disclaimer - I wrote this review earlier this year as a guest post on Leah Elizabeth Good's blog, Leah's Bookshelf, but did not get a chance to post about it on Fullness of Joy till now. I am sorry about that... 

via Pinterest
A Tale of Two Cities 
by Charles Dickens 
*synopsis taken from Goodreads

'Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; -- the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!' 

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

I first read A Tale of Two Cities when I was about 13, and thus my first novel by Charles Dickens felt like a daunting one - not being very much used to reading those old classics (which I have since then come to love!); also there was Dickens' frequent wordy description of the state of people in France (both the nobility and the peasants) and of the state of society in general (hence setting the stage for the French Revolution) to reckon with. Besides the opening lines the beginning chapter was quite difficult to get into, but once I came to the scene at the French wine shop, my interest was caught up fully till the end of the book. Actually, A Tale of Two Cities is not so much more daunting or wordy than any other classic I have come across and I would most definitely not find it as arduous to read now as I did then. The descriptive prose though at times slightly dense and complicated is beautiful and poetic, and definitely something worth appreciating :-).
Monsieur and Madame Defarge "Still Knitting" (Book Two, Chapter Sixteen) in the Diamond Edition of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities
But even when I read it for the first time the difficulty of the book could not detract from my enjoyment of the story. Set with a myriad of fascinating and three-dimensional characters like the beautiful Lucie who evokes the love of those around her through her sweet spirit and loving care for her dear father Dr. Manette, others as their close friends the faithful and very English banker Mr. Jarvis Lorry, his assistant Jerry Cruncher, and Lucie’s fiercely loyal governess the prim and proper Miss Pross - through them every page that deals with the differing characters is a delight. Along with these friends are two gentlemen with remarkable physical similarities (a coincidence that plays out more than once over the course of the story) who each long for the hand and heart of Lucie Manette: the admiringly honest and courageous aristocrat Charles Darnay who owns a past that might cast a dark shadow on his future and on the future of those he loves most and the dissipated English lawyer Sydney Carton, the man who’s unrequited love bestirs him and makes him a selfless hero—by far my most favourite character. Madam Defarge is magnificent as the vengeful villain of the tale, bitter and cold as ice and ruthless in her revenge, followed by her husband Monsieur Defarge. And of course the rich and cruel the Marquis St. Evremonde who is perhaps the disguised cause behind most of the grief and horrors of the story. These, among others, are the heroes and villains, who make up the complex threads of the book and pull on your heartstrings painfully and beautifully.

The Four Jacques
 Like many other classics, the storyline of A Tale of Two Cities is set during era of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. What I loved about Dickens’ portrayal of the times is his unbiased chronicling of both sides of the revolution, showing the ‘best and the worst’ in both the Aristocrats and the Revolutionists: describing the oppression and plight of the peasants, the extreme cruelty and wickedness of the aristocracy and the nobility and finally the horror and terror of the revolution itself, the godlessness of it all, and how these horrific times made beasts of some men and of others the selfless heroes we come to love and admire.

A Tale of Two Cities is a really beautiful story of mystery, love, betrayal, courage, and of sacrifice and redemption. I was near tears in the last two or so chapters that were heart-wrenching and horrifying and yet so touching and beautiful. There are many inspiring and uplifting themes within the pages of the book, Christian themes exemplified i.e. when Charles Darnay courageously kept his promise to a servant despite the danger and cost to himself, or the loving faithfulness Lucie had in her devotion for her father, and of course the most significant of themes is Sydney Carton’s selfless love and sacrifice. I guess if I could say all about him, I’d spoil the book for you, but it is really, really touching and painfully beautiful so all I will say is ‘go and read the book’!

Being a French Revolution novel, violence is a great part of the story, with people being hanged, stabbed, shot, and beheaded by the Guillotine, but none of it is unnecessarily gory or detailed. There is some romance in the book, but it is mild and classic in style and I did not have any real problems with it, coy as I am about romance generally in novels ^_^.

As I mentioned earlier, one of my first introductions to the book was a movie adaption of A Tale of Two Cities, a 1980s version for TV, starring Chris Sarandon, Peter Cushing, Alice Krige and Billie Whitelaw. It is a little bit of an old movie, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless and it is well done. The adaption stayed very true to the heart and story of the book, with only slight differences here and there, and it helped bring to life the tale for me as I read the book later on. So, if you can get your hands on the film that would be wonderful. Here is a youtube link to the film as well if you care to watch it: A Tale of Two Cities

Memorable quotes:

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”   Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer,” said Miss Pross, in her breathing. “Nevertheless, you shall not get the better of me. I am an Englishwoman.” ― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“Nothing that we do, is done in vain. I believe, with all my soul, that we shall see triumph.” ― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

In the moonlight which is always sad, as the light of the sun itself is--as the light called human life is--at its coming and its going.” ― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities