As I post this on New Year’s Eve day, some of you may be gearing up for a night out on the town, a little get-together with friends, or a quiet night with a bowl of popcorn and a movie. But before you know it, that party will be over too.
Don’t fear—I’m not trying to depress you!
It’s just that I got to thinking one night, how similar getting ready for Christmas is to preparing for a wedding. The last eight years I’ve been involved with planning and implementing four weddings, so I’ve had some experience.
Of course, wedding preparations can take up to a year—sometimes even longer—while Christmas activities are usually contained within the month of December.
When we plan a wedding, we work for hours in an effort to make everything just right. We want it to be perfect. The bride’s dress has to be perfect; the flowers have to be perfect; the whole day needs to be perfect.
Similarly, many of us also put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create the perfect Norman Rockwell or Martha Stewart Christmas for our families. We work until we’re exhausted, and then before we know it, the holiday is over and it’s time to box up the decorations until next year. And we wonder where the warmth and togetherness have disappeared.
But here’s the deal …
A wedding is a ceremony—a party. After the bride’s bouquet has wilted and the dress has been hung in the closet, the real stuff begins. It’s up to the couple to keep the love and excitement alive in the relationship.
It’s also up to us to keep Christmas alive. It shouldn’t be celebrated only once a year and boxed up with the tree ornaments and garland. What we do during the holiday can be fun, and it can make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. But we don’t have to put our joy and giving hearts on the shelf until next December.
The party should never be over when it comes to Christmas. Spending time with loved ones, sharing with those in need, and sending thoughtful notes to people who could use a little pick-me-up should be things we do year round.
Spread some cheer … and a little peace on earth, good will toward men.
The party isn’t over!
Regardless, giving feels good, doesn’t it? It’s fun to see the colorful packages under the tree. It’s entertaining watching children grow impatient with desire to rip away the wrapping, aching to discover what waits for them inside. It’s rewarding when loved one express that you found just the right thing for them.
We give gifts as an act of caring. It’s a way to show people they’re important to us.
I think sometimes we get so caught up in what can be placed in a box; we forget that some of the best gifts we can offer are impossible to wrap up with a bow.
You give a gift every time you:
Smile at a stranger
Take time to listen without an agenda or interrupting
Share a cup of coffee with a friend
Encourage someone who is going through tough times
Help your spouse with a chore without being asked
Read a story or play a game with a child
Feed the homeless
Invite friends into your home for a meal
The list could go on, because every time you give a piece of yourself to someone—whether it’s time, your talents, or just an empathetic word—you offer a gift. Even in small, simple ways, you let that person know you care.
And doesn’t everyone need to know they’re important?
God showed us how important we are to him by giving us the most wondrous gift of all. His Son. And Jesus wasn’t presented to us wrapped in glitter, gold, and satin. He came to us as a small babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes.
But what a gift!
Some years ago, I was going through a difficult time. I had no clue what the future held. Life just felt scary.
I didn’t know that things would turn around, and God’s many blessings would once again pour over me. I just knew that I was hurting emotionally and spiritually. The sermon that Christmas Eve happened to focus on not being afraid.
“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.’” (Luke 1: 26-31 NIV)
When Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive, her heart rate and anxiety probably increased substantially. After all, she was a virgin. And gossips were alive and well back then, too, not to mention the stress that would come with trying to explain a pregnancy to her parents and fiancé.
And when the shepherds were out tending their sheep—just minding their own business—again, an angel suddenly appeared. Anyone would be startled. The Bible says they were terrified.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 8-12 NIV)
Did you know the statement, “do not be afraid,” is used seventy-six times in the Bible? Hmmm …
As we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember that along with the promise of eternal life, Jesus’ birth also brought other blessings. Not only are we free from fearing death, we have the assurance that God will provide for all our needs while we still live on this earth.
So, next time you feel anxious about what’s happening in your life today, or what may happen in the future, just remember the angel’s words.
"Do not be afraid."
Many of the things we enjoy and have fond memories of may center on spending time with family and friends. The Christmas season is a time when our level of “activity” rises. We’re busy shopping, baking, decorating, writing letters, and sending out cards.
Sometimes our lives become so filled with the flurry of the holiday, we have to schedule time to breathe! *wink* And although I enjoy the festivities, one of my fondest memories has nothing to do with the hustle and bustle.
I grew up in a small Wisconsin town that had, and still has, a population of about five hundred people. The high school is on one end of town, while our house at the time was closer to the other end. After extracurricular activities, I walked down Main Street to get home. Most of the businesses closed up by 6:00 p.m., and there was never much traffic.
One specific December evening, the sky seemed especially dark. White flakes began to softly fall. The town was silent, except for the crunch of my boots on previously packed-down snow. Lit garlands hung across the street, as well as sugarcanes and bells from the light poles.
It was quiet. Peaceful. And though no one strode next to me, I wasn’t alone. It was one of those moments when I strongly sensed God’s presence with me.
God is always with us, but too often we can’t shut out enough of the world around us to feel Him. Just like the carol about the night of Jesus’s birth, we need a silent night—a holy night—when all is calm.
During this time before Christmas, I encourage you to turn off the TV and music. Grab a cup of tea, hot cocoa, or a glass of wine. Sit in silence for even a few minutes near your lit Christmas tree, or a fire in the fireplace, and just “be.” Sit with God. Feel His presence. And think about that night, so long ago, when a baby’s cry broke the silence.
To help get you in the mood … this wonderful, gospel version of “Silent Night.”
Childhood sweethearts, Kinna was known as the pastor’s daughter, and Jimmy was the boy with no mother and an abusive father who drank too much. When they married, their dreams included having a family.
But when twenty years pass without children, regardless of measures taken, Kinna becomes obsessed with getting pregnant. Nothing else matters. She’s determined to make her dreams come true, no matter what it takes, or how her actions hurt other people. At the same time, Jimmy, longing to be Kinna’s prince, loses his job and doesn’t know how to tell her. Wanting a happily-ever-after life, both husband and wife feel like failures. But God hasn’t abandoned either Kinna or Jimmy, and the author includes a surprising twist to the story.
Powerful questions are raised. If God asked you to give up your dreams for Him, would you? And are you willing to follow His plan for your life instead of your own?
You don’t need to have struggled with infertility, or have grown up with an alcoholic parent to appreciate this book and its message. If you’ve ever wondered why God didn’t fulfill your dreams or prayers exactly the way you desired—if you’ve ever struggled with family relationships, or wanted healing from a painful childhood—you’ll be able to relate to this story and be encouraged. If Tomorrow Never Comes is story about real love in marriage, and the love God has for His children.
Marlo Schalesky is the author of several books, including Beyond the Night and Empty Womb, Aching Heart. A graduate of Standford University, Marlo also has a masters of theology with an emphasis in biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Married over twenty years, she lives with her husband, Bryan, and their five children in California.
I believe the main reason for people tuning in each week has more to do with living vicariously through the dancers. Because if they can do it—maybe we can.
It would be wonderful to wear those gorgeous costumes—and fit into them! It would be a dream to take intricate steps at speed, or glide gracefully across the floor, caught up in the music and romance.
Maybe living vicariously through others is why other reality programs are so popular.
I’ve never watched The Amazing Race, a show in which teams of two people race around the world in competition with other teams. Contestants travel to and within multiple countries by plane, balloon, helicopter, truck, bicycle, taxicab, rental car, train, bus, boat, and by foot. They have opportunities to win prizes along the way, and the first pair across the finish line wins a grand prize.
Another show I don’t view is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. There must be people who are fascinated by these women, and wonder what it would be like to live with wealth.
I don’t see anything wrong with watching reality TV if it entertains or enlightens, as long as we don’t become so obsessed with watching it that we stop living ourselves.
What would happen if we only lived vicariously and stopped caring about trying new things, or setting out on our own adventures?
I’ve always been interested in martial arts. So some years ago, I signed up for adult classes. Not considered an athletic person, I wondered if I’d actually handle the regimen. I trained hard for three years, but eventually had to stop when life situations stepped in. But during that time I discovered that I could become physically strong and learn those skills. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life.
What if I’d only sat on the couch and watched martial arts movies and exhibitions on TV? What if I never risked trying it?
I recently checked into adult martial classes in my area. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I did the next best thing. I joined my husband’s gym so I could take cardio kick-boxing classes, which use many of the same skills.
Is there something you’d like to try? Why are you hesitating? If your reasons aren’t physical or financial—go for it!
I don’t want to just live vicariously through other people—I want to live!
Despite all the work that goes into making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve heard some people comment that it’s their favorite holiday. Why? Time is spent being thankful for what we have, as opposed to Christmas, when people often focus more on things they’d like to have.
I think it’s great that we set a day aside to think about our blessings. But why is it that we need a specific holiday to celebrate them?
What would happen if we listed everything we’re grateful for first thing in the morning—before getting out of bed? The downside is that we’d probably need to set our alarm for a much earlier time. The upside—we’d probably be happier and more content every day of the year.
I’ve known wealthy people who were miserable. And I’ve known poor people filled with thankfulness and joy. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (NIV).
God has provided me with abundant blessings. I don’t want to go a day without recognizing and being thankful for all that he’s done for me.
I want to be thankful beyond Thanksgiving.
Lena meets an elderly woman on the bus, traveling home to the same destination. The woman befriends Lena and insists on helping her. She provides Lena with secondhand clothes for her promised new job, including a red coat with white trim.
Harrington’s Department Store is struggling financially, and when Lena arrives expecting to work, she’s told there are no jobs available. But the store is in desperate need for someone to fill Santa’s shoes during the Christmas shopping season. The owner's daughter thinks the lady in the red coat looks likes Mrs. Santa Claus and convinces her mother to hire Lena.
Lena begins to experience hope for a new life. She makes a few friends, including a young mother and child in the boarding house where she lives. She’s popular as Mrs. Santa Claus, and loves the job.
But fear lingers. What would people do, think, and say if they knew about her past?
Everyone makes mistakes, and Christmas at Harrington’s speaks about forgiveness and second chances. Everyone has a choice when wronged. We can respond with cruelty, or we can respond with kindness. We can allow people to take unfair advantage of us, or we can stand up for what’s right. The author inspires us to be better people, and challenges us to look out for those who may need a helping hand.
Christmas at Harrington’s is a charming story. I recommend this hardcover book for your holiday enjoyment. At 167 pages, it’s a quick read. Perfect for curling up on a Sunday afternoon and getting in the Christmas spirit.
Available November 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling book, The Christmas Bus. She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Notes from a Spinning Planet series and Finding Alice, which is in production as a Lifetime Television movie. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon. Visit Melody's website at http://www.melodycarlson.com/.
DISCLOSURE: I was graciously provided a copy of Christmas at Harrington’s by Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
I had good reasons. You see, I live in the Seattle area, and the reunion was held in my Wisconsin home town. I’d already flown from the west coast to the Midwest for two family weddings—one in August and another in September. A third trip soon after wasn’t feasible.
I also didn’t attend our twenty-fifth year class reunion because of a similar situation. I needed to be home the weekend prior for an event. After not seeing the majority of my classmates in over twenty years, I wondered what it would be like to be in the same room together again. After all this time, what would we have in common?
Hearing about the reunion has caused me to think a lot these past weeks about my classmates. Most of us were in school together from kindergarten through graduation.
Attending a small high school meant more opportunities for everyone to be involved in extra-curricular activities. I was a cheerleader for four years, but I remember few cheers. What I do remember? The cool air, the bright lights, the ref’s whistle, the band marching on the football field, and parents yelling encouragement to the players. I remember the sound of basketballs bouncing on the court, players' shoes squealing on the floor, and the scoreboard buzzer going off.
I remember sitting in Mrs. Peter's English class discussing The Scarlet Letter and The Last of the Mohicans. Decorating the gym for prom and homecoming dances. Lockers slamming in-between classes, standing in line for lunch, and attempting to keep my short skirt from slipping up too high.
I remember giving the graduation speech, but I don’t recall what I said. I’m sure it wasn’t memorable for anyone else, either. It was a time when I was anxious to “get out” and “get on” with my life.
Thirty-five years ago, when I accepted my diploma, I had no clue what lay before me.
Coming from a Caucasian, conservative, rural town . . .
I never imagined that I would experience divorce, remarry, and then grieve over losing a stepdaughter.
I never dreamed one day my dentist would be Chinese, my doctor—Japanese, and my manicurist—Vietnamese.
I didn’t know my circle of friends would include Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics—as well as gays and lesbians.
If I had known then what I know now, there is one thing I would have changed. I would have spent less time worrying about getting straight As, and the guy I had a crush on at any particular moment. I would have tried harder to know the people I spent so much time with in class day after day, year after year.
I heard the reunion was a blast. I wish I had been there. It would have been great to hear about their lives these past thirty-five years.
How many college degrees people have acquired, or how much their 401K has earned isn’t important to me. I’d want to know more about them. Their dreams. Their regrets. Their struggles. Their children and grandchildren. And what gives them joy.
Some of our classmates have chosen to stay close to the home town, and others have scattered. Sadly, we've lost some along the way. But the classmates of ’75 will always have something in common. Our lives affected each other and who we are today, whether we realize it or not.
Everyone has a life story.
I’m glad the class of '75 was a part of mine.
A few raindrops on the windshield wouldn’t have hindered my ability to see where I was going. But if those drops were left and more allowed to accumulate, even they would have eventually contributed to a distorted view of the road ahead.
Isn’t that how life is?
A few distractions may not cause us to stray from the path God has chosen for us. But, if we continue to allow more things to become between us and our relationship with Him, we can easily make poor choices. We may take a wrong turn because we’re no longer seeing clearly.
I needed to keep the view clear that evening in order to find my way.
I need to do the same in my life if I want to follow the road God has set before me. After all, at the end of this “life journey,” I’m going home.
How is your vision today?
To assume is to accept that something is true without checking or confirming it.
I'll give you recent examples of my own wrong assumptions.
Recently, a local friend and author held a book signing and Q&A at a large Barnes and Noble about thirty minutes away. After a long and tiring work week, I felt confident that my husband would prefer to stay home, have a nice dinner, and relax. He’s not a book reader and he’s never met the author. So, I didn’t even bring it up. Because I assumed he’d not want to go.
Later, when I mentioned it, he hinted that he would have gone with me—had I asked.
My health-conscious daughter and her boyfriend were coming over for dinner. I mentioned to my husband that she’d requested hummus with raw veggies to munch on before the meal.
He was unaware that a small container with hummus—made with mashed chickpeas, oil, lemon juice, and garlic—had been in the refrigerator for several days. (No, I didn’t make it myself!) But, I’d never offered it to him because I assumed he wouldn’t like it.
Whether he’d like it or not, he wanted the opportunity to try it, or at least say, “no thanks.”
After having breakfast with a friend at a new restaurant near our home, I raved about the food to my husband. So when he took a vacation day, we decided the night before that we’d treat ourselves and go out for a scrumptious and leisurely breakfast. I assumed the place would be open the same hours on weekdays. You can imagine our disappointment when we pulled into the empty parking lot. The restaurant wasn’t open until lunch.
We’re tempted to assume all kinds of things as we go through our lives.
Someone will clean up the mess I leave behind.
The grandparents will be free to babysit on Saturday night.
Certainly the other child is to blame. Mine couldn’t be at fault.
A person doesn’t acknowledge my hello, so she not only doesn’t like me—she’s a snob.
And how about this one . . .
Terrorists created the 911 tragedy. Because those who were involved in that devastating event were Moslems, some Americans assume that all Moslems are bad, hateful people.
What if . . .
Someone doesn’t clean up my mess?
The grandparents have plans for the weekend?
My child instigated the fight?
The woman isn’t a snob—she’s worried about her sick mother?
What if by assuming something that’s untrue, we’re not only losing out on experiences with people—we’re cheating them out of something new, challenging, or fun?
What if by assuming a group of people are all one way—we’re missing out on sharing wonderful friendships and life-changing moments?
What if whenever we're tempted to make an assumption, we took a moment to question it?
About the book . . .
Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America’s wool industry, never expecting to end up with a child. To his dismay, five-year-old Isabella hasn’t uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon—and intrigues him at the same time. But he can’t afford distractions.
When Isabella’s uncle comes to claim the girl—and her inheritance—Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man’s evil schemes. Soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?
The characters in this story are well crafted. Adelaide is a strong woman who at times is a bit stubborn. She has a wealth of love to give, and Gideon and Isabella need it. The author was clever in giving Adelaide an idiosyncrasy regarding her clothing. (You’ll have to read it to see what I’m referring to.) Gideon is protective, honorable, and heroic. What’s there not to love?
This novel may be described as light-hearted, but it also included serious moments. Situations called for the characters to search not only their own hearts, but God’s heart and will. Adelaide wants to understand why things happen—or don’t happen—in her life. God is in control, isn’t He?
Kudos to Karen Witemeyer for fresh prose. She included descriptions I’ve never read before. Kudos to the author for including humor while avoiding “fluff.” And kudos for writing tender, hot, romantic scenes that I can’t imagine would cross the line for anyone.
Do I recommend this book? Yes!
Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.
Karen holds a master's degree in Psychology from Abilene Christian University and is a member of ACFW, RWA, and her local writers' guild. She's an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.
For instance, warm colors like soft yellows and browns (red is used as an accent color) are used in the family room and kitchen. A variety of plants are scattered throughout the house. During cooler months, a fire usually burns in the fireplace, and scented candles add a glow to rooms.
Those who visit, see gentle reminders of who and what is important to me.
Frames display photos of our children, parents, and friends. They remind me that I am greatly blessed by wonderful people in my life.
Spending time in the woods, mountains, or on an ocean beach is a spiritual experience for me. I always feel closer to God when I’m surrounded by nature. So in the front room, you’ll find baskets of pinecones, a tray filled with shiny rocks, photos of fall leaves, and scenes painted in watercolor. They are gentle reminders that I serve an awesome God and creator.
A wall hanging from Africa, brought back by my youngest daughter when she returned from a mission trip, hangs in the family room. It’s a gentle reminder to think of others and reach out to our fellowman.
The word believe is cut from metal and hangs in a prominent place. It reminds me to believe that God is always with us. He provides for our needs, comforts us, and never lets us down. It's also a gentle reminder to believe in myself and my dreams.
What do you enjoy having around you? What are some things that make you feel at home? Comfortable? Secure?
Is it the people who surround her—or this very house—that reach into her heart with healing? As Leah finds peace tending to an abandoned garden, can she find a way to trust God with her future?
The House on Malcolm Street is the first novel I’ve read by author Leisha Kelly. The beautiful cover and back-cover copy both drew me in, and I wanted to discover what the pages held inside.
This is a story about two people struggling with deep loss. Leah and her young daughter have nothing and nowhere else to go but to an aunt’s boardinghouse. There, Leah meets Josiah, who has also found refuge in the elderly woman’s care. Although the aunt believes a friendship between Leah and Josiah would be helpful for both, they’re so locked into their pain, they’re not interested in having anything to do with each other.
The author is skilled with sharing the characters' thoughts and feelings. But the story dragged in parts, so I didn’t feel totally engaged in their lives until about two thirds into the book – when some important events began to take place. Both Leah and Josiah faced several fears, but I wish they would have been a bit stronger and more heroic in the process. I do applaud the author for carefully showing that grieving is a process and is worked through in a person's own timing.
The House on Malcom Street is a story about emotional and spiritual healing. By accepting help and love from God, family, and friends, it is possible for a broken heart to mend. And when that begins to happen, hurting people are able to reach out beyond themselves and help others.
I would recommend this novel to someone who enjoys a story that is character driven—not plot driven. Cuddle up with it on a Sunday afternoon, next to a fire, and with a cup of tea.
Available September 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
DISCLOSURE: I was graciously provided a copy of The House on Malcolm Street by Revell Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
Leisha Kelly is the author of several bestselling historical fiction books, including Emma’s Gift, Julia’s Hope, and Katie’s Dream. She has served many years on her local library board, continuing to bring good reads and educational opportunities to her community. Once a waitress, café manager, tutor, and EMT, Leisha is now a busy novelist and speaker who is active in the ministries of her church. She lives with her family in Illinois.
You know . . . that person inside. The one who isn’t perfect. The human who makes mistakes.
I strongly believe in grace. Everyone messes up now and then. We’re all in need of forgiveness from God and each other. I also believe in the power of “story.” We each have a past and a present to share with others. By being honest and vulnerable, we can help and support those around us.
It took me awhile to understand the value in being open. Of course, everyone has pieces that can and should remain private. There are also people who should NOT be trusted with our vulnerability. But there's a freedom that comes when we're honest with ourselves and other people about our struggles. When we acknowledge that we have flaws, we're released from trying to be who we're not.
I grew up feeling that I needed to be perfect. I was always careful to look well-dressed and put together no matter what I was doing, or where I was going. Words didn’t come out of my mouth unless I was confident that nothing spoken would be considered wrong. I didn’t share my doubts or insecurities. Keeping up the image I wanted to project took a lot of energy. It also produced fear that I would be found out. Any public mistake I made caused my cheeks to heat in humiliation.
Then one day I realized that I didn’t need to prove anything.
I didn’t have to prove my worth to anybody.
I’m a child of God. He made me. And He loves me just the way I am.
And you know what? I discovered that other people do, too.
I found that by being vulnerable, I was able to share my beliefs with others in a more profound way because people related to my experiences. I’m a “real” person with “real” faith and a “real” relationship with God.
Sure, I still fall back into old habits. I still have moments of beating myself up over my imperfections. But as time goes on, I find that I have fewer bruises. I'm learning.
I don’t have to hide anymore.
You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to plaster a smile on your face when you’re hurting inside. You don’t have to face things on your own.
There are people who want to accept and love you with all your screw-ups and scars.
There is a God who has always loved you and who will never stop loving you.
Listen to this song by Joy Williams . . . and believe it.
A Hope Undaunted focuses on the youngest O’Connor daughter, Katie. Now a young adult, she’s just as independent and feisty as she was as a child. She's devised a plan for her life and is determined to follow it. But she discovers that disobeying authority brings consequences.
Katie’s story kept me up reading into the wee hours of the morning several times. The author has the ability to draw readers in and rip their hearts out, and then later restore them. A Hope Undaunted is filled with struggles, victories, romance, and people passionate about their relationship with God. Gently woven into the pages is a spiritual take-away about the rewards that come when we're obedient to God and His will for lives.
I loved this book and it has become a favorite by this author.
A Hope Undaunted
The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O’Connor is the epitome of the new woman—smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband—good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and eating out of her hand. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Luke McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face-to-face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?
Available September 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
This book was provided to me to review by Revell Publishing. I was not paid for my review.
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author with an intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 20098 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of thirteen Romance Writers of America awards. She resides in Missouri and is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. You can contact Julie through her website at http://www.julielessman.com/
Earlier this week, a segment on Good Morning America caught my attention. A well-known professor and respected physicist, Stephen Hawking, stated that "One can't prove that God doesn't exist. But science makes God unnecessary. The laws of physics can explain the universe without the need for a creator.” He believes it was created from nothing. (See the GMA interview here.)
According to Stephen’s biography on his website, he’s worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. And he helped show that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and end in black holes.
He’s commented that people want to believe there is a god so they don’t feel isolated. They desire someone or something in authority to give a reason for living an ethical life. And according to the GMA report, Stephen Hawking has suggested in the past that people use God as an explanation for things that can’t be explained.
I graduated from college with a BS, majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. I respect science and believe in research. I understand the drive to learn – to explore the unknown. The results have potential to do so much good in people’s lives.
But I’m also a strong believer in God and His part in the creation of any and all things.
Why is it so difficult for some to accept a higher “being” more intelligent and powerful than us?
Why is it so important to prove that God doesn’t exist? That we came from "nothing?" That we return to “nothing?”
Are these scientists really searching for answers to discredit God? Or are they deep down wanting to prove to themselves that He must and does exist?
What I studied and learned while taking college classes did anything but sway me towards accepting that we evolved from nothing. I think evolution has and will continue to take place. But that doesn’t discredit God’s part in creation for me. Every cell had to have a beginning.
I still believe, and will always believe—however He did it—whatever path He chose to take—
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 NIV)
It’s World War II and many of the boys are off fighting. In the meantime, the women back home are doing what they can to contribute to the war effort. Rosalie Madison has lost her fiancé in battle and carries the guilt of words left unsaid. In an attempt to lessen that load, she works diligently in the Boeing plant as a riveter on airplanes being manufactured for the air force.
Then Rosalie meets a handsome reporter, Kenny, and after a few ups and downs, their relationship seems to be moving forward. But each has secrets they’re not quite ready to share. When a news story puts Rosalie in the spotlight and she becomes Seattle’s own “Rosie the Riveter,” she’s not so sure she’s ready to handle the attention. At the same time, Kenny is dealing with his own inner battles.
The authors did a fantastic job in recreating a locality during World War II. They did their research! As someone who is currently living in Seattle, I appreciated all the details woven into the story about the area during that time. I also loved that celebrities who visited were included. Both contributed to this reader’s enjoyment. I felt like I had truly traveled back in time.
In many ways, this story is light hearted and it speaks of a simpler time. But it’s also a story of hope and God’s faithfulness.
This book was provided to me to read and review.
I was not paid for my review.
CONTEST: Tricia is giving away 5 Victory Prize packs during the blog tour.
On September 3rd, she’ll be sending 5 winners a copy of Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington, Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana, Song Bird Under a German Moon, and the winner's choice of either Generation NeXt Marriage or Generation NeXt Parenting.
TIME IS SHORT – so visit her blog to find out more information and participate.
Blog Tour Schedule: If you want to read what other bloggers are saying about this novel, please check out the blog tour schedule and links at Love Finds You in Victory Heights, WA - Blog Tour.
Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-four books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. For more on Tricia visit http://www.triciagoyer.com/
Ocieanna Fleiss is a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer’s historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. For more about Ocieanna visit her blog.
I’ve lived thousands of miles from my parents and siblings for the past sixteen years. We keep in touch through phone calls, e-mails, and Facebook.
But, last weekend my husband (Sonny) and I flew from Seattle with my youngest daughter (Ana) and my stepdaughter and husband (Katrina and Jon) to Minneapolis. My oldest daughter and her husband (Brooke and Doug) flew in from New York City a few hours before us, retrieved an eight passenger vehicle from rental, and then picked up the rest of us at baggage claim. From there, we journeyed for two hours, crossed the border into Wisconsin, and converged on my parents’ house in my small home town.
The occasion??? A family wedding.
My younger sister is in her early forties, but this was her first marriage. We were all thrilled for her when she became engaged. I’d only met her then fiancé during a quick visit back two years ago. During the past weekend my family was able to spend more time with him, as well as his teenage daughter and son. He’s a good guy, and the kids are outgoing and bright.
My brother and his wife have three children – all in their twenties. Although they’re separated by cities and states, all the cousins have close relationships. They warmly welcomed their new step cousins into the fold.
The thirteen-year-old new member commented to my husband that he’d been nervous about meeting everyone – not knowing what to expect – but immediately felt comfortable. He realized that he was now a part of our family and that we cared about him.
I looked around the circle that had grown once again, and would continue to grow as our children have their own.
And I thought . . .
My family is far from perfect. We have our flaws. We irritate each other. Like every other family we’re dysfunctional in various ways.
But at that time and place, we were all together, celebrating in unison.
We are family.
You know . . . somewhere you can go when you need to escape from the world, be comforted, or just feel supported and cared for?
My daughters are twenty-six and almost twenty-nine. They’re independent, intelligent, strong women. But there are still times when I get phone calls in the middle of the night because they need a comforting word. There are still days when they need to just hang out with us.
My husband and I have always strived to provide a soft place for our kids - no matter how old or grown up they become. They’re all adults now, successful at making their own way. But when the world batters them down, when they’ve had a bad day, or they just need to talk . . . we’re here. If they need help meeting daily life challenges . . . we’re here. If they need reminding that they’re lovable and loved . . . we’re here.
As for my soft place? My husband and I try to provide that for each other. A place where we can shut out the world, talk, and believe that everything is going to be okay.
But, not everyone has a spouse or parent who can provide that kind of environment. Some can’t – some don’t know how – and some just don’t care. Sometimes the people who can and do provide it, aren’t always available.
What happens then? What can we do?
We can find comfort, peace, and rest in God’s arms.
Trust me. He’ll always provide a safe place to land.
It’s not a secret that life doesn’t always go the way we’d like. It’s challenging and often times difficult and heartbreaking. When going through hard times, people sometimes express that life is *** or they feel like ***. You know what words I’m leaving out here.
They use those expressions because the words conjure up images that aren’t pleasant – at all.
Dung is another word for manure, which is not only messy, its fragrance isn’t one you’d want to bottle and dab behind your ears.
Two of my uncles owned dairy farms in Wisconsin. Farmers utilize the manure generated by the cows to fertilize the fields. When that process takes place, the air doesn’t smell very fresh. The aroma is . . . well, you can only imagine if you haven’t been there.
But the corn, wheat, and hay benefit, and stronger crops are produced.
I don’t use dung for my yard plants and flowers, but I am a strong believer in Miracle Grow. It’s amazing the difference it can make in the growth and beauty of the plants. A few photos of flowers in my yard are included here. Those in the window box started out as small, puny plants. But with water, sun, and “fertilizer,” they’ve flourished.
I think my experience in the yard and on the farm, exemplifies life.
Like the benefits the fields receive from disgusting manure, we can also benefit in character, resilience, patience, compassion, perseverance, tolerance, empathy, etc., by walking through and surviving difficulties.
Maybe it’s not always such a bad thing to go through hard times. Struggles can help us grow to be stronger individuals.
You may have heard it said that you can tell the “true” character of a person by how they act during tough times. It’s much easier for people to be happy, confident, and strong during the good times.
So the next time you become frustrated with how your day, week, month, or year is going - try to think of those frustrations as food to help you grow.
Who knows? It just might help. *wink*
My grandmother didn’t leave me any material possessions, except for a story Bible that belonged to my grandfather. I never knew the man. He died when my mother, the youngest of four children, was in high school. But that Bible, in some small way, makes me feel connected to him. I’ve had it for almost forty years, and it’s still kept in the stand next to my bed.
In place of “things,” my grandmother left me with wonderful memories and a small understanding of the woman she was and who she hoped her grandchildren would become.
She was raised on a Wisconsin farm, taught school in a one-room schoolhouse, and met my grandfather at a church social. Life as a farmer's wife included cooking at least three large meals a day for the family and all the farmhands. Not just one – but many pies were baked daily. When my grandfather died, she kept the farm going until one of the sons took over, and then she moved out of the big house into a much smaller one built for her on the land.
My grandmother was an example of an independent woman.
I have fond memories of spending time there as a child. The TV was rarely on, but there were always books to read, puzzles to work, homemade coffee cake, and walks in the woods to pick wild flowers. She carried Luden’s cherry cough drops in her purse in case of a tickle in the throat during church. During sleepovers, I listened to the gentle tick, tick of the clock and the chimes that rang every hour and half hour. Now we have a similar clock, and in the dead of night, the chimes are comforting.
She knew what hospitality meant and how to make a house a home.
I am in the middle of thirteen grandchildren – two were born the same year I showed up. An honor student, I was also involved in numerous extracurricular activities. I’m sure she was proud of me, but she never talked about my accomplishments, nor those of my cousins. I never heard her compare us to each other. I liked that about her. It made me feel that we were all on equal ground.
She just loved us just because . . . not because of what we “did.”
As a college student, I occasionally spent several days with her during school breaks. We set up a large wood frame that took up the entire living room, and she helped me tie the large quilts I had begun to sew as a hobby.
She showed me that it was important to share your time and talents with people.
My grandmother loved God. She knew the Bible. And she thought one of the highest callings a person could have was to be a missionary.
She impressed upon me the importance of having faith and putting God first in my life.
I want to leave a similar legacy for my children. I want them to know that above all else they are unconditionally loved for who they are. That they are strong people who can accomplish great things – as well as survive difficult times. That people are more important than things. And that above all else, their relationship with Jesus Christ should always be the most important thing in their lives.
That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave for my children.
What will be your legacy?
Technology is amazing. We don’t go through a day without using various inventions related to our jobs, communication, and entertainment. We owe a lot to the men and women who have created “tools” that enhance our lives in so many ways.
But sometimes . . . I think it’s healthy to take a break from it . . .
My husband and I decided that we needed a “play day” away from our usual work-related responsibilities and agendas. So we took “time out” at a zoo in the area that’s connected to a large park with flower gardens, acres of green grass, and trees. We enjoyed the sunshine, the animals, and each other’s company.
We took pleasure in what GOD created. And oh, my goodness! What amazing creatures He has provided for our entertainment. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. They fly, swim, and roam the earth.
I think we can get so wrapped up in our computers, iPhones, TVs, video games . . . and other electronic gadgets and gizmos that have been created . . . we forget about THEE creator who gave us life and a beautiful world to live in.
God is the creator of ALL things – and that includes the people with the intellect to invent.
Do you take time to inhale the sweet scent of blooming flowers? Observe a bird’s flight? Marvel at cottony clouds in the sky? Notice the deep, rich colors of the forest, or a tree bark’s rough texture? Feel moss, soft between your toes?
I encourage you to turn off technology – for even ten minutes – and enjoy what God has created for you.
I realized I’d been doing that for months. Even though I know myself pretty well, I still tried to make something work that didn’t have a chance.
When I worked for a large company, I got up at 5:00 a.m. in order to get to work on time. I had a forty-five minute commute and the expectation was that I be on the job between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m.
When I left that position in April to work full time at home – writing and editing – I was excited to finally be on my own schedule. I was finding my way back to living a more balanced life. Flexibility was my mantra. Only, I didn’t live it.
I fell into what I thought I needed to do in order to maintain and grow my own business. Every morning, Monday through Friday, I’d attempt to get out of bed early and be at my desk by 8:00 a.m. at the latest. I thought if I worked eight to five, I’d accomplish everything I needed to. WRONG!
First of all – I never made it to the desk by 8:00 a.m. There was the treadmill to tackle, prep for dinner that night to complete, laundry to throw in, errands to run, flowers to water . . . And then when I did make it to the desk, half the morning had flown by and I had an e-mail box overflowing with messages that needed to be returned. There seemed to be one distraction after the other. Evenings were set aside for meetings with fellow writers, worship team rehearsals, or just time hanging out with my husband.
Most days ended in frustration. I never seemed to get up early enough. And I never seemed to accomplish all that I wanted to. It was becoming a vicious cycle. I beat myself up for not fitting into the mold of what most people do during their legitimate “work” day.
I realized that I wasn’t embracing the freedom I’d been given. I’m not an eight to five kind of gal. So why was I trying to prove to myself – or anyone else - that I was?
By nature, I’m a night owl. This week I gave myself permission to stay up as late as I felt like working and sleep in as late as I felt like sleeping. It’s been GREAT!!! If I work from 11:00 p.m. – 4:00 a.m. and then sleep later – who cares???
I think too often we expect people to be round pegs. We want them to fit what we feel is normal, right, or good. We want them to be like us.
We may look at the person who’s covered piercings or tattoos and think, “gross.” The unmarried teen who totes a baby and hands over food stamps makes us wonder what her life is going to be like a year or five years from now. We question why a young man would quit college to follow his dream in the music industry. How can he be so irresponsible? We may feel pity for the heavy person who lumbers down the street. Why doesn’t he try to lose weight? And how can a homeless person prefer to live on the street instead of choosing to clean up and get a job?
We may want people to act, think, dress, talk like us, and believe in the same things we do. Because if they did, we’d feel more comfortable in our own skin.
But we’re not the same. We were never meant to be. With love and care, God made us unique and “special.”
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb” (Psalm 139:13).
Have peace with the fact that God never intended for us to all be round pegs, manufactured to look, feel, and act like the next peg.
Take joy in being a square, triangle, octagon . . . or whatever you are . . . and that you fit just right.
P.S. - No, you're not seeing things! The design template I previously used is no longer available, as of today. So I had to make a few changes. Hope you like the "new" look! :-D
It’s 1778 when Morrow Little returns to her home in the Kentucky wilderness after an extended stay with an aunt in Philadelphia. Some are a bit concerned that she’s become too soft and refined to handle the rougher existence, but she’s determined to resume life there with her father, a pastor to the settlers and soldiers in a nearby fort.
When Morrow was a small child, her mother and sister were killed by the Shawnee, and her brother was taken captive. Morrow is soon faced with past hurts and fears when she learns her father has befriended a Shawnee Indian and his son, Red Shirt.
Still holding on to anger toward the Shawnee, Morrow fights a growing attraction toward handsome Red Shirt. At the same time, she is courted by an officer stationed at the fort who wants her for his wife.
With her return to Kentucky, Morrow is faced with the truth that all may not be as it first appears, and she must deal with her prejudices and preconceived beliefs. She also learns that forgiveness may be one of the most freeing and wonderful gifts we can give to others and ourselves.
In Courting Morrow Little, we’re taken on an adventure to another time and place. A time when the wilderness was beautiful, but also dangerous. And where Morrow proves time and time again, that she is not only feminine, but strong and courageous.
This is the first book I’ve read by Laura Frantz, but it won’t be the last. I highly recommend Courting Morrow Little to anyone who enjoys historical romance. I loved it!
Courting Morrow Little is available July 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”
Laura Frantz credits her 100-year-old grandmother as being the catalyst for her fascination with Kentucky history. Frantz's family followed Daniel Boone into Kentucky in 1792 and settled in Madison County, where her family still resides. Frantz is the author of The Frontiersman's Daughter and currently lives in the misty woods of Washington state with her husband and two sons.
As a reviewer and participant in Revell’s blog tours, I received a complimentary copy of this book. Dawn
But why is it so difficult to hang out and talk to the homeless? Or others who need help in order to survive?
The Salvation Army, located not far from our church, recently implemented a new program. Meals are being served there Monday through Friday evenings for anyone who shows up and wants to eat. Within just a few weeks, the numbers of people fed has doubled.
Our church, along with other area churches, has committed to helping the program be successful. My husband and I have volunteered to be on the team.
We had our first experience last weekend. Both of us had served meals in the heart of Seattle, but it had been a long time, so we looked forward to helping at a location closer to home.
People of all ages filed in. Mothers alone with children. The elderly. Some of the guests looked like they lived on the streets. Others were clean and well spoken, but were probably just going through a rough time financially. A mother came in with four children who were all very well behaved and polite. Everyone graciously accepted the food we poured into bowls or laid on their plates. Many stayed as long as we were open; visiting with people they had either arrived with, or seemed to know from their world outside.
Volunteers are asked to sit and visit with the guests, when able. During the course of the evening, several people from our team joind a table and attempted to generate conversation. My husband and both hung back that night, wanting to get a better feel for the people there.
Why did we hesitate? What makes it so difficult to sit down with a stranger and talk to them? I’m an introvert, but one of my gifts is talking one-on-one and “listening.” People need to be listened to.
Perhaps it was the feeling I got while serving them. I smiled, looked into their eyes – but they refused to connect with me for more than a brief moment. I sensed embarrassment over receiving free food. It’s one thing when you can’t afford to purchase a new car. It’s another thing entirely when you can’t provide the nourishment required to survive.
FEAR plays a huge role in building walls between people who need help and those who offer it. We may fear that they’re different, or that they don’t want to talk to us; while they may fear that we don’t trust them, or look down on them as being “less.” We both probably fear rejection.
But Sonny and I hope—we plan—to make the effort next time to sit with them. Ask them about their lives. We want to give them time with someone who cares. We want to make them feel like they count. We want to serve them something more than food for their bellies.
I know that if I ask to sit at a table with guests at one of those meals, I may be unsuccessful in sharing any kind of conversation with them. They don’t have to talk to me. And if they don’t, it could become a very uncomfortable situation. But that’s the risk I need to take. Because there’s also a chance that we’ll both walk away better for it.
Life isn’t as simple as you think it must have been “back then.” Sammie’s mother suffers with mental issues, and when she commits suicide, Sammie’s world is filled with loss and confusion. Then her disgruntled aunt shows up to help “care” for Sammie, and things get even messier. It’s a good thing that Sammie has a loving father - not to mention other townspeople who look out for her. There’s her outspoken best friend, a new boy who comes to live with his uncle, and her mentors - the woman next door who raises birds, and an elderly widower who has his own secrets.
Although Sammie is a young teen, I became totally involved with the character. This story pulled me in emotionally, while it also provided surprising plot twists. I was whisked into nostalgia and a time when life was perhaps a bit slower, but the pace of the story kept me turning the pages.
Chasing Lilacs touches on the subject of mental illness and shock treatments. Not necessarily a happy topic. But is also an uplifting story of hope and forgiveness. It reminds us that even when we don’t initially see it – God is still in control and working on our behalf.
This book is very well written. I’m looking forward to reading Carla Stewart’s next release.
This summer, I encourage you to read Chasing Lilacs.
Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She believes in Jesus, the power of the written word, and a good cup of coffee. She and her husband have four adult sons and a delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren. Chasing Lilacs is her first novel.
You can learn more by visiting http://www.carlastewart.com/