Wednesday, July 30, 2014

On My Anniversary

This week I've seen several blogs with interesting, thoughtful, perspectives on marriage. One was from a girl who was married when she was 19, about all the things she "gave up" when she got married. Another was from someone who's been married 20 years, offering wise words to her girls about the importance of a marriage vs. a wedding. So with that and the fact that today is my 14th wedding anniversary, I've been thinking about marriage. I don't know if my perspective is interesting or thoughtful, but here it is.

First, a word to my single friends: I know being single sucks sometimes. I remember what it's like to long for someone to just live life with. I remember wondering, every time I met a guy, "Is he the one? Could I marry him?" Every. Time. As someone who married young and has now been married almost half my life, I may not be the best person to deliver advice to the single crowd, but what I have to say is this: Remember, there is no human being who will fill every void in your life, meet every need, be your rock, your everything, complete you, whatever. Only Jesus can do that. Whether you're married or single or in a relationship or it's complicated, believe me, Jesus is the One you want. Rest in that. Rest in Him. Someday He might bring someone along who you can spend the rest of your life with, but nothing in this world compares to spending eternity with Him.

Fourteen years ago today, I married Greg Duke, the love of my life. I was 19. I know all the questions. I heard them.
"You were so young! How could you possibly know he was the one for you?"
"Are you crazy? You think you'll be happy with that one person forever?"
"You didn't live together first? So how can you know it will work out?"
"Was something going on? Were you pregnant?"
"Weren't you just, you know, in love with the idea of love?"
There were more.

Now I've been married fourteen years, and I hear other things.
"Wow, that's a long time! Good for you!"
"So how's that working out?"
"So are you...happily married?"
"Only 36 to go, and then it'll really be something."
There is more.

For some reasons, I think I was too young to get married. Mostly because I was pretty irresponsible and barely grown up. I didn't have good habits for handling money, taking care of a house, being a wife and a student and sharing my life and my stuff and my bed with someone else. It took some adjustment, and that wasn't easy. There were frustrations and tears and arguments and feeling like I wasn't good enough. But we got through that, and although I'm still not good at handling money and taking care of a house, it seems to have worked out anyway.

Still, there were lots of reasons why I did get married when I did, and I think they were good ones. I had found someone I loved and who loved me, who I could spend hours and hours with and laugh and have a good time and not wish I were somewhere else. Someone who was as smart as me, who had a deep faith and commitment to ministry, who was more mature and responsible than I was, who could deal with my crazy quirks, who would take care of me and protect me and just be there for me. Someone I was happy to make dinner for, talk to, be with. He was graduating from college and I still had three years left, and I didn't want him to move away without me. I was planning to be a camp counselor for the summer and God made it pretty clear that He wanted us to get married instead. So we did. No, I wasn't crazy, or stupid, or pregnant. In fact, I was a virgin. Yep. That happened.

Being married for fourteen years does not make me an expert. It means I have experience, and I have learned a few things about commitment and choices and feelings. One thing I have learned is that I have to put him first. (What? Shouldn't you put God first? I don't know. Is God a priority for me? Is He #1? No, He's everything. So He's not exactly first, He IS) I have to put Greg before my kids, my friends, my parents, even myself. So the things I want don't matter to me as much as the things he wants. When I pray for others, I start with him. When I need an opinion or I have a question, I go to him. I am not good at this, not by any means. I am so inherently selfish. But I've learned that if I don't put Greg first, things go downhill. Quickly.

I'm not really a "feelings" person. Yeah, I have feelings, but I'm not really one to focus on them or let them interfere much with my life. I often find that they are inconvenient. Feelings can change. They can lie. If we're not careful, they can lead us down paths in life that we would be better off avoiding altogether. But they are real, and sometimes they're good. Going through life with a person for fourteen years means I've run a whole gamut of feelings. Have I felt 100% head-over-heels in love with Greg the whole time? Nope. Have I been an awesome wife the whole time? Nope. We've had some rough times, and a few moments when I wondered if I had it in me to make this whole thing work. But I have been his wife, and I know what it means to choose him. I chose him fourteen years ago, and in some ways, I keep choosing him every day. Most days, it's not hard. He's the best man I know, very likely the only person in the world who could deal with me every day, a godly man and great pastor, and he does dishes. He's a catch. Most days, I'm totally in love with him. Those happy, "in love" feelings are nice, but love is a choice. Fourteen years ago I chose to love Greg, for better or for worse, forsaking all others, until death parts us. And today, more than ever, by the grace and power of God and the love He has for me, for Greg, and for marriage, I am still making that choice. So far, life with this guy has been good. I'm looking forward to sharing the rest of our lives together.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On the Star Trek Reboot

A couple of quick notes: If you're looking for a blog that's all up to date on current culture and stuff, this is not the one for you. When it comes to the metaphorical cultural party, I tend to come late and leave early. Although I actually did see both the movies that I'm about to talk about when they were in theaters, I have no new information about the franchise and I'm not an expert. Oh yeah that's the other thing. I'm not a Trekkie. Like, at all. And I'm not really that into science fiction or space opera or spaceships or whatever. I just like movies, and I've watched Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Star Trek (2009) - yeah, in that order - in the last couple of weeks, and I have thoughts about them. That's all.

For the sake of you AR types (you know who you are) I'll go ahead and start with Star Trek. The 2009 reboot, not to be confused with the Original Motion Picture. One is a movie. The other to put this delicately...forget it. The Original Motion Picture is crap. Making it was a waste of film and watching it was a waste of time. Two nights of my life I'll never get back. So from now on, for the purposes of this blog, we will do ourselves a favor and forget it was ever made. When I say "Star Trek" I'm talking about the movie. And it's a good one. It's funny and campy but big-budget and big-action enough that you almost don't notice unless you're actually paying attention and not distracted by all of J.J. Abrams' lens-glare-happy cinematography. It pulls what is, in my opinion, a really fun bait-and-switch where you think the hero of the film is one guy but in fact it's the other guy. In case that seems confusing, I'll clarify. And oh yeah, there are "spoilers" in the post because seriously, Star Trek is five years old and Into Darkness came out last year so at this point you've either seen them so the spoilers aren't spoilers or you haven't seen them and you don't care. And if that's the case, why are you still reading this? Anyway, there are all these character introductions and backstory and messing with the space-time continuum so it can get confusing and it's possible the movie is about Jim Kirk but Spock is the hero. So in that sense I suppose it's like other Star Trek movies of a bygone era. It's not "classic" Star Trek, whatever that means. In many ways it's much more like Star Wars, which is ironic for so many reasons. But the "fact" is, when you mess with the space-time continuum you get an alternate reality, and if you can't figure that out on your own the characters blatantly point it out for you (thank you, Spock and Uhura, for that one). I mean, if you're going to do a reboot, this is how to do it. Just mess with everything and reference everything else. And make it fun and beautiful. Who cares if it's full of clich├ęs and anomalies and plot holes and bad science? There are great lines and gorgeous effects and lens glare and come on, what more could you want? It's a good movie, not a great movie, but it's fun and there are some really great moments and it is absolutely beautiful on Blu-Ray.

Now on to Into Darkness, which is definitely my favorite of the two. In fact I'd rank it somewhere among my favorite movies ever. It's the total package. Great plot, great hero, two ugly villains, one who is really mean and nasty and one who is all complex and evil and awesome and stuff. It kind of pulls the bait-and-switch with the villain. (Hey, it's this guy. No wait, it's this other guy. No, it's definitely the first guy. Isn't it?) With most of the character introductions out of the way, you get right into the action, which almost never stops. I joke that I didn't breathe for two hours the first time I saw it. Oh and for the guys, you also get the token shot of a girl in her underwear. I don't know why this is essential but apparently it is. Anyway. It stands alone as a good movie, in my opinion, but it's also a great sequel. In Star Trek, Kirk thinks he knows everything and can handle any situation. In Into Darkness, he is forced into the realization that he doesn't and he can't. He can only do what he knows he can do, what he has to do. I love it when those moments happen for any character. I never liked Captain Kirk as a character before this movie. And don't even get me started on William Shatner. Ick. Into Darkness is the kind of movie I can watch lots and lots of times and enjoy it every time. That's the kind of movie I like best. Oh and there's plenty of lens glare in this one too, and it's also stunningly gorgeous on Blu-Ray.

So for any Trekkies out there who are still reading this, I apologize for my almost total ignorance and lack of respect for Star Trek canon. These movies are fantastic and I'd take them over any of the old ones, any cast, any day.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On The Writing Process (Blog Tour Post)

Let me start off by thanking Matthew Wilbur, one of my #WritersRoad friends, for inviting me to post this as part of the Writing Process Blog Tour. Check out his blog at and follow him on Twitter, @Nightveil. He's cool.

So now I'm supposed to talk about what I do as a writer and why and how and all that. Since I have no idea what I'm doing, really, this should be fun.

1. What am I working on?

My current work in process (or WIP) is a YA (teen) fantasy set in a world where history and myth have become blurred to the point that no one really knows which is which. My main character has some nifty knife skills and a horse that she will do anything to protect...including maybe magic. It's about 85,000 words (300ish pages) right now and I'm moving toward the ending, which scares me because I don't exactly know how the ending will go at this point. 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Is anyone even writing YA fantasy right now? Seems like just about everything is paranormal or urban fantasy or dystopian or steampunk or something these days, and what I'm writing is just plain fantasy, with other worlds and magic and trees and mythical creatures and that sort of thing. It's what I love and maybe it's not selling right now but I don't really care. I write from a very Christian worldview, which is different from mainstream fantasy, for sure. I don't write allegory and I try not to preach but what I believe about God and the world is my life, so of course that's a huge part of what I write.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Writing about God and universal truth in a different world is a strange sort of experiment, and honestly, I'm attempting to write it because I thought it would be a fun challenge. It is a challenge. I hope that the end result is a faithful representation of the story that I believe we all want to be a part of: something good, something bigger than ourselves, with beauty, community, and sacrifice, and an attempt to explain the unexplainable. This is a story I believe in, and it's the story I feel compelled to write. It has not been easy for me, but I love it.

4. How does my writing process work?

In a word, chaos. I enjoy organization and outlines but my brain just won't settle down and follow them. I do start with an outline, which I follow more closely than I think I do, and then I revise it when I really stray. I'm on the second(ish) draft of this book but probably the eighth or ninth draft of the outline. When I started the current rewrite, I added a plot. That was a big deal. I had these characters that I loved but nothing really happened to them and they didn't do much. Now I have things like story arcs and villains. I am very pleased with that.

To borrow an old analogy, this process has been like building an airplane in the air. Everything I read and everything I write teaches me something new about writing, so my WIP has been in this shifting state of flux for several years now. I think it keeps getting better, but it's not good yet. I write when I have time and someone else is watching my kids. So maybe two hours a week. It's slow going, especially when I keep going back to the beginning to incorporate changes I made because of a brainstorm I had in the shower. I'm not getting paid for this, I don't have deadlines, and although I really want people to read it, I'm not ready for that yet. I want it to be good. I hope I will know when it is.

The Writing Process Blog Tour continues next week! Let me tell you about the friends I invited to join:

In addition to being my BFF, Ashley Linne is a wife and mom who loves to write, sing, and travel, She has been writing and leading small group Bible studies for over 15 years and cute her ministry teeth as a collegiate campus minister in her home state of New Mexico. Ashley has a Master of Arts in Family Life Education from the Oxford Graduate School and studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She lives with her husband and son in Bellingham, WA. Find her at
Amber Stokes works in marketing services at Harvest House Publishers and writes inspirational fiction depicting the seasons of life and love. Her passion for books compelled her to earn a bachelor's degree in English and to run her own freelance editing and publicity business for over a year. Happily, the next step in her career lies in the Pacific Northwest - a part of the world she has always considered home.

Blog Link:
Go check out their blogs and hunt down the other posts on the tour. This has been fun!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On Reading the Bible in a Year

July 1st is an important day for me. Long ago I gave up making resolutions to start the new year, because sometimes, to be honest, just surviving the new year is an accomplishment enough. I mean, the holiday season is a thrill ride and I love it, but when it's over I just want to sleep. So then in July, I wake up and realize that half the year is over and if I want to get something done I'd better get it started. That's what July 1st is for.

Several years ago, I was making my July 1st goals and I asked myself, "By this time next year, what is something that I really want to accomplish?" As is often the case halfway through the year, I was feeling a little down and I really needed something I could commit to and that I would really feel good about finishing. It occurred to me that I had never actually read all the way through the Bible. I had started several times, always at the beginning of the year, but had always given up on it at some point. Usually it was in Leviticus or 1 Chronicles, although once I persevered through the One Year Bible for about a year and a half when I got hit with Ezekiel and Revelation at the same time, and I just couldn't finish. Anyway, I had just gone through a study by George Guthrie called Read the Bible for Life and one of the things we were encouraged to do was to actually read the Bible. I know, crazy, right? So I printed out the chronological plan he suggests in his book, stuck it in my Bible, and committed to it. I don't know if it was because of that particular plan, because I really needed a "win" in my life, or because I fell in love with the Word of God, or perhaps because of all of that, but I finished it on June 30th of the next year. By then I had an iPhone and the YouVersion app which has all kinds of plan options that make it easy to read and check off every day, so I just picked a plan and started again. Today starts my fourth year of reading through the Bible from July 1st-June 30th.

It's not hard to read through the Bible in a year. It only takes 3-4 chapters a day, which for me means about 10-20 minutes, six or seven days a week. I'm not talking about intense study or anything, I'm just talking about reading it. Study is important too, but it's amazing what God has done in my life and my relationship with Him when I simply take the time every day (or almost every day - I do miss some days) to read His word. I have a new appreciation for the way the Bible is written, for the truth it contains, and for the way it all points to God's amazing work of salvation.

You don't have to believe the Bible is true in order to read it, but it helps if you do. And if you do believe the Bible is true but you haven't read it, and I mean all of it, then why not? You don't have to have an app or a special Bible or even a checklist or any other excuse. Get out your Bible and start reading. You can start at Genesis 1:1 and read straight through, three or four chapters a day. You can start in the New Testament, Matthew 1:1, and then read the Old Testament. You can get fancy, pull out three bookmarks or index cards or random slips of paper, and read two chapters in the Old Testament, one Psalm or Proverb, and one chapter in the New Testament. Just read the Bible. Start today. And then next July 1st, we can start over together.