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Monday, December 1, 2008

Sherri Sand: Leave It To Chance



It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month I feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!





The featured author is: Sherri Sand and her book:

Leave It To Chance
David C. Cook (May 2008)

Readers may remember that I toured this book last spring or summer. In fact, I think it may have been the first book I toured on this blog. I've since received no less than 4 copies of this book! I've sent them to places like Hong Kong and Finland for other BookCrossers to enjoy. Here is what I had to say about this enjoyable story while it was still fresh in my mind:

I just finished reading this great new book and found it very inspiring. Among the many different directions this novel took me, the most intriguing was Sierra's battle with debilitating fear. It is sad and thought-provoking to consider how many opportunities we've all let pass us by because of the bondage of fear.
This story has caused me to reevaluate my lack of motivation in many areas; but mostly as pertains to my writing. I have a hunger to write but my fear of rejection has been holding me back. I've been thinking today, What have I got to lose? I mean, I don't have a published book right at this very moment...so if I never have a published book, I will not have lost anything. My worth and skill as a writer is not defined by a publisher's response. Am I digressing?? Oh yes, back to Sherri! :)
I was also really inspired by the interview with Sherri in the back of the novel. These thoughts from her on perseverance spoke most clearly to me:

Q: How do you find time to write? Any tips for someone who is working full time?

A: Set a word count goal. I try to write 1000 words a day, five days a week. If finding the extra time is difficult, start with 300 words a day. At that pace, you’d complete a full length novel (80,000 words) in one year. But the most important factor in writing is to turn the editor in your head off. Writer’s block comes from trying to create and edit at the same time. Don’t wait for the perfect idea to come floating along. Start writing now. Write anything. You want to create the habit so the ideas will come. The fear of failure keeps us from giving feet to our dreams-true failure comes from not trying at all.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (May 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799883
ISBN-13: 978-1434799883


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“A horse? Mom, what am I going to do with a horse?” Just what she and the kids did not need. Sierra Montgomery sagged back against her old kitchen counter, where afternoon sunlight dappled the white metal cabinets across from her. She pressed the phone tight against her ear, hoping she’d heard wrong, as her four-year-old son, Trevor, ate grapes at the kitchen table.

“Miss Libby wanted you to have it. I’d think you’d be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libby’s daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her mom’s church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter.” Sierra’s mom tsked into the phone. “Well, you know how Sally is.”

Sierra hadn’t the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.

“She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, I’d like to know.” Her mom’s voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.

“But I don’t want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when—” How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.

“Honey, accidents like that don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldn’t have owned a crazy horse.”

Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.

“You really need to think of the kids and how much fun they’d have. It’s not like you’d ever be able to afford to buy them one.”

Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.

Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.

“I don’t understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.”

“You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libby’s been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.”

“Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I haven’t seen Miss Libby since middle school.”

“Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. I’d think you might be a little more grateful.”

Deep breath, Sierra told herself. “I am grateful.” An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevor’s blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark…. “I’m just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.”

The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.

Her mom sighed. “It’s too bad Sally won’t keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.”

Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. “Mommy’s got a horse! Mommy’s got a horse!” Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.

Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.

“Where is it?” Braden’s eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.

She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sally’s husband probably did not need.

“We have a horse?” Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.

Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierra’s gut, her children’s excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.

Sierra ran her hand down Emory’s soft cheek and whispered. “I’ll be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.”

“Can we ride it?” Em looked at her with elated eyes.

Braden tossed his backpack on the table. “Where are we going to keep it?”

The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “I gotta go, Mom. I’ve got to break some cowboy hearts.”

The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? “Do we have a horse, Mom?” He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didn’t truly believe they had a horse—he was old enough to realize the odds—but little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

“I was given a horse, but we’re not going to keep him.” Braden’s arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. “Why not?”

“Someone gave you a horse?” Emory ignored her brother’s attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. “Can we keep him? Please!”

Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughter’s face as Emory went on. “I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Cameron’s mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.”

“We’re not a family anymore,” Braden cut in. “We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.”

A shard of pain drove into Sierra’s gut. She hadn’t had time to brace for that one. Braden’s anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.

“That’s not fair!” Outrage darkened Emory’s features. “It’s not Mom’s fault!”

Sarcasm colored Braden’s voice. “Oh, so it’s all Dad’s fault?”

Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughter’s face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didn’t know how to defend them against each other.

Sierra spoke in a firm tone. “Braden, that’s enough!”

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

“Guys, we’re not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and that’s what is important.”

Braden’s attitude kept pouring it on. “Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.”

“So what, Braden-Maden!” Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms.” Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole “blame the dad” thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?

“Mom?” There was a quaver in Trevor’s soft voice.

“Yes, honey?” Sierra gave him a gentle smile.

“Can we keep the horse?”

Emory’s blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.

Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldn’t. “None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep him.”

Emory’s face lit up. “Cameron’s mom could teach us.”

“Honey, it’s not that simple. We can’t afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.”

“I could mow yards.” Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. “We could help out.”

Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. “Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.”

Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didn’t say anything.

Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. “I could wash cars.”

“Those are great ideas, but they won’t bring in quite enough, especially since it’s getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.”

“You just don’t want to keep the horse, Mom,” Braden said. “I get it. End of story.”

“Honey, I’d love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend—”

Emory spoke in a helpful tone. “We know. Grandma told us about the accident.”

They knew? Wasn’t the story hers to share? “When did Grandma tell you?”

Braden’s voice took on a breezy air. “I don’t know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. We’re not going to do something dumb like your friend did.”

Defensiveness rose inside. “She didn’t do anything dumb. It was the horse that—”

“So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.”

Sierra gave him a look. “Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.”

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

Worry drew lines across her daughter’s forehead. “Are you going to sell him?”

“Yes, Em. So we’re not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do.” At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to eat Grandma’s apple pie all by myself.”

Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. “We’re going.” Emory trotted past him up the stairs.

Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. “I don’t have any homework.”

She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. “Nope, you sure don’t, bud.”

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. “What, Trev?”

He tried to talk around his giggles. “Do I get—Mom!” Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.

Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids’ eyes.

She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.

Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the “ooga” horn on the dash. “What?”

“I don’t want the kids to know you’re here.”

Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. “Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!”

“Nooooo!” Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.

“Ummm … you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?”

Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. “Done?”

Elise tilted her head. “Can I get out of the car?”

Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. “Yes, you may.”

Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. “Then I’m done for now.” Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.

Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. “Elise, I’m in a predicament.”

“Hon, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Sierra shook her head. “I don’t think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.”

Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. “I don’t think I like the implications of that.”

Sierra held her hands out. “You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.”

Elise chuckled. “It’s a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now what’s the big emergency?” She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.

“A horse.”

Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.

“A herd of them or just one?”

“One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.”

“I believe I’m missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?”

Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You’re not going to believe this, but I inherited it.”

Her friend’s eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. “Like someone died and gave you their horse?”

Sierra nodded, raising her brows. “And the kids want to keep him.”

Furrows emerged across Elise’s forehead. “Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?”

Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.

Elise’s perfectly painted lips smirked. “Moving along, then. Why don’t you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it.” She clapped her hands together. “Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think he’d won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.”

Sierra let the idea machine wind down. “I don’t think so.”

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

Elise’s mouth perked into humorous pout. “Sierra, you’re such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.”

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. You’ve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems he’s having at school and with his dad.”

Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. “You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and …” her eyes dodged away from her friend, “… you know.”

“Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your children’s eyes.”

Sierra nodded, but couldn’t find the nerve to say yes.

“Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and you’re willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because … because of what?”

Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elise’s and said quietly, “Fear? Terror? Hysteria?”

A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elise’s face, smoothing away the annoyance. “Molly.”

Sierra nodded. “I won’t put my children in that kind of danger.”

Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierra’s hands, holding them tight. “Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Don’t let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. There’s a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.”

Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. “We could do it tandem!”

“If you see me jump off the Empire State Building you’ll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime you’ll catch this body leaving good sense behind!” Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. “Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.”

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

Was she serious? “You think I’m turning into her?” Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?

Elise laughed. “You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.”

“All except you. You’re nothing like Vivian.”

“Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, I’m exactly like her.”

Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elise’s house when they were growing up—and for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. “Okay, I’m the anti-Vivian.” She gave Sierra a soft smile. “All funnin’ aside, I really think you should keep the horse.”

“I’m not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elise’s shoulder.

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. “He paid, but the check bounced again. So now he’s two months behind in child support.”

“Have you heard if Pollan’s is rehiring?”

“They’re not.” Jarrett’s, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollan’s. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.

Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. “And the unemployment fiasco?”

Sierra shut her eyes. “Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him.” She gave Elise a tired smile. “That’s the version minus all the legalese.”

“So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and you’re out of a job.”

“Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished.” She gave a wry grin.

“I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.”

Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. “Your clientele would outshine me any day.”

“You sell yourself far too short.” Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. “Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?”

Sierra laughed. “And where is this dream man going to come from?”

Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. “Oh, he’ll turn up. You’re too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. He’s a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. I’ll see if he’s free Friday night. You aren’t doing anything, are you?”

“Hold on!” Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. “First, I’m not looking. Second, given my history, I’m not the best judge of character. I’ve already struck out once in the man department.” She pointed to her face with both index fingers. “Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me I’m turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.”

A twist of Elise’s lips signaled a thought. “You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend.” She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. “We’ll keep looking. I’m sure Sir Knight will turn up.”

Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. “And what about finding your knight?”

Elise gave her a bright smile. “Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; it’ll be your first noble sacrifice.”

“First?”

The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. “The others don’t count.”

Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.



After dinner, Sierra crept into Braden’s room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night.” His hands started to readjust the music back into position.

“I looked at your homework.”

“You got into my backpack? Isn’t that like against the law or something? You’re always telling us not to get into your stuff.”

She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. “You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?”

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.

“Hey!”

“I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.”

His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. “I didn’t want to do it.”

She sat next to him, her voice soft. “Is it too hard?”

He shrugged. “It gives me a headache when I work on it.”

“Braden, if you need help, I’d be happy to work with you after school.”

He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.

“I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.”

His body came alert, though he didn’t look at her.

“She said you’re flunking most of your subjects, and she hasn’t seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.”

He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.

“What’s going on? I know school isn’t easy, but you’ve never given up before.”

“Middle school’s harder.”

She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. “She thinks we should have your vision tested.”

“Why?”

“She’s noticed some things in class and thinks it might be helpful.”

He shrugged again. “Can I have my game back?”

“You lied to me, son. Again.”

“Sor-ry.”

“You break trust every time you choose to be dishonest. Is that what you want?”

His voice was sullen and he stared at his comforter. “No.”

She touched his leg. “What’s bothering you, honey?”

“I dunno. Can I have my game back?”

She stood up. There was a time for talking and this obviously wasn’t it. “You can have it tomorrow.”

But would tomorrow be any different?



Meet Sherri at her website: http://www.sherrisand.com/ and read about her first novel,
Leave It to Chance at:
http://www.amazon.com/Leave-Chance-Sherri-Sand/dp/1434799883/

Friday, November 7, 2008

How to Make a Good Impression


"Vienna Rolls: Just the thing for the newcomer in the community to take to a church supper. Fame will follow her." --taken from The American Everyday Cookbook, 1955.

Well, too bad I didn't read that a few weeks ago! Here I thought I'd have to go get red and purple streaks put in my hair to make a memorable impression at the new church we recently joined. If only I'd read this recipe note first, I could have saved myself a good $200 or so!!

My mom passed this cookbook down to me just a couple months before I was married in 1998. It belonged to her mother, Betty, who received it from her husband, George, in 1955. This baby has been well-used, believe me!

I got a wild hair (no, no puns here...) tonight to browse through it as I hadn't opened it up for several years. Both my grandmother and my mom had written little notes throughout---births, deaths, divorces...x's by things that were good. On an inconspicuous spot on one of the first few pages, I found a little note: "Betty + George".

I couldn't help but add to the page my own little note for generations to come: "Sarah + Jamie".

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

If You Give a Mom a Muffin...


If you give a mom a muffin, she'll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She'll pour herself some.
Her three-year-old will spill the coffee. She'll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she will find dirty socks.
She'll remember she has to do laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer,
she'll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan supper.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She'll look for her cookbook. (101 Things To Make With A Pound Of Hamburger.)
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow. She will look for her checkbook.
The checkbook is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.
She'll smell something funny. She'll change the two-year-old.
While she is changing the two-year-old the phone will ring.
Her five-year-old will answer and hang up.
She'll remember that she wants to phone a friend to come for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
She will pour herself some.
And chances are, if she has a cup of coffee,
her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

by Kathy Fictorie based on "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Bible Story Hour





This evening I was thinking about how I came to learn the stories of the Bible. I wasn't raised in a church-going home but I went to several different churches with friends throughout childhood. I understood the basics of salvation and the importance of prayer and knowing scripture...but I was completely in the dark about all of the wonderful stories in the Bible.

Eight days after I was married, the associate pastor of the church we went to asked me if I was interested in teaching the preschool/kindergarten class at their Christian school. I was a little taken aback...for one thing, my life wasn't lining up with Christ as it should be---and for another thing, I was only 18 years old!

But, of course, I said yes! I was given the material soon after that and had about 6 weeks to prepare. I was pretty confident in myself and the year started off fine.

However, it didn't take long for me to realize that I could teach these kids lots of facts about math or science or reading or history...but I didn't know Bible basics. What kind of a girl agrees to teach a group of young children in a Christian school, knowing that she doesn't even know one Bible story to tell them???

Lucky for me, my husband had grown up in that same school and had attended church all his life. He knew the Bible front to back and had a strong relationship with the Lord. So we started a new habit.

Every night before bed, I'd ask him to tell me a Bible story. I didn't want some long, drawn-out theological treatise---just a basic story as one would tell it to a young child.

So he'd come up with stories that he remembered from childhood and I'd be fascinated! It was so amazing to hear of all of these great men and women of God! The one I remember him telling the most was the story of Samson. (It just occured to me that there could have been a little bit of a link there between me and Delilah...but surely he wasn't hinting at anything??? :)

I've now read the Bible through several times and have spent lots of time in certain books of the Bible. I've taught young children in several different settings consistently for 11 years now. There's not really a need for my husband to tell me a Bible story before bed...but I think I might ask him tonight...just for old times sake.

Top Secret Family Thanksgiving Recipe...For Your Eyes Only!!


Great 80's Movies Awareness Question: Who is this guy and where do we meet him?

I've decided to share with you a tidbit from my vault of family secrets! Here is a recipe for Date Nut Pudding, a family favorite for four generations now! This is to be eaten with your Thanksgiving meal and placed on your plate right next to your turkey. But don't be confused...you are not to place this next to the turkey that is in between the mashed potatoes and stuffing---the turkey that you cover with the same gravy that you cover the afore mentioned items with. You are instead to place it next to the other turkey that you've placed right next to the cranberry sauce that you place on your fork first before stabbing a hunk of the non-gravied turkey and eating it all with one bite.

Now that we have that straight, lets continue...

Date Nut Pudding
(from the current kitchens of Christy Virgil and Sarah Coller and the former kitchen of Betty Piper)

2 c. chopped dates
1 c. chopped nuts
2 c. miniature marshmallows
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 12 oz. container Cool Whip

Stir them all together well and press down into a 9" square pan. Sprinkle more graham crumbs on top and chill overnight.

Yum!

More On God's Will


Tonight we were visiting with friends about the election tomorrow and the fact that Obama could very well be in power over this nation very soon. We're all a little uncomfortable with that for many reasons but that's not the point of this post.

The comment was made that if Obama does take the presidency then we just have to remember that God is in control and it must be his will that Obama be our next president.


I'm not sure I totally agree with that. It kind of goes back to when I lost the baby last fall. Was that God's will? Or was it his will that I carry that baby to term and have it be healthy and strong? Of course, I'd like to believe the latter---but is it true?


I think it is. I think that God's will is much different than what God allows. If we believe the Bible to be literal and true then we know that God had a much different idea about mankind's role when he first created us than what we've become. Since we messed up the original design that he willed, his perfection has required that he bring a consequence for that. Unfortunately, the most terrible consequence is death. But, he has also chosen to allow different circumstances to come about in order to redeem "that which was lost" as they say.


So in my mind, it's not so much that God would want Obama or McCain or whoever else in power...it's not that he would will it...but just that he would allow it---in order to bring about circumstances that will eventually lead to redemption.


For one who takes end time prophecy literally, it's easy to see how an Obama presidency could lead to the redemption of our physical bodies very shortly...but that's an idea for another day!

Raspberry Delay




Quick! What song is going through your head right now? (Sorry...)

I finally thawed out all my frozen raspberries this past Saturday and made some jam. YUM! It was the best I've ever made.

Those berries had been in my freezer since I went on a kick and bought $60 worth of them last MAY!

Just in case you aren't hearing Prince in all his annoyingness wheezing in your brain by now, I'll just post you a little link: http://www.last.fm/music/Prince/_/Raspberry+Beret

Random Candy Awareness Fact: Did you know they now make Sugar Free Chick-O-Sticks? I just snagged one from my son's candy bag. I was so excited to find it but once I saw the Sugar Free label, I lost interest.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And Heaven and Nature Sing


Last night as I was finishing up a great book, "Embracing Father Christmas" by Robin Jones Gunn, I jotted down a note about a quote that really spoke to me.


On page 94, one of Jones' characters says: "This is the part of Christmas when we can hear heaven and nature sing".

The thought that occurred to me as I read that was that heaven and nature is always singing. They are always making a joyful noise to the Lord. Although we know that nature does not have a soul...and we know that the angelic inhabitants of Heaven are not created in the same way we are...we can't help but recognize the fact that they were all created to worship God. They can't help it!

Did you know that you were created to worship the Lord as well? Just by our very being, we give the Lord glory. How much more glory we could give Him if we'd structure our lives and priorities in such a way as to praise Him even when we can help it!

If I focus on making my life a song to Jesus, pretty soon I will be oozing with Christ-like-ness!

After pondering the character's quote a little longer, I've come to the conclusion that that instance wasn't a time that heaven and nature sang...instead, it was a time when that character took the time to listen and tune in to the praise that is going on around us all---all the time!

Dewey Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Dew


Last night my husband and I were watching the Stargate episode where Sam's new boyfriend is teasing her about quirkiness. He makes a comment that goes something like: "as long as you don't have alphabetized bookshelves...".


My husband looked at me and grinned his "you have weird quirkinesses" smile.


You see, I not only want my bookshelves alphabetized---I want them arranged according to the Dewey Decimal System. This has been a dream of mine ever since I began collecting books in my early childhood.


People keep telling us we need a bigger place because we have a lot of kids. They're all only half way right. Yes, a bigger place is needed...but not for the kids' sake. If we were to have one more bedroom than we have now, it would not be for kids---it would be for my dream library.


All arranged as Dewey would do it.

The Heart of a Reader



You've all heard me sing the praises of BookCrossing, but let me tell you the downsides that I've discovered since joining this online book-sharing community two and a half years ago.


It used to be that I'd have a few books lying around here and there that needed to be read and that my many bookshelves were lined with books I'd already read or were saving for my kids to someday read. Therefore, I spent a lot of time at the local public library--perusing the shelves, discovering new authors and genres.


I can't tell you the last time I checked out a book from the library---and actually read it.


Since joining BookCrossing, I've been inundated with books of all kinds. I've had so many books pass through my hands that I think they should make up a new Trivial Pursuit game just for me: Book Lover's Edition. I'd be a pro. I'm aware of authors and titles that I'd never have come into contact with before BC.


My many (more) bookshelves are now lined with TBR (to be read) books that I now feel obligated to read. Instead of taking my time enjoying and pondering a book, I often find myself rushing through it just so I can get to the next one...and make room on my shelves for more.


For this next season of my life, I'm challenging myself to stop worrying about quantity read and start focusing more on quality and enjoyment. I think that will make the BC experience, and reading as a whole, much more enjoyable.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue



This morning I was informed that this is National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). This new venture excites me for more than one reason. Besides the fact that the acronym sounds like something the Nox would eat for breakfast, I have needed an encouragement just like this to get me writing in my blogs more.


So I figured that since I would be part of this nationwide effort, I'd need some sort of badge to make myself known. I borrowed this cute typewriter lady badge from Dory: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42wallabyway/2989196747/.



When I first saw this picture, it made me wonder about the lady. The badge was obviously made from an old photo found online somewhere. Dory surely discovered this photo that someone had posted for a different reason and took the liberty to alter it to make it her own. I wonder how long this photo has been circulating and in what arenas. Most of all, I wonder who the woman is. Is she still around? What was the original purpose for the photo being taken? Does she know that her image is now circulating all over the internet?


I guess this just goes to show that you never know how you'll make your mark in this world! Some people are remembered for their prized apple pie, some are acknowledged generation after generation for a moving speech they made, and others...others are preserved in green---a testimony forever to the end of the finger wave and the birth of ready wear.



Sci-Fi Awareness Bonus Question: Tell us who the Nox are and in what way to we first come to meet them?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Buttons---DONT DELETE!!!!


Congratulations to Lanie, winner of this quarter's Bloggy Giveaway!
Enjoy your Fall Package of goodies!
Thank you to everyone who participated--I look forward to the next carnival in January!






Two Christmas Novellas by Robin Jones Gunn



It is time to play a Wild Card! And this time I'm doubling the score; you can preview not one, but two books by this amazing author. Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!







Today's Wild Card author is:






and her books:




Finding Father Christmas

FaithWords (October 11, 2007)




Engaging Father Christmas

FaithWords (October 30, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Robin Jones Gunn is the bestselling author of sixty books, representing 3.5 million copies sold. A dozen of her novels have appeared on the top of the CBA bestseller list, including her wildly successful Sisterchicks series. Thousands of teens from around the world have written letters to Robin sharing how God used the Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen series to bring them to Christ as well as lead them to make life changing decisions regarding purity. Robin and her husband of thirty years live near Portland, OR, where they are members of Imago Dei Community along with other Christian authors.
Visit the author's website.

Product Details for Finding Father Christmas:

List Price: $13.99
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (October 11, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446526290
ISBN-13: 978-0446526296

Product Details for Engaging Father Christmas:

List Price: $
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (October 30, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446179469
ISBN-13: 978-0446179461

I just finished reading "Finding Father Christmas" last night and really, really enjoyed it. It was not one of those predictable and too good to be true books...it was real and original. I liked how the story took place over just a matter of hours and how the author was able to really develop such a powerful story in a small book. I have begun reading the sequel, "Engaging Father Christmas", and will update here when I'm done.

ETA: I've now finished book number two. I liked it even better. I really like how the stories both take place over just a few hours...very well-developed hours. I also like how the stories fall together so well and have such a happy ending but they don't seem predictable or too good to be true. So often in happy endings, especially short novels, I find that everything just worked out too easily. That is not the case in these books. The author really shows how God made things come together for the characters. I found myself crying in several places during this sequel. I also like how the author made the connection to the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus at the end. Again, another obvious thing that came as a surprise to me---all because of the author's ability to tell the story in a way that did not come across as predictable. I'm interested in reading more by this author...I'd actually love it if she'd write some more updates on these characters!

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




A string of merry silver bells jumped and jingled as the north wind shook the evergreen wreath on the heavy wooden door. Overhead a painted shingle swung from two metal arms, declaring this place of business to be the Tea Cosy.

As I peered inside through the thick-paned window, I could see a cheerful amber fire in the hearth. Tables were set for two with china cups neatly positioned on crimson tablecloths. Swags of green foliage trimmed the mantel. Dotted across the room, on the tables and on shelves, were a dozen red votive candles. Each tiny light flickered, sending out promises of warmth and cheer, inviting me to step inside.

Another more determined gust made a swoop down the lane, this time taking my breath with it into the darkness of the December night.

This trip was a mistake. A huge mistake. What was I thinking?

I knew the answer as it rode off on the mocking wind. The answer was, I wasn’t thinking. I was feeling.

Pure emotion last Friday nudged me to book the round-trip ticket to London. Blind passion convinced me that the answer to my twenty-year question would be revealed once I reached the Carlton Photography Studio on Bexley Lane.

Sadly, I was wrong. I had come all this way only to hit a dead end.

I took another look inside the teahouse and told myself to keep walking, back to the train station, back to the hotel in London where I had left my luggage. This exercise in futility was over. I might as well change my ticket and fly back to San Francisco in the morning.

My chilled and weary feet refused to obey. They wanted to go inside and be warmed by the fire. I couldn’t deny that my poor legs did deserve a little kindness after all I had put them through when I folded them into the last seat in coach class. The middle seat, by the lavatories, in the row that didn’t recline. A cup of tea at a moment like this might be the only blissful memory I would take with me from this fiasco.

Reaching for the oddly shaped metal latch on the door, I stepped inside and set the silver bells jingling again.

“Come in, come in, and know me better, friend!” The unexpected greeting came from a kilt-wearing man with a valiant face. His profoundly wide sideburns had the look of white lamb’s wool and softened the resoluteness in his jaw. “Have you brought the snowflakes with you, then?”

“The snowflakes?” I repeated.

“Aye! The snowflakes. It’s cold enough for snow, wouldn’t you say?”

I nodded my reluctant agreement, feeling my nose and cheeks going rosy in the small room’s warmth. I assumed the gentleman who opened the door was the proprietor. Looking around, I asked, “Is it okay if I take the table by the fire? All I’d like is a cup of tea.”

“I don’t see why not. Katharine!” He waited for a response and then tried again. “Katharine!”

No answer came.

“She must have gone upstairs. She’ll be back around.” His grin was engaging, his eyes clear. “I would put the kettle on for you myself, if it weren’t for the case of my being on my way out at the moment.”

“That’s okay. I don’t mind waiting.”

“Of course you don’t mind waiting. A young woman such as yourself has the time to wait, do you not? Whereas, for a person such as myself . . .” He leaned closer and with a wink confided in me, “I’m Christmas Present, you see. I can’t wait.”

What sort of “present” he supposed himself to be and to whom, I wasn’t sure.

With a nod, the man drew back the heavy door and strode into the frosty air.

From a set of narrow stairs a striking woman descended. She looked as surprised at my appearance as I was at hers. She wore a stunning red, floor-length evening dress. Around her neck hung a sparkling silver necklace, and dangling from under her dark hair were matching silver earrings. She stood tall with careful posture and tilted her head, waiting for me to speak.

“I wasn’t sure if you were still open.”

“Yes, on an ordinary day we would be open for another little while, until five thirty. . . .” Her voice drifted off.

“Five thirty,” I repeated, checking my watch. The time read 11:58. The exact time I’d adjusted it to when I had deplaned at Heathrow Airport late that morning. I tapped on the face of my watch as if that would make it run again. “I can see you have plans for the evening and that you’re ready to close. I’ll just—”

“Che-che-che.” The sound that came from her was the sort used to call a squirrel to come find the peanuts left for it on a park bench. It wasn’t a real word from a real language, but I understood the meaning. I was being invited to stay and not to run off.

“Take any seat you want. Would you like a scone with your tea or perhaps some rum cake?”

“Just the tea, thank you.”

I moved toward the fire and realized that a scone sounded pretty good. I hadn’t eaten anything since the undercooked breakfast omelet served on the plane.

“Actually, I would like to have a scone, too. If it’s not too much trouble.”

“No trouble at all.”

Her smile was tender, motherly. I guessed her to be in her midfifties or maybe older. She turned without any corners or edges to her motions. I soon heard the clinking of dishes as she prepared the necessary items in the kitchen.

Making my way to a steady looking table by the fire, I tried to tuck my large shoulder bag under the spindle leg of the chair. The stones along the front of the hearth were permanently blackened from what I imagined to be centuries of soot. The charm of the room increased as I sat down and felt the coziness of the close quarters. This was a place of serenity. A place where trust between friends had been established and kept for many years.

A sense of safety and comfort called to the deepest part of my spirit and begged me to set free a fountain of tears. But I capped them off. It was that same wellspring of emotion that had instigated this journey.

Settling back, I blinked and let the steady heat from the fire warm me. Katharine returned carrying a tray. The steaming pot of tea took center stage, wearing a chintzquilted dressing gown, gathered at the top.

Even the china teapots are treated to coziness here.

“I’ve warmed two scones for you, and this, of course, is your clotted cream. I’ve given you raspberry jam, but if you would prefer strawberry, I do have some.”

“No, this is fine. Perfect. Thank you.”

Katharine lifted the festooned teapot and poured the steaming liquid into my waiting china cup. I felt for a moment as if I had stumbled into an odd sort of parallel world to Narnia.

As a young child I had read C. S. Lewis’s Narnia tales a number of times. In the many hours alone, I had played out the fairy tales in my imagination, pretending I was Lucy, stepping through the wardrobe into an imaginary world.

Here, in the real country of Narnia’s author, I considered how similar my surroundings were to Lewis’s descriptions of that imaginary world. A warming fire welcomed me in from the cold. But instead of a fawn inviting me to tea, it had been a kilted clansman. Instead of Mrs. Beaver pouring a cup of cheer for me by the fire, it was a tall, unhurried woman in a red evening gown.

An unwelcome thought came and settled on me as clearly as if I had heard a whisper. Miranda, how much longer will you believe it is “always winter and never Christmas”?

Copyright © 2007 by Robin’s Ink, LLC

This article is used with the permission of Hachette Book Group and Robin Jones Gunn. All rights reserved.






Around me swarms of Londoners rushed by, intent on their destinations and sure of their plans. My destination was the small town of Carlton Heath, and my plans revolved around a certain Scotsman who was now officially late.

I tried to call Ian again. His voice mail picked up for the third time. “It’s me again,” I said to the phone. “I’m here at Paddington station and —”

Before I finished the message, my phone beeped, and the screen showed me it was Ian.

“Hi! I was just leaving you another message.” I brushed back my shoulder-length brown hair and stood a little straighter, just as I would have if Ian were standing in front of me.

“You made it to the station, then?”

“Yes. Although I was about to put on a pair of red rain boots and a tag on my coat that read, ‘Please look after this bear.’ ” I was pretty sure Ian would catch my reference to the original Paddington Bear in the floppy hat since that was what he had given to my niece, Julia, for Christmas last year.

“Don’t go hangin’ any tags on your coat,” Ian said with an unmistakable grin in his voice. “I’m nearly there. The shops were crammed this morning, and traffic is awful. I should have taken the tube, but I’m in a taxi now. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes tops. Maybe less if I get out and run the last few blocks.”

“Don’t run. I’ll wait. It’s only been, what? Seven weeks and three days since we were last together? What’s another fifteen minutes?”

“I’ll tell you what another fifteen minutes is. It’s just about the longest fifteen minutes of my life.”

“Mine too.” I felt my face warming.

“You’re at track five, then, as we planned?”

“Yes. Track five.”

“Good. No troubles coming in from the airport?”

“No. Everything went fine at Heathrow. The fog delayed my flight when we left San Francisco, but the pilot somehow managed to make up time in the air. We landed on schedule.”

“Let’s hope my cabbie can find the same tailwind your pilot did and deliver me to the station on schedule.”

I looked up at the large electronic schedule board overhead, just to make sure my watch was in sync with local time. “We have about twenty minutes before the 1:37 train leaves for Carlton Heath. I think we can still make it.”

“I have no doubt. Looks like we have a break in the traffic jam at the moment. Don’t go anywhere, Miranda. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“I’ll be here.”

I closed my phone and smiled. Whenever Ian said my name, with a rolling of the r, he promptly melted my heart. Every single time. His native Scottish accent had become distilled during the past decade as a result of his two years of grad school in Canada and working in an architect office with coworkers from around the world. But Ian knew how to put on the “heather in the highlands” lilt whenever he wanted. And I loved it, just as I loved everything about this indomitable man.

I looked around the landing between the train tracks for an open seat on one of the benches. Since none were available, I moved closer to the nearest bench just in case someone decided to leave.

Balancing my large, wheeled suitcase against a pole so it wouldn’t tip over, I carefully leaned my second bag next to the beast. This was my third trip to England since my visit last Christmas and the first time I had come with two suitcases. This time I needed an extra bag for all the gifts I had with me, wrapped and ready to go under the Christmas tree at the Whitcombe manor.

Last Christmas and for many Christmases before that, the only gift I bought and gave was the one expected for the exchange at the accounting office where I worked in downtown San Francisco. Up until last Christmas I had no family to speak of — no parents, no siblings, no roommate. I didn’t even have a cat. My life had fallen into a steady, predictable rhythm of work and weekends alone, which is probably why I found the courage to make that first trip to Carlton Heath last December. In those brief, snow-kissed, extraordinary few days, I was gifted with blood relatives, new friends, and sweetest of all, Ian.

Christmas shopping this year had been a new experience. While my coworkers complained about the crowds and hassle, I quietly reveled in the thought that I actually had someone — many someones — in my life to go gift hunting for.

I had a feeling some last-minute shopping was the reason Ian was late. He told me yesterday he had a final gift to pick up this morning on his way to the station. He hadn’t explained what the gift was or whom it was for. His silence on the matter led me to wonder as I wandered along a familiar path in my imagination. That path led straight to my heart, and along that path I saw nothing but hope for our future together — hope and maybe a little something shiny that came in a small box and fit on a certain rather available finger on my left hand.

Before my mind could sufficiently detour to the happy land of “What’s next?”, I heard someone call my name. It was a familiar male voice, but not Ian’s.

I looked into the passing stream of travelers, and there he stood, only a few feet away. Josh. The last person I ever expected to see again. Especially in England.

“Miranda, I thought that was you! Hey, how are you?” With a large travel bag strapped over his shoulder, Josh gave me an awkward, clunking and bumping sort of hug. His glasses smashed against the side of my head. He quickly introduced me as his “old girlfriend” to the three guys with him.

“What are you doing here?” He unstrapped the bag and dropped it at his feet.

One of the guys tagged his shoulder and said, “We’ll be at the sandwich stand over there.”

“Okay. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” Josh turned back to me. “You look great. What’s been happening with you?”

“I’m good,” I said. “What about you? What are you doing here?” I was still too flustered at the unexpected encounter to jump right into a catch-up sort of conversation after the almost three-year gap.

“Just returned from a ski trip to Austria with a group from work. Incredible trip. I’m in a counseling practice now. Child psychologist. I don’t know if you knew that.”

“No. That’s great, Josh. I know that’s what you wanted to do.”

“Yes, it’s going well so far.” He seemed at ease. None of the stiltedness that had been there right after I broke up with him came across in his voice or demeanor.

“And what about you? What are you doing in England?”

Before I could put together an answer, Josh snapped his fingers. “Wait! Are you here because you’re looking for your birth father?”

“You remembered.” Once again he surprised me.

“Of course I remembered. You had that picture of some guy dressed as Father Christmas, and it had the name of the photography studio on the back. That was your only clue.”

I nodded.

“So? What happened?”

“I followed the clue last Christmas, and it led me here, to my birth father, just like you thought it would.”

“No way! Did it really?”

I nodded, knowing Josh would appreciate this next part of the story. “The man in the photo dressed like Father Christmas was my father. And the boy on his lap is my brother, or I guess I should say my half brother, Edward.”

“Incredible,” Josh said with a satisfied, Sherlock Holmes expression on his unshaven face. “What happened when you met him?”

I hesitated. Having not repeated this story to anyone since it all unfolded a year ago, I didn’t realize how much the answer to Josh’s question would catch in my spirit and feel sharply painful when it was spoken aloud.

“I didn’t meet him. He passed away a few years ago.”

“Oh.” Josh’s expression softened.

“You know, Josh, I always wanted to thank you for the way you urged me to follow that one small clue. I’ve wished more than once that I would have come to England when you first suggested it four years ago. He was still alive then. That’s what I should have done.”

“And I should have gone with you,” he said in a low voice.

“Why do you say that?”

Josh’s eyebrows furrowed, his counselor mode kicking in. “I felt you needed that piece in your life. By that I mean the paternal piece of your life puzzle. I didn’t like you being so alone in the world. I wish you could have met him.”

“I do, too, but I actually think things turned out better this way. It’s less complicated that I didn’t meet him while he was still alive.”

“Why do you say that?” Josh asked.

I hesitated before giving Josh the next piece of information. In an odd way, it felt as if he needed the final piece of the puzzle the same way I had.

“It’s less complicated this way because my father was . . .” I lowered my voice and looked at him so he could read the truth in my clear blue eyes. “My father was Sir James Whitcombe.”


Copyright © 2008 by Robin’s Ink, LLC.

This article is used with the permission of Hachette Book Group and Robin Jones Gunn. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Jesus: The One Who Completes Us




Col: 2:8-10
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power" (underlining mine).


How many times do we go looking for someone or something to "complete" us? If we are single we say we need a spouse to complete us. If we are married we say we need children to complete us. After that, we start saying things like, "if only I...was not so overweight, would gain a little weight, didn't have this debt, had a cleaner home, owned my own place," etc. We have this sense that we, in and of ourselves, are not enough. We know that we are lacking so we go on a quest to lose the weight or adopt the newest organizational system or find the perfect spouse.


So why, when we do finally accomplish these things, do we still feel the empty spot? Why do we immediately recognize the next big thing that needs to happen for us to feel complete?


The problem is that while we know that we are lacking---that we, ourselves, are not enough--we are going in the wrong direction to find that fulfillment. Verse 9 says in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead---the Three In One, the Trinity...and we are complete in Him. We have been cheated and lied to by the enemy...and we've bought right in.


The Bible gives us a caution: that we wouldn't be cheated or deceived by the traditions of men or principalities of the world. Have we made the world's deceptions our truths? Have media and magazine covers become our gospel? The funny thing about God is that he knows our hearts. He knows and understands that empty place where we feel the need for completeness. What's more, he knows exactly what we need to fill it. We can find all we need in him.


Even in Christ, however, completion won't come by forgiving our brother or cleaning up our act. Yes, those things are important, and the time for them will come, but it can't come until Christ has our hearts. Completeness and fullness of God must first take place in our hearts as we surrender everything to Him and ask Him to teach us and to work on us in His timing.


Once this surrender to Christ is complete and we are being filled by Him, then we will begin to emulate Him. People will begin to see Christ in us as we forgive our brother and get our act together one step at a time through Christ.


I challenge you today: don't accept the lies and traditions of the world---instead, invite Christ to fill you with His truth and power and find completion in Him.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Freedom's Calling

Several things kept me from being super excited about reading this book. For one thing, I knew that this was the story of a horrible tragedy involving the death of a child and that it took place at Wallowa Lake in Eastern Oregon. Being how I could drive to this lake, pitch my tent and set up camp faster than I could read through this book, it made me just a little nervous to have this devastating fictional event tied in with one of my favorite vacation spots. Secondly, and an even greater reason, was that I was having a hard time dealing with the death of my own unborn child less than 8 months ago.

However, at the insistance of more than one loving friend, I decided to give it a go. As I read through (the father) Mack's questions for God and struggles with blame, shame and disappointment, I really found myself relating. When it came time for the healing, I wasn't sure I was ready. However, just like he did with Mack, God put me on super-speedy recovery mode and did a work in my heart that has turned around much of my thinking. I'll try not to leave too many spoilers here...but you've been warned!

One emotion that Mack displayed that I could really relate to was his confusion that he might be being punished by God for a past wrong. I have felt a feeling similar to this since losing the baby. I've often thought that it was just too good to be true that all of my children had been born healthy and fine...that it was just "my turn" to have a tragedy happen. I thought that maybe it was my punishment for not losing weight like I'd promised myself so many times I'd do. I kept repeating something that my not-so-well-meaning dad said to me shortly after losing the baby, "maybe this was God's way of telling you that he doesn't want you to have any more kids." What? Who sends these kids anyway?? But that's another topic... How thrilled I was when God spoke to my heart, "just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes," (The Shack, pg. 185). Praise God! I have found that I can forgive God now...and pray that he will forgive me for misunderstanding him and blaming him. Freedom's calling!

One thing that really spoke to me and made me recognize something about myself was when I began to understand that I imagine the worst possible scenarios and then do everything I can to try to avoid them. The problem with this is that I think I have control and really, I don't! I think that if I can plan out my life then I will be sure to make no wrong moves. But as Kent Hovind says, I know the things I know...but what about the things I don't know? This reminded me that before I even became pregnant with the child I lost, I was already planning on losing one. I had a name picked out and a strategy for dealing with the pain and all that. I thought that if I could plan for this then I wouldn't hurt so bad when and if it actually happened. However, since I'd never lost a child before, I couldn't begin to imagine the pain and ache that would follow. There was no way I could have prepared for this. I was putting my security in my plans and when my plans failed, I freaked. Thank God for God though, he really came through! He spoke to me the importance of vulnerability and trusting him. Freedom's calling!!

A question that I've always wondered about was answered for me through this book as well. On several encounters with God, Mack is reminded that God chooses to limit himself in order to have relationship with us. I've sometimes wondered why we need to say things out loud or speak words to God that he already knows...but sometimes he chooses to limit himself, chooses to need to hear us...for the sake of relationship.

I'd like to recommend this little book to anyone and everyone. I believe it is one of those "living books" that the Lord will use in a different and personal way for each person who reads it. Please visit: http://theshackbook.com/ for details.


Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young

Several things kept me from being super excited about reading this book. For one thing, I knew that this was the story of a horrible tragedy involving the death of a child and that it took place at Wallowa Lake in Eastern Oregon. Being how I could drive to this lake, pitch my tent and set up camp faster than I could read through this book, it made me just a little nervous to have this devastating fictional event tied in with one of my favorite vacation spots.

Secondly, and an even greater reason, was that I was having a hard time dealing with the death of my own unborn child less than 8 months ago.

However, at the insistance of more than one loving friend, I decided to give it a go. As I read through (the father) Mack's questions for God and struggles with blame, shame and disappointment, I really found myself relating. When it came time for the healing, I wasn't sure I was ready. However, just like he did with Mack, God put me on super-speedy recovery mode and did a work in my heart that has turned around much of my thinking. I'll try not to leave too many spoilers here...but you've been warned!

One emotion that Mack displayed that I could really relate to was his confusion that he might be being punished by God for a past wrong. I have felt a feeling similar to this since losing the baby. I've often thought that it was just too good to be true that all of my children had been born healthy and fine...that it was just "my turn" to have a tragedy happen. I thought that maybe it was my punishment for not losing weight like I'd promised myself so many times I'd do. I kept repeating something that my not-so-well-meaning dad said to me shortly after losing the baby, "maybe this was God's way of telling you that he doesn't want you to have any more kids." What? Who sends these kids anyway?? But that's another topic...

How thrilled I was when God spoke to my heart, "just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes," (The Shack, pg. 185). Praise God! I have found that I can forgive God now...and pray that he will forgive me for misunderstanding him and blaming him. Freedom's calling!

One thing that really spoke to me and made me recognize something about myself was when I began to understand that I imagine the worst possible scenarios and then do everything I can to try to avoid them. The problem with this is that I think I have control and really, I don't! I think that if I can plan out my life then I will be sure to make no wrong moves. But as Kent Hovind says, I know the things I know...but what about the things I don't know? This reminded me that before I even became pregnant with the child I lost, I was already planning on losing one. I had a name picked out and a strategy for dealing with the pain and all that. I thought that if I could plan for this then I wouldn't hurt so bad when and if it actually happened. However, since I'd never lost a child before, I couldn't begin to imagine the pain and ache that would follow. There was no way I could have prepared for this. I was putting my security in my plans and when my plans failed, I freaked. Thank God for God though, he really came through! He spoke to me the importance of vulnerability and trusting him. Freedom's calling!!

A question that I've always wondered about was answered for me through this book as well. On several encounters with God, Mack is reminded that God chooses to limit himself in order to have relationship with us. I've sometimes wondered why we need to say things out loud or speak words to God that he already knows...but sometimes he chooses to limit himself, chooses to need to hear us...for the sake of relationship.

I'd like to recommend this little book to anyone and everyone. I believe it is one of those "living books" that the Lord will use in a different and personal way for each person who reads it. Please visit: http://theshackbook.com/ for details.


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