Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ranting About Sons Baseball Games

I'm not a sports person. Meaning, I didn't grow up playing sports. I like watching games and love taking the boys to the Minnesota Twins and St. Cloud Riverbats. I have a feeling I'll make a very bad sport parent. I like things to be fair. Seems to be a word that doesn't fit well with the sports world.

My son's team started out the season playing everyone on the team. They all got chances to play and to sit out. The head coach made sure to tell the families he wanted it to be as fair as possible. Well, the season didn't start out so spectacular, but they put out the effort.

One game was keeping us from going to the "state" tourney. The boys ended up playing for an hour in the rain so that they could go. Yep, they won, but they were soaking wet.

So, I found out several days before the tournament began that the coaches had decided to get 3 other boys from 2 other teams in our town that DIDN'T make it to the state tournament to be on our team. I called him to find out what that meant. He explained that they had the right to fill the roster and he wanted to win.

My response wasn't so positive. I shared my thoughts on the matter and this is what they were (and still are). Bringing in 3 extra boys doesn't teach my son anything positive about sportsmanship. The only lesson learned is that "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game" doesn't apply to real life. My son went to every single practice and game. Yes, the coach let him play the entire season. So, he earned the right to play at the tournaments.

The first game my 10yr old went in during the last inning as a pinch runner. One of the extra boys hit a double so my Jake went out to 2nd base. He stole 3rd, made it home and helped win the game. Next game I believe he didn't play at all. The 3rd game he was up to bat once. The 4th game Jake hit once and was in the outfield once. Do you think ALL the coaches kids played even if all they did was stand around or not even hit at the ball? Oh, you better believe it.

The 3 extra kids, they played every single inning. They were on the starting line up every single game. What a bunch of baloney. I tried to stay kind and positive, even invited everyone to my house after the 3rd game to eat the meal from my daughter's grad party.

Then tonight happened. The last game of the season to see who won 1st place and goes to Michigan. Do you think he put my son in? NOPE. My little guy sat there and watched every single other player go out and play. By the 5th inning we were ahead by 8 and the game was called since we were winning. That meant we came in 1st place and could go to Michigan.

To say I was furious is an understatement. I was saying some not so nice things and pretty much lost it. One of the moms from the team, who's son struck out 3 times, came up to me wanting to give me a high 5. I said something to the effect of, "Why would I high 5 you when all my son did was sit on the bench for the tournament? What a bunch of b-------t!" I called to Jake to leave, but they had an award ceremony where the kids got medals.

Was I putting forth a Christian attitude? Nope, I'll admit it right now. There was not a thing that was godly in my response to how this tournament has gone. I wish I knew how to be more graceful about my son being left out, but I'm not. Something I've asked from God for years is to not be me so much, to have a much more graceful spirit. Apparently that won't be happening any time soon.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this. I understand that they needed to recruit a couple more kids so that they'd have enough pitchers. Kids can only pitch for 18 outs and then they're done for the day (or something to that effect). I don't know all the rules for baseball at this level. I did call the league rep in our area and shared with him my disgust.

He was so kind and understanding. He gave me a lot of insight to how this all plays out and it doesn't change. I should be thankful my son even played baseball this year on a traveling league. I guess he'd had 2 calls from parents saying that we should have tryouts and only have 1 team with all star players. Those parents didn't like the fact that their star athlete was having to play with lesser kids. Our town had 3 evenly divided teams.

That parents would be so heartless at this young age is astonishing. We want our boys to grow up to be thoughtful and caring and courteous, yet this is the message we send to them. My 6 yr old and I just read a children's book by Boomer Esiason. It had a great message that Boomer always picked the kids who were always picked last. It made him a better player because he had to play harder. Wish all kids did that.

I don't know what more to say, other than I'm thankful that I have a way to get my feelings out. I can be very vocal when I have an opinion. Unfortunately, it can be detrimental. I have no idea what it will be like for Jake next year when he wants to play baseball again. And yes, he wants to play again next year. He's so positive and wants to be part of it all, even wanting to go to MI knowing he won't play.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mom NEEDS Chocolate by Debora M. Coty

Debora M. Coty is a woman on a mission. Since answering God’s call to write six years ago, Debora has published over 80 articles in international magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, and signed 11 book contracts! Her latest, Mom NEEDS Chocolate, just released from Regal Books and is endorsed by legendary funny ladies Martha Bolton and Patsy Clairmont.


Mom NEEDS Chocolate: Hugs, Humor and Hope for Surviving Motherhood puts moms back in touch with rejuvenating joy and empowering faith. From outrageous coping tips to off-the-wall insights, Coty’s humorous book will have you laughing out loud. With witty frankness and wild abandon, she tackles the highs and lows of marriage, the horror of embarrassing children, and the defeat (and re-defeat) of depression. If you’ve been wondering lately why in the world you embarked on the journey of motherhood, then Debora Coty has the perfect reminder in this book.


You can learn more about Debora (and her other books) at http://www.deboracoty.com/.
Debora has a great perspective on being a woman. Her introduction lets us know that her book isn't going to be your everyday, run-of-the-mill devotional. She's down to earth, funny, and as she says, "...I don't lollygag around hot topics...".
At the beginning of each topic Debora has a quote from a wise person and a scripture. The she uses her wisdom and humor to bring to light topics such as pregnancy, motherhood, self-worth, and so on. She follows that with a prayer and encourages us to put our Faith in Action with several questions that make us think more deeply about what she's just covered.
This is such a great little book to have. It would make a fantastic gift for new moms, Mother's Day, a b-day presesnt, etc. Any mom would be able to relate to the topics in this book. Debora really does give us "Hugs, Humor and Hope for Surviving Motherhood".

Friday, June 26, 2009

Live Deeply and Live Relationally by Lenya Heitzig and Penny Rose ~ FIRST WildCard

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!



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





Today's Wild Card authors are:



Lenya Heitzig



AND

Penny Rose



and the books:


Live Deeply: A Study in the Parables of Jesus
David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)



AND
Live Relationally: Lessons from the Women of Genesis
David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHORs:








Lenya Heitzig is an award-winning author and popular Bible teacher. After beginning her ministry as a single women’s counselor with Youth With a Mission, Lenya married Skip and together they started Calvary of Albuquerque, one of the fast growing churches in the country. The author of Holy Moments and coauthor of the Gold Medallion-winning, Pathways to God’s Treasures, Lenya currently serves as Director of Women at Calvary, overseeing weekly Bible studies and yearly retreats. Lenya and Skip live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.



Visit the author's website.





Penny Pierce Rose is the award-winning author/coauthor of several books and Bible studies, including the ECPA Gold Medallion winner, Pathways to God’s Treasures. She has served on the board of directors for the Southwest Women’s Festival and develops Bible study curriculum for the women’s programs at Calvary of Albuquerque. Penny, her husband, Kerry, and their three children, Erin, Kristian, and Ryan, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.



Visit the author's website.



Product Details:



Live Deeply:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1434799867

ISBN-13: 978-1434799869



Live Relationally:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1434767485

ISBN-13: 978-1434767486



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTERs:






LESSON ONE



Root Determines Fruit



Matthew 13:1–23



Lenya adored Mrs. Johnson, her elementary school teacher, because she had the ability to bring Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to life. Lenya’s sister would anxiously wait for her to arrive home to retell the story in every detail. Penny loved nothing more than spooky bedtime tales from her granddaddy. She’d lie awake at night, jumping at every sound, wondering whether the boogeyman was real. All our kids loved trips to the library for story hour.





Since ancient times, storytellers have enthralled audiences with tales both entertaining and instructive. In 300 BC, Aesop, the Greek storyteller, featured animals like the tortoise and the hare in his fables vividly illustrating how to solve problems. The Brothers Grimm gathered fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel in nineteenth-century Germany to teach children valuable moral lessons. Baby boomers were mesmerized when Walt Disney animated their favorite stories in amazing Technicolor.





However, throughout history no one has compared to Jesus Christ as a storyteller. Rather than telling fables or fairy tales, He told parables. A parable is a short, simple story designed to communicate a spiritual truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. It is a figure of speech in which truth is illustrated by a comparison or example drawn from everyday experiences. Warren Wiersbe simply says, “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”1 Throughout this study we’ll learn from the stories Jesus told, comparing them to our lives and putting His eternal truths into practice.





Day 1: Matthew 13:1–3 Floating Pulpit Day 2: Matthew 13:3–9 Fertile Parable Day 3: Matthew 13:10–13 Few Perceive Day 4: Matthew 13:14–17 Fulfilled Prophecy Day 5: Matthew 13:18–23 Four Possibilities







DAY 1



Floating Pulpit





Lift up…





Lord, I love to gather with Your people and listen to Your Word. Help me to be a faithful hearer, not only listening to what You say but obeying Your commands. Thank You for being in our midst. Amen.





Look at…





Jesus proved Himself to be the promised King—the Messiah of Israel—through His impeccable birthright, powerful words, and supernatural deeds. Despite His amazing miracles and the many ways He fulfilled prophecy, the religious leaders rejected His lordship. Knowing the religious leaders had turned on Him, Jesus directed His attention to the common people. Matthew 13 tells how Jesus stepped onto a floating pulpit on the Sea of Galilee and spoke in parables to explain how the gospel—the good news of salvation—would inaugurate the kingdom of heaven on earth.





The parable of the Sower is one of seven parables Jesus taught to describe what His kingdom would look like as a result of the religious establishment rejecting Him. This parable was a precursor to the Great Commission that Jesus would give His disciples after His death, burial, and resurrection: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). There is no evidence that the religious leaders stayed to listen to Jesus’ simple stories. Yet after this teaching session, the resentment of the religious leaders only deepened.





Read Matthew 13:1–3.





On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. Matthew 13:1





Explain what Jesus did on this day in His ministry.





Matthew 13:1 is the continuation of a critical day in Jesus’ ministry. Briefly scan Matthew 12; then answer the following questions to learn more about this “same day.”

What day of the week is referred to here?

What miracles did Jesus perform on this day?

Describe Jesus’ encounters with the religious leaders.

What did He teach about becoming a member of His family?





According to Mark 3:6, what did the Pharisees begin to do on this fateful day?





And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow.” Matthew 13:2–3





Explain why Jesus got into the boat.

How many people stayed to hear Jesus’ message?

What method of teaching did Jesus use in speaking to the

multitudes?

What types of things did He teach in parables?

Galilee was an important region to Jesus. Fill in the following table to learn more.



Scripture Galilee’s Significance



Matthew 4:18–21

Matthew 17:22–23

Matthew 26:31–32

Luke 1:26–28

Luke 2:39–40

Acts 10:36–38





We’ve learned that many people came to know Jesus in Galilee. Journal about the place where you encountered Jesus and how meeting Him affected your feelings about that location.





Jesus was “moved with compassion” for the multitudes that followed Him. Circle below to indicate how you respond to the many people who are lost and looking for a shepherd.









Eager to share the gospel



Impatient with their ignorance



Anxious to get away



Concerned for their eternity



Frightened by their unruliness



Other __________________







Journal a prayer asking God to supernaturally fill you with compassion for the multitudes that don’t know Him.





The multitudes crowded around Jesus, so He turned a boat on the Sea of Galilee into a floating pulpit. In his book Fully Human, Fully Alive, John Powell tells about a friend vacationing in the Bahamas who was drawn to a noisy crowd gathered toward the end of a pier:





Upon investigation he discovered that the object of all the attention was a young man making the last-minute preparations for a solo journey around the world in a homemade boat. Without exception everyone on the pier was vocally pessimistic. All were actively volunteering to tell the ambitious sailor all the things that could possibly go wrong. “The sun will broil you! … You won’t have enough food! … That boat of yours won’t withstand the waves in a storm! … You’ll never make it!”





When my friend heard all these discouraging warnings to the adventurous young man, he felt an irresistible desire to offer some optimism and encouragement. As the little craft began drifting away from the pier towards the horizon, my friend went to the end of the pier, waving both arms wildly like semaphores spelling confidence. He kept shouting: “Bon Voyage! You’re really something! We’re with you! We’re proud of you!”2





If you had been there as the boat was leaving, which group on the pier would you have been among: the optimists or the pessimists? More importantly, if you had been in the crowds along the Sea of Galilee, would you have joined the Pharisees seeking to harm Jesus or the crowd eagerly listening to the stories Jesus told?







Listen to …



The best leaders … almost without exception and at every level, are master users of stories and symbols.



—Tom Peters





LESSON ONE



Eve--Trouble in Paradise



Genesis 2:18-3:24



The first trouble in paradise was man's aloneness. For six consecutive days--as God created light, the cosmos, the land and sea, the stars and planets, the creatures in the sea and sky, and every living thing that moves, including the ultimate creation of man--God declared, “It is good.” But there was one thing that wasn't good: Man did not have a companion. So God created the perfect mate for Adam. She would be the counterpart for him physically, spiritually, intellectually, and socially. She was intended to complete him. She was more than a mate--she was a soul mate.





We know this woman as Eve. Although the Bible does not describe her, there is no doubt that she was the most beautiful woman who ever lived. Why? She was God's masterpiece. The Divine dipped His paintbrush into the palette of dust and clay and breathed life from His wellspring of inspiration to form a portrait of perfection. Just imagine a woman with a face more beautiful than Helen of Troy, a body more statuesque than the Venus de Milo, a personality more captivating than Cleopatra, and a smile more mysterious than the Mona Lisa. She ate a perfect diet, so her figure was probably flawless. Because of an untainted gene pool, she was undoubtedly without physical defect. Due to the antediluvian atmosphere, her complexion was age-defying perfection. She was never a child, daughter, or sister. She was the first wife, the first mother, and the first woman to encounter evil incarnate. That's when real trouble in paradise began.





Day 1: Genesis 2:18-25 Paradise Found



Day 2: Genesis 3:1-6 Innocence Lost



Day 3: Genesis 3:7-13 Hiding Out



Day 4: Genesis 3:14-19 Judgment Pronounced



Day 5: Genesis 3:20-24 East of Eden







DAY 1



Paradise Found





Lift up …





Thank You, Lord, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You have created me in Your image to glorify Your name. May I fulfill Your will in my heart and home. Amen.





Look at …





We begin our study when God made man and woman. Though God created both humans and animals, this does not mean that they are on equal footing. People are made in God's image, setting us apart from animals in a profound way. We possess a soul. The soul refers to a person's inner life. It is the center of our emotions and personality. The word soul is first used in Genesis: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [soul]” (Gen. 2:7). In other words, humans possess intellect, emotion, and will.





For instance, dogs aren't bright enough to realize they'll never catch their own tails; cows don't weep over the beauty of a sunset; and a female praying mantis can't keep herself from chewing her spouse's head off. People, on the other hand, have the ability to acquire knowledge and experience deep feelings. They also have the capacity for self-control. While animals act instinctively, we as humans should behave transcendently. We are God's special creation endowed with the gift of “soul-power.”



Read Genesis 2:18-25.





And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:18-25





Explain the problem and solution God first spoke about in this passage.





Describe in detail the task God assigned to Adam.





Compare and contrast Adam to the rest of the living beings.





In your own words describe how God created woman.





a. When Adam met his mate he made a proclamation. What do you think “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” signified for Adam?



b. What did he call his mate and why?





Here we find the first mention of marriage in Scripture. Explain God's intent for marriage.





a. What else do you learn about the man and wife in this passage?



b. Why do you think this is relevant?





Live out …



a. God declared that man needs companionship. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and explain some of the reasons why it is better to have a mate to come alongside you.



Read the sidebar concerning “Threefold Strength” and talk about how you have experienced God's supernatural strength in your life and/or marriage.





Many women today struggle with the way they look, think, and feel. But when God made Eve from Adam's rib, this was not His intent. When He made you, He made you to be the person you are too. With this in mind, journal Psalm 139:13-14 into a personal psalm praising God for making you just as you are.





For You formed my inward parts;



You covered me in my mother's womb.



I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;



Marvelous are Your works. Ps. 139:13-14





Before the fall, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. It's probably difficult to imagine being unashamed about our looks, actions, or thoughts. But Jesus came to free us from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Read the following Scriptures and talk about how we can either stand ashamed or unashamed before God.



Psalm 119:5-6



Isaiah 41:11



Isaiah 49:23



Jeremiah 8:9





It's safe to say that none of us is perfectly content with our frame. We all wish we were better, thinner, richer, healthier, smarter, or younger. We may think that if we were different in some way people would accept us, respect us, or love us more. Maybe we'd even love and respect ourselves more. Like Eve, we would walk in this world unashamed.





A recent University of Waterloo study determined that people's self-esteem is linked to such traits as physical appearance, social skills, and popularity. Research associate Danu Anthony noted that acceptance from others is strongly tied to appearances. Furthermore, the study found that self-esteem is connected to traits that earn acceptance from other people. “People state emphatically that it is 'what's inside' that counts and encourage their children not to judge others based on appearances, yet they revere attractive people to an astonishing degree,” Anthony says. “They say they value communal qualities such as kindness and understanding more than any other traits, but seem to be exceptionally interested in achieving good looks and popularity.” The bottom line is that people's looks and behavior are intimately linked to being accepted by others.3





As women of faith, we know that acceptance from others is not nearly as important as our acceptance of One Man--the God/Man Jesus Christ, the second Adam. Only by accepting Jesus Christ's sacrificial death will you be made whole: “You are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10).



Listen to…





The woman was formed out of man--not out of his head to rule over him; not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him; but out of his side to be his equal, from beneath his arm to be protected, and from near his heart to be loved.



--Matthew Henry


I thought I'd be able to have my review up today with this post, but the last couple days have been filled with getting ready for my daughter's grad party Saturday afternoon. I will have the review up by the end of the weekend hopefully. Let me just say to anyone who visits before I get my review up, I really like how the devotionals are set up. I will give more details with my upcoming review. Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Callapider Days Matthew West CD Giveaway

I don't know about the rest of you but I love Matthew West's song "The Motions". It challenges the listener not to just go through the motions of life, but to give everything in us to live for Christ. Matthew West's video on YouTube follows him through his vocal surgery. He struggled with what he'd do with his life if he couldn't sing.


If you'd like to check out "The Motions" video check it out here on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUg9qE_KjLg


Matthew West started a website where people can share their desires and commitments to getting real, to doing more than going through the motions. You can visit his Motions website to read what others are saying (or check out the touching story of Ryan McAfee over at Matthew’s blog) or to submit your own resolution. Putting it in print might help give you the accountability and motivation you need to take that first step toward the life-change you desire.

Katrina is giving away "Something to Say" CD so if you'd like to enter to win, head to her blog Callapidder Days and leave a comment.

Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove ~ FIRST Wildcard

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Talking to the Dead

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a typewriter, and she hasn’t stopped since. Trained in Christian Counseling (Emmanuel Bible College, Kitchener, ON), and secular psychology (University of Alberta), she developed and wrote social programs for families at risk while landing articles and stories in anthologies. She is the author of Working Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You; Talking to the Dead is her first novel. Grove and her pastor husband, Steve, have two children; they live in Saskatchewan.

Author website: www.davidccook.com – www.bonniegrove.com

Visit the author's website.





Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766411
ISBN-13: 978-1434766410

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Grove. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Kevin was dead and the people in my house wouldn’t go home. They mingled after the funeral, eating sandwiches, drinking tea, and speaking in muffled tones. I didn’t feel grateful for their presence. I felt exactly nothing.


Funerals exist so we can close doors we’d rather leave open. But where did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake? I refused to pick at dainties and sip hot drinks. Instead, I wandered into the back yard.


I knew if I turned my head I’d see my mother’s back as she guarded the patio doors. Mom would let no one pass. As a recent widow herself, she knew my need to stare into my loss alone.


I sat on the porch swing and closed my eyes, letting the June sun warm my bare arms. Instead of closing the door on my pain, I wanted it to swing from its hinges so the searing winds of grief could scorch my face and body. Maybe I hoped to die from exposure.


Kevin had been dead three hours before I had arrived at the hospital. A long time for my husband to be dead without me knowing. He was so altered, so permanently changed without my being aware.


I had stood in the emergency room, surrounded by faded blue cotton curtains, looking at the naked remains of my husband while nurses talked in hushed tones around me. A sheet covered Kevin from his hips to his knees. Tubes, which had either carried something into or away from his body, hung disconnected and useless from his arms. The twisted remains of what I assumed to be some sort of breathing mask lay on the floor. “What happened?” I said in a whisper so faint I knew no one could hear. Maybe I never said it at all. A short doctor with a pronounced lisp and quiet manner told me Kevin’s heart killed him. He used difficult phrases; medical terms I didn’t know, couldn’t understand. He called it an episode and said it was massive. When he said the word massive, spit flew from his mouth, landing on my jacket’s lapel. We had both stared at it.


When my mother and sister, Heather, arrived at the hospital, they gazed speechlessly at Kevin for a time, and then took me home. Heather had whispered with the doctor, their heads close together, before taking a firm hold on my arm and walking me out to her car. We drove in silence to my house. The three of us sat around my kitchen table looking at each other.


Several times my mother opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Our words had turned to cotton, thick and dry. We couldn’t work them out of our throats. I had no words for my abandonment. Like everything I knew to be true had slipped out the back door when I wasn’t looking.


“What happened?” I said again. This time I knew I had said it out loud. My voice echoed back to me off the kitchen table.


“Remember how John Ritter died? His heart, remember?” This from Heather, my younger, smarter sister. Kevin had died a celebrity’s death.


From the moment I had received the call from the hospital until now, I had allowed other people to make all of my bereavement decisions. My mother and mother-in-law chose the casket and placed the obituary in the paper. Kevin’s boss at the bank, Donna Walsh, arranged for the funeral parlor and even called the pastor from the church that Kevin had attended until he was sixteen to come and speak. Heather silently held my hand through it all. I didn’t feel grateful for their help.


I sat on the porch swing, and my right foot rocked on the grass, pushing and pulling the swing. My head hurt. I tipped it back and rested it on the cold, inflexible metal that made up the frame for the swing. It dug into my skull. I invited the pain. I sat with it; supped with it.


I opened my eyes and looked up into the early June sky. The clouds were an unmade bed. Layers of white moved rumpled and languid past the azure heavens. Their shapes morphed and faded before my eyes. A Pegasus with the face of a dog; a veiled woman fleeing; a villain; an elf. The shapes were strange and unreliable, like dreams. A monster, a baby—I wanted to reach up to touch its soft, wrinkled face. I was too tired. Everything was gone, lost, emptied out.


I had arrived home from the hospital empty handed. No Kevin. No car—we left it in the hospital parking lot for my sister to pick up later. “No condition to drive,” my mother had said. She meant me.


Empty handed. The thought, incomplete and vague, crept closer to consciousness. There should have been something. I should have brought his things home with me. Where were his clothes? His wallet? Watch? Somehow, they’d fled the scene.


“How far could they have gotten?” I said to myself. Without realizing it, I had stood and walked to the patio doors. “Mom?” I said as I walked into the house.


She turned quickly, but said nothing. My mother didn’t just understand what was happening to me. She knew. She knew it like the ticking of a clock, the wind through the windows, like everything a person gets used to in life. It had only been eight months since Dad died. She knew there was little to be said. Little that should be said. Once, after Dad’s funeral, she looked at Heather and me and said, “Don’t talk. Everyone has said enough words to last for eternity.”


I noticed how tall and straight she stood in her black dress and sensible shoes. How long must the dead be buried before you can stand straight again? “What happened to Kevin’s stuff?” Mom glanced around as if checking to see if a guest had made off with the silverware.


I swallowed hard and clarified. “At the hospital. He was naked.” A picture of him lying motionless, breathless on the white sheets filled my mind. “They never gave me his things. His, whatever, belongings. Effects.”


“I don’t know, Kate,” she said. Like it didn’t matter. Like I should stop thinking about it. I moved past her, careful not to touch her, and went in search of my sister.


Heather sat on my secondhand couch in my living room, a two seater with the pattern of autumn leaves. She held an empty cup and a napkin; dark crumbs tumbling off onto the carpet. Her long brown hair, usually left down, was pulled up into a bun. She looked pretty and sad. She saw me coming, her brown eyes widening in recognition. Recognition that she should do something. Meet my needs, help me, make time stand still. She quickly ended the conversation she was having with Kevin’s boss, and met me in the middle of the living room.


“Hey,” she said, touching my arm. I took a small step back, avoiding her warm fingers.


“Where would his stuff go?” I blurted out. Heather’s eyebrows snapped together in confusion. “Kevin’s things,” I said. “They never gave me his things. I want to go and get them. Will you come?”


Heather stood very still for a moment, straight backed like she was made of wood, then relaxed. “You mean at the hospital. Right, Kate? Kevin’s things at the hospital?” Tears welled in my eyes. “There was nothing. You were there. When we left, they never gave e anything of his.” I realized I was trembling.


Heather bit her lower lip, and looked into my eyes. “Let me do that for you. I’ll call the hospital—” I stood on my tiptoes and opened my mouth. “I’ll go,” she corrected before I could say anything. “I’ll go and ask around. I’ll get his stuff and bring it here.”


“I need his things.”


Heather cupped my elbow with her hand. “You need to lie down. Let me get you upstairs, and as soon as you’re settled, I’ll go to the hospital and find out what happened to Kevin’s clothes, okay?”


Fatigue filled the small spaces between my bones. “Okay.” She led me upstairs. I crawled under the covers as Heather closed the door, blocking the sounds of the people below.

This is the first book I've read by Bonnie Grove and it is verrrry interesting. I heard so many great things about this book and wasn't disappointed.

Kate is such an interesting character in this book. In a way, it's hard to talk about her and events that occur in the book without giving too much away. She talks to her dead husband. The book starts off just after the funeral. We meet Kate in the moment of her grief. I've never lost someone so close to me and what the author had Kate go through was completely believable.

Reading Talking to the Dead I felt creeped out when Kate is hearing from Kevin. You really feel his presense. The way he talks to her, I didn't feel like it was in her head. Bonnie Grove did a fantastic job of making Kevin real.

I also enjoyed the supporting roles in this book as well. Her sister Heather is trying to deal with her sister's meltdown and still trying to be available to her. Blair (a guy), the family friend struggles with how to support Kate. Kate's mom, who recently lost her husband, Kate's dad, is still recovering from her loss.

I love listening to Kate as she's thinking. When she is at the counselors offices, I just want to laugh outloud. I also want to cry with her as her memory comes back to her (she's blocked a lot because of her grief). As Kate tries to share what she's going through knowing everyone, but the reader, will think she's a nutjob if she tells them she's actually talking her dead husband. Even her counselors don't seem to get it. For the record, I always felt she audibly heard her husband's voice.

I felt so bad for Kate. It seemed as though everyone around her are in their own world thinking her behavior and reactions to her memory coming back are ridiculous and unjustified. When you go through a loss that impacts your life, you need your closest friends and family near and available to you. She just didn't have that for so long.

To say this is not a book to be missed is an understatement. I truly enjoyed reading this book and can't wait for more of Bonnie Grove.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Spring Reading Thing 2009 Finale

I'd like to start off the Spring Reading Thing 2009 finale by thanking Katrina at Callapidder Days for hosting this reading event. The following is my conclusion to let everyone know how well I did...

Did you finish reading all the books on your spring reading list? If not, why not?

I'm terrible at non-fiction reading. Taking a look at my list (on the right side bar) you will see one book crossed out. I'm just not good at it. I'm not a cerebral person and like to disappear when I'm reading, not tax my brain.

My YA fiction is completely crossed off. Those books were pretty easy and fun to read. Wahoo, success.

I was able to add 2 audiobooks that added a new element to my daily reading. I wish more Christian books were offered in this format.

The general fiction category was my favorite by far. There are 2 books on that list that I didn't receive for review so I'll have to grab those on my own. The rest are thankfully checked off.

Along with many other bloggers, I ended up adding more books than expected to my list. I received 4 books to judge that I wasn't expecting and added a couple to the list and left 2 off. I didn't get to read them all because of time constraints. Being a single mom with 4 kids doesn't leave any spare time. I also had a daughter going to her 1st prom, graduating, son's party, and planning a grad party. My brain hasn't been completely in reading this Spring. It looks like altogether including the 2 books I didn't list from the judging I read 24 books.

What was your favorite book you read this spring? Why?

My favorite books to read this time were: Cathy Marie Hake's Whirlwind, Julie Klassen's Apothecary's Daughter, Julie Lessman's A Passion Denied, and Tracie Peterson's series.















There wasn't a book on my list that I didn't like. Thank goodness.

Did you discover a new author or genre this spring? Did you love them? Not love them?

This was the first time I'd read anything by Robin Lee Hatcher. I read her book A Vote of Confidence and really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed Allie Pleiter's book Masked by Moonlight. I'd never even heard of her before and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the story.


What was your favorite thing about the challenge?
That a lot of the books I had to read were for other purposes. If I hadn't had to review most of the books I probably wouldn't have read as many as I did. To see how many books others have read, I wonder where they find the time! It seems nearly impossible to me. I can't even believe I read 24 books. I'm also in the middle of 3 at the moment that I've been reading this past week that weren't on the list: Talking to the Dead by Bonnie Leon, Get Out of My Face!: How to Reach Angry and Unmotivated Teens With Biblical Counsel by Rick Horne, and A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. I'm loving all 3.

No-Cost Big Reward Father's Day Gift Ideas

No-Cost Big Reward Father's Day Gift Ideas


By: Sharon Lovejoy Autry and Laurie Lovejoy Autry




There we sat at dinner - a time that, in my mind, is supposed to be calm and non-stressful. (I've heard food digests better.) But, after a draining workday, little things can seem huge. The kids were planning yet another summer business endeavor which crawled all over my husband. He began lecturing the negatives of such an endeavor...point 1, point 2...I felt like we were in a business meeting. I must have rolled my eyes. I glanced at my daughter who wasn't listening to her father. She was looking at me. Her response to point 1 and 2: rolling her eyes.




Children do what we do . . . Boy, that's a scary thought for me. How do you treat your husband? Do you respect him with your words, actions, attitudes, eyes? I struggle sometimes when I feel so justified in my disrespect. Can you relate? I think the best thing we as moms can do to help our children to respect their dad is to treat him with respect ourselves. Here are some Father's Day (and everyday) tips to help our children respect their fathers:






  1. A compliment a day goes a long way! Brag on your husband in front of your children (and in front of him).


  2. Show me the love! Let your children know how much you love their daddy. Show affection in front of your children. They may say, "Yuck!" but it provides much needed security for their lives.


  3. Instead of being put-out -Pray! Include your children in praying for dad's job, leadership, etc.


  4. Give him grace . . . Show him grace even when he doesn't deserve it . . . remember, neither do we. Nehemiah 9:17b says "But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love."


  5. Phone Manners. Next time you are in the middle of something and your husband calls you on the phone, be aware of your tone of voice, are you respectful? . . . little ears may be listening and learning.


  6. Daddy's Home!" Be as excited to see your husband when he comes home from work as your children are! Make yourself stop what you are doing to greet him.


  7. Daddy's Home!" Be as excited to see your husband when he comes home from work as your children are! Make yourself stop what you are doing to greet him.


Try these no-cost (big rewards) Father's Day gift ideas and see if it proves to be the gift that truly keeps on giving!



Laurie Lovejoy Hilliard and Sharon Lovejoy Autry are wives, moms, sisters and great friends. They are the founders of Mom and Loving It Ministries whose mission is to provide hope for families by encouraging and equipping moms.

After these sisters and their families toured 40 states speaking and singing to thousands of moms, they settled in the North Texas area near their hometown of Whitesboro. They've been featured on numerous TV and radio shows and have written Mom and Loving It: Finding Contentment in REAL Life, and Hold You, Mommy: Moments with God for Moms on the Go. Their musical CD, Hold You, Mommy has encouraged thousands. Laurie and her husband Charles, have four children, Sharon and her husband Pat, have three.

This twosome inspires audiences at their Mom and Loving It Conferences to move from simply enduring motherhood to enjoying it. Through their genuine hearts and relatable stories, moms are put at ease and challenged to be a "Mom and Loving It!"

To find out more about using their books as studies in your ladies group, having them for a conference or to sign up for a free monthly Mom-e-Moment visit them at http://www.momandlovingit.org/

KCWC is currently scheduling speaking events and interviews for Laurie and Sharon. Please contact Kathy Carlton Willis for more information.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Meeting Daddy by Cynthia Ruchti


Meeting Daddy

By: Cynthia Ruchti


Amy was six weeks pregnant when her husband’s army unit deployed to Iraq for eighteen months. I felt my friend’s pain deep in my bones, aching with a brand of grief reserved only for times like that. Caring for her two young children and their home would be stress enough for her without the added demands and challenges of a new baby on the way. Concern for her husband’s safety would mask every remotely joyful moment. The wonder of labor and delivery lay shrouded in loneliness. And the child would be many months old before meeting his or her daddy for the first time.


Change a few details and backtrack more than fifty years and that was my story.


My father served with the Marines during the Korean Conflict. Four days after I was born, his unit shipped out, leaving my mom and me to fend for ourselves for the next thirteen months. When relating my personal history, I have to start with that. It shaped my beginnings. I lived my first thirteen months seven thousand miles away from the dad who loved me and wasn’t allowed to hold me until I was already walking and capable of squirming out of his arms.


He’d read magazines during Mom’s labor. Fathers weren’t welcome in the delivery room in those days. He saw his first glimpses of me through the nursery window. Then he obediently reported for duty aboard the ship that would take him far from us and into the arms of daily danger.


In an era before the invention of camcorders, camera phones, and e-mail, my mother and father had only air mail letters to connect their hearts. Letters and scalloped-edged black and white photos.


As the firstborn child, my photo album bulged, all the more so since still pictures offered my dad his only tangible evidence that I was alive, growing, and as happy as a child can be without her father.


Mom would have sent him a lock of my hair from my first haircut if I’d had any to spare. When I learned to blow kisses, she’d “collect” some in an envelope to send to him. An amateur artist, Daddy sketched cartoonish scenes from his Marine unit—jeeps and tents and enlisted men and helicopters. Even before I understood a word she said, my mom read those letters to me over and over again. They were my lullabies. She showed me his picture and talked about what a wonderful daddy I had.


Mom wanted me to know who he was and what he was like before he came home. From the stories they’ve told, both of my parents were nervous about that first meeting. They worried I’d be frightened of the stranger who was my father. He’d survived the war, but my fearing or resisting him would have killed him, they said.


To compound the concern, I was just at that age when a toddler begins to fear strangers. Somebody would smile at me in church and I’d start screaming.


But my mom had prepared me well. The pictures. The letters. Her gentle words about how much that smiling man in the pictures loved me. I’m told that when he finally came home and walked through the front door, I looked up at my mom, pointed to the tall Marine and asked, “Daddy?” Mom nodded, her throat imploding on itself. Her nod was all the assurance I needed. The next minute I was in his arms, dodging his tears of gratitude that I’d accepted him.


I give my mother a lot of credit for the success of that first meeting. She had prepared me well, leaving nothing to chance. My toddler mind entertained no doubt that he cared about me. I knew that truth before he even got home from the war because of what my mother taught me about him.


If the Lord walked into the room in a few minutes, would the people around me recognize Him not by His beard or hair or flowing robes, but because of how I have described Him?


Would people meeting Him for the first time find the situation comfortable and reassuring because of how well I prepared them?


Am I constantly showing others snapshots of the Lord through the way I live and love, the things I say about Him, the things He said that I pass on to them?


Do I talk about Him frequently, with loving words, expressing how very much He loves even those who have not yet met Him?


Would His sudden presence seem intimidating and frightening, or more like a warm homecoming?


In light of how you and I act day today, would others respond to His entrance into their lives this way:


“Oh, sure! I recognize Him. I've heard my neighbor talk about Him. I've seen my coworker act like that. I've heard those same affirming words coming out of my brother-in-law's mouth. I've seen examples of what He's like. His amazing love and generosity and compassion and caring don't surprise me at all. They are just what I expected from what my friend shared about Him. I heard that His touch brings healing. I heard that He can help make sense out of the questions that trouble me. I didn't need more of an introduction than the one my friend already gave me. I’d recognize Jesus a mile away.”


Pictures and reflections and stories and evidence still lack the wonder of that first face-to-face encounter. As I Corinthians 13:12 (KJV) reminds us, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”


*Article reprint from Victory in Grace. Cynthia Ruchti writes stories of “hope that glows in the dark.” The drama/devotional radio broadcast Cynthia writes and produces—The Heartbeat of the Home—airs on 16 radio stations and two cable/digital television stations. Cynthia is editor of the ministry’s Backyard Friends magazine. She also serves as current president of American Christian Fiction Writers. Her debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home—releases in spring 2010 with Abingdon Press.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by Allison Bottke ~ FIRST WildCard

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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



Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



You Make Me Feel Like Dancing: A Novel (Va Va Va Boom Series)


David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)







ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Allison Bottke spent 17 years as a professional fund-raiser before her personal journey prompted her to create the best-selling God Allows U-Turns anthologies. Now a popular speaker and author of hip-lit fiction as well as nonfiction, Allison was one of the first plus-size models with the Wilhelmina agency. Today, she has created a place where fun, fashion, food, family, and faith merge to empower and inspire boomer women all around the world. That place is her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799492
ISBN-13: 978-1434799494

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Susan Anderson yawned and mumbled an incoherent complaint. She tried to focus heavy-lidded eyes on the glowing chartreuse numbers of the digital clock. Six a.m. She rolled onto her side and picked up the ringing cell phone, wishing she’d shut it off the night before. This was her day off, the one day in seven she could stay ensconced in her luxurious bed, wrapped in Egyptian cotton like a mummy princess. The one day in seven she could snuggle with her hubby when he came home from working the night shift.


“I’m-sorry-to-wake-you-up-but-it’s-an-emergency-and-you’re-the-only-one-who-can-help-something-horrible-has-happened-to-Tina.”


“Slow down, Karen,” Susan whispered hoarsely. “I understand you haven’t been to sleep yet, but I’m still waking up, okay? Now, start from the top. Who’s Tina?”


Stretching like a limber feline, Susan propped her pillow against the headboard and slowly sat up, her eyebrows knitting together as she listened. Her eyes opened more fully as she listened to Karen’s amazing tale.


“… that’s the whole story. I’m afraid she’s going to do something drastic. Please, you have to help her. I know you don’t work Mondays, but you’re the only one I know who might be able to do something.”


Susan leaned her head back and yawned again as she considered.


“Susan? Susan, are you there?”


“Still here. Sorry. Okay. I need coffee and a bagel, but you can tell her to meet me at the salon at seven.”


“Seriously? Fantastic! You’re a lifesaver!”


Susan hung up the phone, rolled onto her stomach, and buried her face in her pillow. Part of her wanted to go back to sleep. But the rest of her loved a challenge—and this was truly a challenge. Although dull moments were few in her world, so were new ventures these days—at least ventures of the dramatic magnitude Karen had just described.


She pulled back the covers and eased up on the edge of the bed. Absentmindedly tucking a strand of ash-blond hair behind her ear, she considered her options for another minute or two before reaching for the phone.


“She works hard for the money, so hard.…”


“Stop singing, Loretta—please. It’s too early for Donna Summer, even for you. I hate caller ID.”


“Heretic—bite your tongue! It’s never too early for Donna. And you should love caller ID. It’s the only reason I always answer your calls.”


Susan laughed. More than a dependable employee, Loretta Wells was a good friend and a sister in faith. She was also the reason Susan could take Mondays off. Loretta was more than capable of handling things without the boss. In fact, she’d been Susan’s right hand for almost twenty years.


Every Monday morning before opening the salon at seven thirty, Loretta had coffee at the Starbucks just off Tropicana Boulevard. Susan knew she could depend on her to rise to this challenge, cut her Starbucks run short, and get things ready for Tina before she arrived.


Susan explained what little she knew about what she’d dubbed as Tina’s Tragic Trauma. “You don’t mind coming in early?” she asked.


“Are you kidding? Sounds utterly fascinating. Don’t worry about me—what about you? I don’t think I’ve seen you on a Monday in more than a decade. Think you can function?”


“Very funny. I’ll be just fine. See you in forty five.”


She flipped the phone shut, grabbed a notepad and pen from the bedside table, and scribbled a note to leave downstairs for Michael on her way out. Her husband wouldn’t get home until eight, about the time she was usually getting ready for work. He wouldn’t be happy with her for taking off like this on their one day together, but what could she do? This young woman needed her.


She recalled the most recent argument she’d had with Michael about this very subject.


“You’re a hairdresser for crying out loud—not George!” he had shouted into the phone last week when she called him from the salon at 2:30 a.m.


George was their neighbor, a psychologist who was on call for police emergencies twenty-four/seven.


“You wouldn’t say that, Michael, if you had seen her. The creep used a butcher knife to cut off her hair. I couldn’t say no. Michael, you should have seen …”


“What if he had showed up at the shop? What then? He might be outside waiting for you right now. Maybe I should come over and follow you home …”


“No, Michael, I’m fine. I’m sure he’s not waiting for me. He doesn’t have a beef with me.”


Susan didn’t tell him she had worried about the same thing when the girl showed up, referred by a friend who ran a shelter for battered women.


“I’m sorry I called,” she said with a sigh. What she had really wanted to share was her excitement at being able to pray with a young woman who was openly searching for an answer to the unexplainable emptiness in her heart.


“Me too,” Michael grumbled. “Now, get out of there and go home. I’ll stay on the phone while you lock up.”


That had been several days ago, and they had yet to talk about the situation again. She wasn’t exactly eager to bring it up—not with the way Michael had been acting lately. His sixtieth birthday loomed on the horizon, and Susan was quite certain he was having a delayed midlife crisis. She was hard-pressed to feel sympathetic. She was turning fifty in April, and she wasn’t snapping at everyone about every little thing.


Susan didn’t start thinking about Tina’s Tragic Trauma again until she was in the shower. What if she couldn’t help her? Lord, I’m almost embarrassed to bring this to you. I mean, I know it’s just hair. But what if Karen isn’t overdramatizing the situation? Surely someone wouldn’t commit suicide over a bad hair day, would she? Please help me help Tina. Amen.


Hurrying to get dressed, she pulled her thick hair back in a ponytail and wrapped a vintage Chanel scarf around her crown as a headband. She brushed her teeth, stroked on moisturizer, and applied her makeup in record time even though she’d been tempted to go without it, since her goal was to return home in a couple of hours and jump back into bed.


She quickly straightened up the bathroom for Michael, knowing he would take a shower as soon as he got home. When she finished, she sat down at her laptop and sent a quick e-mail to her online chat group. Then she checked herself one last time in the hall mirror and headed out the door.



From: Susan Anderson (boomerbabesusan@boomerbabesrock.com)

Sent: Monday, January 9, 6:43 a.m.

To: Patricia Davies; Mary Johnson; Lisa Taylor; Linda Jones; Sharon Wilson

Subject: You will NEVER believe this … story to follow


Good morning fellow boomer babes!


I’m off to work early … seems we have a Hair Emergency. I’ll fill you in when I know more. Can’t believe it’s only week two of the new year. Things haven’t slowed down at the shop … we’ve been operating full tilt since before Thanksgiving. Guess I shouldn’t complain … business is good. Hope everyone is healthy and happy.


Suze



Looking around the casino on his way out that morning brought Michael Anderson a bittersweet feeling. He liked his job, and every day yielded a new challenge. Yet, after thirty-five years, he was beginning to consider early retirement. The past night had been another busy one, and he was tired from walking the length of the property countless times as one mechanical problem after another surfaced. The Silver Spur was one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas, and time was beginning to take its toll.


Of course, mechanical problems were easier to deal with than the inevitable people problems his wife seemed to encounter on a daily basis. He couldn’t imagine what it must be like for Susan, standing in one area, doing the same thing day in and day out. It must drive her crazy. It drove him crazy sometimes, just hearing about it.


“I love it, Michael, really I do,” she often told him. And he knew she was proud of her unique beauty salon, Disco Diva. But she had to be as tired of the daily grind as he was. They’d both been at it for so many years.


He couldn’t wait to get home and tell her his news—and this was the day to tell it. Monday was their only full day to spend together. Oh, sure, he saw her throughout the week, but not for long. Most days they were like the proverbial ships passing each other. He came home from the night shift just before she left in the morning, and she woke him when she returned from the salon in time for him to shower, get dressed, eat, and take off for work.


For years, though, they had enjoyed their evening meal together—Susan’s dinner and his breakfast. It was a solid ritual. And there was always something to talk about. Communication wasn’t a problem in their relationship. Having time to communicate was the problem. He’d once computed the time they’d actually spent together in the almost twenty-five years they’d been married; it was far less than the years implied.


And recently, it seemed, things were getting worse. More often than not during the past few months, Susan was already gone when he came home in the morning. And instead of waking him in person in the evening, she had taken to setting the alarm clock for him before she left for the salon.


This was all very unusual for her. He suspected she might be going through early menopause—not that he was an expert on such things. But she was certainly acting strangely these days. She spent more time at the salon than ever and seemed on edge a lot of the time.


That was another reason he’d decided to unveil his surprise a little early. It was time to free her from the growing responsibilities that were clearly taking away her joy.


Time for him to make their longtime dream come true.

I really enjoyed this book. I've never read any of Allison Bottke's work before and I enjoyed the story as well as the characters.

Let me state that my sister-in-law and I are known to stop in our tracks and burst out in song or dance. She and I grew up in the 70's and 80's and love disco as well as old pop music. So, I expected a lot of references to disco music and the era.

We meet Susan, owner of Disco Diva Salon. She looks like she just stepped out of the hippie era. Nobody thinks twice about it, because she's all disco all the time. That's how she's known. It fits with the Disco Museum Susan wants to open one day and with her dear friend Lily's help, that day might be sooner than later.

Then there's Susan's husband, Michael. Great guy, but hasn't paid much attention to how serious Susan is about her disco collection. He looks at is as a hobby. Susan is a very dedicated and knowledgable collector, and he doesn't understand. He decides that he's going to build their dream home. It comes as quite a surprise to Susan to be sure!

Amidst the dreams that are being fulfilled, there is a fantastic set of supporting characters. I've wrestled all day with whether I'd want to be Lily or have her as a close friend. She's an older woman who's been mentoring Susan. Yes, she's rolling in the dough, but that's not why I like her. She has such a giving heart and wants to help people out in the way they most need it. Lily's intelligent and thoughtful. She really listens when people speak.

One down side for me was there wasn't as much dancing in the salon. They had a moment as a group, but I'd have liked to see a couple more fun moments. That's just personal preferance and has nothing to do with the story. :)

There's a person from Susan's past that shows up, makes a big stink, and then disappears. I would've liked to have seen Susan have closure face to face with that person, but that's not always possible, even in real life.

I think anyone in their 40's or over would really enjoy this series. I can't wait for book 2. Very enjoyable and kept drawing me back.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Daughter the High School Graduate

My girl's on the far right. :)



How is the title of my post possible? Didn't I just graduate a few years ago? Try a couple decades ago. Trying to wrap my mind around is pretty impossible. I see my daughter and still see my high schooler. Of course, she's only been a graduate for 6 days.
Brie already headed to NWC and registered for classes. I was hoping to go with her, but found out it was going to be a day long process. I ended up going to work. I reminded her to get classes that started later in the day so that she'd be awake to get there on time.


This is what her friend's did to her while she was sleeping! hahahaha What are friend's for?

To say that she's not easy to wake up is putting it mildly. She has 2 alarm clocks and me waking her up. I have to start pretty early trying to get her up so that she'll actually wake up when needed. Some days it just wasn't working. I'd end up going downstairs to get ready for work. At some point, she'd finally wake up stressing out about running behind. Brie would say to me, "Why didn't you wake me up?" My response was, "Is your light on? The only way your light is on is if I went into your room to wake you up."

A few days a week she doesn't have to be to her first class until 9:30am! Good job. Even better is T/Th when her classes don't start until 11am or so! She's going to a Christian college and is planning on getting a degree in Elementary Ed. She's always wanted to be a teacher, Kindergarten preferably. Hope the economy turns around by the time she graduates.

The gal that recruited Brie, Jackie, is really neat. Brie's known her for 3+ yrs. Today Brie got a message from Jackie saying that she suggested Brie for a leadership role and that means she'll get about a $2000 scholarship per year. How awesome is that. What a blessings. Brie is a bit stressed because she's not a strong leader. Well, the thing is, she won't be the only person leading. It'll be a group of kids and she's been in the youth leadership for 3 yrs. I think she'll do great. It takes a lot of different personalities to make a leadership team. I also believe it will be good for her in the long run to have this experience. My suggestion was to try it out and at least see what it's about. Why not? She doesn't have anything to lose except the experience of it.
My best to all the 2009 graduates.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer Survival Tips for Moms by Sharon Lovejoy Autry

Saved By the Bell

A Summer to Remember

Sharon Lovejoy Autry


The final bell rang. The kids screamed for joy. Mom sits in the carpool line wondering, "What in the world are we going to do all summer?!"


Maybe as summer has begun, you've found yourself resentful and angry because your children constantly "interrupt" your schedule. If that's how you're feeling, you're normal.


But, wait. We wanted these kids, right? Are they really interruptions or blessings in disguise? How can we move from simply surviving the summer to making it a summer to remember?


Here are a few ideas to get you out of the summer survival rut:




  1. Realize they won't be this way forever. What is it about your kids that you won't have in two years? If you are a parent of:



  • Preschoolers: Look at their hands and notice how tiny they are. Enjoy that.


  • Elementary children: When you're away from home, call them. Their voices sound small on the phone. That always reminds me to enjoy their innocence rather than expecting them to act like little grown-ups.


  • Elementary children: When you're away from home, call them. Their voices sound small on the phone. That always reminds me to enjoy their innocence rather than expecting them to act like little grown-ups.


  • Teens: Even if they are driving you crazy, make your home the safe place. I still remember the fun place our parents created at home. It was our refuge. Let kids feel safe in your home by cutting down on the criticism and looking for ways to build them up. Mom and Dad's secret was a ping-pong table. We spent hours there.

2. Say "no" with a smile. It makes you and your child feel better. They know you have some regret at having to say no. You are on their team.


3. Play music. Anger and music don't usually dance. Movie soundtracks, praise songs, music from my teen years or even classical stations. I rarely find myself upset with my kids when we have music playing in the background.


4. Go outside. Sometimes taking a walk or bike ride with the kids can do wonders to change everyone's perspective.


5. Things aren't always as they seem. Remember that the way you are seeing things at this moment is probably not how it will look in a couple of hours. Frustrations can build and dissolve quickly when you have kids.


6. Offer them 30 minutes of your time. After they have helped pick up around the house let them pick what the two of you will do together and watch their eyes light up! For older kids, offer them the day off after helping for an hour.


7. Ask your kids what they think is fun. You might be surprised to find that their idea of fun often doesn't cost any money. My sister was amazed to find that her 7-year-old son's idea of "fun" was playing tag in the front yard with dad, mom and his little sister.


8. Slow down. Successful parenting doesn't mean you have your children involved in every possible extra-curricular activity. Successful parenting means you are there for them. If you've been running all year, it takes "practice" to enjoy staying home. Don't give up. Turn off the computer, TV, cell phone, etc. and read or play games (no matter what the age of your children).


9. Pray. When you are at your wit's end, ask God to help you remember what to do with your kids. On our own, it's hard to enjoy the moments because "life happens." But God has a way of giving us perspective that will slow us down and help us see our families the way He sees them: with love and compassion.


The next time you blow your top or realize you're just surviving your kids instead of enjoying their clumsy feet, silliness, or their constant desire to talk on the phone, stop and think, "one day I'll miss this!" The funny thing is, tomorrow we'll be longing for today. If we choose to think like that long enough, the kids won't be the only ones sad to hear the school bell ring this fall.


Sharon (Lovejoy) Autry, a mom of 3, co-authored Mom and Loving It, Finding Contentment in REAL Life with her sister, Laurie (Lovejoy) Hilliard, mom of 4. http://www.momandlovingit.org/

A Passion Denied by Julie Lessman ~ FIRST WildCard

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


A Passion Denied

Revell (June 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Julie Lessman is a new author who has garnered much writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. She is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Revell (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800732138
ISBN-13: 978-0800732134

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“O Lord my God, how great you are!

You are robed with honor and with majesty …

You make the clouds your chariots; you ride upon the wings of the wind.

The winds are your messengers; flames of fire are your servants.”

– Psalm 104:1-4


A PASSION DENIED


Chapter One


Boston, Massachusetts, Spring 1922

Oh, to be a calculating woman! Elizabeth O’Connor sighed. She dodged her way down the bustling sidewalk of Boston’s thriving business district, wishing she were more like her sister, Charity. She chewed on her lip. Regrettably, she wasn’t, a definite character flaw at the moment. And one that would have to change.

She sidestepped a rickety wood wagon heaped high with the Boston Herald, hot off the presses. The freckle-faced boy hauling it muttered an apology before disappearing into a sea of pin-striped suits, short skirts and bobbed hair. On his heels, a young mother ambled along, cooing to a wide-eyed baby in a stroller. The baby’s soft chuckle floated by, and the sound buoyed Elizabeth’s spirits. Spring in the city! Despite the whiff of gasoline and tobacco drifting in the unseasonably warm breeze, she was ready for the promise of love in the air. Her heart fluttered. And maybe, just maybe, a little spring fever would do the trick!

She pressed her nose to the window of McGuire & Brady Printing Company and peered inside. John Morrison Brady was bent over a press, his lean, muscled body poised for battle with a screwdriver in his hand. Her chin hardened, and her smiled faded. That man suffered from a terminal illness that would be the death of their relationship: friendship. Elizabeth straightened her shoulders. And the worst kind of friendship at that—the big-brother kind.

She touched a hand to the wavy shingle haircut her friend Millie had talked her into. “It’s all the rage, Lizzzzzie Lou,” Millie had insisted, the sound of Lizzie’s name buzzing on her tongue like the hum of a busy beehive. A self-proclaimed modern woman, Millie had convinced Elizabeth “Beth” O’Connor to change her name to Lizzie over a year ago—to add excitement to her life, she’d said. And now, in the throes of radical 1920s fashion, Lizzie’s best friend had also convinced her that the chestnut tresses trailing her back simply had to go. The result was a short, fashionable bob, newly shorn just yesterday. Softly waved, it fell to just below her ear, showing off her heart-shaped face and slender neck to good advantage. Or so Millie had said. She squinted at her reflection in the window. She did look older, more sophisticated, she supposed. A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth. And it certainly seemed as if she had turned a few more heads at the bookstore where she worked. She opened the door, spurred on by the tinkling bell overhead, and took a deep breath. Now to turn the right one …

Her brother-in-law, Collin, looked up from his desk where he tallied invoices for printing jobs just completed. A slow grin spread across his handsome face before he let out a low whistle, causing a pleasant wash of heat to seep into her cheeks. “Sweet saints above, Lizzie, is that really you? What are you trying to do? Break a few hearts?”

Her gaze flicked to the back room where Brady lay on a flat wooden dolly beneath their Bullock web-fed press. She studied his long legs sprawled and splattered with ink, then looked back at Collin with a shaky smile. “Nope, only one. But I suspect it’s forged in steel.”

Collin chuckled and glanced over his shoulder, stretching his arms overhead. “Yep, I’d say so, but I admire your tenacity. You might say you’re the little sister he never had. But I suspect that pretty new hairdo and stylish outfit could go a long way in changing his mind.”

She grinned and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Thanks, Collin. One can only hope.” She tugged on her lavender, low-waisted dress, then smoothed out its scalloped layers with sweaty palms. “And pray, I suppose, since it is Brady we’re dealing with here.”

Collin stood and draped an arm around her shoulders. He lowered his voice and gave her a squeeze. “He’ll wake up one of these days, Lizzie. I just hope it’s not too late. You’re too pretty to be waiting around. And he’s a slow one, you know.”

She sighed and leaned against him, staring at Brady with longing in her eyes. “Now there’s a news flash for you.”

Collin laughed and gave her a gentle prod toward the back room. “Show him no mercy, Lizzie.”

She nodded and made her way to the rear of the shop, her pulse tripping faster than the tap-tap-tapping of Brady’s trusty screwdriver. She stopped at the foot of the press and sucked in a deep swallow of air. “I have a notion, John Brady, that whenever you want to get away from the world, you disappear under that silly machine.”

A deep-throated chuckle floated up between the rotors of the press. He rolled out, flat on his back. The smile froze on his face. “Beth? What’d ya do to your hair?”

Heat flooded her cheeks. “I had it bobbed. Do you like it?”

He sat up and rubbed his jaw with the side of his hand, screwdriver angled as if he were playing a violin. “Yeah … it’s pretty, I guess. In a newfangled sort of way.”

She twirled around to give him the full effect, her smile brimming with hope. “Well, I am a modern woman, in case you haven’t noticed.”

He lumbered to his feet. His tall frame unfolded to eliminate everything else in her view. He squinted and scrunched his nose, causing smudges of ink to wrinkle across his tanned cheek. “Mmmm … makes you look old.”

“I am old, Brady, a fact you refuse to acknowledge. Almost eighteen, remember?”

He chuckled. “Seventeen, Beth, and I’ll give you the half.” He turned and ambled to the sink to wash his hands. His husky laugh lingered in the air. She stared at the work shirt spanning his back and barely noticed the ink stains for the broad shoulders and hard muscles cording his arms. He dried his hands on a towel and turned to lean against the counter. The corners of his mouth flickered as if a grin wanted to break free. “You’ll always be a little girl to me, little buddy, especially with those roses in your cheeks and wide eyes. I suspect I’ll feel that way when you’re long gone and married, Beth, with a houseful of little girls all your own. That’s just the way it is with big brothers.”

She notched her powdered chin in the air. “You’re not my brother, John Brady, and no amount of touting will make it so.” She propped hands to her waist and gave him a ruby red pout. “And I’m not a little girl. I’m a woman … with feelings—”

“Beth, we’ve been over this before.” He slacked a hip and ran a calloused hand over his face. His brown eyes softened with compassion. “I see you as my little sister, nothing more. These ‘feelings’ you think you have for me—”

“Know I have for you, Brady! I know it, even if you don’t.” Her chest rose and fell with indignation.

He groaned. “All right, these feelings you know you have for me … I’ve known you since you were thirteen, Elizabeth, and I’ve been a mentor in your faith since fourteen. It’s natural for you to think you have feelings—”

She stomped her foot. “Know, Brady, I know! And if you weren’t so socially inept and totally blind—”

He rose to his full six-foot-three height, making her five-foot-seven seem almost petite. The chiseled line of his jaw hardened with the motion. “Come on, Beth, totally blind?” His gaze flicked into the next room as if he were worried Collin was listening.

Tears threatened and she wanted to bolt, but she fought it off. This was too important. Fueled by frustration long dormant, she slapped her leather clutch onto the table and strode forward. She jabbed a finger into his hard-muscled chest. “Yes, blind, you baboon! And don’t be looking to see what Collin thinks, because he knows it too. Honestly, Brady, as far as the Bible, you’re head and shoulders above anyone I know. But when it comes to seeing what God may have for you right in front of your ink-stained nose, you don’t have a clue.” She dropped a trembling hand to her quivering stomach. Oh, my, where had that come from?

He stood, mouth gaping. A spray of red mottled his neck. “Beth, what’s gotten into you?”

She faltered back, shocked at the thoughts and feelings whirling in her brain. With a rush of adrenalin, she crossed her arms and stared him down, energized by her newfound anger. “You’ve gotten into me, John Brady, and I want to know straight out why you refuse to acknowledge me as a woman? Am I not pretty enough? Smart enough? Mature enough?”

The ruddiness in his neck traveled to his ears. He took a commanding stride toward her and latched a hand on her arm. With a firm grip, he pushed her into a chair at the table and squatted beside her. “Beth, stop this! I’m close to thirty, which is way too old for you. You’re young and beautiful and smart, and more mature than most girls … women … I’ve met. You’re going to make some lucky man a wonderful wife.”

She stared at his handsome face, the contrast of gentle eyes and hard-sculpted features making her heart bleed. Wisps of cinnamon-colored hair curled up at the back of his neck, softening the hard line of his jaw, which was already shadowed by afternoon growth. She swallowed hard, the taste of dread pasty in her throat. “Just not you,” she whispered.

A muscle flinched in his cheek. He smothered her hands between his large, calloused ones. “Beth, I love you, you know that—”

She looked away, unable to bear the empathy in his eyes. “But you’re not attracted to me—”

As soft as a child’s kiss, he lifted her chin with his finger, urging her eyes to his. “Of course I’m attracted to you—your gentle spirit, your thirst for God, your innocence—it draws me to want to protect you and care for you—as a friend and a brother.”

Brother. The sound of that hateful word stiffened her spine. She jerked her hand free and angled her chin. “But not as a woman, is that it, Brady? Someone you can take in your arms and kiss and make love to?”

Blood gorged his cheeks as he stood up. A rare hint of anger sparked in his eyes, and satisfaction flooded her soul. So he wasn’t pure stone. Good! At least she could arouse his temper, if nothing else.

“So help me, Beth, if you spent a fraction of the time reading the Bible as you do those silly romance novels, we wouldn’t be having this problem.”

She jumped up with tears stinging her eyes. “And if you took your nose out of your Bible long enough to see that God has a plan for your life other than smearing yourself with ink, you might see that you are the problem.” With a gasping sob, she snatched her purse from the table and rammed it hard against his chest, pushing him out of the way. She turned toward the door.

He stumbled back, then grabbed her arm. “Beth, wait! We need to pray about this …”

She flung his hand away. Humiliation and anger broiled her cheeks. “No, you pray about it. It seems to be the only thing you know how to do. And while you’re at it, pray that he heals that stupid streak inside of you … and in me, too, for loving you like I do.” She bolted for the door, ignoring Collin’s gaping stare.

“Beth—” Pain echoed in Brady’s voice.

She whirled around, hand fisted on the knob. “And one more prayer, Brady, if you don’t mind. Pray that I hate you, will you? Shouldn’t be too hard, I don’t think. You make it so easy.”


The door slammed closed, rattling the glass.

Brady blinked at Collin. “What just happened?”

Collin let out a low whistle and arched a brow. “Don’t look now, ol’buddy, but I think you’re back in the Great War. What’d ya say to set her off like that? I’ve never seen Lizzie lose her temper before.”

Brady exhaled and dropped into his desk chair. He mauled his face with his hand. “Beth. Her name is Beth, Collin, and I didn’t say anything I haven’t said before.”

“She’s been Lizzie for over a year, Brady. It’s what her friends call her and her family most of the time. You’re the only holdout—in more ways than one.”

Brady glanced up, his eyes burning with fatigue. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means she’s not thirteen anymore; she’s a grown woman. You’re the only one who still treats her like a kid.”

“Don’t start with this, please,” Brady groaned, “I’m way too tired.”

Collin sighed and shuffled to the rack over the door to snatch his keys. “So is Lizzie. Tired of being in love with someone who treats her like a little sister. She wants more. How long are you going to ignore it?”

Brady dropped his head in his hand to shield his eyes. “I haven’t ignored it. I’ve been praying it would go away.”

“Burying your head in the sand—or in your prayers—won’t work, ol’ buddy. You taught me that.”

The truth congealed in Brady’s stomach along with the cold oatmeal he’d eaten for lunch. “I know,” he whispered.

Collin stared for a moment, then wandered over to Brady’s desk. He sat down on an old proof sheet and crossed his arms. “Look, I’ve tried not to butt in where Lizzie is concerned, but it’s kind of hard right now. And to be honest with you, I’m worried.”

“You don’t need to worry about Beth.”

Collin sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s not Beth I’m talking about.”

“Well, don’t worry about me, either, because first thing Monday, I’m going to sit her down and explain once and for all why we can’t be more than friends.”

Collin’s gaze narrowed. “And why is that, exactly? Because you’re not attracted to her?”

Heat blistered Brady’s cheeks.

Collin stared, then broke into a grin. “You are, aren’t you?”

“Knock it off, Collin.”

Collin chuckled. “No, Brady, I won’t ‘knock it off.’ Everybody in this family knows how Lizzie feels about you, but nobody really knows how you feel about her. Until now.”

Brady jumped up and headed to the back room, heat stinging his neck. “I’m going home.”

“You’re in love with my sister-in-law, aren’t you?” Collin hopped up and followed. “Why don’t you just admit it?”

Brady spun around. “I love Beth, but not in that way.”

Collin hesitated and his smile faded. He cocked his head. “I know you won’t lie, Brady, so I’m asking you one more time. Are you attracted to Lizzie?”

“I don’t have to answer that.”

“No, but I’m asking as a friend—to both you and Lizzie. Are you?”

Brady stared, his heart pounding in his chest like the rotors of the Bullock pounding against paper. His voice was barely a whisper. “Yes.”

“I knew it! That’s great news. So, what’s the problem?”

“Because I can’t love her that way.”

Collin frowned. “Why not? I don’t understand. You’re a man and she’s a woman—”

“No!” Brady shocked himself with the vehemence in his tone. “She’s like a sister to me. I could never … would never … think of Beth that way.”

Collin blinked. “Calm down, ol’ buddy. Lizzie is not your sister no matter how much you see it that way. I can’t help but think there’s more to this, John, something you’re not telling me. What is it? Why are you holding back?”

Nausea curdled in Brady’s stomach. He fought back a shudder. “Nothing, Collin. Nothing I care to go into.”

Collin stared long and hard. He finally sighed and jingled the keys in his pocket. “Okay, I’ll leave it be. For now. But I can’t leave Lizzie be. She’s in love with you, my friend, and if you don’t intend to return that love, then you better do something about it. Now.”

Brady braced a hand against the door frame while fear added to the mix in his gut. “I know.”

“That means cutting her loose, Brady. No more Bible study or private prayer time or lunchtime chats. Every minute you spend with that girl is only leading her on.”

Brady closed his eyes. “Yeah.”

Collin gripped an arm around Brady’s shoulder. “I love you, John. You’re the brother I never had and the best friend I’ve ever known. It tears me up when I think you’re not happy. I know how much Lizzie means to you. And I’m here, if you need me.”

“I know. I appreciate that.”

Collin cuffed him on the shoulder and headed for the door. “See you tomorrow.”

Brady looked up. “Collin?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t tell Faith … or anyone … how I feel about Beth, okay?”

Collin stared, his lips poised as if to argue. He released a weighty sigh. “Okay, old buddy, not a word. Have a good night.”

Brady nodded, then swallowed hard. Yeah, as if that were possible.

***

Strangers were gawking, but she didn’t care. She bolted down the crowded sidewalk like a madwoman, tears streaming her cheeks and her chest heaving with hurt. Curious gazes followed as she tore down Henry Street where the farmer’s market was in full sway. She barely noticed the milling patrons who swarmed wooden stands heaped high with oranges and lemons freshly plucked and shipped from Florida groves. Stern-eyed ladies rifled through leaf lettuce while apron-clad vendors hovered and hawked their wares. Lizzie ignored them all, racing past and almost tumbling as she hurdled a crate of potatoes in her path.

“Miss, are you okay …”

Lizzie heard the concern in the shopkeeper’s voice, but she dare not acknowledge his kindness. It would surely unleash the broken sob that lodged in her throat. Right now all she wanted to do was to crawl into a dark corner of St. Stephen’s Church and cry. She sniffed. That and spit into John Brady’s eye. She flew up the church’s marble steps and tugged at the heavy oak doors.

The hallowed darkness inside strained her eyes as she adjusted to its dim light. She scanned the pews to make sure she was alone. With a shuddering heave, she made her way to the right alcove at the front and sank into her favorite row in the back corner. She set her clutch purse aside and lay down on her back, stretched out like she used to when she was a child, in search of her own little world where she could read and dream and pray. Recess in grade school had always been filled with giggles and games of red rover and girls flirting with boys who didn’t know they existed. But at times, when the pull of a favorite book or a longing for romance would strike, she would steal away, unbeknownst to the nuns. It was here, in this shadowed church, lit only by the soft glow of flickering candles and sunlight shafting through stained-glass windows, that she would finally connect with God.

She’d lie on the polished wood bench and look up, squinting to imagine that Jesus was lying down too, on a bench in the balcony across the way, ready to chat. At times, she could almost see his white gown through the marble balustrade as he listened to her. She always felt close to him there, amidst the lingering scent of incense and lemon oil. As if they were best friends. And they were. Their brief encounters always filled her with peace, often providing a much-needed balm to her young soul.

With a weary sigh, she lay down in the darkened pew and closed her eyes, allowing her thoughts to stray to Brady as they so often did. In her daydreams, she found herself comparing him to heroes she idolized in her favorite books. Her lips curved into a sad smile. Without question, John Brady was her Mr. Darcy, possessing all the exasperating prejudice of Jane Austin’s hero in Pride & Prejudice. At least when it came to her, she thought with a twist of her lips—too blinded by his own stubborn perceptions to see what everyone else so clearly saw—that his “little buddy” was destined to be his very own “Lizzy.”

She stared now, lost in a faraway look that blurred the flame of the sanctuary light as it glittered in its scarlet holder. “Why, God? Why can’t he love me? I know he cares—I can see it in his eyes and feel it in his touch. And I love him too—you know I do. But he gives me nothing.”

She peeked up at the balcony. “He’s a man after your own heart, God, which has me wondering if you’re as stubborn as he. I surely hope so, because I’m going to need help in matching wits with him. And if you don’t mind my saying so, when it comes to stubborn, this man is one of your finest creations. But if we belong together—loving each other while loving you—then you’ve got to open his eyes to the truth. And if I’ve missed it all these years and not heard your still, quiet voice, then please … please … set me free from his hold.”

She closed her eyes and settled in once again, her focus intent on the prayer at hand. All at once the heavy oak door squealed open, emitting a shaft of light that filtered in from the vestibule. The sound of hurried footsteps echoed through the cavernous building and then stopped. A broken sob pierced the darkness. Lizzie’s eyes popped open. She stiffened in the pew. What in the world?

Pitiful heaves rose to the rafters as Lizzie sat and scanned the dark church. Nothing … except the painful sound of someone’s grief. With a tightening in her chest, Lizzie rose and followed the sound of the weeping. Her eyes widened as she discovered its source in the very last pew. “Ellie? Is that you? Oh, honey, what’s wrong?”

A sprite of a girl lay collapsed in the pew, her ragged overalls torn and tattered. Wisps of carrot-red hair escaped from stubby braids, lending a halo effect that reminded Lizzie of a fuzzy spider monkey. Her slight shoulders shuddered with every heartbreaking heave, but at the sound of Lizzie’s voice, she jolted upright. She blinked in shock, enormous hazel eyes glossy with tears.

“Lizzie! I-I thought I was a-alone.” She sniffed and swiped at her nose with the sleeve of her blouse. With a lift of her chin, she squinted up, forcing a million tiny freckles to scrunch in a frown. “And nothing’s wrong.”

Lizzie folded her arms and arched a brow. “It’s a sin to lie, Eleanor Walsh, and well you know it. And in a church, no less.”

The faintest hint of a smile flickered at the edges of the girl’s mouth. “So I’ll duck in the confessional on the way out. Betcha God will barely notice.”

“He notices everything, Ellie, especially when one of his favorite little girls is making such a ruckus in his house.” Lizzie nudged her over and sat down. “What’s wrong?”

“Aw, Lizzie, you wouldn’t understand.”

“Mmm … maybe. Maybe not. But you won’t know till you tell me, now will you?”

Ellie glanced up, her face skewed in thought. She took a deep breath and settled back against the pew, expelling a long, heavy sigh. “I beat up Brian Kincaid.”

Lizzie leaned forward in shock. “What? That big, hulking boy from the 7th grade? Sweet Mother of Job, how? Why?”

“Because he’s a snot-nosed bully, that’s why. So I walloped him.”

“Good heavens, Ellie, he’s a foot taller than you!”

A grin parted the nine-year-old’s lips, revealing a flash of teeth. “Not anymore. I thrashed him down to size just like I do my brothers when they fire me up. That’ll teach him to call me names.”

“Lizzie bit back a smile. “What kind of names?”

She jutted her lip and folded her arms, squinting hard at the pew in front of her. “Calls me an ‘it.’ Says I’m not a girl.” She looked away, but not before Lizzie caught the quiver of her chin. “A freak of nature.” Her voice wavered the slightest bit before it hardened. “Ellie Smellie, the circus sideshow.”

Hot wetness sprang to Lizzie’s eyes and fury burned in her throat. She grabbed Ellie in a ferocious hug. “Bald-faced lies, all of it! You’re a beautiful girl, Eleanor Walsh. And Brian Kincaid is nothing but a bully who is appropriately named—lyin’ Brian.”

Ellie pulled away, clearly avoiding Lizzie’s eyes for the tears in her own. She sniffed several times. “No, Lizzie, he’s right. I’ll never be a girl—at least not a pretty one like you.” Her small frame shivered as she looked away. “Ain’t nobody to teach me since ma up and died—” Her voice cracked before she continued. “And even if there was, Pop barely makes enough to feed me and the boys. He sure can’t buy me no fancy dresses.”

Lizzie’s heart squeezed in her chest as she studied the frail little girl whose mother died three years prior, giving birth to her fifth son. Since then, Ellie had become one of the Southie neighborhoods scrappiest tomboys, weathering her fair share of cruel teasing and fights. Lizzie chewed on her lip in deep thought. “Ellie, my sister Katie is a few years older than you, and I’ll just bet we can come up with some clothes that don’t fit her anymore if you don’t mind hand-me-downs.”

Ellie flicked the strap of her threadbare overalls. “Mind hand-me-downs? Gosh, Lizzie, I’d be naked as a jaybird if it wasn’t for my older brothers.” Her jaw leveled up a full inch. “But I don’t aim to take no charity.”

“No, not charity. I was thinking more along the lines of earning it. Do you like to read?”

“Nope. Got no money for books either.”

Lizzie smiled. “You don’t need money for these books. I’m talking about helping me—at Bookends, the bookstore where I work. You know, story time on Saturdays?”

One pale strawberry brow angled high. “Ain’t that for kids?”

“Yes, but I could use your help with setting up and cleaning up.” Lizzie’s eyes narrowed as she gave Ellie a tight-lipped smile. “And there are one or two little troublemakers who I bet you could keep in line with a withering glance.”

A grin sprouted on Ellie’s face. “Boys, I hope—they’re my specialty. With a houseful of brothers, I’m real good with boy troublemakers.”

Lizzie stood to her feet with a chuckle. “Are there any other kind?”

“Nope. Least not for me.” She squinted up. “I’ll bet you never have trouble with boys, do ya, Lizzie, pretty as you are?”

Brady’s handsome face invaded her thoughts. Her jaw stiffened. “Don’t be too sure, Ellie. Boys can be troublemakers at any age, trust me.”

Ellie rose to her feet and shoved her hands deep in her pockets. “Yeah, especially brothers.” She cocked her head and gave Lizzie a curious look. “You got a brother that gives you trouble, Lizzie?”

Brother. The very word grated on Lizzie’s nerves. She wrapped an arm around Ellie’s shoulder. “Yeah, I do, Ellie, but I have every intention of taking care of it. Just like I’m going to teach you to take care of bullies like Brian Kincaid.”

Ellie looked up. “How?”

“Well, for starters, if you’ll work story time with me for the next four Saturdays, I will pay you back by taking you home to try on all of Katie’s hand-me-downs. And then, if you want, I can cut your hair and show you how to fix it. What do you say?”

“Gosh, Lizzie, that would be swell!” She paused, her smile suddenly fading.

Lizzie’s brows dipped. “What?”

“Well, what if it doesn’t work? I mean, what if everybody still thinks I’m an ‘it’?”

“They won’t, trust me.”

A glimmer of wetness shone in Ellie’s eyes. “But what if I’m too much like a boy to ever learn to be a girl?”

Lizzie bent and gently cupped Ellie’s face in her hands. “You’ll learn, Ellie, because this is too important. And when something is that important, you do whatever it takes.”

A smile trembled on Ellie’s lips as she threw her arms around Lizzie’s waist. “Gosh, Lizzie, you sound just like my momma before she …” She pulled away and straightened her shoulders, then swiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I gotta go, but I’ll see you on Saturday, okay?”

Lizzie blinked to clear the moisture from her own eyes. “Saturday, ten o’clock. Don’t be late or I’ll send Lyin’ Brian to hunt you down.”

Ellie nodded and grinned before bolting out the door, once again leaving the sanctuary in a state of peaceful calm. With a heavy sigh, Lizzie made her way back to her pew and lay down. With no effort at all, her thoughts returned to Brady.

Whatever it takes.

At the thought of her advice to Ellie, a smiled flitted on her lips. She lay there a while longer to drink in his peace and his strength, and then sat up and squared her shoulders, finally rising to her feet. She smoothed out her skirt and lifted her chin. Resolve kindled in her bones. An air of stubbornness settled in, shivering her spine like the cool air currents that whistled through the domed ceiling of the drafty church. “Okay, God, I plan to take my own advice and do whatever it takes. Mr. John Brady is no longer dealing with ‘his little sister.’ He’s dealing with a woman in love.” Lizzie plucked her clutch purse from the pew and marched to the door with renewed purpose. “It’s said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,’” she mused. “Ha!” Her lips clamped into a tight line. “Just wait till he sees a woman ignored.”

***

Brady buried his fists in his pockets and hung his head, barreling toward his apartment on Rumpole Street with one driving purpose: to be alone. His thoughts couldn’t be farther away from the pretty spring evening in his bustling Southie neighborhood than if he were safely locked behind his apartment door. Any other night, he would have enjoyed taking his time, stopping to chat with a neighbor or easily coerced into a game of stickball with a rowdy group of kids. He would have enjoyed the faint haze of green in the trees as new buds burgeoned forth, washing the landscape with a soft watercolor effect. But for once, the rich scent of freshly hewn mulch as neighbors readied their gardens, and the shrieks of children at play and birds in song, failed to coax a smile to his lips.

No, not tonight. Tonight his thoughts were elsewhere. Mired in a place where the innocent laughter of children and the peace of a wholesome neighborhood were as foreign as an ice storm on a balmy spring day. Brady shivered inside in spite of the 60-degree temperatures. He quickened his pace when he neared his three-story brick brownstone. Flanked by graceful federal pillars and forsythia heavy with yellow blooms, it welcomed him home, tonight more than usual. He hurried up steps lined with crocus and littered with the occasional pressed-steel toy truck and cap-gun cannon. He sucked in a deep breath and grasped the steel knob of the glass-paned door with rigid purpose, seeking nothing but solitude.

“Hi ya, Brady, what’s your hurry?”

Brady hunched his shoulders and moaned inwardly. He turned slowly, a poor attempt at a smile on his lips. “Hi ya, Cluny. Enjoying the weather?”

Fourteen-year-old Cluny McGee grinned, a spray of wild freckles lost in a layer of dirt on his delicate face. The cuffs of his pants were several inches too short, and his ill-fitted shirt strained at the buttons despite a spindly chest. He slapped a strand of white-blond thatch out of his twinkling blue eyes. “Yeah, gives me spring fever for all the pretty girls.”

Brady forced a grimace into a smile. “This time of year will do that. Well, enjoy.” He yanked the door open, desperate to escape to the haven of his home.

“Wait! You goin’ to the gym tonight? I thought maybe we could box a match or two.” Cluny flexed his muscles. “Gotta shape up for the ladies, you know.”

Brady hesitated. He glanced at Cluny, not missing the hopefulness in his eyes. He managed a smile. “Too tired, Cluny. How ‘bout tomorrow?”

The boy grinned, exposing a smile that could melt stone. “Sure thing, Brady. Same time as usual?”

Brady nodded and waved, exhaling as the door closed behind him. He mounted the steps with trepidation, hoping to make it to the next landing as quietly as possible. This was one night he needed to be alone, to fall on his knees before God and seek his peace.

A door squealed open. So much for peace.

“Brady, you’re home!”

He stopped on the steps and smiled at his eleven-year-old neighbor. “Esther, why aren’t you outside with your friends?”

She giggled and ducked her head, then flipped a long, thick braid the color of molasses over her shoulder. “Because I baked cookies. Your favorite kind—gingerbread. Wait here.”

She darted off, leaving the door ajar, then returned with a plate of cookies, still warm. The delicious smell filled the tiny foyer, evoking noises from his stomach. She giggled and held them up. Her proud look warmed his heart. He tweaked her braid and smiled, then hoisted the cookies with one hand. “You’re going to spoil me, Esther Mullen. What’s the occasion this time?”

“For lending me the books, of course. I’m almost finished with the last one.”

He tucked the cookies under one arm and cocked a hip. “Which was your favorite?”

She scrunched her nose in thought. “Jane Eyre, I think, although I love Pride & Prejudice too. I’m almost done. Do you have anymore?”

“Tons. You just knock on my door whenever you need a new batch, okay?”

She smiled shyly. “Thanks, Brady.”

He chucked a finger under her chin. “And thanks for the cookies, Ess. You’re going to make a wonderful wife the way you bake like you do.”

A sweet haze of pink dotted her cheeks, and she nodded. “Good night, Brady.”

“G’night, Esther.”

The door closed and Brady sighed. Forgive me, Lord, for being so grumpy. And thank you for small blessings like Esther and Cluny.

He trudged the last few steps to his door and fished the key from his pocket. He caught a whiff of gingerbread and smiled, unlocking the door and prodding it closed with his shoe. He put the plate of cookies on the table and sampled one as he made his way to the kitchen cupboard. He reached for a glass, then opened the icebox to pull out the milk. He poured it and frowned, suddenly remembering the scene with Beth. His gut curdled like the two-week-old milk in the glass. Brady sighed and leaned against the counter.

Why, Lord? She was the only good and decent thing in his life. His love for her was deep and genuine and, yes—through the grace of God—pure. He wanted to protect her and nurture her and always be there for her. Why did he have to give her up?

Brady poured the sour milk into the sink and rinsed it out. He absently washed the glass as he struggled with his thoughts. He traipsed to the sofa and collapsed, dropping his head back and closing his eyes.

He knew why.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

A bitter smile twisted his lips. If only he could forget as easily as God. Remove his own shame as far as the east is from the west. Instead, it burned inside him like an eternal fire, singeing any hope of beauty and innocence. Any hope of Beth.

Brady hunched on the couch and put his head in his hands. “Help me, Lord. I’m sick with grief over what I have to do. I love Beth more than my own life. Help me to give her up, to let her go. Give me the grace to do it. To see it through. I pray that you will help her understand. And bring a godly man who will love her like she deserves to be loved.”

A heaviness settled on him like the cloying heat of his tiny apartment. He rose and crossed to the window to lift the sash and let in what little breeze he could. He inhaled the fresh evening air, heartened by the scented promise of rain. He grasped his leather Bible from the mahogany desk and settled back into the couch. He began to read and felt the gentle wind of God blowing through his mind with every anointed word.

As always, peace flooded his soul. He exhaled. Thank you, God. His eyes lifted to roam his tiny apartment, grateful for the oasis it offered. Though sparse in d├ęcor, it exuded a definite masculine air that made him feel comfortable. Heavy but simple wood pieces were arranged in a practical manner. His antique mahogany desk, a gift from his Aunt Amelia in New York, was laden with books wedged between brass bookends from his father. On its polished surface, there was just enough room for a simple wood and brass lamp in the shape of a sailing vessel. His eyes scanned across the dark burgundy sofa on which he sat, moving on to admire the framed prints of ships hung on the walls throughout the room. Their nautical feel always seemed to soothe him. He closed his eyes and pictured the blue of the ocean as he sailed across it in his mind. Sailing, free and easy as a bird, the wind in his face. Not moored to a past … nor a future.

Brady expelled a breath and opened his eyes to the imposing chestnut bookcase across the room. He had made it himself. Its shelves were lined with the rich hues of literature that helped to sate the inevitable loneliness that surfaced from time to time.

He suddenly thought of Beth and her love of reading, and his earlier malaise returned with a vengeance. He stared at his collection of leather-bound books. Her hands had touched every volume on his shelves, cradled them in her lap, fingered each page with care. He had bought them all for her, to satisfy her craving for literature.

He laid his hand on the worn pages of his Bible and closed his eyes, remembering his arrival in Boston almost fours years ago. He hadn’t known a soul but Collin, but the O’Connors had quickly drawn him into the warmth and security of their family. He had fallen in love with all of them, completely in awe of the closeness they shared, a reaction only heightened by his own bleak childhood. Beth had been thirteen then, almost fourteen, a shy and fragile little girl with soft violet eyes and a gentle nature. She had taken to him at once, enamored with his own love of literature and God. Seeking him out, making him feel special.

Brady dropped his head back against the couch. She was the little sister he’d longed for. The one feminine touch in his life that would never become corrupt. All he had wanted was to protect her, nurture her, love her in the purest sense of the word. It was never meant to be more.

Not for her. And certainly not for him.

With a heavy expulsion of air, he closed his eyes, as if by doing so, he could shut out the feelings that had begun to surface over the last few months. When had the seeds of attraction been sown? At what precise moment had the tilt of her smile begun to trigger his pulse? Fear tightened his stomach. When had she ceased being a little girl? He opened his eyes with new resolve and cemented his lips into a hard line. It didn’t matter. He was her friend and mentor, a devoted big brother who wanted nothing but the best for her.

And he was definitely not it.

An urgent knock at the door shook him from his thoughts, and he lunged to his feet. He opened it to the sound of weeping. His neighbor across the hall stood on his threshold, her face streaked with tears. Strands of brown hair fluttered free from a disheveled bun as she stared up at him, her dark eyes pleading. “Oh, Brady, you’re home! Can you help me, please?”

Brady’s gut tightened. “Pete again?”

She nodded and clutched her arms around her middle, her body shuddering.

“Ei-leen! Where the devil are ya?” Pete’s slurred tone rumbled from the bowels of the dark apartment, bringing with it a whiff of stale whiskey.

Brady stared at the bruise on her cheek and rested a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay? Did he hurt you—”

She shook her head, then wiped her face with her sleeve. “No, I just got home. All he had time for was one quick whack across my face. I thank God you’re here to stop him, Brady. You always seem to have a way with Pete when he gets like this.”

Brady pulled her into his apartment. “I’ll talk to him, Eileen, but I want you to stay here. I thought he’d given up the bottle. What set him off this time?”

“Ei … leen! So, help me …”

She shivered. “He was home before me, so I’m guessing he lost his job again. Oh, Brady, I’m so scared! What are we going to do?”

Brady wrapped an arm around her shoulder and led her to his kitchen. He gave her a quick squeeze. “Same thing as always, Eileen, we pray. God always turns it around, doesn’t he?”

She shook her head and sniffed.

“There’s coffee in my cupboard. Make a pot, will you? Double strength. I’ll go in and talk to Pete, and you bring it in when it’s ready, okay?”

She nodded and then threw her arms around Brady’s middle. Her voice broke. “Oh, Brady, you’re a gift from God, ye are! Sometimes I think you’re an angel instead of a man.”

Heat scalded the back of his neck. He patted her shoulder. “No, Eileen, I’m just a man who’s found the grace of God.” He steered her toward the cupboard, then headed for the door. He turned and gave her a reassuring smile. “Prayer and coffee, in that order, okay?”

A smile trembled on her lips and she nodded. He closed the door behind him.

“Ei … leen! I’m gonna blister you …”

Brady strode into Eileen and Pete’s apartment and drew in a deep breath for the task ahead. An angel instead of a man. His lips quirked into a sour smile. That would certainly be nice. Especially at a moment like this. His jaw tightened. As if he could qualify.

Angels didn’t have his past.

My review of A Passion Denied is the previous post on my blog. You can check it out here:

http://wovenbywords.blogspot.com/2009/06/passion-denied-by-julie-lessman.html

 
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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.