Monday, June 29, 2020

Sign Up for a Carrie Mouse Review Copy!

I need volunteers to review/post about Carrie Mouse and the Piano Lesson when it releases on July 20! Fill out the form below, and I'll send you a copy as either a kindle book or PDF. I'm super excited about this book, and I hope you enjoy it too!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

The world is a mess, and we need Jesus.

~~~

I had a pretty safe, secure, sheltered childhood. I mean, yeah, I knew there was evil in the world. My family got involved in politics when I was eight, and abortion was one of the two political issues I understood at a young age. And I was reading stuff like A Wrinkle in Time with very obvious fights against evil powers in second grade. But even so, I don't think I quite realized as a kid how much of a mess the world really is.

All this violence, rage, fear, destruction, infighting and division, you name it. It's not okay. And there's a very simple reason why it exists: Sin.

I know I don't usually go back to the basics of salvation on here, I guess because the way I grew up, that's just fundamental, something I took for granted that everyone knows. But the older I get, the more I realize that not everyone knows it, and even those who have heard it don't necessarily understand. And it's a problem.

All these issues in the world, they're a symptom. Just like a fever or cough is a symptom of an illness and not the root cause of the illness itself, these things that are so terrible in the world are a symptom of sinful hearts.

Sin is the root issue from which all these issues come.

We are all born sinners. It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. They sinned against God back in the Garden of Eden, eating the forbidden fruit. And because of that sin, we are all born sinners. We're not born good. 

"As it is written, There is none righteous no not one." —Romans 3:10

The very earth is cursed because of sin (Genesis 3:17-19). And this is why there's so much in the world that is terrible.

It's the sin in our hearts that causes all this. And in this sin, we have been separated from God. We are dead in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). We have no capability to do what is right, what is good. We don't have the capability on our own, with our sinful hearts, to be kind and generous and forgiving.

But that's not the end.

Yes, we are sinners, but we have a Savior.

"And He has said 'All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.'" —John 6:37

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." —Romans 5:8-12

Christ died that we might live. He took our sins upon Him, and paid the price that we deserve. And if we believe on Him, we will receive salvation.

"Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" —Romans 10:9-13

I know it sounds terribly cliché to say that the answer to all of this evil in the world is Jesus, but it's 100% true. Because salvation transforms us. God gives us a new heart and a new spirit, He removes our hearts of stone and replaces them with hearts of flesh. That's not to say we'll never do anything wrong ever again—sanctification is a process, not a magic wand—but God transforms us.

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." —Galatians 2:20

So the answer to violence is not more violence. The answer to hate is not more hate. The answer to fear is not more fear. The answer is salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Yes, we still need laws. We still need to protect and defend the innocent. We still have to fight for what's right against that which is evil. Because reality is that not everyone will be saved. Sin will still exist in this world.

But nothing will change unless we seek Jesus. Unless we share the Gospel. Unless God through His grace and mercy changes the hearts of men.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." —Matthew 6:33

Monday, June 15, 2020

Carrie Mouse and the Piano Lesson Cover Reveal

The cover for Carrie Mouse and the Piano Lesson is here!

I rarely say anything about Carrie on here for some reason—I need to fix that—but she's a special little mouse to me. I created her back when I was seven, this headstrong, determined little mouseling with much to learn, and I can hardly believe it's been nearly two years since she was first introduced to the world through my sister's amazing sculpting skills.

So, nearly two years after you got to read about her adventure being trapped in the giant garage, Carrie Mouse is back to take on her newest challenge: piano lessons!

Carrie Mouse and the Piano Lesson is inspired by my own experiences as a music teacher, and so, as someone who enjoys sharing my love of music, it's very special to me.

Carrie loves music, so she's excited to begin piano lessons! But piano takes a lot more work and patience than she expected. Will Carrie work hard to pursue her dream of playing "Oh! Susanna"? Or will piano prove to be too much for her?

And now, without further ado, I present the cover of Carrie Mouse and the Piano Lesson!


Coming July 20!

Monday, June 8, 2020

God Made You Special

I am a stubborn person. Always have been. When I was a kid, my mom would always tell me that being stubborn was a good thing...but only if I used it in the right way. She tried to explain what she meant, but for a long time, I just didn't get it. How could being stubborn ever be good if it was always getting me in trouble?

I'm not exactly sure how old I was when it clicked, but one day, I found I did understand what she meant. God made me stubborn. That's not a bad thing. Just so long as I use that stubbornness to follow God, and never waver from doing what's right, no matter what the pressures around me are. It's wrong to be stubborn to defy my parents (as I so often did), or to stubbornly refuse to admit I when was wrong (the main thing that caused all the issues when I was young).

Which brings me to part of what I was talking to a friend of mine about the other day. God gave us our personalities for a reason. He made us who we are. He didn't make a mistake when He gave me my stubborn streak, and He didn't make a mistake when He gave me a love of teaching. My personality traits can absolutely be used wrongly, as evidenced by the vast majority of the first nine years of my life, but that doesn't mean that those personality traits are wrong. As long as I use them to serve God instead of to defy Him.

The same is true of our gifts and desires. God made me a writer. He made me love music and stories. He made me to love history and to care about our American government. He made me with a desire to be an author, to be a teacher, to make a difference in America. And those desires in and of themselves aren't wrong. (Obviously desiring something inherently sinful as defined by God's word is wrong, but that isn't what I'm talking about here.)

If I write things that are contrary to God's law, then it's wrong. If I use music to dishonor Him, that's wrong. If I campaign for candidates who I know stand for things that are unbiblical, that's wrong.

But if I use those gifts, use those interests in a way that honors God and furthers His kingdom, then that's good.

And I think I've touched on this before, though I don't remember for sure or when that would have been, but not using those gifts and interests at all is also wrong. God didn't give us gifts and abilities and interests just so we could stuff them inside and not use them any more than He gave us these gifts and abilities and interests to use them against Him.

So to sum up, God made us all special and gave us the personalities and gifts and interests we have for a reason, so we shouldn't be ashamed of who God made us to be. We must just purpose to use the way God made us to serve Him in our own unique ways, not to sin against Him.


Monday, June 1, 2020

Can't Resist a Bad Boy?

My family and I like to talk (and joke) about what to do to get Mitchell (main guy of Acktorek) fangirls. Because obviously that's the goal, right? To get fangirls?

And what we've said many times is that he needs to murder somebody (he doesn't murder anybody), because girls have a thing for murderers. We laugh about it, but it's not something we've pulled out of thin air. Fangirls actually do seem to have a thing for...murderers. And I find that to be a rather disturbing trend.

I mean, there are certain circumstances where I do understand (like Leith Torren and Peeta Mellark), but those are very different situations, and I'll get to that in a bit. I'm going to start with the ones I really don't get.

Erik/The Phantom of the Opera

via GIPHY


It really bothers me when I come across stuff on Pinterest saying the Phantom deserved better than Christine. I'm just like, what? Implying that the Phantom is this great guy and Christine was stupid for not choosing him. And really, there are people who love the Phantom. I guess because of his voice? (Glad to see there are a few voices of reason in this GR thread.)

People, he's a serial killer. Maybe Christine was naive and easily manipulated (okay, yes, she definitely was), but she was seeing Erik pretty darn clearly IMO in the final lair sequence when she sang "This haunted face holds no horror for me now/It's in your soul that the true distortion lies." There's nothing attractive about a manipulative serial killer, regardless of his face. And before you defend him with "The world showed no compassion to me!" yes, he was treated badly, but there's no reason for that to have turned him into a serial killer. Or for that to have convinced Christine to overlook unrepentant homicide and stay with him out of pity.

Loki

via GIPHY


I'll give you that Loki is an interesting character, when he and Thor are acting like brothers it can be hilarious, and Tom Hiddleston seems to be a good guy. But...he killed 80 people in two days. That qualifies as mass murder in my book. I've seen fan theories that he was under the staff's control during The Avengers, but I don't remember enough about the theory to know if I think it sounds plausible. Regardless, even if he was under the staff's control, he never shows any repentance for it. Which other characters who killed while mind-controlled do. So not an excuse.

Seriously, mass murder is not attractive.

Kylo Ren

via GIPHY


Why oh why do people find him attractive? I mean, I like that he gets himself angry for the role by thinking about traffic and taxes, but still. He throws tantrums, he's manipulative, and everything about his relationship with Rey is abusive (yes, he helps her in TROS after Leia pulls him back to the light, and I'm glad he turned back, but it did feel kind of abrupt). He kills people without a thought and doesn't really show any remorse for it. And girls were all into Kylo way before he was redeemed, so what? And what is romantic about Reylo? I really don't get it. He's an abuser.

Anakin Skywalker

via GIPHY


I mean, I don't dislike Anakin, and I'll give you that he's even hotter than Owen and Beru Lars at the end of the fight on Mustafar, but...

Okay. I do like Anakin. He has a tragic story. I love that Luke was able to bring him back to the light. However. I'll never not say that Padmé was stupid to have married him. I mean, someone had to be Luke and Leia's mother, but still. She knew he was capable of mass murder. He straight up admitted it to her when he killed the Tusken Raiders after his mother's death. He wasn't remorseful. He knew it was wrong, he knew that especially as a Jedi he was better than that. But his sentiment was still that he hated them. And Padmé just sat next to him, put her arm around him, and told him that to be angry is to be human. Yes, but being a mass murderer isn't.

I know, he already was somewhat under Palpatine's influence, but the fact remains that he knew right from wrong, and still did wrong unrepentantly. And then when it came to the point, he chose to pledge himself to the evil Sith Lord who had been deceiving them all for over a decade because of a vague promise that he'd teach him to save his apparently healthy pregnant wife. Turning his back on all his friends, and once again committing mass murder. So while I can't say I totally don't understand girls liking Anakin, please don't be Padmé about it. Don't love him in a way that turns a blind eye to mass murder. Love him the way Luke did, the way that didn't excuse mass murder, but believed he could be redeemed from it. And still, give me Obi-Wan and Luke over Anakin any day.

Now to get to those who I'm more okay with, but it's still wise to use caution...

Bucky Barnes and Peeta Mellark

I'm doing them together because it's a very similar deal. They're both good guys who were experimented on by evil scientists and turned into a weapon. In their right minds, they'd never murder someone. In their right minds, they show great remorse for what they've done, even though they had no control over it. Bucky wanted to be cryogenically frozen until they could remove the Hydra conditioning. Peeta straight up wanted them to kill him after he saw what he was like when he went mutt, before he hurt or killed anyone else.

These are guys who need help. They didn't ask to be turned homicidal, and they don't want to stay that way. They don't want to hurt anyone. (And I wanna wrap them both in bubble wrap and keep Hydra and the Capitol away from them.) But they are dangerous. Or were. Both of them have hope. Bucky seems to have done well in Wakanda. Peeta will never be the same, but he can control his mutt tendencies, sort out real from not real, and was cleared to go home to Twelve. But while Haymitch's reprimand to Katniss about her treatment of hijacked Peeta was well deserved, it's also true that it would be very foolish for her to be around him at that time without safety measures. Just like it was dangerous for Bucky to be on the loose as long as the Hydra conditioning was still in his head, as we saw in Civil War.

Honestly, I don't really consider either of them (especially Peeta) to be "bad boys," but they are dangerous.



(I wish I had gifs for them, but they don't have movies. 😢)

Okay, so I said at the beginning that guys like Leith were a different case, and here's why: redemption.

To start off, neither Jace nor Leith were exactly mass murderers. Jace accidentally killed a bully slave who kept stealing food from weaker slaves one day when he just snapped. He immediately regretted it and believed he deserved to die for it. Then he was forced to be a gladiator, where eventually he started refusing to kill, even though he knew he'd likely eventually be killed by his master. Leith was trained to be an assassin from his youth, a life he didn't choose, where it was kill for Respen or be killed by Respen. And with Brandi to show him the way, he rejected that life, and became a double agent to end Respen's reign of terror. They both have killed, they're both still capable of it (and good thing too, since they're at war), but they both regret it. And they're both cinnamon rolls when it comes down to it.

They're a product of circumstances, similar to Bucky and Peeta. Something to approach with caution because of what they have done (and Kyrin and Renna both do), but there are no limits to God's grace and forgiveness. And their stories honestly are about what they do once redeemed, about making things right...not all about the things they did before.


So yeah, I don't get why murder is attractive. Mitchell doesn't murder anyone. He's made mistakes that resulted in death and they haunt him, but he's never going to be a murderer.

Even murderers and assassins can be redeemed, and they should be judged on who they are now, not who they were before they found Jesus. But guys like the Phantom? Just no. Murder isn't attractive and it never should be.

And I'm never going to forgive Suzanne Collins for what she did to Peeta. 😉

Monday, May 25, 2020

Perspective: A Guest Post

My mom has been doing a lot of genealogical research lately, and one ancestor in particular, Nancy Regina Davis Pool, has really stood out to us. She had a tragic life, but she handled it with grace (and I very much want to write a novel about her someday). My mom's been talking about how learning about Regina's life (that branch of the family all went by their middle names) really gives a new perspective on these times we're living in. So I told her she could write a guest post for my blog. Here it is!

Perspective
by Melissa Huneke

During this crazy and unsettling time dealing with the coronavirus and all of its associated fear, I have spent a lot of time looking into family history. It all started before the lockdowns, because I wanted to gather whatever information I needed to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, but because it is fascinating to find out where you came from, it became a much needed diversion from the news of the day. 

I know you shouldn’t choose favorites among your relatives, but the more I dug into my family, especially the connections leading to the DAR, the more I have been drawn to the story of my third great grandma, Nancy Regina Davis Pool. I’ve known about Nancy Regina (known as Regina) most of my life, because the family Bible from her life with her first husband, George Washington Pool, passed down through the eldest or only sons and has been at my grandparents’ house my whole life. It was pulled out every so often and we were shown various clippings, letters and documents that Nancy Regina saved. 


I had lost my copies of scans of the Bible documents due to a hard drive failure over 15 years ago, but during this time of family research, my uncle sent me the documents again. The more I read of what Regina saved, the more I like her, and the more my perspective on our current circumstances changes. 

Nancy Regina was born in 1854, the eldest child of John W. Davis and Mary E. (Baughn) Davis. Her grandparents (James and Mary Ann Davis) were founding members of the Brush Creek Baptist Church in Jennings County, Indiana, and donated the land where the church was built. Her father was apparently the last deacon of the church (according to a newspaper clipping.) 

Regina married George Washington Pool in 1873. Her first child, William Henry, was born in 1874. Her second son, John Harvey (my 2nd great grandpa) was born in 1876, followed by her only daughter, Elizabeth Pearl, in 1878. In November of 1879, George W. died of “fever malarias.” She was pregnant with her fourth child, George Everett, born in February of 1880. 

Widowed at 25, with four children, in 1880, could not have been an easy life. She didn’t remarry until 1901, at age 47, so she raised her kids alone, presumably with the help of her parents and her church. As if being a widow with four children wasn’t enough to bear, more sorrow and tragedy came into her life. In 1888, little 9 year old Pearl Pool caught fire when home alone from an accident while building a fire in the stove. She lived about a week after the accident. Then her oldest son died in 1893, at age 18, of unknown causes, after being unconscious one morning for several hours. 


Newspaper clippings and letters Regina saved tell us a lot about how she approached her sad and tragic life. A sympathy letter she saved after the death of her daughter urges her not to blame herself for the tragedy, and states this: “You may wonder why this great grief should come upon you when your(?) going on quietly, doing the best you could for yourself and your children, as harming no one. Remember, my dear friend, God’s ways are so far above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts, that we can not understand much of what he permits, to come upon us, as also the many things he designs for us…your little Pearl is safe come what may. Satan hath no power to reach her where she is, or in any way mar her happiness. I dare say you would not now, if you could bring her back from her world of joy, even though you know she would make just the kind of a woman you would wish. You would not want her to taste as many of life’s trials as have touched your own lips(or life)….I know your own Christian experience is such that you are willing to accept God’s dealings even if you cannot understand them…” 

Articles saved from after the death of her oldest son show that she raised her kids in a Christian home. This is an excerpt from Willie’s obituary: “Wm. H. Pool, of Butlerville, Ind., a young man of promise and an earnest follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, passed suddenly from his labors here to his reward on high May 25, 1893, in the nineteenth year of his age. When but a boy, Willie was bereft of his father, but being the oldest of the family, he applied his youthful mind with almost the energy and skill of riper years, to make home and his widowed mother and his little brothers just as pleasant and as comfortable as possible. He was the staff to the household and more, he was a devoted Christian, having given his heart to Jesus at the early age of 13 and since honored his profession by his godly walk in the world. His people are grieved sorely as well as his many friends, over whom he exerted so noble an influence, but they sorrow not as they have no hope, for in that sweet by-and-by we expect to meet him again.” Another news article reporting his death states this: “His death occurred just at eight o’clock last Friday morning after an illness of but three hours, during which time he was never conscious. Willie was a model young man but 18 years of age and a prominent and consistent member of the Baptist church here and as we believe died triumphant.” 

By this time, only two sons survived, John Harvey and George Everett. Newspaper clippings Regina saved indicate that George Everett moved to Illinois and was involved in evangelism as part of the Volunteers of America, which was similar to the Salvation Army. When Everett came home to visit, the newspaper reported this: “They held a nice service on our streets Sunday evening, there being no services at the local churches. The use of the church building was offered them, but they preferred the outdoor auditorium and had a good hearing.” The newspaper also reported on another gathering when Everett was in town: “Everett Pool and wife and Harvey Pool and wife, assisted by local talent, held a gospel street meeting at the Brogan-Perkins corner Saturday evening.” (Note—notice nearly everyone in this family goes by their middle names. My grandpa and great grandpa also went by their middle names. I guess it’s a thing in our family.) 

Nancy Regina passed away in 1927. Her son, John Harvey (my great great grandpa), passed away in 1936. His obituary states the following: “He was one of the faithful workers in the Rodney church and all its activities, having been a teacher for several years. The weather was never too bad or the nights too dark for him to go with his family to his church services. He was a kind and helpful neighbor, a devoted father to his children and a true and faithful companion.” 


What, you may ask, does this have to do with our present circumstances? Not a lot, really, until you look at the bigger picture and compare Nancy Regina’s life and circumstances to how we live today. She lost her husband, daughter, and son, all in unpredictable ways. She could have retreated into bitterness and fear, but by all evidence we have before us, she lived every day of her life in the knowledge that God is the one who gives us as many days as He has ordained, and it isn’t something she needed to fret about. All she could do is live a faithful life and pass along her faith to her children. It is obvious she did so, from what evidence she left in what she chose to save in the family Bible. 

I look at her very tragic life and the way she kept going and I wonder why I should be afraid of this virus or any other illness. We have more advanced medical treatments at our disposal, but still, even with all that, God has ordained my days, and I have to make the most of the days he has given me. I have a much easier life today than Nancy Regina did, and have not experienced anywhere near the traumas and trials she experienced. I truly believe when Regina died, God said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And so, she has become one of my favorite ancestors (although my dear grandma will always be at the top of the list...I look up to them both for similar reasons.) May we all look to examples like Nancy Regina and put our lives into an eternal perspective.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

I Wrote a Fanfic!

Just popping in for a moment to share that I posted a fanfic for the first time over the weekend! It's not the Star Wars sequel trilogy fix-it I mentioned before—that one's still slowly getting planned between working on Acktorek, Carrie Mouse, etc.—but it's still Star Wars, inspired by Secrets of the Jedi by Jude Watson, which has been my favorite Star Wars book since I was about fourteen.

It's about Obi-Wan Kenobi's relationship (or rather, non-relationship) with fellow Jedi Siri Tachi, but from Siri's perspective as she reflects on it through the years. It's heartbreaking, but that's their story. Jedi love is always doomed, I guess. Anyway, I enjoyed writing it, so I hope you'll enjoy reading it!