Photo from writerscentre.ie
Photo from writerscentre.ie

I’ve started another rough draft of my novel (the third one, to be exact). For the past two months I haven’t had the discipline and initiative to work on it consistently. I’ve only written about 10,000 words on this new draft, but I could have written so much more by now. There’s always something else to get done. I’m a high school senior, and as much as I want to write this book, school is still more important (at least that’s what I keep telling myself).

But blaming my busy schedule is a sorry excuse. In the seventeen years that I’ve spent on this earth, I’ve learned that if I want to have time for something, I usually find time for it. Most of my excuses are just excuses for laziness. And as a writer, laziness is my archenemy. It produces nothing. It benefits no one. It kills art.

So I pray a quick prayer before I sit down reluctantly to type out another chapter in the book. I pray for inspiration and help, because most of the time it just isn’t there. Even though I wholeheartedly want to write this book, most of the time I don’t feel like putting in the effort that it requires.

Which leads me to a big question:

Why am I writing this novel?

If I’m writing this novel because I feel like it, then I better stop right now. This book isn’t about me feeling fulfilled or accomplished. It’s not about seeing my name on the front cover (even though that will be amazing). It’s not about me; and sometimes that’s a hard thing for us writers to grasp. I’m writing for a higher cause–something beyond myself. There’s a voice in my head that tells me to keep writing. It tells me that this story has purpose, that it’s important somehow, and that it would be wrong for me to abandon the narrative.

That voice is hope.

Hope is my motivation, even when completing the novel seems almost impossible. Hope assures me that all these countless hours and crazy ideas and thousands of words will someday blossom into a novel, and that novel will in turn blossom the hearts of readers.

It’s this hope that propels us all into the future. We don’t all write novels, but we all face challenges. We all have to fight against laziness. We all have to push through the resistance in our heads telling us to quit.

We all need hope.

That hope comes from above, from our loving Father who gives us the courage to do great things. All we have to do is accept it, allow it to fill our hearts and minds, and let it guide us through the struggles. It’s not always easy. But it is simple.

It’s time to embrace hope.

What do you say?

Books, Books, & More Books

Elizabeth Bennet
Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when I didn’t read much.

As a child, I always enjoyed reading, but during my early teen years I lost interest. Children’s books were behind me, young adult books didn’t interest me, and adult books were too mature for me, so I just didn’t read.

And then I discovered the venerable Jane Austen. After watching the five hour long movie rendition of Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” I read the classic. It was my first large novel, and I was captivated.

I also discovered the Love Comes Softly Series by Janette Oke . She became one of my favorite authors as I delved into the genres of historical and Christian fiction.

Since attending Summit last year, I’ve also started reading many non-fiction books. Now my “to read” list  is overflowing. I generally add at least one new title a week. For someone who’s not a fast reader, that means I’ve got plenty of happy page-turning hours ahead of me.

Here are some of my favorite books this year, along with short reviews:

Tactics, Gregory Koukl–An excellent handbook to logical thinking and apologetic tactics for defending biblical convictions.

Strawberry Point, Florence Roe Wiggins–A delightfully quaint collection of memoir vignettes celebrating old-fashioned America. Loved it.

Me & Georgette, D.B. Schaefer–A fun, unusual romance combining time travel, Judaism, and Regency England. It’s similar to Jane Austen, so yes, I liked it.

Structuring Your Novel, K.M. Weiland–Informative and easy to read, this book has been a great resource while writing my novel.

What are some books that you’ve enjoyed lately?

Life is an Ocean (Short Story)

Life is an ocean. Vast. Deep. And powerful.

You float along this ocean, sunning yourself on the deck of your little boat on blissful days, and hiding for cover when storms rage.

Slowly the strip of land that marked the beginning of your passage slips from view. You become better acquainted with your vessel, learning how to ride the waves of life and survive the storms.

You sail further and further into the heart of this vast ocean of life. And then one day a startling question whispers to you as you sit alone on the deck of your boat. “Where am I headed?”

You hadn’t considered that when you set sail. You had only dreamed of adventure. You had only wanted to sail. To be free. To live.

You tell the question to leave you alone. But it haunts you, flitting through your mind at the oddest of times. And you still can’t answer it. You don’t know what lies beyond. You don’t even know where you are. You can’t go back to the shore you launched from. You’re on your own. You’re scared.

The sky begins to darken and a low rumble pierces the salty air. As the fiercest storm you’ve ever fought rages against you, the answer to the question strikes your heart like the bolts of lighting in the sky. “Where am I headed?”

Fear grips you as you realize that you are headed down. The waves are forcing your vessel lower and lower into the encompassing ocean. Yet you fight. Fight for the sake of life. Fight until your strength is all but gone, your boat all but sunk. Then you call for help.

The storm still rages, but an unexplained peace wraps around your heart as you feel strength returning to your limp body. You continue to fight. Fight for the sake of life. And slowly the waves begin to calm. The lightening stops, and you discover that the morning has come. It dawns in brilliant hues against the clear sky above.

The storm of the night before seems like a nightmare from your sleep. You almost excuse it as such. Yet you know it was real. You shudder at the thought of it. You remember your call for help and realize that something beyond yourself helped you survive the storm.

Your eyes spot something on the horizon. Your heart skips a beat as you realize what it is. It’s a shore. A vast shore glistening in the sunlight. You wouldn’t have discovered it if you hadn’t survived the storm. The miracle of it all overwhelms you. You are headed somewhere. Somewhere beautiful. All you must do now is continue to sail toward that distant shore–your destination.


Some say there is no distant shore, that life is simply an ocean we sail on until death parts us forever. Many never question this worldview. Many fear to question it. Yet it haunts each one of us. “Where am I headed?”

For the believer of the biblical account of redemption, the answer is simple. We are sailing along this ocean of life toward another life–toward a heavenly shore. We don’t fight the storms alone. We don’t drift along aimlessly. We have our course set. And though we wander, we strive to sail straight toward that ever-fixed mark. Toward that glistening shore. Toward our Heavenly Father.

Words can’t capture the majesty of this truth. Neither can music, yet I believe that Phil Wickham struck along this line of thought when he wrote his song Sailing on a Ship. It’s vivid. It’s real. It’s a reminder that we are sailing–closer and closer every day–to that golden shore.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

A World Without Music (Short Story)


I awakened to the obnoxious beep of my alarm clock instead of the usual cheery wake-up song. I could tell it was an odd morning. Not only was my alarm clock beeping, but I also couldn’t hear the customary sound of my sister playing piano in the other room. I stumbled out of my bedroom and glanced in the direction of the piano. It was gone. Panicked, I inspected where the piano had stood and found not a single music book laying around. I dashed back to my bedroom and discovered that my guitar was gone and my CD’s were missing.

I ran upstairs and found my mom in the kitchen. “Mom! There was a music thief in our house!”

She stared at me blankly. “What?”

“A music thief! He stole the piano and my guitar and the songbooks and–and–we’ve got to call the police!” I exclaimed.

“Alli, maybe you should go back to bed. There was no thief in our house, and I don’t even know what music is or piano or guitar. You need more sleep.”

“What do you mean you don’t know what music is? We had a piano downstairs, and I had a guitar in my room, and–Oh, I almost forgot!–I have a guitar lesson today, and I don’t even have my guitar.”

“Guitar lesson? What’s that?” she queried with a concerned look on her face. ”Alli, I think you need to go back to bed. You aren’t making any sense.”

I was convinced there had not only been a music thief in the house but also a brain thief. I ran to the living room where I found my dad watching TV.

“Dad, the piano, guitar, songbooks, and everything musical is gone.”

He gave me a puzzled look, “Well, I’ve never heard of those things before, so they must not be too important. Probably time we got rid of them anyway.”

I was not in the mood for a joke. “Oh, don’t tell me the thief took your brain too,” I muttered under my breath.

“What’d you say?” he asked.

“Come on, Dad, is this some big joke or something? Where’s the piano?”

He chuckled and said, “Honey, I’ve never heard of a piano before in my life, so I can’t tell you where it is. Why don’t you go back to bed? I think you need some more sleep.”

This was pathetic. I went on a search for my older sister, Kara. I knew she would have an answer for me. “Kara, do you know where the piano is?”

“The what?” she asked.

“The piano,” I said emphatically.

“Huh? What’s a piano?” she asked, giving me a puzzled look.

I stared back at her. She was an amazing pianist. She played piano for hours each day. But this was no joke! She was being serious.

“Kara, I don’t know what’s going on. I think I might be–well–I don’t know–I–“

“Alli,” she stopped and looked me in the eyes. “I think you should get out of the house. I’m about to head out shopping. Why don’t you join me?”

“Maybe I do need to get out. Are you shopping for a dress for your recital?”

“For my what?” she asked.

“Never mind,” I replied as I went to grab a snack and hurriedly got ready to leave.

We had almost reached the store when I realized that Kara didn’t have the radio on like normal. “Kara, it is not like you to be driving somewhere without music,” I teased.

“Huh?” she said, giving me that puzzled look again.

Had everyone else lost their minds, or was I going crazy? I wasn’t sure, but I definitely needed to hear some music. I turned on the radio. No music. I switched through all the stations. No music. “There’s nothing but talk shows on here,” I complained.

“Yeah, that’s what’s on a radio,” Kara retorted in that older sister you-should-know-that-by-now voice.

I stared at her, then the radio. Something was seriously wrong. When we finally arrived at the store, I leaped out of the car and bolted inside. Just as I had feared, no music was playing. I asked an employee, “Do you know what music is?”

After some thought the lady replied, “No, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe we have that here.”

“Well, have you at least heard of music?” I pleaded.

“No, I can’t say that I have. What is it?” she asked.

Describe music? Was this lady crazy? “Well,” I began, “music is made with instruments and it sounds really cool. There are lots of different styles of music and lots of different instruments. Music is something you can dance to and sing along with. Music can be happy or sad or loud or quiet and–and–” I was running out of descriptions, “it’s an art.”

“Hmm. That sounds really amazing. I wonder why I’ve never heard of that before,” the lady said.

By then, Kara had entered the store, and I needed some fresh air. “Kara, I’m going to stay outside.”

“Okay,”she said, looking about as puzzled as I felt, but there’s no way that was possible.

I sat down outside the building, pulled out my phone, and scoured the internet for any trace of music. Nothing. I searched for my favorite songs. Nothing. Music didn’t exist.

I had never felt so frustrated and confused in my life. I needed to hear something besides voices and beeps and car noises. I needed to hear music. I tried to sing a song, but I couldn’t sing. I tried to clap my hands, but I couldn’t keep a rhythm. I tried to imagine living the rest of my life in a world without music. What would my life be like without playing my guitar or listening to my sister’s elegant piano pieces or hearing my mom’s cheerful humming in the kitchen? What would movies be like without the music? What would football games be like without the bands? The more I thought about music, the more I realized how special and important it was and how much I had taken it for granted.

Suddenly, I heard the distant sound of a song playing. I opened my eyes and found myself staring at my alarm clock. I closed my eyes, and then I opened them again. Yes, it was playing my wake-up song.  I leaped out of bed and started to sing. I glanced around the room. Sure enough, my guitar was in the corner by my CD’s. I walked into the other room where Kara was playing one of her stunning piano pieces. “Sounds beautiful as always, Kara!” I called over my shoulder.

I dashed upstairs and stood in the kitchen reveling in the sound of my mom humming. “Good morning, Alli,” she greeted me.

“Good morning, Mom. I have a guitar lesson today, right? I asked.

“Yes, you do,” she responded.

“Okay, good, just checking,” I said and then I began to chuckle. Mom looked at me quizzically. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh, nothing. I just had the craziest dream last night. That’s all.”

Mr. Darcy

Sequestered to the loneliest corner of the country ballroom stands the distinguished Mr. Darcy. He is a handsome gentleman of twenty-eight years, with a wealth of black hair and a stately stature. His countenance is as a king; no smile lines his face as he observes the night’s festivities with scrutinizing eyes. He presents a curt nod to others only when it is absolutely inescapable, and swiftly declines any offers to dance. With his affluence and good looks alone, every eligible young lady is at his beck and call, all except for one, Elizabeth Bennet. She is the only young lady that Darcy finds desirable. That acknowledgment, however, causes a shiver to pass through his rigid frame. The thought of being allured by a woman of Elizabeth’s lowly status is most deplorable to his estimation. Spotting her in the crowd he quickly turns away, lifts his chin, and stiffens his back. It would be imprudent of him to display his feelings. He longs to abandon the uncivilized banquet and return to the dignified setting of Netherfield Park.

January 2013

Amelia’s Awakening (Short Story)

David Callahan embraced his sobbing daughter. She had been so strong through the funeral, but now the tears fell unhindered. Her mother’s passing has all but crushed her, he mused as he stroked her auburn tresses. Mustering his strength, David lifted his daughter’s chin until her swollen, hazel eyes met his own. “Amelia,” he took a deep breath before continuing, “God must have a reason for–for taking Mother to be with Him.” His voice broke with emotion. “Right now, we can’t understand it–and that’s alright. Someday we will. That’s what I keep telling myself. We just need to trust that God will–”

That was it. She had heard enough about “trusting God.” She had trusted God; she had trusted that he would heal her mother from cancer, but He had not. With a determined shove, she tore herself away from her father.

“Amelia, come here–” Her father’s gentle beckoning faded into the distance as she bounded out the back door. Forward, forward, her legs carried her across the backyard, through the cut in the woods, and down the rutted, snaking path shrouded by pines. She often escaped to the woods when something troubled her, usually carrying her Bible, but not today. She didn’t feel as if she had the strength to carry anything at the moment, especially a book containing forgotten promises.

Life wasn’t fair. God wasn’t fair. She was mad at life and mad at God. How could He have allowed this to happen? How could He have taken Elizabeth Callahan, her selfless, loving mother? It was only a month ago that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and then, three weeks later, she was gone. It had all happened so suddenly, but now it was finally penetrating her. Maybe it’s because of the funeral, she concluded.

Her frail body writhed with sobs. I thought I’d always have her. I wish I would have spent more time with her, listened more to her, learned more from her, been a better daughter. The regrets overwhelmed her adolescent heart. She felt grief pulling her down like gravity.The treetops started spinning as her fatigued body collapsed onto the dusty path. The world became suddenly dark as she passed into the realm of unconsciousness.

* * *

I roused to the sound of someone talking to me. I tossed restlessly; my head ached and every muscle of my body seemed to be protesting. I realized someone was squeezing my hand and caressing my forehead. I tried to open my eyes and was able to distinguish a girl about my age with long, black hair hovering over me.

“Are you okay?” The girl asked, but her words seemed from a distant land.

In my daze, she managed to lift me off the ground and situate me next to her on a fallen tree trunk.

“What happened to you? Were you frightened or something?” she inquired caringly. She reached over and attempted to wipe the streaks of dirt from my face.

What had happened to me? I was too scatterbrained to recollect. I shrugged my shoulders.

My reply didn’t seem to satisfy her. She stared at me worriedly for a while. Eventually, her gaze turned toward the rain clouds accumulating in the afternoon sky. “We better get you home,” she concluded. “It looks like it’s going to rain.”

I felt lifeless. I wasn’t sure if I possessed the strength to walk home. My head was still throbbing to the beat of a frantic drummer. “I think I’d like to just sit for a while,” I managed to say.

As I began to regain my composure, I realized I didn’t know who this girl seated next to me was. The recognition caused me to flush. “Who are you?” I asked shyly.

“Sorry, I guess I should have introduced myself,” she chuckled. “I’m Sarah. I just moved here.”

“Where do you live?”

“Twenty-eight Maple Street.”

“Oh, then you must be my new next door neighbor.” I could feel the warmth rising to my cheeks again. Well, this is definitely an embarrassing way to meet a new neighbor. I decided to change the subject. “How did you find this path?” I asked.

Sarah smiled, “I’m the adventurous type. I decided to go tramping through the woods and ended up finding this trail, and then I found you.”

Ah, yes, the subject is somehow focusing on me again. I tried a different approach. “So, why did you move here?”

“My grandparents wanted to move to the country.”

“You live with your grandparents?” I questioned.

“Yes, for a year now.” A shadow passed over her pretty face. “My father passed away two years ago, and my mother only last year,” her voice barely whispered.

The mention of her mother’s passing caused the waves of sorrow to once again come crashing down on me. The torrential tears returned; I bent over and rested my head in my hands. A mortified Sarah grasped my heaving shoulders, her frightened eyes staring at me, her mouth gaping.

“Sorry,” I stammered in between weeping spasms. “It’s just–that–I–” I gave into the wrenching sobs, and a few minutes passed before I could speak.  I willed myself to lift my teary eyes to meet her concerned ones, “My mother–passed away last week,” I finished in a whisper.

Her expression transformed from fear to empathy. Tears began to flow unchecked down her cheeks too. Her arms wrapped around me in a sisterly embrace, and we cried on each other’s shoulders for quite some time.

Through my bewailing I heard her gentle voice begin to pray, “God, I know that you care about–” She stopped short, a puzzled look on her face.

“What is your name?”


“God, I know that you care very much about–Amelia and I.” Her voice labored with the words. “You love us more than we could ever know. I know I would never have made it through my own sorrow without you, and I know Amelia can’t either. God, give her Your peace. Help her to know that You are near. Help her to come closer to You through this.” She stopped to wipe her eyes. Shakily she continued, “Help her to have faith that you can make something beautiful out of this brokenness. I know you have done that for me, so I know you can do it for her.”

I stared at her through my haze of tears. How could she pray like that, so confident yet humble? How could someone who had endured more tragedy than myself still believe that God loves them, still trust in his faithfulness?

“Sarah,” I dared to broach the subject, “How can you still believe that–that–God loves you after He–He–took your parents?”

Sarah peered at me for a while, calculating what to say. She seemed to look straight through my mournful eyes and into my travailing heart. It unnerved me. I was afraid she understood my condition far better than I did. At last, in a measured tone, she spoke, “Amelia, I’ve been right where you are before. I was only beginning to recover from my father’s death when my mother passed away too. I was heartbroken and didn’t talk to God for months. Those were the loneliest, most miserable months of my life, but one day I found a biography on my grandparents’ shelf about George Müller, a man who started an orphanage. Have you ever heard of him?”

I shook my head no.

“Well, neither had I,” she began again, “But something about the book drew me, and I read the whole thing in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down. I was so enthralled, that I didn’t even eat supper. What I read about in the that book changed my life forever. I got down on my hands and knees, right then and there in my bedroom, and sobbed and begged God to forgive me for the way I had been treating Him. I committed my life over to Him, Amelia, and I’ve never been the same since.”

“What happened in the book?” I queried.

“Amazing stuff. It told of real miracles that helped orphans. It touched my heart. I decided that I wanted God to use me in amazing ways too, and before I knew it, it started happening.” She paused, contemplating whether she should continue. Eventually she reached over and clasped my aimless hand in her own. Looking me straight in the eyes, she resumed, “One thing I can tell you, Amelia, is that my relationship with God has grown so much deeper because of what I went though. I still miss my parents more than words can say. I imagine I always will, but He has helped me bear my grief. I’ve held onto all those verses about how ‘He cares for the fatherless,’ and I’ve found them to be true. I am a better person because of what I went through. I know that you might not be able to comprehend this right now,” she stopped to squeeze my hand, “but I know you will be too.”

I was speechless. I did notice that my tears had stopped falling as freely, my head was not throbbing as badly, and a strange peace seemed to encircle me. Maybe God still cares about me. Maybe it is His peace that I am feeling, I pondered

We were silent for a while. The sun peeked out occasionally from behind the brooding rain clouds and showered us with its warm rays. Gusts of wind swayed the branches overhead. I could sense the humidity rising. Sarah’s eyes turned toward the darkening sky. “I better go home,” she resolved.

“I should too, but I think I’ll stay just a little longer.”

Sarah wrapped her arms around me one last time, “I’ll be praying for you, Amelia, and you know where to find me now.”

“Oh, Sarah, I can’t thank you enough–”

“No,” she reminded, “ Thank God. He was the One who led us to each other.”

I nodded and surprisingly, was even able to manage a smile.

She had taken only a few steps down the path when she stopped. Turning around, she asked, “Amelia, was your mother a Christian?”

Her question took me off guard, but I knew the answer beyond a doubt. “Yes, a very good one.”

Instantly, joy radiated from her face, and before turning to leave she said, “Good, then I will be able to meet her someday.”

It was like blinders fell from my eyes. The truth hit me straight in the heart, and I let it penetrate slowly. Sarah was right; she would get to meet my mother in heaven. This was not “Good-bye, Mom.” It was actually “See you later, Mom.” Death was not the end of life; it was the beginning of eternal life. My mother had found that eternal life, and I had been mourning for her. Instead of being grateful to God for accepting her into His loving arms, I had begrudged Him. I had been angry at Him when He had given my mother what she had always dreamed of–acceptance into heaven.

“But, why did you have to take her in the first place?” the question lingered in my mind, yet I recognized now that God was too vastly supreme for me to question. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” the verse from Isaiah flitted through my mind. I had always viewed it as an inspiring verse, yet it had never hit me as powerfully as now. God felt closer than ever before. I could almost hear his still, small voice reassuring me of his love and faithfulness.

The tears began to cascade again; this time they were tears of thankfulness. I dropped to my knees on the dusty path. “Thank you, God,” I whispered into the sky. “Thank you that I will see her again.” It seemed like such a naive prayer, yet after saying it, I felt like a burden was lifted from my shoulders.

At that moment, the rain clouds that had been brewing overhead began to shower. I allowed the gentle rain to wash the tears from my face, wiping away the hurt, anger, and confusion. God was bestowing His healing rain upon my broken life, softening the hardened soil of my heart.

Peace enraptured my soul, yet I knew my grieving was not complete. In my heart, I acknowledged that I would always yearn for my devoted, caring mother, but by God’s grace, I was confident that I would survive. With renewed vigor, I rose to my feet off the now muddy trail and retraced my steps home.  As I approached the edge of the woods, I saw my father coming toward me, holding an umbrella. Hastening toward him, I wrapped my soaking arms around him and rested my head on his shoulder.

“Amelia, I was worried about you,” he whispered against my wet hair.

I was drenched from head to toe, and Dad was growing quite wet himself. I knew I should say an apology for causing him to search for me in the rain, but I wasn’t at all sorry for the experience I had just had, and I knew he wouldn’t be either. We huddled under the umbrella, seemingly locked in time, listening to the rain tapping overhead.

At last my voice broke the reverie. “Daddy,” I paused to regard his loving eyes, “We are going to be okay.”

His grip around me tightened, and I could tell he was crying. I was too. Under his breath I heard him whisper, “God is faithful.”

“Yes, Daddy,” I let the tears fall freely onto his shoulder,“He most certainly is.”

January, 2013

The Artist


Trifling chatter is all that consumes his fellow hikers as they trudge down the winding timber path. The artist lingers behind, allowing the others to trample on ahead. When the dust finally settles and the palaver is distant, he closes his eyes and revels in the allurement of autumn. Tilting his head, he catches the warmth of sunrays peeking through the treetops. He can hear the rustle of leaves as squirrels scamper about, harboring nuts for the winter. He inhales deeply the fresh air of the timberland and catches a scent of evergreen. A smile touches his face as a breeze swirls past him. Opening his eyes he finds the branches overhead showering him with an abundant spray of leaves. One leaf captures his eyes, and he grasps it as it flits by him. He runs his fingers along its ridges and marvels at its crimson hue. In that moment all is silent; a current of hope enraptures him. Suddenly he feels confident in achieving any aspiration he seeks, never to be downhearted again. Then a voice rends the silence – was someone calling him? Reluctantly, he tears himself away from his reverie. Casting the leaf onto the trodden path, he wills himself toward the group of hikers he had so easily forgotten.

November, 2012