I love spring. Always have. The flowers. The smells. Though my allergies resist, I always look forward to that time of newness, of life breaking through the cold bitterness of winter and saying “I’m here! We made it!”
And we all love spring cleaning…right? (Yeah, I thought so.)
Have you ever needed a spiritual spring cleaning? You know, once a year you probe the depths of your heart and clear out all the cobwebs of doubt and the crumbs of discontent, anger, and resentment that are mixed with myriad emotions and traits we tend to hold on to even when we shouldn’t? No? Just me. That’s okay.
I have a tendency to hold on to bad emotions, anger worst among them. Which means I need spiritual renewal more than once a year.
The character I’m writing now had a bad experience, and now she blames every Christian for the failing of one. Not fair of her, I know. But I wonder how often we might do the same thing. Do we blame God when something goes against us, or do we lean on Him and ask for His help? Does anger cloud our judgement and allow us to make wrong decisions? It does me. I’m not a vindictive person, but I have lashed out in anger before and had to apologize later.
The same thing is happening with my character.
I love how God works through my life experiences to give breath to fictional people. “Write what you know” is a phrase spoken by many, and for years it bothered me. What did I know that I could write about? I’m not a doctor or a lawyer. I don’t have big life experiences.
What I do have is a lot of little things that God sees fit to help me use.
One of which is the desire to be closer to Him. And that means I’m going through yet another season of spiritual renewal.
I’m choosing to let go of the bitterness and the question of “why” a certain situation keeps arising and clinging tighter to the One who walks beside me. As I do, the story in my heart pours itself onto the pages of the books I write, and I pray that it finds you when the time is right.
The day I started writing that first chapter of that first book, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I was just following the process. Following the words that formed in my mind, traveled down my arms to my hands, and appeared on the screen or paper. Then, I followed the process I knew I needed to publish the book. The general idea was there as to what I needed to do next, but it doesn’t mean I was successful in following the order. If you read that first book’s original publication, you know how bad it was. That first year and a half was a learning experience in what not to do.
While I was writing my third novel, my pastor at the time said something during one of his sermons that follows me in writing as well as in life.
“Be teachable. Allow God the space to show you areas in your life that need improvement. That is real maturity.”
Talk about a real kick in the seat because I thought I was teachable. My motto was “His will, not mine”. I thought that was what being teachable meant. Until the pastor’s next line.
“When God is trying to show you an area that needs improvement, your response is the reflection of now willing you really are to be taught.”
So, in other words, if I was getting offended by correction, I wasn’t really as willing as I said. I was prideful instead of humble. Argumentative instead of attentive to the teaching moment. Those are character traits no one wants.
After a few weeks of working on this in my spiritual walk with Him, I asked how I could apply it to my writing. From then on, when someone, a reviewer lets say, pointed out that the book needed better editing or a proof reader, it was like God highlighted it for me. Like a neon light telling me to pay attention to this statement.
At first, it hurt, but then I remembered my pastors words “Be teachable”. When I started seeing those comments as teaching moments, it hurt less and the things I was meant to learn stuck in my memory bank.
Except those comma rules.
Have you ever been out on a date with someone and felt like the two of you were really clicking, only to have him never contact you again?
Yep, me, too.
That’s part of what makes dating exciting, I think—the uncertainty. It’s also what makes reading a romance novel so much fun.
You’re pretty sure the hero and heroine are going to come through all their ups and downs and twists and turns to get to their happily ever after, but you can’t help but wonder, How on earth are these two crazy kids ever going to work things out?
Uncertainty in life, though, is where things can get tricky. It’s fun to ride a romance novel’s roller coaster of emotions, but it’s not so much fun in your day-to-day life when important things like your health, your finances or your family relationships are up in the air.
This is where I really appreciate prayer and scripture. I like to start my day by listening to the Daily Audio Bible, a podcast of daily Bible readings. It grounds me in God’s word and reminds me to call on God—and scripture—when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
I particularly like the unabridged version of the Serenity Prayer, which reminds me that uncertainty is a part of life, and that God will help me through it if I’m willing to let Him. Here it is:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
The final chapter was so fun to write, super romantic – in the rain and all 🙂
The epilogue is set on a yacht and includes two children saying the funniest, honest comments as they do at the age of six.
The little girl, Hannah was easy to write as I have a cute, blue eyed, blonde, six-year-old. I tell you, when my teenager is testing the boundaries, it’s refreshing to have my princess say or do something super cute. Recently, she’s writing these sweet notes, that says, “I love you so so so much, you’re the best mum (Australian) in the whole wide world.”
And another note, “To mum and dad, I love you guis (guys) so so much, Love Briella.”
Oh, it melts our heart and makes parenting all worth it.
Over the last few months, I’ve been interviewing Christian authors around the world with my co-host, Naomi Craig on “Behind the Story.” We’d love to hear from you on who you want us to interview next. Check out our YouTube channels. Interviews include Chautona Havig, Carolyn Miller and Christy award-winning author, David Rawlings.
Keep in touch with me on social media or sign up to my newsletter to get my free novella here.
Spring is such a wonderful season. The warming temperatures that urge people to go outside, the blooms and colors, the lengthening days all make it a joy to behold. New life surrounds us giving hope. I love that spring is the season in which we (at least in the northern hemisphere) celebrate the power of life through God’s Son.
In Rise of the Guardians, the Easter Bunny says, “Easter is new beginnings. New life. Easter’s about hope . . .” Even in secular culture they see the significance of spring and Easter as a bringer of hope and life. For the Christian, it’s even deeper than that. Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sins, but if it stopped at the cross there would be no life. Paul tackles this topic in 1 Corinthians 15. “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (v. 14) Later he adds, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (v. 17) The power found at the cross is because of the resurrection. Jesus had to die, but if He had remained in the tomb then we are worshiping a mere human, our faith is worthless, we’re still in our sins, and there is no hope, no life. Jesus had to die, but He also had to rise again. Through His resurrection we have hope of life eternal, we can be assured that our sins are forgiven, and we can know that one day we will be raised with Him.
The Christian life is full of the already/not yet conundrum. We already experience God’s healing, power, grace, and mercy through Jesus’s death and resurrection. We already have eternal life with Him. We already have hope (assurance) that our lives have been redeemed by the blood. We are new creations. We know that God loves us just the way we are. But even though we have eternal life, we have not yet experienced it in its fullest. Although we are new creations, we are not yet perfected. God loves us as we are, yet we are in the process of sanctification, being made more like Him every day.
New life suggests growth. There is nothing more tragic than a young life being halted or stagnated. We want to see development. My youngest niece had some delays in development. She wasn’t walking when she was supposed to walk, and she didn’t talk when she was supposed to talk. These were concerning, and were a sign that she needed help. After a few years of therapy, she is walking and running like any other child her age, and her speech is much better. The same is true in our Christian life. When we start out, we are babies, but there needs to be a maturing process. If development stagnates, that is a sign that something is wrong. If the walk or talk of a young Christian doesn’t grow past the baby stage, then there needs to be some intervention, some sort of help to encourage growth.
As we see the new life in God’s creation surrounding us this spring, may it remind us of the new life we have in Christ. As we watch it mature and develop, may it bring our attention to our own growth in Christ. Are we maturing or have we stagnated? “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
What Did People Crave Before Falling in Love with Cottagecore and Farmcore?
I don’t know how the video got into my YouTube feed. I usually listen to old music, watch my daughter’s channel, or turn on ASMR videos for white noise while writing. But this video about “Romanticizing Your Life” popped up, and it looked “Anne Shirley” to me, so I clicked on it. That sent me into a spiral of research as I tried to discover what this “cottagecore” thing is.
Cottagecore is defined as “an aesthetic inspired by a romanticized interpretation of western agricultural life. It is centered on ideas of more simple life and harmony with nature. Specific themes associated are the survival of the environment, food, and caring for people” (https://aesthetics.fandom.com/wiki/Cottagecore).
From what I’ve found is that it became a big thing on TikTok in 2019, but some trace it back to 2017. Basically, young women are embracing the simple and beautiful, whether inspired by the “English Cottage life” or something more agrarian. You might see women wearing delicate dresses with large cabbage roses, or peasant blouses with rolled up jeans and a daisy chain. The focus is on embracing everything beautiful in life—noticing a sunset, immersing yourself in the moment of drinking your cup of tea, or lighting candles to soften the light in a room while you write a letter or work a puzzle.
One could say that the emphasis is on “Embracing life as a gift.”
Well, as I researched further, I couldn’t help but see a parallel between this “Cottagecore” or “Farmcore” aesthetic and one of my most popular series.
Long before anyone had heard of these aesthetics, back when stark minimalism and modern design aesthetics reigned supreme, a character knocked on my heart and whispered, “I have a story for you to tell.”
When I began writing, I didn’t know it would be a serial novel. For that matter, outside a nebulous thought to Dickens, I didn’t really know what a serial novel was. I just knew this girl kept showing up, knocking on the door, and asking if I’d share something else from her world.
Then, when I began publishing, we released her story in episodes—several chapters at a time, readers would devour the next one the moment it came out.
And the emails poured in.
“I want Willow’s life.”
“Why don’t more people embrace life like her? Why don’t we strive to make the little things beautiful?”
“I want to learn to be content—with what I have and with hard work.”
Willow’s world on Walden Farm was as much a surprise to me as it was my readers. I blinked, surprised and amazed with everyone else when she pulled out those manila envelopes hand colored with designs to make them pretty.
Here’s the scene that explains it so well.
A new manila envelope and her coloring pencils sat next to her plate. As she ate, she carefully wrote “Boho Spring Line-3” in the center near the top and then shadowed the words making them bold. He could predict, having seen the process a dozen times over the past two years exactly what she’d do next. First, she’d draw brackets around the words connecting them at the corners, then she’d color in the area around the words… yep, there she went.
“Why do you do that?”
“Do what?” Her tongue stuck out of the corner of her mouth as she carefully connected the corners.
“Decorate the envelopes? Do they need to be decorated? With all you have to do and want to do, do envelopes for Boho need the designs on them?”
Willow looked up at him. “Does it bother you? We’ve always tried to make them more attractive…”
“I thought it was just a way to fill the time.”
Laughter rang throughout the kitchen. “Oh, Chad, surely you didn’t?”
“Well, yeah…” He felt foolish. Why else would they so painstakingly decorate something that was usually hidden in a box unseen?
“You’ve lived here for a year and half-lived here for nearly twice that, and you think we need things to fill our time?”
Even as she spoke, Chad realized most women would have been insulted. “Yeah—that was dumb. So why then?”
“Because it’s pretty… and relaxing.”
“But no one sees them. Why not make things to relax you that you can actually enjoy all the time?”
Willow shrugged looking around the kitchen curiously. “Where would I put them? I don’t have room for pictures on the walls or stuff on shelves. We make what we can use, and since we have to have the envelope anyway, we might as well make it pretty.”
The simple logic made him smile. Most of the things his mother or aunts made were proudly displayed somewhere or given as gifts. Willow was happy knowing she’d made it, and every time—all three or four of them—that she had to pull out that envelope of fabric swatches, design sketches, and pattern pieces, she’d smile at the beauty in a simple manila folder.
Somehow, I think that girl in the video would understand—would see “cottagecore” in Willow’s folders.
The time and attention to detail that Willow and her mother spent on every aspect of their lives, the slower pace in which they lived, and the lack of intrusion the world had on their home life appeals to people. Add to all that walks in meadows, drinking from delicate teacups, or drying lavender from the kitchen rafters, and you have a perfect example of cottagecore or farmcore—before those were even a thing.
Be careful when researching cottagecore, farmcore, and the like. It can send you down a crazy rabbit hole of wonderful but time-devouring videos, articles, and photographs.
But if you want to escape into a world full of both the beautiful aesthetic and reality, perhaps Past Forward (affiliate link) would be a great introduction to realistic cottagecore or farmcore for you.