If I Could Go Back and Call Off My Wedding Day . . . Would I?

When I left my ex a little over two years ago, I was pretty much consumed by how unfair my life seemed.  In 10 millions years, I did not think that by age 43, I would have had two different husbands and be single, yet again.  I felt so ridiculous for getting myself into such a gigantic mess of a marriage and I occasionally still feel the need to work out the guilt I feel for dragging my kids through the craziness.  But I think now, more than ever, I catch glimpses of genuine gratitude for that BANANAS marriage. As I think about writing on these topics, I have found my mind repeatedly going back to when Joseph said to his brothers that sold him into slavery, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  Obviously, I’m not saving any lives here, but in my heart, there is so much good that has come out of those 2 1/2 years of craziness.

For quite some time now, I have wondered if I could go back to May 2015 and call off my wedding, would I do it???   Knowing myself, I think I would say, yes, for the sake of my kids and because I really like to avoid pain and those years were packed with pain.  However, if I did call off the wedding, I would be missing out on three ENORMOUS gifts that I have taken with me out of all of this.  So, thank you, JESUS, for taking me through that season, because I never would have chosen it, EVEN IF I KNEW I would walk away with good things.

My First Gift: The continuous, overwhelming presence of God’s grace in my life, now that I can no longer call myself a tidy Christian. Ya know . . . getting a divorce and dragging my kids through misery and all.  I have never felt God’s grace more strongly than in the past couple of years, when I realized that I seriously CAN’T achieve a life without sin on my own. I mean, I knew the theology, but until I felt outside of the “Christian” rules, I never felt grace like THIS!!!!!  I wrote about this a couple posts ago, so I won’t belabor the point, although it deserves belaboring!!!!

My second gift: GRATITUDE

My third gift: Compassion in my parenting. I’ll write more on this one next within the next week.

For now . . .  Back to the gift of gratitude.  Had I not married my ex, I would miss a million opportunities to feel grateful.  I’m not a real “sayings on T-shirts” kind of gal, but last summer, I bought a T-shirt with the word grateful on it and I wear all the time, because I just feel grateful for so many more things than I previously did.  The first moments that I realized that I had this new found depth of gratitude was probably the first Saturday after my little family moved back into our house in Manitou.

Here’s the story. I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, Saturday mornings were for cartoons, cereal and pre-soccer game jitters. When I lived with my ex, none of our kids were allowed to get out of their rooms on a Saturday morning, until, well, basically, my ex released them. (HOW HOW HOW did I live in that craziness??? –  I mean . . . I can sort of explain how I unsuccessfully tried to make this reality different, but not in this post.)  Not once, in the entire time that I was married to my ex, do I remember them watching a TV show on a Saturday morning, let alone, moving freely about our house.  When we moved back to Manitou and the first Friday night rolled around, I said that they can watch TV and grab breakfast when they woke up and that is exactly what they did.  I came out of my room that Saturday morning, and they were cuddled in blankets, watching, “Heartland.”  I cried.  I have cried numerous gratitude tears, as I see them lazily watching TV on a Saturday morning, all cuddled up in our puppy and their blankets.  If that had not been taken away from us, it would never have even crossed my mind that I should be so thankful for my kids watching TV.

When I think one of my kids is being funny, I am so thankful.  I can think he or she is funny, without being told that I think my kids walk on water.  I can adore and delight in my kids so freely now!!!!!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ALWAYS adoring them and delighting in them, but I can openly adore them whenever I want now! I can care for them when they have a headache without being told I coddle them.  I can read to them as long as I want at night, without facing paybacks for spending too much time with them before bedtime. I can nurture my son, without being made fun of, or him being made fun of. We can all eat dinner and not experience the weirdness of even a peaceful dinner. I can love how they still play in imaginative ways, without fearing that my ex will walk in and decide that someone is breaking an unknown rule somehow. I can spend time with my friends without sideways comments before and after. I can teach piano to my kids and other kids without eyes rolling in the background. Every page in a book I read to my kids at night is a pure, simple, gift.  Every time I laugh with them and sing silly songs with them or dance with them, it is another gift.  I can do all these things so freely now.  AND GET THIS! I even have started to enjoy cooking for the first time ever in my life!!!!!  The first time I went camping after I left my ex, I made breakfast burritos and I unexpectedly cried even doing that.  I know that sounds nuts, but even though I was only married to him for 2 1/2 years, I let his subtle ways of putting me down, sink in, and I felt I wasn’t even capable of making a breakfast burrito, for crying out loud.

Every. Single. Day. Since I left my ex, I am grateful for the freedom I have to give love and receive love, exactly how God created me to give and receive.  I enjoy the most simple, mundane parts of life so much more and I truly love that I get a whole second half of life, experiencing more joy, even at the littlest things, every day. So, that is gift numero uno. Gift, numero dos, coming tomorrow. For now I’ll leave you with some pictures of the most mundane joys I have experienced after returning to a family of four.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.