One Christian Single and the Story God Used

This week Amanda Tero published her novella Wedding Score…the story of a pianist wrestling with God over still being single.

This story really spoke to where I am right now, and I’m so glad the author wrote a guest post to share with us where the story came from, and what God has brought her through—


Left Behind: What About the Christian Singles?

It was 2016. I was 25 in a family with seven children over the age twenty and no one married. One night, I jotted down a few lines of an idea.

“This makes wedding number what that you’ve played for?”

Ruth looked at Uncle Charlie with a grin. “I haven’t counted them all—but my sixth this year.”

“When will it be your turn to walk to the chorus, not play it, right?” He gave me a friendly nudge.

Ruth shrugged, another easy smile gracing her lips. “I really don’t know. Still waiting on the Lord’s timing for me.” Her pat answer that came with ease.

I was really passionate about the idea: one of a single girl who helped with weddings yet was still single (and yes, her name changed since then). A few times, I even tried to brainstorm ideas and get the story going, but it just didn’t happen. Instead, God let the story sit and simmer as, in the three years following, four of my siblings and several cousins married and started their own families. We had always teased that “once one Tero gets married, they’re all going to get married.” We never really thought it would happen quite like that.

Though weddings are a beautiful thing, anyone who has had a sibling or close friend marry knows that it can also be tumultuous as you experience shifting relationships in the midst of emotional change. I will openly admit that there were times I was tempted to bitterness and resentment—not because my life wasn’t changing and others’ was (because, for the most part, I really was okay with that), but because others didn’t realize that they were leaving me “behind.”

The original idea didn’t have a Caiden and Livvy. But after I lived through more of this “singleness stuff,” I realized that often what made things doable as a single was because I wasn’t alone as a single. My best friends were also single. But when they got new best friends and I didn’t have anyone to replace them, I was a little lost. Even though I wanted them to be best friends with their fiancé/fiancée and knew they should be, it affected me far more than I ever thought it would (I’ve often teased that instead of all these courtship and dating books, someone needs to write one for the siblings of these couples—because we need a manual too).

In addition to that, I can’t neglect THE “singleness struggle.” Wanting to be married and have a family, and it’s just not happening. Like Stephanie, my single years have been somewhat smooth. But there is something about having those closest to you get in relationships that make you want that “best friend” who never leaves and never moves on to a new best friend. Like I cover in Wedding Score, I believe it is a God-given desire—but it is also a desire for His perfect timing. Yes, I went through some really raw moments yearning for that “special someone” in my life with no one on the horizon. In those seasons, Psalm 37 became my lifeline (just like it did Stephanie’s). Because I know that God’s plan is perfect, even though I don’t always understand it.

There were some very difficult weeks and months to live through. Something I really didn’t want to live through (but, when do we ever want to live through trials?). But God has graciously taught me so many lessons about living as a single in the midst of a bunch of married couples—and being joyfully content in it all. I could never have written this book in 2016—it would have been so shallow. And I couldn’t have written it in 2017 or 2018—the feelings were still too raw as I was figuring out a new dimension of single living. But 2019… I wasn’t even planning on writing Wedding Score. I had just finished Protecting the Poor and was glancing through my ideas lists when… it was just perfect timing. So much so, that to-date, Wedding Score is the quickest written-edited-released novella I have (especially considering a crazy busy life). I’m honestly sitting here in awe, because it’s all God. He gave me the original idea but it had to live through life experiences before coming to completion.

Have I finished living through the struggles? No. I know they’ll come in waves again. But I know that the God Who helped me through the last three years will help me through the next three… and the next three… and all the years after that. Knowing that, I can look at this whole experience with a heart full of gratitude. God has taken my struggles and made them into something beautiful that encourages others and points others to Him. Wow. I am totally in awe of His work.


You Are NOT Alone!

Sometimes the most encouraging news we can hear is that we’re not alone in this wilderness! That’s something I’ve gleaned from getting to know the “old maid” ladies in my church — that God was faithful in their lives, and even now that they’re old He has not abandoned them…perhaps He will not abandon me, either!

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out Amanda’s book at your favorite retailer…or head to her blog to enter a giveaway (expires 11/02/19)!

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | Signed paperback

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver

NOTE: This post is something of a departure from my usual tone, as it will be more dry and academic than I usually write. This is because it’s a subject I have strong emotions about, and in an attempt to avoid breathing fire on my keyboard, I’ve squeezed a lot of my normal humor out of it.

But it’s still an important piece about a vital subject, so please take the time to read it and form your own opinions. I promise I only froth at the mouth a tiny bit.

What if we’ve been wrong about preschool this whole time?Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Lots of people see “preschool” and they think “good.” We all want our kids to learn, right? We want them to have the best chance to succeed, right? And wouldn’t starting them in an institutional learning system as early as possible be the best way to do this?

No.

There’s also the question of whether this is the best way to honor God with our children. We want them to “achieve their full potential” and get good jobs, etc., but if we don’t make honoring God our chief focus (and make sure our kids know as much as we can teach them about Jesus) then we’re not living our Christian witness to the best of our ability.

But I’ll save that for a different post. For now, I’ll focus on the benefits preschool promises: academics, adult interaction, and affirmative action.

Let’s dive into this topic and try to figure out what we’re hoping to get out of preschool and whether it really delivers (or not)!

Academic Achievement

We all want Little Johnny to learn “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”. After all, “whatever you do, do it as though you were working to the Lord.” We want our kids to be able to support themselves, contribute to their communities, and enrich the lives of others…to say nothing of living full lives themselves and using the intellectual gifts God has given them.

It all starts with a “good education,” right?

And preschool is one of the best ways to give kids that, right?

No.

Where child development is concerned, there are very few absolutes…but the evidence is coming in stronger and stronger that preschool – especially an academically-focused preschool – does not give kids an “edge” to learning…and in fact might hurt them.

Academics over Learning

There’s been a lot of emphasis lately on pushing kids to achieve higher standards at earlier ages. The Atlantic tells us how kids who used to be expected to read by the end of first grade are now expected to read by the end of preschool. Maybe I’m doing the math wrong, but isn’t that a two-year advance?

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

How can we help our children thrive? Image from Pixabay

A recent article in the newsletter from the Home School Legal Defense Association cites several researchers and testimonies from parents that children grow and develop at different ages. For instance, “children who had learned to read in kindergarten had no substantial advantage over those who learned to read in the 1st grade.”

Kids have different development rates, and that’s okay. Trying to force them into a one-size-fits-all system is a terrible way to let them flourish.

Parents testify to children as old as seven and eight years old who would not have done well in a traditional, sit-down-shut-up learning environment. Forcing these children to attend a rigorous preschool at four or five years old would not have helped them with “school preparedness”…it would have destroyed them. They needed a kinetic, hands-on learning environment tailored to their particular interests (an environment that their parents did provide for them).

The article also references increased diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD), or similar disorders on the spectrum, when kids who aren’t developmentally ready for school are expected to conform to the school environment. Do these kids really have a learning disability? Or are they just being asked to perform above where their brain and body have developed to?

Long-term consequences?

There’s more. According to Psychology Today, an intense focus on academic attainment (learning reading, writing, and math through worksheets and instruction) in preschool almost doubles a child’s chance of a felony record. (Presumably because the early pressure and behavioral expectations led to them acting out more in school, and elsewhere…although it’s impossible to finger causality in cases like this.)

Contrast this with “play-based” preschools where children are encouraged to play, interact with others, and explore on their own…sort of like what they would do in a natural home setting, perhaps in conjunction with play-dates.

EdLibertyWatch.org collects quotes from several different papers, including this study from the National Bureau of Economic Research: “…researchers concluded that preschool has a positive impact on reading and mathematics scores in the short term and a negative effect on behavior.”

Further, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that a 2015 study found that “while children coming from ECE [early childhood education] programs earned higher achievement scores in kindergarten, these students did not test higher than their non-ECE attending peers by first grade, and tested below their peers by the third grade.”

Which is more important?

A slight, temporary rise in test scores in exchange for increased behavior issues, and even more ADHD diagnoses? Wait – should this even be a trade-off at all?

The homeschooling examples prove we can suit our education models to each child’s learning needs. Maybe we shouldn’t throw the “preschool” baby out with the bathwater…but it’s high time we stopped taking it for granted that the earlier we got our kids into preschool, the higher their college entrance scores would be.

The spiritual dimension: anti-Biblical curriculum

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Image from Unsplash

I know I said I’d leave this for later, but I came across a quote during my research that just stunned me:

What is gender identity? Why should it to be taught to three and four year old children? How [will it] close the achievement gap for poor and minority children?…

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAYEC), whose accreditation results in both more Minnesota state funding for childcare programs and gains a higher rating in the Parent Aware quality rating system, promotes these types of “gender anatomy and gender identity” exercises in its curriculum.

(Education Liberty Watch, quoting from the National Association for the Education of Young Children)

Notice that both state money and professional validation are tied to accepting the NAYEC’s view on this moral issue. And homosexuality is only one example – the culture has a whole hat-full of issues to introduce to your kids.

If you thought preschool was all about “school readiness” and getting a jump-start on learning the alphabet, these secular educators have one up on you. Kids at these ages are sponges, ready to accept whatever the “people in charge” teach them.

And if your child’s preschool is teaching transgender issues with anatomically correct dolls, wouldn’t you want to know about it – and be involved in conversations with your child?

To defuse the part-to-whole objections:

No, I’m not saying every teacher in every school is out to make your preschooler gay. But think about the trend of the culture, the political pressures of “this present age”…and remember who God will hold accountable for the children He entrusted to you.

Adult Interaction

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia WoodWe want kids to grow up to be confident, competent, fully-functioning adults. Kids are great at learning by imitating (just wait until they start repeating that one word you wish you hadn’t said).

So the best way for them to learn how to be adults is…by putting them around adults.

More specifically, there’s plenty of research that what children at the preschool ages need is not math worksheets and vocabulary tests, but stable, lasting relationships. They will have plenty of time to grasp the more cerebral concepts if their emotional, psychological, and spiritual health is firmly grounded in relationships with trustworthy adults.

As Morningstar Education Network’s research adviser, Denise Kanter, says: “Young children need to be at home bonding with their mothers and fathers.”

KindredMedia.org collects several reports that speak to this:

“Young children learn best through meaningful interaction with real materials and caring adults and their peers, not through the drilling of isolated skills.”…Kids from play-based programs usually catch up academically, while kids from academic backgrounds may never catch up socially. — Education.com

…the years from birth to age 5 are viewed as a critical period for developing the foundations for thinking, behaving, and emotional well-being. Child development experts indicate it is during these years that children develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional, and regulatory skills that predict their later functioning in many domains. — Early Childhood Education: The Long-Term Benefits (PDF)

But won’t my child miss out on socialization if he doesn’t go to preschool?

If you do the necessary socializing and relationship-building that parenthood involves, your child won’t suffer from missing out on preschool. Just because a good preschool is superior to plopping kids in front of the TV and ignoring them, though, doesn’t mean it should be our go-to method of child-rearing. (See below!)

The Atlantic article cited above explains that organic, child-driven learning (coached by engaged adults) is more interactive – and more educational – than the traditional “butt-in-seat” classroom model. This is where a teacher (or parent) uses a child’s natural curiosity to let them explore the world and ask questions (yes, millions of questions) and let them learn through the natural give-and-take of human conversation…instead of a list of facts they will be tested on later.

Focus on the Family insists that preschool should enhance the parents’ relationship with their child, not hinder it — nor simply be a way to get a “leg up” on those other kids! After all, trying to “keep up with the Joneses” isn’t very neighborly, is it?

The spiritual dimension

We should be especially concerned about this as Christians. Rod Dreher in his book The Benedict Option – which is all about cultivating a deliberate, passionate Christianity that informs every aspect of our daily lives – talks about how the model of “education” has changed over the past century. Instead of learning about the natural world and human history as a way to understand God better, and as a way to provide context for the divine order of the universe, modern schools are focused on retaining facts and applying them to work skills.

“Every educational model presupposes an anthropology: an idea of what a human being is. In general, the mainstream model is geared toward equipping students to succeed in the workforce, to provide a pleasant, secure life for themselves and their future families…and to fulfill their personal goals—whatever those goals might be.” (pg. 147)

Christian education, in contrast, should focus on “join[ing] ourselves to Christ and striv[ing] to live in harmony with the divine will” – from the time we wake up and have breakfast, to when we’re walking past the weird stranger on the street, to when we say our prayers at night.

As Christians, we need to teach our children that God is an important part of every single facet of our lives…that He is not somehow unrelated to physics, or social studies, or English spelling.

Tend your own personal orchid

Remember how every single child is unique, and develops at his or her own rate? Just because your child is seven years old and can’t spell doesn’t mean he (or you) is a failure. It means he needs someone caring and invested to give him the help he needs to learn in the best way for him (like getting up and moving during spelling tests, instead of glued to a desk with a pencil in his hand).

My mom used to have me write short stories with the words I missed on spelling tests…and now I can spell “snake” and “rabbit” just like any other well-adjusted twenty-something! (And, well, check out my “Books” tab to see what encouraging my story-telling got us!)

Kicking your orchids out of the hot-house make them shrivel…

Going back to that wealth of materials collected by EdLibertyWatch.org, the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD – 2007) say:

The more time a child spent in center-based care the more likely he or she was to be described by sixth grade teachers as one who “gets in many fights,” is “disobedient at school,” and “argues a lot.”

Children need a stable home life to help them develop emotionally and behaviorally – and that maturity will only improve their academic endeavors later on. In fact, to quote the rest of the excerpt on the NICHD study:

…NICHD tracked 1,364 children who had participated in early childhood education. Preschool participants were more likely to score higher on factors of aggression and disobedience as reported by their teachers. This finding was true even for children who attended high quality center-based care.

Remember: who are the two adults children will interact with for the greatest part of their growing-up? Their parents. Even if they go to institutional school and learn from different teachers every single year, they need a strong relationship with their parents to anchor them throughout their childhoods and beyond.

Children are more than a statistic…and when it comes to their lives, we need to be concerned about more than what the “experts” say, “what we’ve always done,” or what supposedly “works” to get the outcome we want.

This isn’t about outcomes. It’s about doing what God says. Right?

Teach a man to fish…

My parents have always affirmed that teaching their children how to study is one of the most important things they could do.

Children who develop emotional, psychological, and cognitive maturity will be self-motivated to study…and if they haven’t had their love of learning “snuffed out” by over-exposure, they will drive their own educational journey through grade school, high school, college, and beyond into adult life. (You knew we don’t stop learning once we get a job and don’t have a designated “teacher,” right?)

Assisting the Disadvantaged

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

I don’t have a picture of an impoverished child, so enjoy this cute dog instead.

A lot of voices in favor of preschool emphasize “closing the gap” between the “disadvantaged,” poor children and those with a better home life. A noble goal, and one in line with God’s own plan for us (check out James 1:27 and Mark 12:29-31).

The orphan (or in some places “fatherless”) is already late to the starting line, before the race even starts. That’s no fault of theirs, and God cares deeply about giving justice to the oppressed and helpless (just read, like, all of the Psalms).

However… While it’s good to feel for children who are growing up with only one parent, who suffer lack of opportunity due to poverty, etc. – none of that explains how the preschool system is superior to the natural, historic, and God-given system of two dedicated parents raising and educating their own biological children themselves.

And our concern for disadvantaged kids should in no way interfere with the raising of those kids who are blessed with a committed mom and dad.

But what about those poor kids who don’t have the same chances other children do?

Maybe they’re living in a single parent home, or their family doesn’t have the financial resources for books, etc. Maybe they really do have ADHD, autism, blindness, or some other physical barrier to learning the way other kids do. Do early childhood education programs help them succeed better – both now and later in life?

The Psychology Today article referenced above shared the results of a study among “sixty eight high-poverty children living in Ypsilanti, Michigan”. This study was largely to examine the effects on these children of a “Direct Instruction” preschool classroom (that focused on academic attainment) versus a “Traditional” preschool (which emphasized play). To quote:

[T]he experiment also included a home visit every two weeks, aimed at instructing parents in how to help their children. …

The initial results of this experiment were similar to those of other such studies. Those in the direct-instruction group showed early academic gains, which soon vanished. This study, however, also included follow-up research when the participants were 15 years old and again when they were 23 years old. At these ages there were no significant differences among the groups in academic achievement, but large, significant differences in social and emotional characteristics.

That’s right. “No significant differences in academic achievement“!

This is the same pattern we saw in the other studies. The writers suggest that the children in the so-called “play-based” preschools learned to “plan their own activities, to play with others, and to negotiate differences” – skills which served them not only in the later grades, but beyond into adulthood. (“Teach a man to fish…”)

The article writers also theorize that the home visits encouraged the children’s parents to reinforce these teaching styles. The Traditional “play-based” preschools encouraged the parents to let their children interact with the world creatively. The Direct Instruction preschools were focused on test scores and other “academic” markers of “personal achievement” – and this focus on “personal achievement” could have encouraged these children in the selfish attitudes that led to their generally more anti-social behavior.

Without being simple pragmatists, let’s look at the fruit.

The Bible tells us we can evaluate teachers by their fruit…or in other words, we can pick up hints about whether to listen to them by watching their actions (Matt. 7:15-20).

What is the outcome of preschool for disadvantaged children?

Obviously in some cases the outcome was…not too good. Early pressure to achieve, plus a focus on personal performance, encouraged anti-social behavior in some of these individuals. We might go even farther, and say that denying them a carefree childhood, and the opportunity to learn at their own pace, hampered their emotional and social growth.

So we see that even for disadvantaged children, the best outcome is the one that mimics a traditional, Biblical upbringing centered in the home of their biological parents.

But, post writer, what about all the terrible parents who will just stick their kids in front of the TV and who have no idea how to parent –

Statistically speaking, children with “bad” parents will have poor outcomes, no matter what school system you devise for them. The students discussed in Psychology Today had professionals visiting them at home to advise their parents how to support the teaching curriculum of their preschool – and the results still weren’t stellar.

The point is not that we should “give up” on these disadvantaged kids, but that we need to have our eyes firmly fixed on JESUS and to make sure we’re 1) trying to accomplish what He wants, and 2) going to Him for direction in how to do that.

Systemic Dysfunction

Preschools that drill facts and figures into little kids doesn’t help them. In fact, in the worst cases, it hurts their chances because they missed out on that crucial period of character development by worrying about head knowledge.

Children at these young ages should be sending down their roots and finding out what can be depended on…not raising their branches to test high on impersonal markers of “achievement.”

The preschools that did seem to succeed were the ones that allowed children to flourish at their own pace and ask questions naturally…in fact, the care centers that mimicked a nurturing home environment.

Further, as Christians, we understand that there are more important markers to success than grades or salaries. Give me ten children who respect their parents, treat those around them with kindness, and love their Creator over one “child” who makes six figures with his graduate degree and can’t keep his marriage together.

Institutional education is the cultural norm.

My grandparents have finally stopped asking when I’m going to get a college diploma (although they’re still not satisfied with my Associate’s Degree). The culture around us expects us to send our kids off on the bus as soon as they can walk, and our young adults off to college as soon as they’re old enough to join the army vote.

But is that the best way? Is that really how we’re going to accomplish our goals? Even if it was, the ends do not justify the means. (Otherwise, as my brother loves to shout, there is no justice, only means.)

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Which is the “straight and narrow” way? Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

God calls us to justice and righteousness. How can we strive for that in our everyday lives, and with our children?

Maybe in some other post, we’ll examine what God calls us to in our daily lives, and what that means for raising our kids. Until then, take a good, hard look at your own decisions.

I firmly believe the system of institutional education is broken – and that goes all the way down to preschool. Whether you agree with me, or think my mom dropped me on my head as a young’un, your kids are worth more than the default.

We need to get out of the rut of thinking “preschool” always equals “good.” Can it help? Sure – under certain circumstances and in certain situations.

But don’t do it because “everyone else is doing it.” Don’t do it because it’s expected of you, or because the grandparents want you to.

These are your kids we’re talking about – the kids God gave to you. Look at all the evidence, and decide if preschool will really help your kids to send down their roots, and thrive in God.


Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, gaming, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing projects.

5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection

The “five love languages” is a concept invented by Pastor Gary Chapman (see the official site here), and it theorizes that different people show and experience affection in different ways.

Some feel loved by “Physical Touch.” Others value “Giving Gifts.” “Acts of Service” or “Quality Time” are how some people feel most affirmed or loved, while “Words of Affirmation” complete some people’s world.

Do You Speak My Language?

5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection — Kimia Wood

Sibling love!

Most of us don’t go around wanting to hurt people, or offend them, or do things that make them uncomfortable.

But what if someone told you how much they admired you and enjoyed being your friend…in Tagalog? Chances are you wouldn’t have any idea what they meant, and wouldn’t be built up by it.

We’re full of friendly feelings, kind thoughts, and compassionate impulses. We want to make everyone around us feel special, and show the love of Jesus.

How can we do it in a way that they understand? Sure, they might know we mean well, and appreciate what we’re doing…but can we do it in a way that speaks to their heart?

Refocusing the questions

I once went through a quiz to discover my love language, and the questions went something like this:

“I feel affirmed when you _[pick one]_.”

“When you _[pick one]_, I really feel loved.”

There’s nothing exactly wrong with this…except my responses would vary depending on who I was thinking about (Mom, Dad, brother, coworker, best friend).

Mom is always doing things for us. So when she buys me a gift, it means that much more – because she went out of her way to do that.

My brother’s big on hugs. When he does the dishes without being asked? That’s huge.

So…I’m not unique in this revelation, but if we really want to identify our own (and others’) “love language,” let’s start with how we prefer to give affection!

Step 1: Subject in a Controlled Environment

Take a look at yourself! You can know yourself better and more easily than you can know anyone else. So…

A coworker is going through a hard time. You:

  • Take a meal to their house.
  • Sit with them at lunch and try to just “be there.”
  • Write them an encouraging note.

It’s your mom’s birthday! You want to show her how much she means! You:

  • Buy her something big and expensive.
  • Go to her house to give her a big hug in person.
  • Call her on the phone (you’ve composed a poem in her honor to read to her).
  • Take her to a movie/concert/dinner/something she enjoys

You want to affirm your best friend. You:

  • Write down all the things you appreciate about them, and give them the note.
  • Mow their lawn, fix their sink, or babysit their kids.
  • Buy them a little something, just because.
  • Ask to spend a day with them, doing whatever they want.

When you want to reach out to someone, what’s your default method?

Obviously, you probably don’t go around hugging strangers (that would be weird)…but do you make sure to kiss your family members before bed every night? Do you like giving high-fives, fist-bumps, and side-hugs? You might be a “Physical Touch” person.

Now that you’ve done this step, you have a better idea what to look for. And we can actually apply this knowledge to translating your care for someone into their language!

Step 2: Observations in the Wild

5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection — Kimia WoodPick another person. Any person. Coworker, cousin, church sibling, parent, child, neighbor…any person you interact with! We’ll arbitrarily name them “Taylor” for simplicity’s sake.

Now for the hard questions. When Taylor sees a coworker feeling down, he/she:

  • Bakes a cake for them.
  • Slips a note into their locker.
  • Hugs them (not caring that it’s weird!)
  • Sits and listens to them…no matter how long it takes.

Taylor’s grandma isn’t feeling well. He/she:

  • Volunteers to drive Grandma to all the doctor’s visits.
  • Calls Grandma every day, just to check in.
  • Does the laundry and dishes for her.
  • Assembles all the kids to go see Grandma in person.

When Taylor wants to let you know he/she’s happy to see you, he/she:

  • Hugs you.
  • Tells you how important you are in his/her life.
  • Offers to do a chore for you.
  • Asks to go out sometime, to a movie/concert/dinner/shopping/ministry opportunity.
  • Gives you something (even if it’s just the cupcake in his/her hand!).

Starting to make sense? What is Taylor’s default method for telling someone, “You are special” or “I like being your friend”?

With this data, you can move to the next step…

Step 3: Speak Their Language!

I’ve been (re)reading this awesome book about sharing the Good News of Jesus in a way your listeners can understand. It’s not just about avoiding “propitiation” and “double predestination”…it’s about finding the piece of the amazing good news about Jesus that specifically speaks to their hearts, that the Holy Spirit wants to use to bring them to God.

This applies to showing affection, too! God calls us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But if your grandma doesn’t adore heavy metal rock as much as you do, that CD you gave her won’t seem loving to her (except that she’s your grandma and knows you mean well).

How can we show love, concern, affection, and self-sacrificial humility to those around us? How can we “speak” in a way that their hearts instinctively understand that we want to build them up?

When my dad gives me a present, I know he loves me…but when he vacuums, or fixes the house, I see him stepping out of his “default” to show how he cares for us!

Now step out there and speak in someone else’s language. Even if they knew you cared before, this might make them say, “Hey…I guess they really mean it!”


5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection — Kimia WoodKimia Wood is into gifts…so (ahem) check out that Books tab (cough)!

She currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

5 Stages of Singleness

5 Stages of Singleness

5 Stages of Singleness — Kimia Wood — single Christian

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

So. You’re Christian. You’re single.

There’s ups and downs that go with that territory, and if you’re like me, you might find yourself going through these five “stages” of singleness (probably bouncing between them with the shifts of the wind!):

Denial

Marriage? Bah! Marriage forces you to get along with a radically different person for the rest of your life, mirroring the love of Christ for His church in your self-sacrificial service to one another.

Who needs that work?

This is the mood where you think spouses aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Every story on the planet includes a romantic subplot (if it’s not a straight-up romance story), every song on the radio (no matter what station) is talking about pairing up, and every person you know is “involved,” about to be “involved,” or trying to be “involved”…but that doesn’t mean you should take it seriously. Continue reading

Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me

Being Not Achieving—What Vacation Taught Me — Kimia Wood

Some things you gotta see for yourself…

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on vacation with my family. And I’ve been sick the whole stinkin’ time.

You know how any vacation goes…the expectation, the planning, the packing and list-making… This particular time, we were camping – so the organization of “this goes in my tent”, “this smells like food, so goes in the bear barrel”, “this is only for the car ride” was intensified.

I always over-pack for car rides, vacations, etc. I had my list of everything I could get done (see below) and anticipation was especially high since this is the last extended vacation for our immediate family for the foreseeable future (four adults’ work schedules are hard to coordinate).

But God allowed something else to happen. Namely, a “sinus infection” that is still making my voice softer and weaker than normal! Continue reading

“Myst IV: Revelation”

"Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood I fell in love with the Myst games a long time ago. The photo-realistic worlds and the tantalizing hints of deeper things always left me wanting more.

Until now. Myst IV: Revelation has…finished Myst for me. It is concluded…I am satisfied. And for once, I don’t need to weep at the parting. (Well, maybe just a little.)

The World

The central premise of Myst is that a civilization called the D’ni could create worlds by writing books, and then visit those worlds physically by linking through the books. (A person must bring a return Linking Book with him when he goes exploring, and any book you link through doesn’t come with you – it stays in the first world.)

From a first-person perspective, we point and click our way through these “Ages” to unlock doors, uncover passwords, power machines, and solve puzzles. And, of course, soak in breath-taking landscapes, vistas, and architecture."Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

Whatever else I can say, the world is still incredible. Hydraulic locks, levers and buttons, rotating bridges and elevators…it’s like an engineer’s playground. These real-world mechanics mix, of course, with magic crystals, strange animals, bizarre cultures, and the Age-writing Art of the D’ni.

The Progress of Technology

Myst was released in the dark ages of computing, when graphics cards were limited, the in-game animations were tiny and limited, and the curser was a 2D hand (that changed shape for different interactions).

Revelation seeks to take full advantage of the progress of computer technology, and offers a 360º, 3D-rendered environment to explore.

This means that the world around you doesn’t always look as photo-realistic as it did in Myst, or Riven. The camera also has a tendency to focus in on the foreground, or the background, depending on where your cursor is. I think this is to mimic the variable focus of the human eye, but it’s distracting.

As for the cursor, it’s a 3D, CGI hand. It waves vaguely wherever you point it; extends the fingers to indicate a direction you can move; whips out a magnifying glass if something can be examined more closely; and stretches the fingers subtly if you can unroll a map, pull a lever, or other similar action. This final characteristic can be easy to miss, and if it’s not obvious something is there to manipulate, you can easily miss some interactions.

Atrus’s Family

If you haven’t yet played Myst or Riven, SPOILER ALERT! (Also, go do that.)

Way back in Myst, we met two characters trapped in books that they had thought were Ages: Sirrus and Achenar. Their dad is Atrus, and he is a descendent of the fallen D’ni civilization and a writer of Ages.

If you played through Myst, explored the Ages that link from it, solved Atrus’ pretty un-secure password manager, and uncovered the truth about what happened…you’ll know that Sirrus and Achenar trapped their father without a Linking Book home, distracted their mother, burned most of Atrus’ library of Books, and used the special Books he had warned them never to touch.

Blam! The books trapped them. And once you free Atrus, he burns those books to keep them from ever escaping.

Until now.

Revelation!

Fast forward twenty years. Atrus invites you (his nameless, faceless, gender-less “friend”) to his new home, where he is attempting to spy on the Prison Ages and decide if his sons have repented of murdering the inhabitants of the Ages and are ready to be released.

Yes…we can see this ending well, eh?

"Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

Turns out, he and his wife have already written visiting capsules into the Prison Ages. That way, they can link into the capsule, have a visit through bars, and link away – leaving the Linking Book for their own home out of the reach of the prisoners.

The prisoners can’t possibly escape! Why would you worry about that? Atrus only built complex machinery and houses and scientific equipment by hand in his various Ages…what makes you think his sons could do the same thing from scratch?

Yeesha

Did I mention? Atrus also has a ten-year-old daughter now.

Maybe it’s her dialogue, or maybe it’s the delivery of the actress, but Yeesha is clearly supposed to capture our sympathies and feel like a dear friend (even though we’ve actually only just met). Y’know, one of those annoyingly perfect child-characters.

Especially as the “mysterious circumstances” start piling up, you really start to feel that Atrus is a clueless dupe who should have stuck to books, and not attempted children.

Puzzles

I should say something about the puzzles.

We have our classic Myst fare here, with locked doors; passwords in journals; machines that need power; etc.

It made me wonder if Atrus has a constellation-based color-combination lock on the bathroom…and then I realized that his house has no bathroom.

Also contains one or two pixel-hunts, although that might be due to the mechanics of the cursor-hand (see above).

Messin’ with Memory

Added to those familiar hurdles is a new mechanic. Yeesha has a magic necklace that shows memories."Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

This, along with the journals that every member of Atrus’ family conveniently keeps, lets you piece together the motives of the various actors, solve some of the puzzles, and generally be the worst thing to happen to Sirrus and Achenar!

M’whahaha! If you wanted to forge an evil plot, you shouldn’t have invited the Stranger-from-the-Starry-Void!

Seriously, though, this mechanic gives you hints for solving the puzzles, plus valuable information at unraveling the sinister plot being woven.

Who is plotting what? Who is evil? And who should I trust?

Being able to view people’s secret memories is very handy for that…

A note on story tension

My family mocked me for this, but I’ll bring it up anyway.

Whenever you linked to new Age in Myst, you had to solve the Age’s puzzles and get things working again to unlock the Linking Book and return to Myst.

In Riven and Exile, you plunged into an unknown world without a ticket out, and had to solve your way forward to find any way to escape. (And in Riven especially, Atrus’ wife’s fate hangs on your success.)

In Revelation…your first task is to “oh, get the power back on, will you?” Your second task is, “Feel free to check out my Linking Books if you like…oh, and make sure Yeesha does her homework.” Ha ha.

Beyond that, though, every single place you visit has a Linking Book back to Atrus’ home right there at the beginning. You don’t need to venture into predator-infested jungles, or brave bottomless shafts in wind-swept fortresses…you can say, “Forget this,” and hop back home.

Obviously, I bought this game in order to play through the puzzles, and feel smart, and uncover the story through journals and clues. And my family helpfully pointed out that this gives the game a less linear structure. You can solve this Age, or that Age, or stay and futz around the first Age…or jump to this new Age…

Solve puzzles in whatever order you want. Travel when and where you want. Stop and go back to a place you especially liked if you really want.

True, this gives the player much more freedom in how they play and the order they play puzzles in (and the sequence in which they unravel the story).

However, it also saps some of the urgency from the story. You are not trapped, and hunting for an escape. Later on, you’re kind of searching for Yeesha, and trying to uncover what happened…but it’s not like there’s a rush. There’s plenty of time to ransack the Ages for anything marked PRIVATE DIARY. And, well, there’s not the same level of narrative tension.

(Perhaps if I hadn’t thought Yeesha was an annoying Mary Sue who was also try to kill me via collapsing bridge, I would have felt more invested in the rescue mission. But again, when I could back out at any time and return to Atrus’ house… “Hey, I’ll make some tea or whatever your culture drinks…Hope it all works out, Atrus! Maybe you should spend more time supervising your children than leaving them in the care of your ‘friend’ and dashing off for machine parts.”)

Serenia…or, the 1960s New Age-y Age

Revelation gives you four Ages to explore. The final one is Serenia.

"Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

As if the rest of it wasn’t weird enough…

The outside of Serenia is beautiful — full of twisty, hard-to-map paths; flowing, conjoining streams of water; butterflies that look like organza pixies; and trees that release dandelion-poofs on the wind.

The inhabitants’ culture is based around giant mushrooms that store people’s memories when they die, so their loved ones can travel to a mental space called “Dream” and “visit” the dead ancestors again.

(As one of the female tenders of the mushroom says: if you don’t heal the “Memory Chamber”, “we may never be able to visit our loved ones again!” I bleed for you says the gal from a world where people stay dead…and we don’t have memory spheres to help hallucinate a spirit visit.)

Back to the culture, the “Protectors” have somehow seen your arrival prophesied (y’know, you – the protagonist) and help you find a spirit guide (from the air, fire, or water spirits that play in the forest) so you can travel to Dream and find out who kidnapped Yeesha.

They also wear a stripe of face-paint down their noses (and have creepy, African-esque masks). And the puzzle in Dream is like musical color-matching on evil steroids!

Atrus was always an apologetic, kinda nerdy guy…but lately he seems to just assume you’ll help dig him out of whatever hole he’s gotten himself in. And these all-knowing chicks in Serenia are even more pompous and touchy-feely.

Even if I hadn’t heard such dismal things about Myst V: End of Ages…this “New Age” spiritualism is enough of a departure from the original heart of Myst (nuts and bolts, analog passwords, and the science-based “magic” of the D’ni Art) to make Revelation my last Myst game.

Climax Catharsis

Yet I said I was satisfied. Why am I satisfied?

Well, without laying bare the resolution…the climax of Revelation hinges on you choosing to believe one of Atrus’ children over another. This choice is based on what you have learned by reading their journals, listening to their memories, and piecing together the Evil Plot (and who is probably responsible for it).

Got the right answer the first time. (Thank you, thank you, no need to clap.) And the conclusion that is spun from that –logically, inexorably – brings the plot-line to a perfect and reasonable end.

While the writers did a bit of ret-conning to bring Sirrus and Achenar back into the story, the way they handled the two of them (and Yeesha) was believable, appropriate, and entirely conclusive.

In a way, they un-did the ending of Myst…and yet, in another way, they built onto it so naturally and understandably that Revelation is really a good end for Myst – the game and the series.

My Last Myst Game

When I played through Myst again several years ago (in the updated and expanded RealMyst version), I loved the Ages and the visuals as much as I always had…and left hungry to play Riven.

"Myst IV: Revelation" — Kimia Wood

A secret journal? Must read!

I re-played through Riven: The Sequel to Myst, and I loved it even more than Myst (not only is it longer and more complex, but it feels like less of the history is buried or off-screen). It also left me longing to play Myst III: Exile.

I have not yet played through Exile a second time, but I know it left me eager to try Revelation.

And now…

Part of it is the bad reviews my brother tells me about from Myst V, and part of it is…the story is complete.

I have scratched my first-person point-and-click itch. Myst created a game type never before seen…and now Revelation has brought the story and the world full-circle.

The ending is bittersweet, poignant, and appropriate. It is also, I think, The End.

(Though I already bought Obduction, which is by the same developers/writers, but set in a different universe. We’ll see how that one pans out…)

As always, I highly recommend the Universal Hints System to give you just the help you need…and no more.

In Myst IV: Revelation, the next chapter in the greatest adventure saga of all time, you’ll travel through environments pulsing with life to unearth a treacherous scheme involving two of Myst’s most sinister villains.

Find the game on GoG.com (DRM-free!), Steam (which includes DRM in their software), and on Amazon if you really need a disk (though paying over three times the price for digital download sounds ridiculous).

Wish-list it on GoG to be emailed when it goes on sale!

“Never Leave Me” by Priscilla J. Krahn

"Never Leave Me" by Priscilla J. Krahn — Kimia Wood I hadn’t recently read the description blurb before I opened Never Leave Me, so I jumped into this Christian indie novella without many pre-conceived notions.

On Page 1, Amy’s dad (sole custodial parent) sweeps her from in front of the TV, across state lines, and dumps her on the doorstep of some cousins she’s never heard of, let alone met (while he flees the police).

Within the next chapter or two, the large, farm-living, “homeschooler” family has shared Jesus with her, and Amy is “born again.”

Within a chapter or two of that, we have a kidnapping, threats of violence, and hints at Amy’s dad’s dark secrets.

So…of all the “indie Christian” books I’ve read, this one probably does the best job at equally balancing raging evangelism with melodramatic adventure.

Amy

I did know this was a series before diving in (the “Adventures of Amy”, in fact). So I was perfectly ready to study Amy as a main character…and also anticipated her adventures taking longer than a single book. (Well, sort of. See below.)

However, I did struggle with the character of Amy from time to time.

What’s well done:"Never Leave Me" by Priscilla J. Krahn — Kimia Wood

Amy is just thirteen. She’s not a superhero, or a detective, or even emotionally mature. When her dad (ahem – the man she’s called Dad all her life!) snatches her away from her predictable life, and reveals on the drive that he’s a criminal, she’s realistically shocked and skeptical.

As traumatic events continue to pile on, she shows relatable signs of stress, anger, panic, and fear. At the same time, her rational side fights with her emotions as she tries to please her new Heavenly Father, and figure out what’s going on around her.

What challenged my disbelief:

Some things are foreshadowed so heavily I saw them coming several chapters before Amy finally tumbles to them.

She also exhibits fanatical devotion to her dad (except when she persuades herself to cooperate with the police).

I understand that family loyalty is complicated (which is one reason domestic abuse situations are so messy). But as a third-party, observing the situation from the outside, I saw plenty of evidence and red flags that left me sighing heavily at Amy. It was obvious to me that the man who had raised her wasn’t all he claimed to be…and while it was realistic for Amy to struggle with this, I think it needed something more.

For instance: later in the book, she reminisces about the good times they had together…piggy back rides, movies, all the things he did to demonstrate his love for her. I realize flash-backs are hard to do well, but if I were writing the story, I would have sprinkled some of those good memories into the narrative early on to remind the audience Amy is adding Dad’s current illegal behavior to his previous loving behavior…and isn’t just blinded by her own love for him.

Another niggle:

Speaking of planting things earlier…

Amy dashes out of her home with a single suitcase of clothes. But it never states what those clothes are.

About three-fourths through the book, the author drops that Amy’s wearing a skirt.

This may seem like a really weird thing to bring up, but here’s why. Amy’s seven-sibling cousin family has family meals together, does family devotions, lives on a farm…you can practically smell the Christian homeschooler on them. Thus, it is totally legit for her female cousin to wear skirts.

But worldly, “city girl” Amy?

See, when Amy is (SPOILER) being placed in foster care by a social worker, she thinks about how she’s a different girl now…after her adventures, and after coming to Jesus. She thinks she wouldn’t like the same music as she once did. She’s wearing a different clothing style now…because she doesn’t care about style and popularity anymore, but about pleasing Jesus.

Bringing these pieces together: if the author had made a bigger deal about how Amy dressed in the beginning (being careful to pack her favorite jeans; feeling weird that she’s wearing make-up, but her girl-cousin isn’t) then the change at the end (her cousin was much older than she was, but her old skirt fit Amy perfectly…) would make the character change clear to the audience from the evidence. It wouldn’t just be something the author pulls out of nowhere.

Christian Transformation

Speaking of character changes, though – Amy’s Christian transformation is pretty deep. Her dad is an atheist (and apparently her mom converted mere weeks before dying in an accident)…but after Amy “gets born again” in the early chapters, she jumps into evangelism with both feet. Within a month of her conversion, she’s led a man to the Lord, and has shared the gospel repeatedly with her relatives (and a few strangers).

Maybe…Maybe coming to Christ at four years old is a drawback. I don’t want to bare my soul too much here, but let’s say that has not been my experience. Not only was I not challenged with evangelism from Day 1 (or even Day 2), but over a year after “getting serious” about sharing my faith with others, I have yet to see a single fruit (in the form of unbelievers showing an interest).

It makes sense that someone who came to faith later in life would be more inspired with the part of Christian discipline that directly led to their conversion (AKA evangelism), and I also recognize that we have different testimonies.

This is just one of those things that’s really hard to balance. Just like real life.

Balance

I’ve read stories that were almost horrifying in the way they shoved the gospel to the forefront, at the expense of the tale they were supposed to be telling.

I’ve read stories that wore their evangelism on their sleeve – and carried it with varying degrees of success, but with no misconceptions about what kind of story they were presenting.

And then there’s this story. I don’t think it’d be overestimating to say a full half of the book is devoted to religious/Christian themes. The cousin family is deeply religious…and the need for Amy to “trust God” with her traumatic situation and let Him “keep her in perfect peace” (and perfect King James’ English) is heavily leaned on.

But there’s a lot of action layered in there, with constant kidnappings, evil uncles jumping out of cupboards, guns, child abuse, threats of violence or use of deadly force…it’s like an adrenalin junkie’s playground.

Even the ending, which is stuffed with more religious theme-izing than the rest of the book, has actual story conflict issues to keep the tension and pacing brisk.

For all the book’s missteps, the juggling act between gospel-mission and Impossible-Mission is pretty well-handled.

Cliffhanger!

(I could make you all wait until the next review to see where I was going with this…but that would be really dumb! :D)

I knew this was a series. I fully understood that further adventures were in the wings. And yet…

I mentioned briefly how Amy was such a bad deducer (or the clues were laid on so thick) that the plot twists could be seen a mile off.

Thus, I felt a certain story element was so heavily hinted as to be a foregone conclusion…but the book ends before I could see if I was right!

Not only does the book have a kind of unhappy ending, but if I really wanted to see the resolution of that plot-thread, I have to get the other book(s)!

Blah! Don’t the foolish mortals realize I never pay for anything if I can help it? Why should an author want to eat off their earnings? In vengeance, I shall wreck havoc with their review rating –!

Anyway.

I know about the pitfalls of balancing a series-wide story arc with stand-alone installments. I wrestled with the same thing in the White Mesa Chronicles. In this instance, though, I felt disappointed that something had been so built up, just to have it unresolved at the end.

While I’m complaining…

The professionalism of the book was pretty good. Only towards the end (call it the last fourth of the book) did the copy-editing slip, and petty things like typos and word choice crept into the text.

The author does note at the end that this is the first book she wrote — and it’s pretty good for a first book! My own first publication is not mentioned on my online presence…

Incidentally, for some weird reason, the PDF copy I had went cray-cray on my Nook…and used two different fonts (and size of fonts) on the same page – usually within the same paragraph or sentence! Reading it in the programs on my computer, though, had no issues.

TL;DR

If this really was too long, and you didn’t read it, how did you get all the way down here?

The balance of pulse-pounding action and shameless evangelism was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The characters (especially the main character) were a little clueless. Even the villains had one-track minds…but who expects villains to be rational?

Pick it up, support a young, independent, Christian author, and form your own opinion!


"Never Leave Me" by Priscilla J. Krahn — Kimia WoodDISCLAIMER: I received a FREE copy of Never Leave Me for participating in the November 2017 Indie Christian Book Sale. I was not required to write a review of any kind, and all opinions are my own personal opinions.

You can find out more about the author on her website – PriscillaJKrahn.com – or in my interview with her here on the blog!

Never Leave Me is available on Amazon.

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits.

“Red vs. Blue” (Seasons 6 thru 13)

"Red vs. Blue" (Seasons 6 thru 13) — Kimia Wood The internet is a dark, mysterious place…full of dangerous things like web series. If you aren’t careful, you might find yourself…watching Red vs. Blue.

And if you have a little brother, you might find yourself compelled by those big brown eyes to watch it, despite your better judgement. #askhowIknow

In all honesty, though, is RvB really that bad? Well…it has some content “not for mothers-in-law“, but it also has a lot of powerful, heart-moving themes.

You gotta decide if you’re up to getting there.

Premise

This might sound weird, but RvB is a Halo-based Machinima where two teams of soldiers camp on opposite sides of a valley in color-coordinated teams (yes…Red and Blue). It streams free on YouTube (in five-minute episodes organized into seasons), but is also available in DVD format.

I gather that early on, it was basically an excuse for cheap skits and foul-mouthed jokes while these pathetic losers tried unsuccessfully to kill each other.

But I wasn’t brought in until Season 6…when they actually start telling a cohesive story. Continue reading