Writing Journal: Replacing Vampires

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As many of you know, and some of you don’t, I was once really into Goth stuff. Fishnets, trench coats, and black, black, black filled the closet of my early twenties. I loved all things fairies and vampires even more. For you moms out there, I eventually grew up and out and normal, except for the vampire part. There is hope.

My first two series—When Skies are Gray, and the Marriage of a Hunter—centered on vampires. (Please think Stoker, not Twilight.) I love them for their ability to communicate sin’s hold on our flesh even after we’re saved. I love them because they never overcome the thirst. I also love them because, done well, they are scary and interesting. (Think Vampire Hunter D and ‘Salem’s Lot not Sookie Stackhouse, or Antia Blake.) I like them for the moral dilemmas they present as arch villains, saved monsters, and half-breed anti-heroes. (Think Buffy, Angel, and Blade not Vampire Academy.)

But for all my love, last year I left them behind. I didn’t want to. I did a little kicking and screaming. But now I’m glad I did. It was time to excise them from my writing just like my gothic clothing removed from my closet, and my fairies taken down from the walls. Not because there was anything sinful or inherently evil about any of that, but because it was time to grow up. It was time to grow up and write something lasting for children.

As I started writing this blog post, I held my sleeping three-month-old nephew in one hand and typed with the other. It’s not quite the hunt-and-peck method employed by my grandfather, because I can almost type in the dark, but it’s not far off either. As my role at church changes from served to servant, my life becomes home-centric instead of career centric, and as my nieces and nephews grow up, my husband has encouraged me to think about what I want to teach them and what I want to share with my church. (It’s kinda like Metallica in their wild youth compared to the tame nature of their concerts now. They got kids in their life.)

Do I want my nephews and nieces to know monsters can be saved? YES! The dear little ones need salvation even now! Each of them will face their own monsterness some day, by God’s grace, and they need to know there is cleansing and salvation. Do I want to showcase that in the overused, abused vampire setting? Maybe not. Maybe I want to challenge myself as a writer to move beyond serial killers and vampires to more subtle evil, more subtle monsters cause that’s more like real life. Real life isn’t often serial killers and being stalked by beautiful people who want to drink your blood. The very reason they seem so shocking to us is their rarity.

But, they will meet self-focused people who will only be interested in what they can get out of them. They will meet themselves someday, in a dark alley, and they will wonder what happened to the innocent child who thought naps were to be avoided. They will face the choice to do what is right, or do what is easy. They will face the lies of this world—that they can see—and the truths of heaven and hell—that they can’t see. They will have to decided to be courageous or cowardly, and in those moments, I want to give them something they can hold on to, like I was given.

I don’t want to write books that I have to hide until they’re eighteen. I want books I can give then at eight. I don’t want to give them books with only butterflies and puppies, but books that are good at their heart because their focus is on the heroes and not the villains. I want to write books that show the beauty of a saved monster, not just the harshness of it.

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Coming to this realization is, in many ways, what growing up is all about.

With this in mind, I am dissecting my love of vampires and creating something new for my fairy tale world. I want a creature linked to the soul, cursed by their own selfishness, forced to renew themselves by what they once were, and ultimately savable. But I don’t want them to be blood and lust based. I don’t want them  to be stories with only sexual desire at their center. Our world is so full of that already. We’re completely unaware of how soaked and tainted we are by it. (If you don’t agree, walk through a mall and focus on how much lust is used as the main selling point.) The stain goes so deep. I want to take what I love about vampires and use that to create villains that are the perfect foil for my heroes.

The vampire world, like the gothic world, once held so much charm for me. But as I see what others are doing with this mythical creature, I’m less inclined to be associated with them. I seem to spend half my time trying to explain to people why I write what I write and then nobody reads it. A few friends did read it, and I got lots of positive reviews on line. I’ve been honored by having people say I’m redeeming vampires for Christ, and that they’re as good as Ann Rice and not at all like that Twilight stuff. But, they weren’t serving my church. They weren’t something I could let stand on their own. I had to support them with lots of caveats. I had to imagine them on a shelf next to books I would never in a million years read. I had to face the fact that I’m in my mid thirties and still writing about vampires. Time to grow up. No. Time to grow. I need to grow. I need to find a way to communicate what I love more clearly, simply, and effectively.

I’ve always tried to avoid the fantasy troupe of taking something we’re all familiar with like elves and having them in my world just with a different name. I’ve always thought that was kinda dumb. Just call them elves. But, I’m about to give it a try, and I hope to do it in a way I don’t find dumb. (I also swore I’d never write YA fantasy…but here we are.) I take heart in the fact that one of my human characters turned into a wolf when he went to the Spirit World, making him the closest I’ll ever get to having a werewolf. And he wasn’t really that. It was more a subtle, sub-conscious thing.

So, as I get finished with my first rough draft of my Fairy Tale, things are moving and growing. Things are twisting and tangling in my mind. I hope to have something that I can love as much as I love vampires, but with less baggage and more purity. I think that’s part of growing up too: respecting purity. I will never under why we have to see the darkness to respect the light, but I’m thankful God is longsuffering and never leaves us or forsakes us.

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My Church is a Failure

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My Church is a failure. We’ve probably lost more members than we’ve ever gained. We don’t have a youth group, children’s church, or an outreach into our community. We don’t raise money to feed the poor, or bus in children from the inner cities. We don’t protest at  abortion centers as a church, or have political candidates in our pulpit. On top of all that, we don’t focus our encouragement on personal devotions, or lots of prayer time in your inner closet. We don’t keep a list of what not to watch and what not to read and what not to wear. Even worse than all that, we encourage young men to give up their careers, money, power, and influence. Why? So they can study an ancient and out of touch document. We encourage young women to pass on the idea of a career and consider their calling as wives, mothers and homemakers. We encourage men to lead and women to submit. We encourage people to give up on their dreams.

Have I made you gasp yet? Do you think I’ve gone and joined a cult?

We want so desperately to live by sight. We just want to be able to see the Kingdom of Christ soooo badly we can taste it. And often, too often, we willingly give up the truth, the gospel, the commands of the gospel in order to see heaven here on earth.

See, we don’t like the way Christ set things up. We want it to be about us. We want to do “great things for Christ”. But that’s never been what Christ called us to do. You want to know what he called us to do? He called us to live quiet lives of service, and service specifically to our church. He didn’t call us to end the ills of this earth. If He had, you’d think Paul would have led a slave revolt instead of telling slaves to obey their masters. You think the apostles would have told women to preach but they told women to be silent, modest, to sit at the feet of other silent modest older women, and to submit to their husbands. Paul had the perfect opportunity to change his world, but he didn’t. Instead, he preached the gospel to sinners.

You want to see heaven here on earth? Okay. Ready for this? Look at the person sitting next to you on the pew. Yes. Them. The ones with the wiggly kids, the gum smackers, the off-key singers, the bad dressers, the questionable movie watcher, the couple with no kids, the couple with way too many kids, the strange, the odd, the nerdy, the geeky, the least of the earth, the greatest of sinners sitting beside you on the pew each Sunday. This is heaven. Heaven is not what you want it to be. Heaven is the True Kingdom finally made sight for us instead of just faith, and your local congregation is your little taste of heaven.

Church is heaven.

2014 ARBCA GA

2014 ARBCA GA

Our church may be a failure in the eyes of the world, or in the eyes of big, modern churches, but Christ has blessed us with elders who encourage us that true Christianity is not found in independent bible study, but in the gathering of the local saints. True Christianity is based on the means of grace: preaching, the Lord’s supper, baptism, and prayer. This is where we are promised blessing if we remain faithful. It’s not about daring and change. It’s about trust, a quiet life, and Christ making us more like himself.

Stop being so worried about whether you missed out on your private Bible time, or the ills of this world, which you can’t change, and start worrying about whether you make it a point to be at church every time the doors are open. Are you a faithful attendee by God’s grace? When you’re there, do you engage others, or do you try to hide as much as possible? Do you pray? Do you engage yourself in the Lord’s Supper? Do you participate in the baptism of new believers? Do you visit sick church members? Do you sacrifice what you want for what the church needs? Do you serve those around you?

See, none of this is amazing. None of this is pretty, or powerful, or mighty according to how the world judges might. It is lowly. It is humbling. It is even stupid sometimes. I mean grown men who sacrifice time and money to study and teach in obscurity. And even if they are ever ‘well known’, who knows them? A few other stuffy old men? And women? Smart, talented young women who turn their back on art, music, jobs that let them travel, their own destinies for what? To change dirty diapers? To visit sick people they’re not even related to? To submit, obey, and serve their husbands? It’s not very glittery. It’s not very pretty. It’s not popular.

But, it is heaven here on earth.

A careful exegeses of the scripture does not call the Church to change our society. It doesn’t call us to right the wrongs. It calls us to love our fellow church members, to serve them and take care of them, to live quiet lives, and to store up our treasures in heaven, not here. This is not heaven. This is a world under the wrath of God, filled with sinners, out of which Christ is calling his own. Someday, Christ will return and destroy this place with fire. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be nice.

Heaven is on the other side of death, or Christ’s return, and the only place we can find an inkling of it here is in a local church where the word of God is consistently preached by elders called by Christ who hold fast to their confessions of faith. This is our heaven here on earth.

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Quote of the Weekend

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“I love baddies, and what would a good story be without a baddy? For each protagonist you need an antagonist….The more powerful and the more evil the baddy is, then the stronger the heroine or the hero is to defeat them.” – Malorie Blackman

(Thank you Linda from I’m all Booked for suggesting this quote! I couldn’t agree more with the concept behind this quote. Don’t fear villains, they only make the heroes stronger. Don’t fear the darkness, it only makes the light brighter.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Being Brave

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Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

A loud squeal of fear rang through Grammie and Grandpa’s house. All the adults came running. A big green monster growled and stalked up the hallway. Seven cousins huddled together. The monster growled and waved its claws.

“I’ll defend you,” Grandpa said jumping in front of the scary monster.

“Me too,” said Grammie drawing an invisible sword. She tossed it to Grandpa and drew another one.

The monster giggled.

“That’s not a monster,” Aunt Abby said.

“It’s not??” the seven cousins said in unison.

“I think it’s Uncle Jason.”

“Daddy!” said Ellie breaking from the huddle of frightened children to hug the green monster around the knees.

“Are you all okay?” Aunt Abby asked kneeling down in front of the kids.

“I was very scared,” said Bruce.

“Me too!” said Jules.

“I wasn’t,” said Joshua.

“Yes you were,” Constance said poking him in the shoulder. A few minutes of bickering ensued.

“Aunt Abby,” Bruce said once Grammie straightened out Joshua and Constance, “I’m not brave. I was scared.”

“Oh Bruce, you being scared doesn’t mean you aren’t brave.”

Uncle Jason pulled off the monster’s scary head. “They’re not mutually exclusive,” he said.

All seven cousins looked up at him and blinked slowly.

Ellie tried out the two big words without coming any closer to understanding them.

“What does that mean?” Jules asked wrinkling her nose.

“It means what Aunt Abby said. Being afraid doesn’t mean you’re not brave.”

“How about I tell you a story about it,” Aunt Abby said.

“Can I be brave in the story?” Bruce said.

“Is it a Once Upon A Time story?” Imogene asked taking Aunt Abby’s hand and leading her to the couch.

“A fairy tale western,” said Jude plopping down beside them.

“No Jude,” Jules said. “It’s just a western.”

“Actually,” Aunt Abby said. “This time it is a fairy tale western. Ready?”

Seven heads nodded.


 

Once upon a time, a chill wind blew over the Texas flatland. It blew through the fingers of the pecan trees and the oaks chasing squirrels. It whistled around noses and ears until they were red and cold. Behind the wind came a white, dense fog. Hobbes, the golden lab, stayed close to the house. Patrolling the property was complicated when it was so windy. Clyde, the donkey, kept his back to the wind. Three pairs of brown cowboy boots sat on the front porch while four pairs of pink, purple, blue, and red cowboy boots covered little painted toes down by the pond.

“Bruce, Joshua, Jude,” Grammie called.

The three boys came tramping through the house with growls, snaps, and stamping feet.

“Ohhh,” Grammie said. “Did a bunch of dinosaurs replace my grandsons?”

The boys roared and showed off their sharp teeth and sharp claws.

“Well, I need my three grand-dinosaur-sons to go outside and find their cousins. The girls went to play at the pond and it’s getting late and dark.”

Bruce, Joshua, and Jude stared out the window at the gray sky, the fog, and the cold wind dashing through the fog.

“Grammie?” Bruce said. “Can we stay inside? It looks scary out there.”

“No,” Grammie said. “It’s just the weather. Besides you wouldn’t want to leave Jules, Ellie, Constance, and Imogene out there all on their own.”

“Yes we would,” Bruce said.

“That’s not good,” Grammie said.

“But we’re scared,” Joshua said.

“Well, you’ll have to be brave,” Grammie said.

“But we’re scared,” said Jude.

“Do you know what being brave means?” asked Grammie.

“It means not being scared,” Bruce said.

“Are we in this story?” Jules said from beside Constance.

“Is this a boy story?” Constance said.

“No, you’ll come in later,” said Aunt Abby. “And besides, sometimes girls have to be even braver than boys.”

“We do?” said Ellie.

“Why?” said Imogene.

“Because we’re usually afraid of more stuff,” Aunt Abby said with a smile. “The more stuff you’re afraid of the braver you have to be.”

“No Bruce,” Grammie said. “It means doing what you have to do even though you’re scared.”

Three sets of blue eyes looked up at her.

“So, even though you’re scared, the brave thing to do is go out and call the girls in for dinner.”

The three boys dropped their snarls and dinosaur growls. They glanced at the front door leading out into the foggy fall weather. Bruce swallowed. Jude took his hand. Joshua sighed.

“Go on boys,” Grammie said. “Go like dinosaurs. Maybe then you won’t be as scared.”

The boys tried to growl as they made their way to the front door. The wind almost whipped it out of their hands as they opened it to go outside. Hobbes greeted them with a wagging tail. The boys petted his head, scratched his ears, and Joshua gave him a big hug. They slipped on their boots and started out into the yard. The wind snatched at their hair and twisted their sweaters. The fog hid the other pasture on the other side of the road. It hid the neighbor’s house. It hid the pond.

Hobbes whined.

“Come on boy,” Joshua said patting his leg to encourage the lab to follow them.

Hobbes wigged his tail but didn’t come down.

“Maybe he’s scared,” Jude said.

“Hobbes,” Bruce said, “it’s okay to be scared. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared.”

The golden dog cocked his head at the blond-haired boy. He barked in agreement and came down to them. They headed out towards the pond feeling less scared with Hobbes. As they trekked through the pasture, Clyde joined them with a swish of his tail. The pond seemed so far away. It was so far away they couldn’t see it through the fog. But Hobbes and Clyde made sure they didn’t get lost.

Out of the swirling, wet, whiteness they heard a scream.

The boys stopped in their tracks.

Hobbes hair stood on end.

Clyde stamped on small hoof.

“Ellie!” Jules screamed through the fog. “Don’t go in the pond.”

Another splash.

“Imogene!” Constance yelled.

Hobbes barked and trotted off into the white mist. Clyde followed him.

“Hurry!” hissed Bruce.

The three boys ran after the dog and the donkey afraid of being left in the fog and trying to be brave.

Jules stood on the edge of the pond staring down into it. Constance, her hands muddy and full of sticks and rocks was a little deeper down. The boys hurried up beside Jules. Deep down in the pond, Ellie and Imogene waded. The water sloshed over their boots kicked up by the chilly wind.

“It’s cold!” Imogene shrieked. Her red hair glowed in the foggy darkness of the fall evening.

“I’m gonna tell Grammie. You’re not supposed to get wet,” Jules said.

“You’re going to get too cold,” Constance said.

Ellie and Imogene started back towards the bank. They tried to pull their boots up out of the water.

“Help!” Imogene said. “I’m stuck.”

“Me too!” said Ellie

Everyone ran down to the edge of the water but couldn’t reach Ellie and Imogene.

“We need a big stick,” said Jules.

Constance held out the stick in her hand.

“No,” Joshua said. “That’s not big enough.”

Hobbes ran up with a log in his mouth.

“Good dog,” Joshua said patting him on the head.

The three boys and two girls held out the log to Imogene and Ellie. They caught hold of it and with a mighty tug were jerked free of the cold pond. After much splashing and a vain attempt to wash their hands, boots, and faces of mud, the seven cousins headed back to the house with Hobbes and Clyde.

Grammie jumped as the seven muddy and cold children stamped in the door.

“I should take you back outside and hose all y’all off,” Grandpa said.

“It’s too cold, Grandpa,” Jules said.

Grammie carried them all to the bathroom where she cleaned them up while Grandpa wiped up the mud. Dinner was a little later than usual.

“We did it, Grammie,” Bruce said as they ate.

“What?” Grammie said.

“We were very brave even though we were scared,” he said.

“We went all the way out to the pond,” Jude said.

“Hobbes helped us rescue Ellie and Imogene,” Joshua said.

“You’re all very brave little children,” Grammie said. “I love you very much.”

“Boo!” said Grandpa.

The seven cousins jumped.

“Got you!” said Grandpa.


 

“The end,” said Aunt Abby. “Now do you understand that being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared? It means you do what you have to do anyway?”

“I was very brave,” Bruce said.

“Me too!” shouted Joshua.

“I jumped in the pond!” Ellie said with delight.

“Me too!” said Imogene.

The End

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Jude, our littlest man!

Jude, our littlest man!

One of my favorite faces!

One of my favorite faces!

Constance and Joshua!

Constance and Joshua!

Do I have to have a gentle and quiet spirit to be a Christian?

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WordPress keeps its bloggers abreast of their stats, followers, and which searches led readers to their blog. We even get a little map of the world with bright colors showing us which countries our readers come from.

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Just fyi…these are not my stats. :-)

Several months ago someone googled: Do I have to have a gentle and quiet spirit to be a Christian? This question led them to me and I’ve been pondering it for a while now. (I wonder if the lady who searched Google for information was surprised to come across a blog with posts about soldiers and action flicks? Not very gentle and quiet, huh?)

My pondering, which included talking about it with my husband, focused on the fact that much like Christianity the answer is yes and no. No, you don’t have to be gentle and quiet to be a Christian. To be a Christian you have to be a sinner in need of grace and you have to have faith in Christ and his work. That’s it. Those are the basic requirements. You will never in this life be a perfect Christian lady, but, thank the good Lord, perfection isn’t required for salvation! Thankfully, we live under grace and not law.

As a sinner who deserves death, but has been clothed in the blood of the Son, accepted, and adopted, do you not now wish to live for the one who saved you? Are you not motivated by His love to do whatever he asks? He died for you, giving all, and enduring the wrath of God in your place. Will you not die to yourself for Him?

Now, a misunderstanding of what gentle and quiet means may inspire part of this question. Gentle is defined as kind, amiable, not severe, rough, or violent. Are you severe, rough, or violent? Do you use your strength to lift up or destroy? Would you like to live with a man who is gentle or rough? Would you rather be a violent woman or a gentle one? Does this definition mention guns, trucks, tomboys or any other “unfeminine” thing? No. A gentle spirit is a woman in control of herself who doesn’t use her tongue to destroy her husband or anyone else. She is gentle.

Quiet means . . . well quiet. Not loud. Does this mean women have to talk in subdued voices all the time? Let’s look at the context of the verse. The context is instructing Christian women who are free in the Lord but married to an unbeliever who is possibly abusive. Does Christ say dig in your heels and fight? No. He says a gentle and quiet spirit. (I’m not trying to say don’t get help. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, get help. If your husband breaks the law, call the police. But, don’t respond in harsh yelling.) This means be kind to the ones who are unkind and quiet to those who are loud. Don’t nag.

You know what nagging is? It’s worry. When you’re worried, when I’m worried, I get loud. I nag. And I can be verbally ungentle, especially to my husband. How do we know it stems from worry? Cause we’re told not to fear anything fearful and to be like Sarah who had plenty of reasons to fear.

Unattractive.

Unattractive.

Can you see how this pours forth from a heart that the Lord has changed? If you’re afraid because your husband is talking harshly to you, your gut response is going to be to fight back. Yell back. Push back. Instead, trusting in Christ who has already secured your soul, you respond with a kind word. You take your fear in prayer to Him and rest in Him instead of nagging your husband. Maybe your husband isn’t diligent and you fear him losing his job, or paying the taxes, or taking care of you. Don’t nag. Do him good, be gentle, and be quiet. This is a work of the Lord and completely counter to your gut reactions. This takes incredible strength, courage, and trust.

Do you have to have a gentle and quiet spirit to be a Christian? No. God has saved many loud, obnoxious, and mean women. But, all true Christian women should prayerfully strive to be gentle (self-control laced with kindness) and quiet (non-nagging, quit worrying, stop trying to be in control).

Pray that God will help us understand this and see the ways we fail. Pray that when we fail, He will remind us of his grace and the work of Christ. It’s not pleasant to see our failures, but it is very sanctifying. We all need to seek out wise older women in our church and talk with our elders and pastors.

God has richly supplied all our needs through His Word and His Church, use them. Don’t spurn His gifts by ‘going it alone’.

Trust Christ—who died for you, endured torture, lived in perfection when you couldn’t—when you’re afraid, worried, or just concerned. Remember Sarah.

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Quote of the Weekend

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“The comments on a blog, the funny pics on a FB timeline are all the small actions that keep a lot of us together. Never buy the lie that your actions don’t matter because they are “too small.”

Remember to rest, to cry, to laugh and to BREATHE. Hey, it’s life. None of us get out of it alive :D .”

- Kristen Lamb from her article Writing, Caregiving, and Confessions of a “Recovering” Control Freak

(Kristen’s blog on writing is one of my favorite writing blogs. Her advice is always helpful and always down to earth. She’s also a Texan. :-) I appreciated the idea of “none of us get out of it alive.” So true!)