Monthly Archives: September 2011

One-sided Conversation

Drugs. When I was in junior high, one of my best friends started dabbling in drugs. It was an extremely painful process for me. I had known all my life to “say no to drugs,” and I worried about her a lot. I specifically remember a conversation that I had with my dad one afternoon. Before he met my mother, he had experimented with pot. He explained to me how it made you feel and how it slowed down your thinking process.

Going through the motions. One thing that I remember in particular was a description of “conversation” between two people who are high. He said that two people could be sitting there talking to each other, but they were basically just going through the motions. Neither was listening to what the other had to say. One might talk about his new car, and the other might talk about his brother the whole time. Neither responds to what the other one says. Basically, they are just talking to themselves while facing one another.

One-sided conversation. The other day, I overheard two men talking to each other. One was the pastor of a church, and the other was a youth pastor at another church (judging by their conversation). Now neither of them had been experimenting with drugs (to my knowledge), but their conversation had the same one-sided qualities as the one described above. It seemed strange at first, but as their conversation progressed, it struck me just how common it was. Here are my thoughts:

No exchange of information. I would venture to say, that on some level, most conversations are just two people talking about themselves. Each participant will (usually) politely wait for the other participant/s to finish speaking; then they will say what they had decided to say 30 seconds ago. They can’t really listen to the first speaker because they might forget what it is that they really want to say. It’s funny if you happen to eavesdrop on two people who are doing this to each other. (Not funny if you catch yourself doing it.) They don’t really exchange information at all. Each comment makes them think of something else they really want to say, usually to one-up the other person’s comments. Every time each person speaks, they are continuing their own monologue from where they left off. They don’t take anything new with them when they leave the conversation, because they were “sharing” more than they were listening. I would be tempted to call this a waste of oxygen.

Challenge: Next time you find yourself doing this, try to stop imagining how interested “they” would be to hear your stories, and just listen. If you have a really bad habit, just ask questions instead of making comments.

A quick confession: I catch myself doing this all the time, to people I love and in whom I am genuinely interested. It’s a problem for me. Maybe I have made the common mistake of assuming everyone else is wired like me, so maybe I’m the only one who really needs to pay attention to this post!

In the Aerie of the Wolf

Imagine your arranged marriage to a secluded and secretive man. I just finished devouring In the Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner. The story focuses on a young woman whose financially struggling parents send her to the estate of a wealthy man in exchange for freedom from their debts. As Anne settles into her new home, she is anxious to meet her fiancé, but the mysterious master doesn’t seem interested in introducing himself to her. Will Anne be able to find love in these strange new surroundings?

To tell you the truth, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I’ve only read just a few Christian fiction books in my whole life; however, this book reveals how much I’ve really missed by ignoring the genre. The story was compelling and full of intrigue. From the first chapter, I was totally hooked. What’s going to happen next? As a matter of fact, I was reading it when I should have been doing other things.

I found myself empathizing with the young woman over and over as she struggled with each new turn of events, and each emotion that accompanied it. While my own experiences have been somewhat different, I have still faced many of the same feelings: doubt, betrayal, and despair, and have received more than my share of grace and redemption.

If you want to find out more, check out the product page for this book.

Note: In exchange for an honest review, the publisher provided a complimentary copy of this book through BookCrash®.

Multi-Sensory Creative Writing: Scent

Scent-related exercise: Think of a scent that brings back strong memories. For me, the smell of waffle cones or funnel cakes always
remind me of Six Flags. Tall grass reminds me of my backyard in West Sullivan. Peppermint, my grandmother’s garden. Freshly baked bread, my grandmother’s kitchen. The smell of Bactine reminds me of the time I fell off my bike and scraped up my elbow. After you think of a scent that means something to you, use it to write a story. It could be your own story, or a story of your creation. You could use it as a flashback moment, or an initial moment in which the strong scent becomes forever etched in the memory of your character. Use the scent to reveal something about your character’s personality. Why is she the way she is? Does the story behind the scent reveal something about her history?

Next, find something in your house that has a scent. A candle, some Ben Gay, almond extract, honey mustard, anything you can find. Now take that scent, and drop it into one of your existing stories. Again, you should use this technique to reveal something about your character.

Poetry and Music

I had to retype my poem from scratch the other day. It was either that, or scan it into my computer, and I didn’t figure you all would want to see the product of a very old typewriter combined with a beginning typist. White-out, smudges, and typed-over letters were everywhere! Anyhow, I was struck with how much it affected me to reread my old (and poorly metered) poem. As I typed in the last stanza, I got the chills. Should it have affected me like that since I am the one who wrote it? But it wasn’t the words; it was the message: we are the salt of the earth.

But I would like to know: What is it about poetry that stirs the soul? Why do we identify with it? Why is it that when something is worded beautifully, it resounds within us? Or as in my case, if it merely rhymes.

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

A fountain ever springing:

All things are mine since I am His –

How can I keep from singing?

Even deeper than poetry, music cuts us to the core and lays us open to our emotions. I came across these words while reading Our Last Great Hope. The words stirred me, and I sat there trying to remember the tune. When the melody came to me, I began singing out loud, which didn’t last long because I became choked up and couldn’t go on. Why does music affect me so? Or I guess it’s the combination of music and Truth. It breaks me…

I need a rewind button

If I pray really hard before I go to sleep tonight, do you think I could wake up and have another go at today? I messed up big time today. I was trying to “help” two people that I really, really love. I was so angry. I stormed in with righteous indignation, thinking to force them to see things the way I do. Well, someone forgot to tell me… Righteous indignation only works if the indignant person is righteous. Which I’m not. Not by a long shot. What is my role? How do I help? By example only, not by word? If only I could have kept my anger from getting the best of me. It’s better now; they love me back and have forgiven me already. But how can I forgive myself? My sin was worse than theirs! I wish to be made again.

Creat in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

Something Very Different

While dejunking the other day, I decided to look through some old notebooks of mine, and throw away as much as I could part with. Unexpectedly, I came across this old poem that I wrote back in eleventh grade. I don’t think I could write poetry today, because I’m too much of a perfectionist. I would worry a great deal about syllables, meter, accented and unaccented words, etc, all while trying not to sound contrived. There are probably some proper terms for those things, but since I am not a student of poetry, I don’t know them. Anyway, it’s not the greatest poem, but the message is clear and strong, and Jesse wanted me to publish it, so here it is:

Something Very Different

His life has seemed so joyful,

I’ve not understood.

While some have life so roughly,

Others have it good.


There seems a hedge around him –

Gentle, loving eyes.

Watching him from day to day;

Staying ’til he dies.


Of course he’s had his bad days.

Everybody does.

He said since he’s been born again,

It’s not like it was.


Many a day I’ve watched him

Laughing at mistakes.

Is there nothing that can hurt him?

No one that he hates?


There’s something very different

In the way he speaks,

But discord, trouble, chaos:

These he never seeks.


He’s always kind to classmates

Even when they’re cruel.

But they can never hurt him;

He’s nobody’s fool.


I like to be around him.

He will always talk.

If you have any problems,

He knows the way to walk.


He seems to have no troubles.

He’s happy every day.

How he always keeps it up,

I can never say.


He says that he’s a Christian.

I would like to know

What a Christian really is.

What makes their love grow?


Tomorrow I will ask him.

I’ll be happy too.

I’ll find out his mystery.

Then I will tell you.

I wanna go back.

I was reading a book review about a book set in the forties. There were 47 comments, and most of the women mentioned that they often wished they had lived in that era. And here I thought I was the only person who longed for “the olden days!”

So many times, I’ve wished that I had been a young married woman in the 40s. I’d like to emulate that lifestyle even now. I’ve even looked online for old sewing patterns so I can dress like they did! But then, it dawned on me one day, as I sat there wondering why God saw fit to place me in the 21st century, that it’s probably a good thing that we’re not all satisfied with how our lifestyles are now. It’s probably good that some of us are looking backwards, trying to bring back the good things from eras long past, seeking out the old paths.

If we were all pressing forward all the time, where would we be today?

Our Last Great Hope

Last week, I finished a wonderful book by Ronnie Floyd, titled Our Last Great Hope. It was a thought-provoking read, albeit a somewhat painful one. Although written in a friendly manner, it was painful because Mr. Floyd is straightforward and doesn’t coddle the Christian who is just “not ready” to witness to the lost and dying world that surrounds us. In the book, he exhorts, encourages, and inspires us to do just that – since that is the true heart of God, and our duty as followers of His Word.

This book really spoke to me. It seems that I always have some excuse why I cannot move from “living out loud” to becoming a witness that actively pursues salvation-related conversation. When I was younger, I thought: when people start taking me seriously, I will. Then I wanted to get my theology just right. (Which, when I finally got serious about it, took me just a few moments to look up key verses and organize my thoughts on paper.) Now, I find that being home most of the time is just another excuse. This book challenged me to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. The cashier, the mailman, the guys with the street department just outside my window. He also makes clear that we should be simultaneously focused on our own neighborhoods, and the on uttermost parts of the earth.

If you want to find out more, check out the product page for this book. Or you can preview it here.

Note: In exchange for an honest review, the publisher provided a complimentary copy of this book through BookSneeze®.

Long vowel words

My niece mastered the silent e vowels rather quickly – much more quickly than Ian did. I don’t know whether it’s because she is a little older, or because I am moving slower (making sure she fully comprehends each step instead of pushing through the curriculum). Or maybe, she’s just wired differently. Anyway, it took her about a week to master, and it took Ian several months. (But he’s finally a great reader!) Today, I started her with words that have two vowels in the middle, rendering the first one long and the second silent. Words such as rain, mail, boat, beat, etc. I started out by moving between two similar words, such as ran and rain. We went back and forth several times, and she did fine, but when we started in on the others, I noticed that she doesn’t really know her vowels all that well. You absolutely have to know the difference between vowels and consonants to decipher these words, so we dropped what we were doing and worked on that instead. Since I had my little homemade flashcards out already, I just used those. After reciting A, E, I, O, U several times, I pointed to the r in rain, and asked, “Is r a vowel?” “Yes!” “A, E, I, O, U. Say ’em with me. A, E, I, O, U. Is r a vowel?” “No!” We did all of the letters in rain individually, then moved through the rest of the 20 or so flashcards. About half-way through, we were able to stop reciting A, E, I, O, U at every letter, and she was able to recall which were vowels without thinking too hard. By the end of the flashcards, she was zooming. Vowels down. Tomorrow, I’ll reteach today’s lesson, and we’ll stop if we need a refresher. We’ve been working so hard on long vowels lately, that I need to remember to go over her 3 sight words tomorrow too. Hope I don’t forget!

Homeschool Enrichment Magazine Subscription

If you don’t have a subscription to Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, I highly recommend getting one. It’s my favorite homeschooling mag! If you’d like to check it out, here is a direct link to their free digital subscription page:

My latest article is in the Sep./Oct. issue: Asking Questions, Analyzing Answers. Hope you like it! (I also write the “Once Upon a Homeschool” piece in every issue.)