Hello Again


This blog has been silent for a year and a half. A lot has gone on in my life that pulled me away from posting here (both in time to produce content and motivation) and a lot has changed. 

For one thing, last December I accidentally colored by hair bright neon orange. It pretty much glowed in the dark, y’all. I had made a slight miscalculation with the blonde to red ratio for my strawberry blonde. After many tears and panicked moments of “WHAT DID I DO TO MY HAIR??!” and the loving support of my family and church family, I became reconciled to the color. So many people loved it–with even strangers remarking on how much it “suited” me–and within a month I loved it too. 

So I kept it. With each fresh color the bright orange softened to a true red. I have embraced the red-headed persona albeit with the ironic acknowledgement that it was a blonde mistake that landed me a redhead. 

In March, my family and I took an 11 day cruise to Panama, and in June, I traveled to London and Scotland as a nanny then drove a car-full of friends a week later to the Building Tomorrow’s Church (BTC) Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona. In July, I began cosmetology school at Legacy Beauty Academy in Tomball, TX. I am now a full-time student. (If you’re in the area, stop by and ask for Emily!) In August, I had my hair cut short for the first time and began teaching music theory again with a co-op in Spring on one day a week.

I have read painfully little in the last year and a half. This is not only because my schedule is busier but also, I must admit with some chagrin, because I lack the focus. It’s much harder for me to get into books now. I procrastinate starting and often take months to finish, losing my interest in the story along the way. And then, when I do finally finish, I struggle to bring my thoughts on the book to a level of coherence fit for a review. 

This is partly due to that lack of focus I mentioned but it is more because I struggle with finding resolution to my questions on a personal level than I used to. While my doctrinal convictions have grown deeper and more defined, my perception of life has grown more complicated due to the painful and unresolved things I have gone through in this past year+. Things don’t fit into neat boxes anymore. I ask questions far easier than than I give answers. My tastes and perspectives have changed even while my convictions have stayed the same. I now love the vampire stories I used to abhor, I de-stress with Viking Death Metal, and I shoot my whiskey straight. I wrote this post on an impulse tonight and published it just three hours later instead of sitting on it for months of revisions as has been my pattern. Oh yeah, and I’m a redhead now.

I have a low tolerance for stories that have a simplistic, Hallmark-style view of the world. “Christian” films like The Redemption of Henry Myers are no longer merely “annoying” to me but completely and utterly unpalatable. You won’t see any more reviews of films of that kind here because I won’t watch them. I would not even be able to sit through something of that kind anymore. 

I crave hope and redemptive answers in the midst of a real and broken and confusing world. I want a story that is honest and doesn’t make light of the suffering this world has to give and offer me cliche answers devoid of any real healing. Heck, I don’t even like my own upbeat, overly idealistic title-giving essay for this blog anymore. I’ve taken it down in hopes of eventually replacing it.

But I’ve not been completely unproductive on the writing front. I’ve got a new About Me page up. After two years of working on a new stoem, I have a first draft that I’m sending to my beta readers. Through my personal Instagram account I have kept a traveler’s journal for my trips and am now turning them into a series of blog posts to share here. I have also been heavily involved as a beta reader for my friend Abby Jones over at A Gentle and Quiet Spirit and I drafted a 14-page social media marketing plan for the IRBS Seminary fundraising campaign when I was reached out to for feedback by the fundraiser coordinator.

My favorite books right now are: Dracula, The Fiddler’s Gun and The Fiddler’s Green, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, the Wingfeather Sagas, Anne of Green Gables, The Dun Cow, The Rise and Fall of Mt. Majestic, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, and Abby’s WIP books.

My favorite tv shows are: BlueBloods, NCIS, Agent Carter, Sherlock, Band of Brothers, Firefly, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

My favorite films are: LOTR, Saving Mr. Banks, Bridge of Spies, Cinderella (2015), Forrest Gump, Secondhand Lions, Wonder Woman, The Monuments Men, The Village, A Beautiful Mind, The Dark Night trilogy, The Road to El Dorado, The Lion King, the Toy Story trilogy, and Inside Out.

My Favorite Podcasts are: Lore, Myths and Legends, and Mortification of Spin.

If you stopped by, I’d appreciate a comment below. I’d love to hear who all still has an interest in this blog of mine!

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My First (and Second) Nomination

I am so honored to receive my first ever–and second!–blog award. I’m positively giddy. Thank you Heather L. L. Fitzgerald from The Tethered World and Stephanie Florentino of The Gathering Fire for each nominating me, both of your blogs are a source of great inspiration to me as well.

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For those who don’t know, Heather’s first book in a series of Young Adult fantasy novels is due for publication this spring! Heather is as much at home with dragons, gnomes, trolls, and Bigfoot legends as she is with a Christian homeschool girl for a heroine, delivering an adventure with a charmingly unique setting that departs from stereotypical YA Fiction.

Though a great fan of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia, Heather’s story-world is closer to that of J. K. Rowling’s, in that it is a fantasy world that breaks into our own, startling us with what was there all along but unseen. She has accordingly provided opportunities for readers to engage in her story world through other means besides the books–for the books are only a record of what exists outside them. You can go the website and read about the creatures of The Tethered World, follow the lead character, Sadie Larcen, on Pinterest, and follow her mom’s blog Land of Legends. You can also find pictures from The Tethered World on Instagram and hashtag photos that make you think of secret places and mysterious creatures. And over at Tethered Together, Heather writes frankly and winsomely about the woes and joys of being a writer, sharing things she has learned and encouraging writers to connect with other writers.

Stephanie is a fantasy writer, piano-teacher, and Irish-enthusiast. It is delightful to see the ways she blends these three interests. I look forward every month to her in-depth analysis of a hymn. She explains, musically, why the composer’s choices affect us the way it does–why one note leaves us longing for more and why another note makes our hearts swell with joy and how both strengthen the meaning of the words they melodize. She writes with the expertise of an accomplished musician, but in a way accessible even to those completely unfamiliar with music theory. And if that was not amazing enough, when she reviews songs written in Irish, she supplies her own translation! So far I have received only tantalizing glimpses into the fantasy novel she is writing, but I can already see how her gifts as a music teacher cross over into that of storyteller. A certain cadence, an attention to detail, and a lively imagination.

Now for the RULES of the nomination:

Post the award on your blog.
Thank your nominator, of course!
List 7 facts about yourself.
Nominate up to 15 other blogs you are inspired by.

Post the rules so people know them.

Here are my seven random facts about myself:

  1. I can easily read text backwards, upside-down, mirror image, and, with a little extra effort, upside-down mirror image. So far, I have found two uses for this talent: checking my younger siblings’ school work from across the table (much to their amazement) and reading t-shirts and book titles of IG selfies.
  2. I’m really slow to follow fads. I didn’t read The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter till seven, eight, and nine years (respectively) after I’d first heard of them. I still haven’t read The Hunger Games, the Percy Jackson series, The Fault in Our Stars, or Divergent. Generally speaking, I want to be really sure a book’s worth reading before I pick it up, and for me, part of that process is seeing if people are still talking about the book several years after the buzz has worn off.
  1. I am the owner of DesignCraft Jewelry, where I make “Stories You Can Wear” from wood I turn into beads on my daddy’s lathe
  2. I have 10 email addresses registered under my name. One is for this blog, one is for my piano primer classes, one is for a forum I started several years back and have since handed over to others, one is for a prank a friend and I did, one is my personal address, and one is my old personal address that was too long for people to remember, took too long writing down, and was frequently confused with the similar address of a girl in Missouri (this landed me with a copy of her church directory, an invitation to a Mr. Smith’s sock-themed birthday party, and an introduction to the head deacon.) The remaining four addresses represent the different phases of my jewelry business: EmilyJCrafts, Mimis_Pretties, DesignCraft Accessories, and finally, DesignCraft Jewelry.
  3. If you tickle me, this really happens: tumblr_mdk5rp43Mw1rrqglzo1_500
  4. I still get as giddy as a five-year-old boy when I get in glass elevators or stand under dinosaur skeletons. Because, clearly the elevator is a rocket ship and the dinosaur bones might start moving if you look long enough.
  5. I love surprises, provided they are carefully planned and I am prepared for them.

Raelea Hiller of The Starlit Forest

Raelea is a poet, self-consciously writing in the stream of J. R. R. Tolkien. Many have tried this, but Raelea displays the rare skill of truly dancing with language. She understands the rhythm of words and knows how to follow their lead, gracefully turning and swaying with the music she is teaching us to hear. Whether it’s a poem or an excerpt from her in-progress fairy tale, I always walk away from Raelea’s writing with a fresh love for words.

Shelbie W. of Called to Joy

Shelbie is a long-time dear friend of mine and fellow-writer. Back before she moved to Arkansas, Shelbie and I passed many a Sunday afternoon talking stories over our church’s fellowship meal–much to the bewilderment of those around us who often mistook our fictional creations for real people in real life! She nurtured and shaped my passion for storytelling and I have had the privilege of being one of her top editors and sounding-boards for the novel she is writing. As we’ve remarked before–our email and text fragments would not look good on our records in a criminal investigation, haha! Besides working on a novel, Shelbie also helps out with her family farm, ministers in her church, and writes beautiful, thoughtful, grace-saturated weekly devotionals on her blog.

Abby Jones of A Gentle and Quiet Spirit

Abby. Where do I begin? Her blog is a rich mixture of quotes, meditations, reviews, WIP (that’s Works-In-Progress if you haven’t heard the term before), and short stories written for her nieces and nephews. As the daughter of a Reformed Baptist pastor and the wife of a man pursuing a pastoral vocation, Abby is solid in her theology, yet in tune with the nuances of storytelling–a refreshing rarity! She is currently in the editing stage of a Young Adult fairy tale which I have had the privilege of reading a draft of.

Her writing is Tolkienish but extremely compact and efficient. I am floored by how much she communicates in just a few lines. Everything in her story has the feel of something I’ve read in other fairy tales yet completely unique–like things I’d never heard before but felt like I have and had just forgotten. Her world is frightening but beautiful at the same time–quivering with hidden beauty waiting to be released.

Abby is great about supporting other writers all along the spectrum, from girls in their early teens trying out their hand at novel-writing to adult friends getting ready to publish. She has introduced me to so many other writers (including three of the ones mentioned in this post) and encouraged me in my reviews.

But probably the thing I admire most about Abby is her priority of serving in her home and church. This is demonstrated in both what she writes and how. Ironically, right now she inspires me by not writing. Because of a recent decline in health, Abby has taken a blogging break so that she can use what energy she has to being a faithful wife and church member.

Abby has shown me in word and deed what it looks like to submit your gifts to God and use them to glorify Him.

Deanna Brown of Strokeman’s Woman

I had the pleasure of meeting Deanna in a writing group Abby hosted and hearing an excerpt from the autobiography she is writing on her experience as a caretaker for her husband, who suffered a stroke several years back. Even though I didn’t know her at the time and was jumping in at a later point in her book, I was immediately moved by her story of love and long-suffering. She tells her story with raw honesty, sharing both the good and bad, but still with honor for her husband. Her love, her honor, her faith and dependence on Christ, and her commitment to her church inspire me.

Trivial Pursuit

I was tagged by Heather Fitzgerald, a soon-to-be-published YA Fantasy author(!) to a game of “trivial pursuit.” The way it worked out with my already-scheduled posts, this post will fall two days after my 20th birthday which I thought was apropos.


Pen Name: when I was 11 or 12, I took to signing my name “Emily J. Shiflet” because I thought it sounded very author-like (the ‘J’ stands for ‘Jordan’) and if I ever published a book (as a single woman!) that’s the pen name I would use.

Age: 20 as of two days ago!

Gender: female

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Favorites:

Food: I enjoy many different types of food and will try most anything that’s not (A.) Asian or (B.) spicy. I never grow tired of tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, beef roast, fried crawfish tails, mama’s spontaneous soups, my brother’s grilled hamburgers or pork chops with daddy’s homemade gravy. I could also easily make a meal on fried okra or fried and stuffed avocado.

I also enjoy making "fun food"

I also enjoy making “fun food” like meatloaf cupcakes

Drink: homemade or Starbucks Frappechinos! Southern-Sweet iced tea. Both hot and iced herbal teas. An occasional Coke or Root Beer (I’ve never been a fan of carbonation and didn’t finish my first soda until I was nearly 18 but I’m coming around–or “losing it”, depending on who you ask, haha.)

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Books:

Non-fiction:
the Bible–the “greatest story ever told”.
the 2nd London Baptist Confession of 1689
The Hand of God by Alistair Begg, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield, Adopted For Life by Russell Moore, Prodigal God by Tim Keller, Reading Between the Lines by Gene Edward Veith, God at Work by Gene Edward Veith, Story Craft: Reflection on Faith, Culture and Writing by John R. Erickson, Telling the Truth: the Gospel as Comedy, Tragedy and Fairy Tale by Frederick Buechner, God the the Fairy Tale by Jim Ware, The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer, The God Who is There by Frances Schaeffer, Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, The Consequences of Ideas by R. C. Sproul etc. etc.

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Fiction:
The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, The Wingfeather Sagas by Andrew Peterson, The Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, classic fairy tales in general, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, and Journey to the Center of the earth by Jules Verne, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (and Mark Twain in General ❤ ), the Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, Macbeth and Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, and a bunch of other classics. I could go on forever…this is a book review blog, after all. 😉

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Movies: The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, the Bourne Trilogy, October Baby, Secondhand Lions, Saving Mr. Banks, Monument Men, The Village, Babette’s Feast, the Toy Story Trilogy, Lion King, The Incredibles, Bug’s Life, Up, Monster Inc., the Dark Knight (Batman) trilogy, the Spiderman movies, almost all of the Marvel superhero movies…

Yes, I am fully aware that I am blending the Marvel and DC universes here but you'll survive ;)

Yes, I am fully aware that I am blending the Marvel and DC universes here but you’ll survive 😉

TV Shows: Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock, oh, did I mention Sherlock? I guess I did. 😛 Also Downton Abbey, The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, and Rifleman.

Hey my phone case matches this car!

Hey, my phone case matches this car!

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My lock screen…

Singers/Bands: Andrew Peterson, Peter Hollens, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, The Statler Brothers, The Church Sisters, Alabama, Dixie Chicks, Alison Krauss, old country such as Hank Williams, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash etc, etc. I also have sampled and come to enjoy some Switchfoot, Mumford and Sons, and Shai Linne this last year. My favorite genres are country, Celtic, classical, and folk in general. I love to try out new music and expand my tastes.

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Place: Scotland, Ireland, England, Russia, Texas(!), Australia, “Middle Zealand”. Truth is, I’d travel anywhere (and everywhere) if given the chance despite the chronic map de pays I have anytime I leave home. I’m a Hobbit at heart who loves hearth and home but has a bothersome Took side that craves new places and adventure.

Subject: Writing, reading, mythology, and literature–obviously. I also love theology, philosophy, horticulture, and history, and dabble in science, especially genetics, taxonomy, and cryptozoology (the study of legendary creatures that may have actually existed and some that may even still exist–see the tie-in with literature and mythology yet?)

the Creation Museum 9-1-14

the Creation Museum 9-1-14

Sport: tennis, volleyball, badminton–anything involving a large net between teams. 😉 I used to play soccer too.

Actor/actress: Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Maggie Smith a.k.a. Lady Grantham (as a side note, I admire these individual’s acting abilities and adore the characters they bring to life, but am not necessarily impressed with them off-screen.)

Life:

School: went to government-school kindergarten in the small-town of Hillsboro. Then I was homeschooled the following year and never looked back. Graduated in ’13.

Political views: third-party-voting conservative (on the occasion when extraordinarily bad candidates require me to not align myself even with the Republican Party).

Religious view: Reformed Baptist

Tattoos: None.

Piercing: One per ear.

Languages: decidedly Texan y’all, though occasionally British English. I have (briefly) attempted to learn Spanish, Italian, Russian, ASL, and Koine Greek but didn’t stick with most of them for more than a couple months. I started learning Koine Greek when I was 16, pursuing it in short burst over the last four years, but I plan to begin serious study next Spring. I learned a good bit of Russian when my parents adopted my two middle siblings from Russia in ’08 and my brother and I traveled with them on the two trips (a total of three weeks in Russia). I can still read most of the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet and recognize and say several words in Russian which makes me happy.

this Russian sign at the Air Force Museum is pronounced "stoy!" which means "stop!"

this Russian sign at the Air Force Museum is pronounced “stoy!” which means “stop!”

Reason Behind Blog Name: the title is taken from my essay by the same name (see tabs above). The idea behind it is that we are living in the shadow of another world–a world that grows closer every day and will eventually be seamlessly combined with our own in the new creation–that is, Heaven, the dwelling place of God, residing among men once again. The shadow is looming larger whether the world recognizes it or not.

To live in Heaven’s Shadow is to be caught between what is and what is to come, it’s to live in the terrible birth pangs of the “not yet” but see the blessed hope on the horizon. Everything has to be interpreted by and understood in terms of the kingdom that is both here and coming. It’s the most important reality and it changes how we look at everything else.

Why I Blog: Stories are the air I breathe–it’s how I see the world. Analyzing literature and films is not something I have to think about doing, I just do it automatically–like adding sugar in tea. What other way would you drink it?

Over time I have found that many in my church family are interested in my analysises: young people puzzled by a book or film or wondering whether it’s worth their time and busy moms who’d like a source they could trust for the books they are unable to pre-read for their children.

That’s what prompted the idea for his blog. I write reviews because I love the dialogue, I love the feedback. I write reviews because I love stories, because I think they are the greatest reflections of our theology and worldview, because I believe they have the power to change us for good or ill and because I’m love with the Greatest Story Ever Told, the story behind all the stories, the story that makes our little stories worth telling.
If you have any other questions, let me know!

Okay, Ethan Beach, Ashleigh Bratton, and John Urback it’s your turn!