Posted in Books, Life in General

When Calls the Heart

When Calls the Heart (Canadian West, #1)When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a confession to make: I absolutely love When Calls the Heart. You know, the Hallmark show? The Christian historical romance that borders on cheesy where everything always turns out okay? Yeah, that’s the one. It’s one of my favorites. In this show, community is about celebrating together in the good times and supporting each other through the hard times. Faith in God is the norm, and that faith actually means something. And love always finds a way. The show idyllic and wholesome and just makes me really happy every time I watch it. It’s my visual comfort food.

Last week, Chris and I very unexpectedly became foster parents for two little boys. A couple of days ago, they just as suddenly returned home to their mom. Our emotions during this time went haywire; we were terrified because we’ve never been parents and didn’t know what to do, we were thrilled with the boys themselves and fell in love with them despite our efforts not to get attached, and we were a weird mix of devastated (for us) and relieved (for them) when they went home so soon. When they left and our house felt just the slightest bit hollow, I needed to disappear into a book. But the books I’m reading currently, while they’re great books, they were darker than what I needed. So I decided to read the book that inspired my favorite feel-good show.

The book wasn’t perfect. It was stilted and felt a tad forced in places. It was different from the show that I’ve come to love, even though they shared a common name and framework. But it was exactly what I needed when I picked it up. It was short and sweet and full of love and hope and Jesus. Though Christian historical fiction is not one of my favorite genres, it’s what I tend to turn to whenever I’m going through a rough patch in my life. I love how unapologetic the characters are about their faith, and how that faith permeates their lives. I also love how faith is just an expected aspect of life in these bygone eras. And in the vast majority of the books in this genre, you go in knowing that everything is going to turn out okay, and that a happy ending is almost inevitable.

Janette Oke provided me with exactly what I needed here. It gave me some of the hope I needed when I wasn’t feeling all that hopeful. Even though I enjoy the show more than I did this book, I’ll probably continue with the series at some point.

View all my reviews

(7)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

Blessed be Your Name

Almost exactly two years ago to the day, I remember singing through tears. It was a Sunday, and I had chosen to sing “Blessed Be Your Name” at church that day. In two weeks, I would be having a complete hysterectomy. Chris and I had tried everything we could to have children, but my body was poisoning itself and we couldn’t put the surgery off any longer. I was only twenty-six. Having to come to terms with the fact that I would never feel a life growing inside of me, that I would never see how my features and Chris’s would mingle in the face of our child, was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

The bridge of the song I sang that morning said: “You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Lord, blessed be Your name.’” And even though it was intensely painful, I meant those words with all of my heart. God had seen us through hard times before: when Chris was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, when we quit our jobs to do music ministry only to come back home to a frozen job market and no idea how to pay our bills, and through countless other smaller hardships, God was right there with us. Now, we’re not perfect; Chris and I both got pretty mad at Him when Chris had to go through the cancer nightmare a second time. But we learned from that. We knew that God hadn’t struck him down with cancer, but that it was just a part of living in a fallen world. We realized that we missed out on deepening our relationship with God during that time in our lives, because our anger built a wall between us and Him. Because of this, we vowed to try our hardest never to shut Him out again just because we were suffering. And so far, we haven’t.

Back to the song. When I was singing this song, I knew I was entering into a “take away” period of my life. But I knew that God was right there with me, and that He mourned with me, so my heart truly did choose to say, “Lord, blessed be Your name.” Ecclesiastes says that He makes beauty from ashes, and I decided to believe that He would somehow do that for us. He’s a big God, far bigger than infertility. And if having kids wasn’t in the cards for us, I was sure that God still had big plans for our lives.

Fast-forward to this past Sunday. Once again, I was singing “Blessed Be Your Name” at church, and once again I was struggling to sing through tears. I still meant every word of the song, and sang it with every fiber of my being. But this time, instead of mourning, I was praising. I feel like we’re leaving the “take away” period and entering into a period of blessing. We never thought we would be able to afford adoption, so we had decided to just be the best aunt and uncle we could be. But God started speaking into our hearts, leading us to become certified foster/adoptive parents through the state, even though we feel no call to become foster parents. And if you’re not going to foster or adopt a teenager, the certification seems almost worthless. However, a family member has decided that he wants to cover the cost of private adoption for us, and because of the certification we received we already have a home study ready and waiting. We never dared hope we’d be able to adopt a baby, but it’s seeming more likely and more real everyday. The possibility of getting to experience first steps and first words is exciting beyond words. No, nothing is final or set in stone, but I feel more hopeful than I have since my surgery. I trust that God is working on a miracle for us.

Lord, blessed be Your name!

(14)

Posted in Life in General

Changes

So, life’s been a little crazy lately. We’re now certified foster parents, and have been for a couple of months. We don’t have any kiddos yet, since we’re pretty much just looking to adopt, but we’re currently searching for the kids God has waiting for us somewhere out there. All of my friends are having babies, including my sister-in-law; my little brother is going to be a daddy come August, which is both awesome and incredibly weird. After a long hiatus, Voices of the Broken (the Christian rock band I sing and play guitar for) is starting to look for shows again. And there are other potential changes coming down the pipe soon. As crazy and, honestly, uncomfortable as changes are, I’m thankful for them. Without change, we never grow. Without change, we stagnate.

I know this blog hasn’t been seeing as many posts lately. There’s a reason for this. As you know if you’ve spent any time here, the vast majority of my posts are book reviews, because books make me happy and I like to share that with whoever I can. Which leads me to some fantastic news: I’m now a reviewer over at Booknest, an international book reviewing blog! And I’m ridiculously excited to be part of a team.

Because I’m now a reviewer at Booknest, most of my new book reviews will be posted there instead of here. That doesn’t mean that Celestial Musings is sentenced to become a ghost blog. I’ll still be posting here; I’ll just have to start making extra time to write things other than book reviews, which is something I need to do anyway. So (hopefully) soon, there should be new movie reviews, general posts on life and deep thoughts, as well as new short stories and poetry to be found here. And at the end of each month a plan to have some little blog post about the books I’ve read and loved that month, with links to my Booknest reviews. Bear with me as I work on adjusting to these changes. And if you have any topics you’d like me to consider, please feel free to message me. Happy musings!

(3)

Posted in Life in General

Money

I hate money. I wish that we didn’t have to find ways to earn it. But, as we don’t live in a world powered by rainbows and unicorn farts, jobs are necessary evils. Chris and I have been job hunting, and it looks like we might both end up with jobs that we’ll really enjoy. Which is awesome! We’re super excited at the prospect of getting to see each other every day instead of him flying back up to work in Michigan. He might get to go back to a job that he loved. I might get to go work in a library, which was one of my favorite daydreams as a little girl. So yes, we’re obviously stoked.

But everything is still so up in the air! We have no guarantees. Neither of us has even received an actual offer, just impressions from others. Are we idiots for putting all of our eggs in one basket and counting them before they hatch? Or are we just trusting God to take care of us?

And, if we do both get these jobs, our financial situation will be so radically different than it was last year that it doesn’t make any sense at all on paper. Seriously, we’d have maybe a couple hundred bucks left after paying our bills to buy food and gas. It makes no logical sense. Do we go back to doing things we don’t love and making more money? Do we go back to Chris working off somewhere to pay for a house that he rarely gets to sleep in? Or do we trust this new direction we feel led by God to follow? Will we be risking financial failure or gaining a testimony, an opportunity to share with others how God provided for us in ways that were supernatural?

I’m leaning on God. We both are. It’s the right move, and we don’t doubt His abilities. He’s got us. My heart is at peace with our decision. But my stomach isn’t. I’m going to go find something to sooth the churning in my guts. Preferably something with cheese. Hopefully I can sink myself back into my fictional worlds tomorrow and write something that I’m proud of. Today, I just needed to vent. Now that I have, I’m going to lay it at the feet of Jesus and walk away so I don’t pick any of it up again.

(14)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

Mailbox Miracle

Mailbox
Have you ever burst into spontaneous laughter and dancing in front of your mailbox on a Wednesday afternoon? Pretty specific, I know. It’s a weird question. But it’s something I experienced today, and it was pretty stinking amazing.

It’s been three months since our last pay check. Chris was working for family, and there was a rough patch financially, so he and the other men in my family who had been working up north came home to wait. Whenever we talked about applying for other jobs, we felt like God was telling us to wait. So we waited. After all, we had a good bit saved for a rainy day. We would enjoy the holidays and reevaluate.

Well, the holidays are over. Reevaluation has begun, and we finally feel like God is releasing our reins bit by bit. Today we started tentatively dipping our toes back in the job search pool. Because, that savings account we had built up? We’re raking the bottom. And it’s kind of scary. We’re trying to trust God, we really are. But after we pay our bills this month, we’re broke.

Or so we thought until we came home today. Sitting in our mailbox was a letter from the bank, telling us that we had an overage of funds in our escrow account. Attached to that letter was a check. We would have been thankful for any size check, but this check just so happens to be for roughly the amount of our bills for this month.

I squealed, y’all. I think I scared the dogs. I jumped and twirled and would’ve full-on danced if I hadn’t almost busted my butt sliding across the rocks on our road. I laughed and then I almost cried. I know that God is our Provider. And, like I said before, I’ve been trying my best to trust Him. But that trust was starting to falter. So I guess He decided to slap me upside the head today with a blatant reminder of His faithfulness. Because getting a check that close to the amount we need when we’re so close to the bottom of our barrel? That’s no coincidence. That’s God.

He gave us a mailbox miracle.

(48)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

Take me to church.

Going to church when I have a sore throat is always interesting. I usually play guitar and sing a song every service. I love getting to sing, getting to use a gift God’s given me to lead others to His throne in worship. But when I’m coughing violently and my words come out as a croak, it’s a day for me to step back. Hacking my way through a hymn is no way to lead worship.

Usually, sitting in the back of the church and watching the service go on without me makes me sad. I need to feel needed. But my mind was in a better place today. I remembered that I’m there for God, not for people, no matter how much I enjoy their company. And God loves me, and I believe that He appreciates it when I’m using my gifts to honor Him, but He doesn’t need me.

So today, I did something I haven’t done in a long time; I gave myself the freedom to sit on the back pew of our little church and simply enjoy. I watched my family pouring themselves into their instruments as they played hymns. I let the words sink into my mind instead of simply singing from memory. I heard the sincerity in the voice of the German woman who just started attending as she sang “Word of God, Speak.” My husband played guitar and sang, his voice and face as angelic as they were the day we met; he still makes my heart mushy. My brother sang a song he wrote with passion and power, and his newfound skill playing piano astonishes me. Bro. Dwayne preached with openness and honesty and fervency. And all of it, every note played and word spoken, was aimed in the proper direction.

We’re a family. We laugh together and cry together and find way too many excuses to eat together. And we need to fellowship, we really do. Jesus commanded it. But church is about more than us. It’s about Him. Sometimes I need a scratchy throat and a day on the back pew to remind me.

(8)

Posted in Life in General

Weakness, thy name is snot.

I want to write, I really do. I promise I’m not trying to avoid it. But it’s hard to be all creative and original and junk when your brain currently consists of a gallon of snot with a filmy top layer of self-pity bobbing atop all that mucus. How can a head hold this much foreign fluid?

My family doesn’t handle colds very well. I’m trying to be all tough and stuff, but I’m just as miserable as they’ve all been. Give us a tragedy, and we’ll step up to the plate. Unemployment? We can band together and make it through, seeing God’s provision in every nickel we find in our laundry. Weddings? We can pull off life changes without batting an eyelash. Terrible injuries or possibly life-threatening illnesses? We will rally. But colds are our Achille’s heels. Give us coughs and congestion, and we shall crumble and cower before the eyes of the world.

Here’s praying that it doesn’t last long. I’m already shooting my vacuum cleaner hose forbidden looks of curiosity and longing. Even though I know I can’t actually vacuum the snot out of my head, I’m afraid I can only fight the temptation to try for so long. I’m going to go throw my hose up somewhere I can’t reach it, just to be on the safe side.

(5)

Posted in Life in General

Deck the Halls with… flip flops?

Wearing shorts while putting up Christmas decorations is just about one of the weirdest things ever. Seriously, it’s just wrong. I hung snowflakes on our Christmas tree with cut-off denim shorts riding my hips. August Burns Red’s Christmas album had an extra harmony backing its guitars: our air conditioner. Our Nativity scene is sharing the hearth with a flourishing cactus garden. What is up with the weather, man? My inner child is seriously confused. She sees a Christmas tree and wants hot chocolate and cozy sweaters, and she’s not getting them yet. But who doesn’t love an Indian summer, a chance to go on long walks and enjoy the fall colors without having numb fingers and icicle ears at its end? So, my inner child will just have to compartmentalize for the moment, to be able to enjoy our Christmas lights with chocolate ice cream instead of its warmer counterpart. I’m sure the weather will change soon; this is Louisiana, after all. But I’ll enjoy the extended warmth, even if it makes the bundled-up penguin hanging on my door look a bit out of place. Because no matter what the weather, ’tis the season.

(7)

Posted in Life in General

Thanksgiving

Waking up next to my best friend in a soft, warm bed. Shuffling into the kitchen of our beautiful home and opening the cabinets, knowing that I’ll find plenty of food within them. Going on a walk, enjoying the nature around me and the dogs that amuse me and the health that has improved enough for me to do so. Visiting my parents and brother and grandparents, knowing that my aunt and cousin will be home soon and that most of my loved one live on the same land I’ve loved all my life, land that I get to share with my favorite people. Coming back to a house full of books and instruments and love. Having access to the hundreds or possibly thousands of worlds that reside on my bookshelves, and the education needed to visit them. Washing our bounty of clothes in a washing machine instead of a stream. Having the freedom to stay home and the knowledge that I can hop in my car and drive away whenever I choose. Writing without fear, encouraged by the people who love me. Playing guitar and singing my heart out. Tickling my husband and laughing at his exasperation. Resting my head on his shoulder as he holds me in his arms. Seeing my brother just as happy as I am, with a woman that I’ll happily call my sister. Attending a church where I’m loved and accepted, where my gifts are nurtured and applauded, where fellowship and discipleship are of equal importance. Having instant access to God’s Word. Knowing the One who penned it. Feeling secure in God’s provision, even when the future is uncertain. Knowing that, even in this occupational interlude, we will never miss a bill or a meal because He’s got this. These are the things that I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. I’m sure there are things that I’ve forgotten, which is another reason to be thankful; my blessings are beyond measure.

(7)

Posted in Life in General

My time management skills sucketh.

What is my problem? Writing is what I want to do with my life, and I want it desperately. I yearn for it. But here I am, at almost 10:30 at night, exhausted before my fingers ever pressed a single key. It’s so frustrating how wrapped up I get in the menial. I have over 85 pages written of a book. An actual book! And I’m so proud of myself for getting that far, but I’ve barely touched it in the past three weeks.

I’ve had great excuses. My husband got laid off and moved back home from Michigan, and we had to get him resettled in Louisiana. That was a crapload of happiness and stress mixed in a cocktail that left us buzzed for a week. I wrote short stories for competitions during the last week of October, and I feel like the deadlines I met really helped me hone my skill. And then I got sick. I feel like I’ve been sick forever, although thankfully I’m finally coming out of it. But it felt impossible to connect with the creative region of my mind when I had to swim through mental mucus just to function. How could I work on crafting my fictional world when I was having such a hard time being present in my own?

Tomorrow is going to be a crazy-busy day in town. I have appointments everywhere. Seriously. My to-do list is longer than my leg. But I’m promising myself now that I will set aside some time to visit the world that I’ve been working so hard to build, time to visit my characters and help them move forward in their story. Because it’s important enough to demand my time.

(5)