Monday, June 5, 2017

Dear God, Where Have You Been?

I was recently talking with a friend who expressed that she didn't “feel” God. I've felt that way before. I've wondered why at times I don't feel His presence or have the desire to know Him more. I've questioned everything about Him. But the truth is that even when we don't “feel” God, He's still there. Better yet, He's not just somewhere in heaven—for Christians, He's inside of us! It's a shockingly amazing reality.

So why don't we always feel Him if He truly is so close? If our best friend was standing beside us, we would be aware that s(he) was there. Even further, we would be excited that s(he) was present! Why isn't it the same with God?

If you are feeling this way, my first question is “Have you been reading your Bible lately?” God wrote each of us (Christians and non-Christians) an awesome love note. But are we taking the time to read it? The analogy I used with my friend is as follows:

If your boyfriend wrote you a letter, but you didn't read it, and he if sent you texts but you never replied, and if he left you messages on your phone but you never listened to them, and if he tried to talk to you but you didn't listen, how much of a relationship would that be?

Friendships go both ways. God has written you a letter, have you read it? He's constantly around you, are you looking for Him? In creation? In every breath you take? Every good and perfect gift is from God who never changes. (James 1:17) Even if we entirely turn our backs on Him, He still gives us breath. He blesses us with beauty around us and people who love us. He takes care of us.

He's always there. Are you looking?

I'm not saying that there aren't times when strong Christians who are looking for God and reading their Bibles don't struggle with this question. It's a daily fight to remember the reality that Immanuel—God is with us. There are times when the battle is stronger than others. Every Christian has seasons in their life. Times when everything is going well, and times when it feels the world is crashing down around us. It's easier to say “don't doubt God” than it is to live out, but it is nonetheless still true. God is still God—even in our trials. He is still with us, and that's the biggest blessing of all. Doesn't it take faith to trust this? Yes. But the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

I recently read a quote in Outrageous Courage: What God Can Do with Raw Obedience and Radial Faith that further explains this. After quoting Psalm 23, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me," the author writes:

Even Jesus, in his perfect obedience, cried, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" But then you discover that it is in the dark valley that the God of the impossible shows up to protect you, break the prison chains, make you fireproof and even raise you from the dead. Nothing fuels your passion for trusting and obeying God like a walk through the dark. (Vallotton, 2013)*

Join me in remembering this. Tack up a paper on your wall that reads “Immanuel—God with us”. Take time to look at the beauty in creation and remember that He made it all. The God who created all things is living inside of you! Fill your lungs with air and thank Him. Count your blessings—there are always some. Don't forget the marvelous truth that GOD IS ALWAYS WITH US. Nothing will ever change that. And He will always walk with you through the difficulties that you are facing.

*Vallotton, Kris and J. Vallotton. 2013. Outrageous Courage: What God Can Do with Raw Obedience and Radial Faith, Bloomington, MN: Chosen Books, 61.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

8 Reasons Why Summer Isn't My Favorite Season

Why eight reasons? you may ask. I'm afraid I have no suitable answer. Just sit back and discover why I'm not your normal student who can't wait for summer.

True, I enjoy the break from my studies and the camps I'm blessed to attend. However, I'd rather that summer was winter. I'm a girl who loves the rain and cold. That being said, you can guess my first reason:
  1. Summer is hot! So very hot. Here in central California, temperatures in summer can range from in the 90s to 115 degrees! There's nowhere to escape the perpetual blistering heat. Give me freezing temperatures and a jacket instead.
  2. Being so miserably warm, there's not much I can do outside on these days. It's often far too hot to work with the horses or take a walk, and even stepping outside feels like you were hurled into an oven. One of the only outdoor activities of summer is swimming, and many times our small pool is too hot to be refreshing.
  3. In the absence of school work, other things still fill up the schedule, allowing for few days of pure relaxing to sit and read a good novel or write.
  4. Summer means that I'm far away from winter! I'm happier the closer I am to December with Christmas and my birthday. :)
  5. The days are far too long. This means that while it enables me to get more done, it's also many more hours of scorching temperatures to endure.
  6. Even though I don't have school, I usually still have to wake up early in order to tend to outdoor chores that should be done before it gets too hot. This includes watering the plants, working with the horses, and attempting to get a breath of cool air before the merciless sun rises too high in the sky.
  7. No matter how hard my family works to keep the house cool, my upstairs bedroom lacks a fan, and it gets rather uncomfortable in the afternoon.
  8. Living so far away from my friends, I still don't get to see them much more than I do during the school year, except when we go to camp together.
Now you can understand why I'm not a fan of summertime. ;) It's simply too hot to be enjoyable. Still, I can't deny the benefits of not having school, or sitting in the cool morning hours sipping a hot drink with my parents. As with every season, there are both positive and negative sides. I just tend to find more negatives than positives in summer.

Care to share your favorite and least favorite seasons with me in the comments? Does it get hot where you live? Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tag Time

Recently two bloggers have tagged me for different tags. I hadn't done any tags in awhile and felt like doing a lighter post today, so I decided that I'd combine the two tags and answer the questions so you can learn more about me.

First things first, thank you to Micaiah from Notebooks and Novels, and Kaitlyn K. from Twin Thoughts for tagging me!

Here are my answers to Micaiah's questions:
What is your favorite type of post to write?
I like writing my monthly highlights, because it gives me a chance to review my own month. :) I also love doing posts related to writing or reading. In addition, I find that writing my God-related posts make the topics more real to me.

When did you start writing?
A long time ago! I can remember writing in my early elementary years, but nothing very significant until about two years ago.

What is one piece of advice you'd like to give to new bloggers?
Post about things you enjoy, and don't worry about necessarily pleasing your audience. (I'm talking as much to myself as to new bloggers here.) Also, when it comes to blog design, keep it simple. If it looks too busy, you'll scare people off. The last thing would be to have an easy way for people to subscribe to your blog if you want them to continue reading.

Do you prefer Microsoft Word or Google Docs?
Google Docs, because the set-up is simple and it's easy to correspond with friends. (Plus I haven't really used Word. XD)

What member of the Fellowship of the Ring can you relate to the most?
Good question, but I'd have to say that I don't remember the characters' personalities well enough to say that I necessarily relate to any of them.

How are you pursuing your dreams right now?
I'm living life. I'm writing. I'm growing friendships. I'm following Christ. And right now, that's all a part of my dreams.

What is the hardest part of being a writer?
Writing consistently has always been a struggle. And getting good critique partners. Another difficult aspect is simply keeping on writing and not getting frustrated (too much) with your plot and characters. Now that's hard. 

What is your favorite hot drink?
Coffee! Or mocha? (Yes, I know, my blog title is slightly out-of-date!) 

How do you come up with your story ideas?
Anytime, anywhere! Sometimes through nature, sometimes by reading. Other times I'm inspired by other people's life stories, personalities, and names. I get ideas in the strangest ways . . . .

Which do you prefer, ebooks or paperbacks?
Paperbacks! There's just something about curling up with a good book that you can feel the weight of and turn the pages. It's magical! :)

What is one book that has made you cry?
The Last Ride by Susan K. Marlow. The title says it all. *sobs*

Thanks, Micaiah! Those were fun questions. :) Now, on to Kaitlyn's!

What is your favorite hobby?
Reading and writing, besides just hanging out with my amazing friends. ;)

What does your first name mean?
Bethany in Hebrew literally means "house of song" or "house of poverty/affliction/humility," but I'm named after a special town to Jesus, where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived.

What is your favorite family memory?
Now this is extremely difficult. I started a tag back in January 2016 called the "Earliest Memories" tag. One of my favorite memories, however, is camping with my family on our many trips, and the scene that comes to mind at present is standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon with them sipping coffee and hot chocolate.

What's your personality type?
I haven't really taken any of the "personality finder" tests, but I decided with my friends that I'm an ambivert. It's an introvert, until you know someone really well. :) That's me to a "T."

If you had the opportunity to have a 4-course meal, all with foods you choose, what would the meal consist of?
My mouth is now watering. :) I'd choose first and foremost an great German "macaroni and cheese" that my mom and grandma make. Besides that, maybe a good salad, rice pilaf (rice with noodle pieces and yogurt, yum!), and ice cream. Any flavor. ;)

Would you rather have a pet dolphin or a pet bear?
I have always found dolphins fascinating, but I'd choose a bear because it's a bit more practical. Not that either of these are really practical. However, if I could have any animal, I'd pick a dragon—hands down.

What's one random thing about you that few people know?
For a time I've been answering this question with a few of my friends every day, so I'm starting to run out of these facts. I'll say that I've written the backcover copy for two books now. Both are by author Jesseca Wheaton for her books, The Silent Blade and A Question of Honor.

What's your favorite holiday?
Christmas! I love everything about this time of year. (Not to mention that my birthday is around then.)

What quote (from a book, movie, or YouTube video) do you find yourself saying often?
Ask my friends this question. They'd probably say something from The Princess Bride. I actually think I say a lot of quotes, but none come to mind.

If you could live in any other previous time period, which one would you choose?
I think I've answered this one multiple times, and each time there's likely a different answer. I don't think I'd choose to live in another time, but if I had to, I'd love to meet Jesus. Or maybe watch David win battle after battle and drop Goliath to the ground. I suppose I'd actually love to live in the Garden of Eden and watch everything on the earth live in peace, if that counts. :)

If you could see yourself from someone else's perspective, whose perspective would you choose and why? (It could be a family member's, a friend's, your local librarian's, etc.)
Probably my friends. I'm very curious to see why they decided to have such a peculiar person as myself as their friend. ;)

Thank you, ladies, for your questions! I enjoyed answering them. Now, my readers, it's your turn. Since I'm not tagging anyone, I'd love it if you picked a few of these questions and answered them in a comment. Hope you enjoyed my answers!

NOTE: My blog's fourth birthday is approaching, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts for how to celebrate? Anything you've seen other blogs do that you'd like to see me do too? I'm open for suggestions and I'll compile my favorites into a blog birthday party. :) Thanks!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

America's National Day of Prayer // History

For the last two years, I've done a post on the National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday of May. This year, I'm going to change it up a bit and give you the history behind this day that is dedicated to praying for America. (As a side note, today also happens to be National Star Wars Day, which is always May 4th. "May the Fourth Be With You!")

Here is the link to 2015's post on the National Day of Prayer.
Click here to read 2016's post.

Over the history of America, there have been many times that our nation had held days for prayer. Oftentimes, it is Congress or the president who has called for these days.
  • For instance, Boston had a day of fasting and prayer in 1768.
  • Virginia's House of Burgesses declared a day of prayer and fasting on June 1, 1774 in protest of the Boston Port Act.
  • During 1774-1775 Georgia, Maryland, and South Carolina all observed prayer days.
  • In the very formation of this country in 1775, the Continental Congress set aside a period of time for prayer.
  • Congress announced a day of "fasting, humiliation and prayer" in 1780.
  • The celebration of Thanksgiving started out as a day of giving thanks and prayer. None other than President Abraham Lincoln made this official in 1863.
Numerous other dates have been set aside as times of prayer. Then, in 1952, President Harry S. Truman declared that for that year and each following, the current president of the United States should dedicate a day of prayer to God on a date of his choice. Pres. Truman's date was April 17th for that year.

President Reagan amended the law in 1988, and made the first Thursday of May each year the National Day of Prayer. In his proclamation, Pres. Reagan stated that "This occasion provides our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future."

Isn't that amazing? And it wasn't that long ago, either. In doing research for this post, I read the entirety of this document. It isn't very long, and I'd highly recommend you read it. Please take a moment to click HERE.

Since this, many of our presidents have held events at the White House on this day in honor of it. And now, the first Thursday of May every year, the nation joins together in prayer.

Please, the United States needs so much prayer. I'm taking a Constitutional Literacy class and it has only opened my eyes more. America is headed in a direction that is the opposite way from God. Now, even this day dedicated to prayer is being threatened by those who wish to keep "religion" out of "politics."

Pray. This is the only way to bring the United States of America back to Him. The Bible says that if God's people come together, repent, and pray, He will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). That is what we need! Pray right now, pray through the rest of the day, and don't stop praying!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

April Highlights 2017

I'm back again with yet another monthly highlight post. April slowed down a bit, but not by much! I can't believe we are a third of the way through 2017! Where is it going?

Our "new" suburban.
As some of you are aware, about six months ago our car started to need significant mechanical attention. As bills continued to build up and the main apparent problem still wasn't fixed, we started hunting for a new used car. After multiple disappointments, we finally found and bought a Chevy Suburban that will be great for all my family's trips, etc. I'm looking forward to creating more memories in this car as we did in our previous van. Thank you to everyone who loaned us cars during this time and to all who prayed for us.

The rest of the month went by in a blur of days spent fixing fences, clearing up our property on burn days, and a trip to each of my grandparent's houses in Los Angeles and Pacific Grove.
One of my friends played the Mad Hatter!

I also got to go with my dad and a friend to watch an "Alice in Wonderland" play some friends starred in. (Great job, you guys!) Easter was a good day, starting out by celebrating our risen Savior at our church service, but turned out rather unusual since it rained and we were out fixing a fence in it! :) That was fun. I ended the month by serving at a local community fundraiser.

April was also a rather difficult month, in that there was quite a bit of stress trying to find our new car so we'd have a reliable vehicle, and several of our friends spent the majority of the month in the hospital.

In general, it was a good month even through the difficulties.

This month was a bit of a slower month as far as books goes, but once again, those I did read were very enjoyable! I'm in the middle of two other books that will get added into May's list. For April, my total pages is 1,283.
  1. Ranger's Apprentice: The Icebound Land, John Flanagan (266 pages)
  2. Red Rock Mysteries: Hidden Riches, Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry (249 pages)
  3. Red Rock Mysteries: Dead End, Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry (235 pages)
  4. The Blades of Acktar: Deliver, Tricia Mingerink (239 pages)
  5. Ranger's Apprentice: The Battle for Skandia, John Flanagan (294 pages)
Without a doubt, my favorite book out of that list is Deliver. I wrote a post on its release day that you can read by clicking HERE.

Also, I finally finished reading the Red Rock Mysteries series. I was a little disappointed with the ending of the last book, but overall it was a great series and I spent many pleasant hours reading it.

I participated in Camp NaNo, a virtual writing camp, and had a wonderful time. Even though I didn't begin to approach my goal, I enjoyed getting to know everyone in my wonderful cabin. It was an experience worthwhile, even if I only made 8,600 words. But as a friend reminded me, every word you write is a word you didn't have before. :) In that case, I'm content with my word count for this month. The best part of writing was the friends I made through Camp, and the satisfaction of pushing through some difficult spots in my story.

Also, another thrilling side of writing through April was when I managed to make my current WIP my longest story yet! It's now sitting at around 26K. :) Click HERE to read my post about that, and at the top of my blog I have added a page about the Arkinland Chronicles with stats, the summary, and a few exerts. Check it out!

Rather than post multitudes of pictures here as I've done in the past, I'll only post a few since I already shared most of my good photos for April in a previous post, called Springtime Photos.

At the beach in Pacific Grove.

~Great Quotes~
This month, I've been keeping my eyes out for good quotes to share with you, and I've discovered quite a few that I love!

This has become one of my all-time favorite quotes!

~Blog Posts~
It seems that I've already linked to most of my more popular posts of the month, so if you missed any of those, you can find them above. My personal favorite was the post about Deliver, since I love sharing about my favorite books. (I couldn't call myself a book lover if I didn't!) Besides, I got to do an author interview with Tricia Mingerink, and that doubled the fun!

A great blog post that I read this month was done by Jonathan at Fishing For Ideas. Here's the LINK to his post about putting your faith into your writing.
That's all folks! Thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear about your April highlights!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Blades of Acktar: Deliver (Plus Author Interview)

Today—April 25, 2017—is a wonderful day for the book universe. Today, the fourth and final book in the Blades of Acktar series is released to the world! And today, I have provided my review of this marvelous creation, Deliver, and an exclusive author interview with Tricia Mingerink.

First off, I suppose I should warn you that The Blades of Acktar is my top favorite book series, so I will be doing my best to convince you to read the books and love them as I have ever since I found this series in January 2016. Because once you read them, you will love them. :) After all, who couldn't resist this amazing Christian fantasy series filled with action, assassins, a country torn with war, love, betrayal, an evil king, hostages, and heroes? Here is the link to my review of the previous book in this series, Defy. Now, let the fun begin! *trumpets sound as confetti erupts*

To start, here is Deliver's delightful cover and the book synopsis.

Can something broken ever heal?

Martyn is broken. After torturing his best friend, he doesn't belong anywhere in Acktar. No matter how far he runs, he can't lose his guilt.

Leith is broken. While healing from the torture he received at Nalgar Castle, he struggles to find his new role. But can a Blade ever outrun his past?

The country is broken. Bitterness divides town against town, neighbor against neighbor. What will it take to deliver Acktar from itself?

They face their hardest battle yet.
Do you want to read it yet? Because first you have to finish reading this post, then you have to go buy the books, then you have to read the rest of the series first. So you have a lot ahead of you. :) But first let's finish this post.

Here is my review of Deliver:
Deliver is a grand finale to the Blades of Acktar series. Filled with action from front to back, it doesn't let you down. Putting the book aside was like trying to hold your breath for an exceedingly long time. While I felt that the plot was slightly similar to some of the previous books in the series, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

As with all the other books in the series, the characters were impossible not to fall in love with. They are realistic and you easily find your heart attached. You are broken-hearted when they are hurting, ecstatic when they are elated, and whole-heartedly relate to all their emotions.

I also appreciated how the characters still have struggles and flaws that are realistic. After book three, everything isn't settled, and Deliver takes care of this in a well-done manner. Friendships are restored, trust is given, family is reunited, and all the characters at last find their place in the world.

I'm not even sure how to write a review that gives this book justice. I enjoyed every page, every scene, every character, every situation. I'm sad only to see the series come to a close. :) I can't wait to read more of Tricia Mingerink's writing!
I'm sure you want to read the series now. :) I have no doubt in my mind. Below, you will now discover the promised exclusive author interview.

Hi Tricia! Thank you for joining us here on the blog today and allowing me to ask you a few questions. I'm so excited for the release of Deliver!

1. To start off, I'm curious about the history of The Blades of Acktar. How long ago did you get the idea for it, and how? Was it your first major writing project? Did you know right away that it was going to become a series? What were your original goals in writing?

I got the idea for The Blades of Acktar in March of 2014. I started writing Dare almost immediately after getting the idea. I had the idea for the first three books in the series that first month, though some of the details changed from that first idea to the final version on paper. This wasn't near my first major writing project. I've been writing since I learned to write. But this series was the first one that I knew right away was publishable, and I wrote them with publication in mind. 

2. Along those lines of "in the beginning," how did you decide to self-publish? How is that working for you?

While I was writing Dare, I already began researching publishing options. After writing the first three books in the series and researching options for a year, I decided to self-publish. I knew a number of fellow Christian fantasy writers who were also self-published, and they helped steer me in the right direction. I enjoy it, and right now, I don't see myself changing how I publish my books.

3. Now I'd like to ask you about some of your favorites. :) Who are your top favorite characters in The Blades of Acktar? Also, do you have a favorite book that you've written, and why?

Going for the hard questions, aren't you! I adore all of them in their own special ways. While Leith is my favorite character over all (ssshh...don't tell the others), Martyn and Brandi are my favorites to write because they are so snarky. Of the books, I have to admit that Defy is my favorite. Probably because it was such an easy book to write.

Haha, yep. The hard questions are the best! Here's another.
4. What have been some of your struggles in the writing process, and how did you overcome them?

With writing Deliver, I struggled with the pressure of writing a book while knowing I had fans anxious and waiting for the book. It was a lot harder to write than the first three books where I had no one waiting for them. It took a lot of prayer to get my mind back in the right place and just concentrate on writing for God.

5. Do you have any writing tips/advice that you could pass on to aspiring authors like myself?

Don't worry about pushing yourself into publication before you're ready. Take the time to write and enjoy where you are now. Once you are published, things change. Some of those things are really good, and I wouldn't trade them for the world, but publication also brings pressure and worries that you don't have when you're unpublished. Wait until you're ready to handle them, and enjoy the journey until then.

6. Lastly, what's next? Now that The Blades of Acktar has come to a close, do you have plans for your next novel or series?

I have a few ideas, and the rest of this year will be taken up with a lot of first draft writing. I can't go into too many details since I don't know exactly what will be next, but it will probably be something more fully in the fantasy genre, it will still have Christian themes, and it still will have lots of fun and adventure that you've come to expect from me. 

Thank you so much for your time, Tricia! It means the world to me and I'm sure my readers enjoyed this—I know I did! :)
Now that you, my friends, are thoroughly interested in the series and can't wait for your ordered copies of the books to arrive, let me invite you to a party in honor of Deliver's release. It's a Facebook party on April 28. Be sure to stop by for live character chats and more!

Note: All the Kindle versions of the series are on a major sale right now in celebration of Deliver's release. You can easily locate them on Amazon. HERE is the link to buy signed paperback copies of the series. HERE is the link to buy paperbacks on Amazon.

I suppose I shouldn't keep you any longer since you'll want to go read the books. I hope you enjoyed my excitement and the interview. Let me know how you like the series! :)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Springtime Photos

Today I wanted to share a few of the most recent photos I've taken with you since your votes said that pictures were among your top favorites of my posts. The flower pictures were all taken at a friend's house on the day before Easter. As much as I wish it was still winter, spring is beautiful! Enjoy.

I like the setting on my Fujifilm where it makes everything black & white except a certain color.

You might want to view this one in full screen—I love how it came out!

Isn't this little one so cute?

Oops, how'd that one sneak in there? My kitty!
All photos are © Bethany R. and are not to be used without her permission.

What is spring looking like at your house this year?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April Challenge

Hello again! Today I wanted to share a challenge with you that was issued at the beginning of this month by one of my blog readers.

Picture taken from the internet.
Libby shared her challenge on Andi's Blog, so please visit THIS LINK to get more information and to "enter." I found her idea to be very interesting and useful. It's actually something I've been planning on doing myself for some time now. While it is mostly geared toward a younger generation, the majority of it is also very applicable to people of all ages. Here are some of the details from the original challenge, which Libby is calling "Four Letters in Four Weeks."*

"I want you to write four letters. What you do with them is up to you, but I want you to write them. . . .
The first letter is to the future. Between the 2nd and 9th of April, write about things you hope for. Your dreams, your hopes, your regrets, and the things you want to grow on and fix. Write to next year, or write for you to read in ten years. . . .

The second letter is to the past. Between the 9th and the 16th of April write to yourself. Tell what you have changed. Write from your heart. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Write it out. Tell yourself how you wouldn’t believe what you are going through now. . . .

The third letter is to your parents, starting April 16th- 23rd. Do you have a grudge? Do you feel hurt? Do you wish they would change the way they train you? Tell them. Do it with respect. Accept that God has put you where you belong, and they are there because that is where they need to be. Do you feel you never thank them enough? Do it now. Thank them for everything. Tell them you love them. Express what you feel. Again, you don’t have to give the letters to them, but you should live by them. . . .

And the fourth letter is to God, April 23rd - 30th. Pray. On paper. Tell Him everything. . . . Ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit and for Him to speak to you. Then go and read the Bible. Write out what you think about what you had read. Keep reading. Keep searching, Keep praying. Dedicate at least an hour to this letter. Thank God for everything you have overlooked, and for how far He has grown you. Ask Him to help you face whatever He has planned for you. . . ."
And there you have it. Isn't it a great idea? Thank you, Libby, for sharing your challenge and now allowing me to share it with others. I've so far been blessed by doing this. It is a wonderful way for me, a writer, to totally open up and "confess" things that I didn't even know about myself and to let God speak to me through these letters. Please consider joining myself, Libby, and others around the nation in this. Thanks, and may you be blessed! :)
* Libby is actually hosting a giveaway for two books if you do this challenge. To enter the giveaway, you have to follow more specific guidelines and comment on Andi's Blog. Follow the link I posted up top to get there if you wish to do this.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Writing Accomplishment!

I know this isn't much compared to many of my writer friends out there, but I wished to celebrate this moment with you. A few days ago, I reached the most words I've ever written in a story! While it is only 21,200 words that I passed, it is still a great accomplishment for me, and I'm still going strong!

It was about a year ago that I started the historical fiction story that held my record until a few days ago. That was A Pirate's Tale, the biggest writing project I'd attempted. Several months after starting it, however, I began to see how cliche it was and how many plot holes there were. So I stopped.

That was when I began my current work, Dragon Chronicles, that I'm leaning toward calling the Arkinland Chronicles. It's a very new experience for me to be writing this for several reasons.
  1. It's the first fantasy I've written.
  2. It's the first major story I've written with a male main character.
  3. It's one of my first attempts writing in first person.
Despite all the "firsts," I think it's coming along well and I hope to continue strong. My biggest writing issue in the past has been having too many ideas and not enough perseverance to push through the difficulties in the writing process. So I would greatly appreciate all your prayers as I continue to embark on this journey! Thank you for sharing with me in this exciting moment!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

March Highlights 2017

Yet another month in 2017 has come and gone. So much has occurred this March, so bear with me as I try to summarize. :)

Within the first few days of March, my mom began getting her dental work done, and while it will take several months yet to complete it, she is no longer in as bad of pain as she had been. Thank you for all the prayers!

Besides this, March started off with a friend coming to stay and watch our house while we took a trip to Shaver Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The first day of the trip, however, my family and I spent in Bakersfield for the Christian Youth Film Society's 23rd Film Festival. This organization is the one that hosted the camp I attended last November and that has inspired me to begin my own movie-making journey with my youth group, some other friends, and family. It was a very formal event with a dinner and then the evening showing of the short movies that had entered the contest. I enjoyed my time and especially was glad to get to see some of my friends that I hadn't seen since the camp. Additionally, the couple who opened their home to us that night were involved in the festival and movie industry. (One was a judge of the movies, a producer, and an author!) Both were very sweet, and I loved spending time with them.

The following morning we headed up the mountain to Shaver, where we found several inches of snow that had fallen the previous day. It's a running joke with us and our friends up there that whenever my family comes—it snows. :) We spent the next few days sledding, cross-country skiing, and (in my case) catching up on some schoolwork.

Life slowed down a bit after the Shaver Lake trip, but was still busy as usual with youth groups, school, and other day-to-day events—not to mention the difficulties that daylight savings brings! During this time, I was also introduced to a book series, the Ranger's Apprentice, which I have really been enjoying. My church also had a breakfast last Sunday that was very fun, and I was thrilled to have one of my friends from another church visit with his family. Also, now that my family is all official HAM radio operators we have been building an antennae with one of the teachers of our class who also attends our church. In addition, one day this month my grandparents came down for a much-enjoyed visit. I've also gone on several fun horseback rides this month now that the ground is drying up a bit.

This last week has also been filled with birthdays every-other day. Literally! Last Sunday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday had a combined five birthdays of people I know, one of which was my sister. So, happy birthday to Samuel, Abigail, Cheyene, Nichole, and Ruben! I hope you all had wonderfully special days.

For my sister's birthday, my family returned to Hume Lake for the youth pastor's retreat. It was so different than when I went earlier in the year with my youth group and the campus was swarming with high schoolers! This time, there were very few people, no snow, and no structured "activities" per se. As a family we hiked, explored, took pictures, helped work on building the summer camp set, relaxed, played games, and did a hidden-transmitter hunt. I was excited to get lots of reading done as well. Of course, I have to mention that we played Apples to Apples—probably one of my favorite games. :) The weather went from clear and sunny to foggy, cloudy, rainy, and finally hail as we were leaving and visiting Sequoia National Park and the General Grant tree.

To top off my month, I was able to go to a friend's birthday party. I had a wonderful time hanging out with everyone there and I was glad to get to know some more people better. It was a party I won't soon forget! (All for good reasons. :D) Thanks for inviting me, Samuel!

March was a very successful month in terms of books. I'd recommend all of them. My total number of books? Nine. Total pages? 2,633. Not bad if I do say so myself. :)
  1. Out of Time: A Time to Die, Nadine Brandes (389 pages)
  2. Circle C Milestones: Courageous Love, Susan K. Marlow (186 pages)
  3. A Seven Wonders Novel: Shadow of Colossus, T. L. Higley (384 pages)
  4. Left to Die, Ivy Rose (116 pages)
  5. Martin Generations: Martin Hospitality, Abigayle Claire (386 pages)
  6. Circle C Adventures: Andrea Carter and the Long Ride Home (expanded edition), Susan K. Marlow (195 pages)
  7. Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan, John Flanagan (249 pages)
  8. Ranger's Apprentice: The Burning Bridge, John Flanagan (262 pages)
  9. Ilyon Chronicles: Samara's Peril, Jaye L. Knight (464 pages)
Every single book on this list was wonderful! However, I would like to specifically mention a few.

I have been waiting for months to read A Time to Die, and it did not disappoint me. It was a different style than I'm used to, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the plot.

Courageous Love is likely my second favorite book out of the Circle C Milestones series, and while some spots broke my heart (and there was certainly a major aspect to it that I wasn't expecting), it was a wonderful book!

Abigayle Claire did a delightful job on her new novel, Martin Hospitality, and I had a hard time putting down the book! It was well written and I found myself in love with the characters and plot.

Thank you so much to Alex and Samuel for encouraging me to read the Ranger's Apprentice series and for loaning me the books! I'm loving it so far!

And last but not least, I have to mention Samara's Peril. How could I not? It was just as wonderful as the previous books in the series and I love the new twists!

Again, another slow month in terms of writing. I got less than 1000 words done on my Dragon Chronicles, but did accomplish some writing on other projects. I would have certainly liked to write more, but hopefully April will prove to be more profiting with Camp NaNo and such. (Any other campers out there?)

With all of the trips this month, I've had plenty of opportunity to get some cool photos. I'll limit them all to a few.

This is where we stayed at Shaver Lake.
The flags hanging over the ice skating rink at Hume Lake.
My sister at Hume Lake.
At Hume Lake.
The Bakersfield orchards.
This is where we skied at Tamarack Ridge.
Hume Lake
Some of the giant Sequoia trees.
On a ride. :)
~Great Quotes~
"It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see." -Winston Churchill

 "Church isn't a museum for good people, it's a hospital for the broken." -Jefferson Bethke

"Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they're big, flashing signs that something needs to change" -Gretchen Rubin

~Blog Posts~
To visit any of my posts in March that you might have missed, here are the links:

February Highlights 2017
"Tu" v. "Usted"
Dear Readers . . . .

I also got several more followers in March, so I'm really excited about that. Welcome and thank you for joining my little community!

Another thing I wanted to point out is the poll that I ran for a week toward the end of this month. I asked what sorts of posts I did that were your favorites, and the order of which you said you enjoyed them are as follows:
  1. Life Updates
  2. A tie between Photos and Writing
  3. A tie between Reading, Books, and God
  4. Blog Tags
  5. Writing Challenges
Thank you to everyone who voted. I appreciate your feedback!

Unfortunately I haven't found much time in March to read many other blog posts, but I'd like to let you know about a cool challenge that was posted on Andi's Blog by Libby to help grow your spiritual walk. Also, since the beginning of the year I've found and enjoyed reading multiple new blogs. Give the authors a hearty welcome to the blogosphere! You know who you are. ;)

Alas, we have come to the end of this post. I hope you enjoyed hearing about my month. Now it's your turn—tell me about yours!