Monday, August 06, 2012

Greetings from a new Georgian wife

(Note - Meant to blog much sooner! We do not have internet where we live, and besides we have been so busy learning how to be married, working, cooking, building stories, I've barely had time to write! I hope to remedy that once things settle down, because I long to share the many new and lovely things God has been doing in my life!)
Married to my John - March 17, 2012

Nearly five months ago, I married John. Every day since, I have marveled at the Lord’s goodness in giving me this man. My John is so kind, and tender and strong, and manly. We have read stories, built things, washed dishes, worked hard at this new thing called marriage. And this is only the beginning!

We still look at one another incredulously in odd moments and exclaim, “Wow, we’re married!” And yet, while it feels unreal at times and too good to be true, it also feels as if it has always been. We have been reborn, two joined as one, and our joyous new childhood has both blurred and focused all our life before. It has granted a measure of perspective. Many agonizing mysteries and trials of singlehood have now their stings removed, or shown to be good things after all.

As John says, we didn’t see the change coming – it happened so quickly, so orchestrated by the Lord, and only a year and a half ago we were both woefully single! We wish to comfort our dear unmarried friends – just because there seem to be no prospects in sight does not mean something isn’t about to Happen. Nor does it mean you are not allowed to make yourself available, if the Lord seems to be so leading, to helping that other lonely person find you. (insert plug for MarryWell, cough cough)

Camping in East Texas on our way to Georgia.  With its swamp, cypress trees, and owl cries, I was already getting a taste of sough Georgia! 

The Lord has opened up an opportunity for us to live in a little house about 40 minutes away from John’s parents (farther than we’d like, but not outrageous). The situation that led to this opportunity was astounding, and after prayer we decided to take it. Without giving details, I must say I have not yet grasped the depth of opportunity and blessing handed to us so graciously. The house sits on hundreds of acres, mostly wild, but also with orchards, a vineyard, a garden area, and lovely clearings bright green and dazzling with sunlight or blanketed in fog every morning

As Sam Gamgee says, we’ve fallen on our feet and no mistake! The challenge now is to be faithful stewards of all we’ve been given, more than enough to keep us busy and with lots of exercise out of doors!

This picture is months old. At the moment, those pear trees are drooping with the weight of huge pears.

Well, I'm off to the post office! Then back home to clean house, start laundry, and hopefully start on my next project - pear butter! Until next time, may the Lord bless and keep you!

~ Rael, now Mrs. D :-)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Exciting Announcement

from my Georgian laddie

Last Wednesday, September 21, 2011 ... I became engaged to be married!  :-D  

Words cannot express my delight and joy at what the Lord has done! 

I hope to tell more of our story for my dear blog readers soon.  In the meanwhile, I shall say he is the best of men, a lover of the Lord and family, an old-fashioned manly man, a true kindred spirit, and I am excited about spending the rest of my life with him!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review - The Final Hour

The Final Hour  is the fourth and final book in the Homelander series, an action-packed yarn about love for country, family, and values - and the cost of standing against terrorists who would have them obliterated.  

Ever since falling into Charlie West's story last year, I have been anxious to see how it ends... and if the poor fellow ever gets to rest!

On the surface, these books are about a fairly normal high school kid running away from terrorists, solving the mystery of a forgotten year of his life, and putting his top-notch karate skills to use. Oh, and getting wounded and wearied beyond belief in the process.

I was in Abingdon State Prison. Locked away for a murder I didn't commit. Waiting for the men who were coming to kill me. With nowhere to run.

What keeps him going, besides the fact that he's the hero in an action/thriller book?

The answer, my friend, is all that flows beneath the surface in his patriotic and God-fearing veins.

Make no mistake - this book, like its predecessors, is first of all a thrilling read. I knew when it came in the mail that I had better be careful about opening the cover. I have sped through the other books like my life, instead of Charlie's, depended on it.

But it is the heroic and noble character of Charlie West that makes me want to sneak a set of these books into the room of every adventure-loving boy I know.

Charlie respects life and, however nasty the villain, he chooses to never kill needlessly. He hates to lie (old fashioned, eh?). He values freedom and morality. He takes full responsibility for his actions. And when left by all allies, facing impossible odds, he presses on to his last breath.

"You're not alone, Charlie. You're never alone"

These books were written particularly for teen guys, for whom too little quality fiction is written these days. I'm thankful to Andrew Klavan for seeing the need, and for writing a series that is anything but wimpy or dull.

But I can attest that even 26-year old ladies can enjoy Charlie's story. It may not be Homer, Tolkien, or Dickens, but between the fast action scenes, explosions, and karate moves lies a tale every lover of freedom may embrace.

*Thank you, thank you to Thomas Nelson for the free reviewer's copy of this book!  You did not pay me, nor did I have to give a good review.  I just liked it that much.*

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Review - The Ale Boy's Feast

The Ale Boy's Feast

The fourth and final book of The Auralia Thread opens with House Abascar's journey northward, seeking a home. But evil haunts them in many guises. If the fabled city exists, how many of the dwindling house will reach it alive?

The forest has become bloodthirsty in root and twig.  The young king Cal Raven has disappeared. Shar ben Fray is galivanting in the southern desert.

And the Ale Boy?

Ah, the ale boy. The poor little fella is getting tired of rescuing everyone.  Will his job never be done?  

Mystery's Gift

Jeffrey Overstreet has crafted a tale here that stands out as creatively different from many other Christian fantasy novels.  His plot is surprising, his language rich.  His characters don't fit into molds.  Twists pop up just when you think you've got it all worked out into a tidy allegory, leaving you gasping in grief, thrilling with delight, or simply blinking in astonishment.

The ale boy is probably my favorite of the wild cast of characters.  Still, as wonderful as they were, the characters are only a few of the crown jewel of these stories.  Shining out brilliantly are pictures of creativity, beauty, mystery, and unforeseen grace.


This last book, even more so than the previous three, contains some darkly violent images. These moments are used deliberately to show the disgusting and deadly nature of evil, but I wonder if they might have been carried off with a bit more suggestion and less detail.  A similar warning should be given for the temptations faced by adult characters, which, though appropriately shown as evil, make these not children's books.

I tend to agree with author Rachel Starr Thomson, who called the series "highly moral, but not simplistically so" in her excellent review here.


The tale ended well, and I could not read anything else immediately after.  I felt I had been on a long journey myself with all the characters.  While many loose ends were tied up by last few pages, a few were left blowing wistful and mysterious in the wind of wonder.

I was left with a strong reminder of the beauty in the world and the creative urge in us that reminds us of where we come from, who we were meant to be. Auralia's colors did their work well.

*Disclaimer* - I received a free copy of this book for review from Waterbrook Press.  But I didn't have to like it. :-)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Computers, Coffee, Chai, and "Caps"

This is what my friend Catie and I do when we find ourselves in the possession of neat old hats.

We wore them to the library, too. :-)

‘Whenever you wear your hat, your day will be special.’ – Margo Nickel

"The right hat may also enliven our imagination of the old-fashioned cloche, a picture hat, or a toque trimmed with a pouf of polka-dotted veiling is just enough to make us feel as if we were living in another, romantic age." ~ Unknown

"Saying you don't look good in a hat is like saying you don't look good in shoes!" ~ Unknown

"If a woman rebels against high heeled shoes, she should take care to do it in a very smart hat." ~ George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book Review - The Monster in the Hollows

I stayed up till 3 a.m finishing The Monster in the Hollows, book 3 of the Wingfeather Saga.  After a horrid streak of writer's block, I finally bring you my review.   

Puppies and pumpkin stew! Peril and perfidy! 

After many battles and adventures, Janner and his family come to the Hollows, where the travelers find peace, puppies, and pumpkin stew aplenty. Finally they can settle down to some sort of normal life.

Oh. Except that Kalmar, heir to the throne of Anierra, has turned into a Grey Fang. And as Throne Warden, Janner must protect his furry brother from suspicious townsfolk, a monster lurking in the shadows, and his own nagging anger.

Monsters, Mystery, and the Maker's Magic

The Monster in the Hollows seemed a bit slow for a while, especially after the non-stop action of North! Or Be Eaten. But actually, the tension never ceases. It's just different. Janner and his siblings must face new challenges, such as learning to deal with suspicious Hollowsfolk, finding their place in the interesting school, and perceiving truth beneath layers of deception.  

Much of the story is like a quiet afternoon when the wind has died down, but the sky is darkening and heavy with clouds, and the air tingles. The small choices Janner makes in his heart - resentment or sacrifice, anger or joy, cowardice or bravery - these are battles as crucial as fighting the deadly Fangs of Dang.

And the plot does thicken and the action quicken, and the last chapters flow as Janner and his family face bloodthirsty enemies, love laid down, and failures the Maker turns to flourishes.

"Play, Leeli," he said, and her song lifted into the hall and swooped among the boughs, echoed off the ancient walls and fluttered among the crowd. It seeded the soil of many hearts, and only the stoniest rejected it and held to their murderous yearning. The rest, though, felt themselves believing, as Janner did, that the world was bigger and more terribly beautiful than they thought.
The Monster in the Hollows, by Andrew Peterson

The last few paragraphs rather reminded me of some of Tolkien's writing where he zooms out to give you a grand bit of epic language, and you feel the tale marching on to the final conflict.

My reviews of previous books in the Wingfeather Saga:
Book 1 - On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
Book 2 - North! Or Be Eaten

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review coming soon...

This book shall be reviewed shortly. 
After I have re-read some of my favorite bits.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Monday night (the beginning of Tuesday by Jewish reckoning), we celebrated Passover with some friends via Skype.  Despite some technology glitches, we were able to have a delightful time together, laughing, listening in awe to the story, reading truth together, letting tastes linger as tangible pictures on our tongues.  Remembering the One who is our great Deliverer.  The Bread broken for us.  The spotless Lamb of God. 

Homemade matza (unleavened bread)

The other end of our Passover table was hundreds of miles away! :-)
Take, eat, remember.

Remember the story of deliverance.
Remember the Light who shines in the darkness.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Hush and hark!

My harvest withers. Health, my means to live—
All things seem rushing straight into the dark.
But the dark still is God. I would not give
The smallest silver-piece to turn the rush
Backward or sideways. Am I not a spark
Of him who is the light?—Fair hope doth flush
My east.—Divine success—Oh, hush and hark!

- George MacDonald, from Diary of an Old Soul -

Sunday, March 27, 2011

At the Feet of the Smile Giver

I know that I’m a shadow
But I’m dancing in your light
 ~ J. J. Heller ~

- scribbled a while back -

I had been gloomy lately, played the victim.  Quite without reason, especially in light of recent pain in my church family.  

After all, I was not the parent whose little girl died suddenly of a common flu.  I was not getting a knee replacement or surgery to remove cancer and going through painful recovery. It was not I who sent my baby girl into intense surgery, and now face the challenge of learning to do basic care for her in the large, bulky cast.

My sorrows are not so huge.  But even patience, self-control, trying to trust God while life rushes by in a whirl - even these are burdens.  Sometimes I feel alone, and think I will never grow.  

But since this Sunday morning, the light of God's compassion and might have shone on all these, and reminded me of a secret too well kept.

Laughter in the dark.

This morning Tyler talked about the Abundant Life that Christ came to give.  Not a list of rules wherein misery means holiness.  Not a promise of more stuff or an easy life.

If I believe in Him, I have everlasting life.  Not "I will have."  It is mine now.  Will I act sad and dead with that gift ready to burst forth like a mighty acorn seedling? 

Then in Sunday School, Laynce Nix talked about discipleship - which is being an apprentice of Jesus. Sitting at His feet all the time. Someone asked for practical application - she knows He is God but the ice needs breaking outside, the horses fed, the chores done.

And Laynce suggested that in the everyday moment, hectic or mundane or ordinary, be a disciple.

That thought was not new, but somehow struck me new.  I can choose obedience, remember He is present, and just be with Him. Rest joyfully in my smallness next to His greatness.

"And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant." ~ Matthew 23:10, 11~

I want that, Lord!  Awareness of You every moment.  Not focusing on my nothingness - You have made me something, and I forget! - but rather focusing on Your Muchness.

This excites me like being called on a great adventure with someone better than a Jedi master, better than wise Gandalf. Oh great Christ, I am choosing to be Your apprentice, to learn from You whatever the circumstances. 

Today, for instance, at the youth group Super Bowl party, which I would really rather not go to.  But You, Master, ask me to love people and make more disciples, and maybe this is part of that.  Anyways, if You will be there too, my complaints float away with that knowledge.

Teach me to pray without ceasing!

Help me learn from You, gentle and lowly of heart, and find rest for my soul.

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:29,30


Cloudy, grey, and damp outside.  Cookies and spicy chai tea inside.  A finished, sealed letter to a friend waiting cheerfully plump on the shelf for Monday mail.  Cozy socks, pastel blue and over my knees.

Sitting at His feet that tread the dawn.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Review - Jane Austen

Despite my love of her novels, I never read a Jane Austen biography until I recently thumbed back the cover of an almost-squarish little book by Peter Leithart - Jane Austen (Christian Encounters Series).

Numerous excerpts of letters fill these pages and give evidence for the portrait Leithard paints of Jane for us.  I imagine it might be easier when writing a biography to rely on previous biographies, but Leithart primarily sticks to original sources. And what better sources than words of Jane and those who knew her?      

Leithart is a good writer, painting a vivid picture of lively, childlike "Jenny" without getting bogged down in dull information (no offense meant, I hope, to those of you who love lengthy biographies - I tend to drown in seas of information). His words were a breath of fresh air and a pleasure to read after the last book I read.  And going from a fantasy tale to a biography, that's saying a lot for me.

By sticking to facts and making a few reasonable deductions, Leithart strikes a wonderful balance, both in showing Jane's flaws and fine points, and in giving a reasonable idea of her Christianity: 

"Early biographers often turned her into a model of Victorian Christian domestic femininity, and emphasized her Christian faith in an evangelical idiom she never used.  In reaction, many more recent biographers all but ignore her faith.  Both of these extremes distort Austen's life and personality."

And again:

"Biographers minimize Austen's Christianity mainly because they cannot believe that her acerbic, sometimes childishly cruel wit, her satires of the clerical imbecilities of Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton, and her playful silliness are compatible with deep Christian faith...The assumption that Christian faith is incompatible with a satirical spirit is entierly wrongheaded.  Nietzsche's lie that Christianity is a killjoy religion is a demonstratable falsehood.  English satire was, after all, the creation of clerics.  Austen was hardly the first Christian writer to look sceptically at the clergy.  Chaucer did before her, and so did a host of late medieval writers...And who can deny the combination of boisterous cheer and profound faith in Lewis and Chesterton?"   

Pleasing Design
A minor point, but my copy of the book is nearer to squareness than most.  Compact, small, and the cover has the delicious feel of textured watercolor paper.  Very satisfying to hold.

One of A Series
I may eventually check out more books in The Christian Encounters series, biographies of Christians across the ages, such as John Bunyan, Winston Churchill, and J.R.R.Tolkien.  Each is written by a different author, so they may not all be as enjoyable to me as this one.  But I'm especially interested in the one about St. Patrick which was written by Jonathan Rogers, author of the great Wilderking series and writer at The Rabbit Room.

Quite enjoyable.  If you want a well-written biography from a scholarly Christian perspective on Jane Austen, do check this out.  And then tell me if I'm silly for loving the compact almost-squareness of the book and the great feel of the cover's paper.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book for free from Thomas Nelson.
March of Books 2011 at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review - Dragons of the Valley

Last year, I read the first book of this series, The Vanishing Sculptor.  It was fun, but very meandering (especially for a fantasy/quest sort of tale).  When I got a chance to read the second book, Dragons of the Valley, I took it, though not quite as eagerly.  I expected it to be about the same, and I was right.  I am still sad, because this book has so much to like about it, and so much potential... but I found it rather tedious to read.

Good points:
- hilarious characters, like the wizard Fenworth and the little pixie-like Kimens.  And Bealamondore was a great hobbit-like artist character who has to learn to be brave.  
- clean and spiritually encouraging, for the most part (the Christianity felt a bit heavy-handed and pasted in, but it was a good effort)
- Great puns and odd descriptions 

- It had one of the most rambling, plodding, unorganized plots I've ever met. Some of the main huge plot points didn't make sense to me. 
- The writing, while it had it's witty and vivid spots, was often choppy and tedious.  I found myself skimming the last chapters, which I never do with fiction.
- It felt like the story couldn't decide to take itself seriously or not.  Often I felt I could hear the author laughing to herself.  Well and good!  I'm all for corny jokes and fun nonsense in their place.  But then it was hard to take seriously the threat of the world falling apart, or to reconcile it with the incredibly grim antagonist.

My concluding blurb for this book - Enjoyable in spots, but tedious and disjointed overall.

P.S.  -  Donita, K. Paul, if you're reading this (which in this internet world is quite possible), I want you to know that I do enjoy your lovely sense of humor!  :-) Lady Peg is quite fun. 

*Disclaimer -  I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Press to review in their Blogging for Books program. 
March of Books 2011 at

Friday, March 04, 2011

Book Review - God's Smuggler

Recently resolved to read more non-fiction, particularly biographies, and extra especially autobiographies, I finally took a reputed classic called God's Smuggler from my shelf and resigned myself to a "real life" story of facts and dull chapters.

But upon cracking the cover, I was sucked into a grand adventure.

From the time I first put on wooden shoes - klompen we called them in Holland - I dreamed of derring-do.  I was a spy behind enemy lines, I was a lone scout in enemy territory, I crept beneath barbed wire while tracer bullets scorched the air about me.

Andrew was a Dutch boy growing up durring World War II. He was actually very clever and ornery as a child.  As a young adult, after trying unsuccessfully to satisfy his longing for adventure and fulfillment, he became a Christian, and began an adventure greater than he ever dreamed.

He was struck with the hunger for God's Word in the Eastern European countries; churches in Russia, Hungary, Albania, etc, oppressed by the stifling darkness of Communism, were desperate for encouragement, and for Bibles.

And thus began Andrew's mission - to smuggle as many Bibles and as much fellowship, discipleship, and hope as possible to the Church behind the Iron Curtain.

As biographies go, this was a very exciting one! Coming from a novel-lover, that's saying a lot.  ;-) Funny in parts, moving, challenging.

I don't know quite what to think about his almost reckless way of daring God to provide (for instance, sometimes he would deliberately put a Bible in plain view on his car's seat, so if a border guard saw it and let him through anyway, Andrew could be certain of giving God all the glory).  But then, I have never done such risky things for Christ, so I don't know if my faith is small, or if God just calls different folks to trust Him in different ways.

"That's the excitement of obedience," he said. "Finding out later what God had in mind."

Highly recommended! Not only an exciting, hopeful, true story with a passion for God's might word and a heart for His church, but a look at the man who started Open Doors, and whose work is being passed on today. Soon after I read God's Smuggler, I learned of the connection to BEE World, a ministry my church is involved with, and it was thrilling to know... the story goes on.

March of Books 2011 at

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March is here!

Happy March!  

Redbud trees are blossoming, seeds are sprouting, projects are rushing along, and babies are growing. Look at this little guy, born around Thanksgiving last year! See his manly eyebrows, his strong grip, and that fierce intimidating stare! 
My little friend Isaac and me.  (Isn't he a cute little man?)

Upcoming Book Reviews: 
God's Smuggler - Brother Andrew
Dragons in the Valley - Donita K. Paul
Jane Austen - Peter Leithart

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Little Weekend Gifts

Today is my mom's birthday, but we did some celebrating yesterday.  Part of that included the necessary visit to Barnes and Noble.  We were going to get dessert, but neither of us were that hungry.  So we enjoyed refreshing Izze drinks.
I found this book I've been eager to read, by one of my favorite bloggers
The lovely Mother was looking at a book of cute little stuffed critters.  Fun fun!


This morning, I read this excellent book. It told me, "Give thanks to the Lord, for..."

For what? Why should we be thankful?  What could pull us out of our self-focused sad little worlds, and look to God? 

"Come here," the pages whispered, "and let me tell you the best-kept secret, the one you usually forget, or ignore, or think too stupendous to believe."

He is good.  


Really and fully good.

The laughter at the back of the world. 

Here is Bella our cat watching one of her favorite shows on her wide screen.  She's fascinated with it, though I don't always understand the plot.  Some of the major characters are birds.
 Clean sheets - ah.  Nice.
May your weekend be full of seeing, of noticing the little things God gives. 

(If you haven't noticed, I have been trying to take more pictures and blog with them.  At the moment I'm borrowing a brother's camera.  I know basically nothing about photography, but I want to get my feet good and wet first before I take a class.  Thanks for being patient through these rather rambly picture posts. :-) Hopefully I will also get into a more consistent blogging habit, and post more meaty stuff as well.)