Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

Thanksgiving 2009

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone and what a wonderful time of being thankful!  I’ve learned several things over the last few months and to be thankful for much:

1.  That my husband, friend and provider is still here and that God’s will is done.

2.  We have a house, no matter how small, lacking in insulation, leaking or flooding we have a house and it’s full of love and life and I try daily to keep God at the center of it!

3.  I have three wonderful blessings who each bring a different and beautiful dynamic to our family and God knows that He put them in the right family at the right time.

4.  I live in a country where I can worship the One True Saviour without fear of severe persecution, torture, imprisonment and/or death like my Brothers and Sisters in China, Russia and other countries.  I will forever lift His name up and may His name always be Holy, Holy, Holy!!!!

So these are just some of the things I am thankful for and I know it’s late in posting this but it’s still timely and it’s always wonderful to remember the things and loved ones we are thankful for!

This Thanksgiving like we’ve done for several years was spent at our home in a time of relaxing.  We have an open invitation to family who wants to stop by and rarely (and sadly) are we ever taken up on this offer.  With three little ones it can be hard and stressful to make several stops (inlaws, my dad’s side and my mom) with no time for those who need naps (and need them) and no relaxing time spent, so we decided long ago to stop running around like chickens with their heads cut off and spend it at home.  My mom and one brother will come over and then my inlaws usually stop over later.  There are family who think we are wrong and terrible to stay at home, but for us we need to stay at home and as I said above there is a standing invite for any family who’d like to come over and visit to do so as long as we’re here 🙂

Here are some pictures of our Thanksgiving:

This shows my two homemade pies, deviled eggs, stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes (many thanks to my DH who peeled and quartered them for me) corn, dinner rolls (unfortunately not homemade), homemade pumpkin bread, homemade beer bread, ham and turkey.  Those items in the back right are the children’s ‘turkeys’ they made at the homeschool interest group (I’ll get close up pics later)  I left out the relish tray and a couple other food items.

My apple pie with nothing less than, hippo, cut outs to decorate it.


Upclose of my pumpkin pie and some mashed potatoes.  Yes that is ‘artwork’ on the wall LOL


The day after Thanksgiving was not shopping for me, much to my dismay, it was spent at a surgery center for a diagnostic laprascope.  My OB/GYN and I were suspecting the adehsions that he removed in 2005 during the same type of surgery were back and again causing pain and fertility issues.  Nothing was found, no adhesions and nothing wrong that would prevent me from being pregnant.  I am shocked and probably also my dr.  I’m doing well although I had to stop taking the percocet due to it making me very ill and I’m now taking tylenol w/codiene (sp?) which is much better.  I again had a good experience except the nurse who did my I.V. which felt like she stabbed me (no, I’m not exaggerating) with the needle. I had continous pain everytime I moved with this I.V. line as well – I endured it because I was not going to have her do it again.  This is what I was left with once the I.V. was removed:

This bruise is on the inside of my left arm and is 3 inches wide and 4 inches long!  Craziness and I don’t own enough long sleeved shirts to cover it until it disappears 😦



Fun times with an Aunt!

My brother married a wonderful lady and I am so happy she is my Sister-in-Love (Law) and she will one day make a great mom but for now she likes to spoil her nieces and nephews and also teaching (art being her passion).  She offered to come over and make some air dry clay crafts with my children and they really enjoyed it plus I got to work on my inlaws Christmas present.  The children made some Christmas ornaments and Hannah also made a bowl (I’ll take pictures of those when they are finished)

So here are my wonderful children blessings and my SIL making their ornaments and 1 bowl.

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MamaBuzz blog tour: Wright On Time: Arizona Book 1 by Lisa M. Cottrell-Bentley

Have you wondered what it might be like to roadschool instead of just homeschool?  I know we have often talked of it since my husband will be retiring when we still have two full time student and one on the way to graduating and thought buying an RV and selling our home is an awesome idea!  While this book I’m sure doesn’t stay true to life in what happens while roadschooling in an RV it sure sounds like fun, especially when the Wrights stop at a cave to mine for stones and semi precious jewels.

This chapter book which is geared to ages 5 to 12 is filled with educational value as well as an entertainment value.  I’ve always had a hard time differing between stalactites and stalagmites but after reading this book I now have a way to keep them seperated and look forward to planning a trip to a near by cave this summer.  Bats, minerals and a mysterious device are what keeps the reader turning the pages of this fast paced child’s novel.  I enjoyed it as well as I read along with my children or at least the ones who would pay attention, and even learned something.  My daughter even came away with more knowledge about certain cave items and like me now knows the difference between the stalactites and stalagmites.  My only word of caution was the use of the word ‘freaky’ – I do use this word from time to time – but the son in the story had a habit of frequently using the word so it did become tiresome after awhile.  The word could be omitted all together or if a family doesn’t want the word used at all it would be easy enough to black out and the story would still flow.

This was an excellent book written by author, Lisa M. Cottrell-Bentley who is happily homeschooling her two daughters.  She has been writing since she was a young child so there is a lot of love poured into the Wright On Time series.  I do recommend this series especially with Christmas right around the corner these would make an entertaining and educational resource for your children.  Please visit the author, Lisa M. Cottrell-Bentley’s  website for more information on her and the series.  These books retail for $12.99 

**This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by: Lisa Cottrell-Bentley  for this review.

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Not forgotten

I just wanted to say that I have not forgotten to do personal posts.  I’m getting some reviews done as well as dealing with things going on at the home front and working on Christmas presents – so needless to say I’m busy!

The Principal (Dad) gave us the entire week off of school since I have a hard time staying motivated around Thanksgiving and then Christmas.  I’m like a little child when it comes to celebrating.  Hannah is working on her lapbook for the Magic Treehouse book titled Thanksgiving on Thursday – which actually hasn’t involved a whole lot of magic except for the children being transported back in time and they also let their parents know they were going out to play.  She must get that finished up and we can move on next week.  I’ll get pictures up as soon as she is done and I get batteries for my camera.

I’m having my surgery on Friday the day after Thanksgiving – so we’re putting the Christmas tree up the day before Thanksgiving.  I’m praying and hoping that this will take care of my chronic pain that I continue to have as adhesions from my 2002 c-section readhere over time.  This causes a lot of pain and also it seems now problems in concieving – so I also pray this will allow the Lord to bless us again.  I’d love to have at least one more baby – definitely more – but at least 🙂  we’ll see what He decides.

So for now I’m logging off and I’ll be updating soon with pictures – after I get batteries and hopefully before Thanksgiving or I’ll do it after my surgery while I’m recuperating.


MamaBuzz Tour: Tales from Terrestria Book 1: "The Quest for Thunder Mountain" by Ed Dunlop

If you are looking for something that your children both boys and girls can read, however boys may be slightly more interested, and that is Biblically based and sound then look no further than Ed Dunlop’s series,  Tales from Terrestria.  This would make a great gift for any family during this Christmas season or a birthday as Mr. Dunlop’s purpose in writing this series is to bring honor and glory to the Lord.  There is no magic, sorcery or wizardry in these series.  Although I only recieved the first book in the  Tales from Terrestria I can’t wait to read the rest and neither can my daughter who is only 7 at the time of the reading.

"The Quest for Thunder Mountain" was engrossing and made for a fast paced read so that we would could know what was going on – a real page turner.  While geared for ages 10 and up, this series could be easily read by a 7 year old and up, or used as a read aloud to reiterate Biblical lessons and correlate them to the Bible.  I too would also recommend this for an adult who would like an engaging read as I too found myself captivated by the story.  Mr. Dunlop has a true gift for writing that is geared towards Christian youth and using the Bible and the Lord as his guide.  I loved the fact that these books do not need to be read in order and can be read starting at the last, the middle or the first.

At the webiste for  The Terrestria Chronicles there is an abundant array of resources from free coloring pages correlate to the books, free ebooks, God’s way to Heaven, teacher books and resources and others.  The price per book is $7.99 and is geared for ages 10 and up (decide based on your child’s reading skills) or you can buy all three (so far) for $19.99 with another book coming soon!  I do suggest that if you have a reader – again boys or girls – who you want reading Biblically sound books then you’ll want to visit the Ed Dunlop’s website and look at his other books – including fiction for youth.

**  This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by: Mr. Ed Dunlop for this review.

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Birthday Bonanza Download n' Go ebook from The Old Schoolhouse

As moms we can remember well the days our children were born and of course each one is more than likely the best day of our entire life!  Most children enjoy hearing the story of their births and how much they were (and still are) loved and wanted.  So when I had the chance to review a copy of The Old Schoolhouse’s Download n’ Go series titled Birthday Bonanza then I had to take them up on the offer – a fun way to combine a school day and a birthday!

Birthday Bonanza is written in collaboration with Amanda Bennett and The Old Schoolhouse and it’s geared for grades K through 4th but could easily be adapted for the younger child or the older child.  This unit study provides one week of study with an accompanying lapbook that will make a memento of the child’s special day.  Monday the child will learn about themselves such if they were named after anyone and how much they have grown since they were born, Tuesday the child wil learn about the world when they were born discussing the price of milk, who was President or the price of a stamp, Wednesday will delve into why the child is special including hobbies and why your child is special to God, Thursday is the topic of their life so far and they get to tell about their lives so far and make a timeline and then for closing on Friday is all about celebrating them – talking about what they remember from past birthdays and also about God having plans for them.

There is much more than the above items included for each day than what I listed – you’ll have to check it out for yourself to see how much is included in this ebook!  Each day includes a craft such as footprints, birthday pillowcase, pinata’s and more.  The crafts are easy and fun to do with all instructions included or linked to on the internet making them easy to complete in a week.  Each day also includes a time travel adventure by letting the child learn about what happened 10 years, 20 years and more before their birthday.  A fun and exciting way to learn about history and may even lead to opening dialogue between children and Grandparents or even Great Grandparents.  There are also a list of books that are suggested to read each day, not every book has to be read but whatever is appropriate for the child and the family.  The lapbook activities really add more fun to the overall unit and again, make a momento of their special day!

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MamaBuzz Tour: The Ultimate Cloth **free offer included**

Streak Free window cleaner - the Ultimate Cloth®. No more streaks when sunlight comes through the window.

Are you or have you been trying to find a ‘green’ way to clean around your home?  Or maybe not ‘green’ but you want to do away with chemicals because a loved one in your house has bad reactions to chemicals and their smells?  Well then look no further than the Ultimate Cloth!   The Ultimate Cloth  is soft so you don’t have to worry about scratching surfaces like granite, glass, or even your car or electronics.  No chemicals need to be used, just wet the cloth and clean!  Yes it really is that simple, just plain water and you can remove dirt, grime and other crud around the house as well as germs!  The cloth can be cut without fraying or tearing – which is great if you just need a few smaller cloths for cleaning the tub or sink or wiping up crumbs after lunch or the science experiment gone wrong!

If you’re like me and want a way to save money this is an easy way to accomplish that as well.  Even the cheapy grocery store brand can cost precious money each year – buying these reusable and washable cloths can end that drain.  So simple to use by just wetting it, wringing it, wiping then rinsing (or wash it) and your done.  So not only is it chemical free (although you can bleach it if you REALLY wanted to), saves you money but it also cuts cleaning time!  What more could a busy and frugal mom want, except maybe a cheaper iced capp, but seriously this would make a great household item to have on hand.  The children can even be put to work using this since there isn’t a fear of them ingesting or breathing in harsh chemical smells.  If you’d like to experience this then keep reading for a FREE offer directly from the  people at The Ultimate Cloth!

Price:  $6

Media Blurb:  

The Ultimate Cloth is eco-friendly solution for homes as well as a money and time saver. The Ultimate Cloth is a brand new technology – in fact, it is the only cloth to receive a new patent in the last 25 years.  The Ultimate Cloth is a simple, green and effective one-step cleaning process.  The Ultimate Cloth cleans any hard surface – glass, wood, granite, stainless steel and many more – with just water!  No longer do you have to use harsh chemicals in your home, nor do you need spend hundreds of dollars per year buying them.  The Ultimate Cloth has been lab tested to remove 96% of bacteria, without the use of chemicals.  And, can cut 50% off your cleaning time.  The Ultimate Cloth is truly the ultimate in green cleaning.  

Additional Details to Include in your review:

All of my readers can receive a FREE Ultimate Cloth! 

All you  need to do is follow Ultimate Cloth America on Twitter or become a fan on facebook:

We will reveal how to get the free Ultimate Cloths via Twitter and facebook. 

*This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by: Ryan Richardson for The Ultimate Cloth for this review.

**Picture from The Ultimate Cloth website.

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FIRST Book Tour: "Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana" by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanne Fleiss **may contain spoilers**

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:

Tricia Goyer
Ocieanna Fleiss

and the book:

Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana

Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference “Writer of the Year” in 2003. Her book Night Song won Book of the Year from ACFW in the Long Historical Fiction category. Her book Life Interrupted: The Scoop On Being a Young Mom was a Gold Medallion Finalist. Tricia has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Visit the author’s website.

Ocieanna Fleissis a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer’s historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. Connect with Ocieanna on Facebook!

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935416294
ISBN-13: 978-1935416296


The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”

My Opinion:

Blown away! Another hit from Tricia Goyer and another co-author, Ocieanne Fleiss – like the other review I posted for Tricia’s other co-authored book “The Swiss Courier” it was a fast read! I read this book in a record time – two days – again an amazing feat and couldn’t put it down. I had to put it down but it was really hard to do so staying up until the wee hours to finish it!

Harkening back to the days of the orphan trains and mail order brides, the reader is taken from the streets of New York City and a orphanage to the streets of the untamed West – Lonesome Prarie. Her heart torn at having to leave ‘her girls’ in the care of others who promise to care for them Julia learns another shocking surprise! Full of godly insight from the characters, again there is no risque romantic behavior, which is wonderful since one of the main chacaters is a circuit riding Parson.

If you’re a history buff like I am, there is plenty of that in this book as well. I wish there were still buffalo tunnels so I could enjoy in awe what Julia did when arriving in the West. This is yet another book that I would not be afraid to let my daughters read when they get older, nothing in this book to be ashamed or red-cheeked about. A romance with just enough history thrown in to make a good read while not having to worry about what Jesus would think if He caught you reading it (except to say He may think I could have washed the dishes!)!

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FIRST Book Tour: "Lessons From a Broken Chopstick" by Mary Anne Phemister

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:

Mary Anne Phemister

and the book:

Lessons from a Broken Chopstick

Hannibal Books (September 30, 2009)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson of Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***


Mary Anne Phemister is a nurse, author, mother, grandmother and wife of noted concert pianist Bill Phemister. The Phemisters live in Wheaton, IL. She has also co-authored Mere Christians: Inspiring Stories of Encounters with C.S. Lewis.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (September 30, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934749621
ISBN-13: 978-1934749623


The Chinese Chest

A large, beautifully carved Chinese chest rests on curved wooden legs in my kitchen. Long-legged cranes decorate the top and sides in various poses. One bird in the background looking wide-eyed and perplexed, I’ve come to call “the bewildered one.” She reminds me of my mother, full of questions she dare not ask.

A furniture maker in Hong Kong sold this beautiful chest to my parents during their early, happier years of married life. Being practical and resourceful, they knew that this fragrant, camphor-lined vault could store and preserve the many curios and keepsakes that they would be collecting over the years to ship back home, someday. A skilled Chinese woodcarver had chiseled these revered birds into the outer teak frame, knowing full well its commercial appeal. Throughout Asia, red-crested cranes are symbols of long life and good luck.

My parents, however, believed in divine providence rather than in lady luck. To them, the force that operates for good or ill in a person’s life is not as capricious and precarious as luck. Good fortune is not the result of mere chance; it is part of God’s plan. Unfortunate circumstances, like the time my father almost died of food poisoning, are blamed on the enemy of our souls—Satan, the devil or the evil one. Hence, even when God allows bad things to happen to good people, it is not without some purpose. God is teaching us something or testing our faith. Our job on earth is to trust God, who has clearly instructed us not to lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupt. Nevertheless, the few curios they brought home in this chest, fortified with camphor against pesky moths, could not be considered real treasures, merely mementos to display at missionary meetings.

My parents firmly believed that one should not—must not—expect to reap the rewards of living a virtuous life here on earth. However, in the life to come, all would turn out right. Then, all life’s troubling questions would be answered to our satisfaction. “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” was a bible verse I had memorized at a very early age. Thus, I have always known that life has meaning and purpose. I have never doubted God’s goodness, although I have often questioned His methods.

This core belief, that all will turn out well in the end, that good will triumph over evil, that God rewards the faithful, was the force that enabled my mother to endure the countless challenges in her life. Her unshakable faith held her fast after the death of her infant son, Johnny, the puzzling alienation of her brother, Andy, and throughout her unhappy marriage to my father, notwithstanding all her attempts at being the good wife.

My parents’ acquaintance began at the suggestion of my father’s sister, Agnes. She had met Violet in Buffalo, New York and knew of her intent to go to Tibet as a missionary. Agnes suggested to her brother, Al, who was living in Shanghai at the time, that Violet would make him a good helpmeet. My father, who was on the lookout for a wife, then began a correspondence with this devout woman with a winsome smile, recently graduated from the Nyack Missionary College. Al eventually succeeded through his letters in persuading Violet to join him in China. Thus, Violet Anna Agnes Gibson and Alexander George Kowles were married on the very day the steamer docked in Shanghai harbor, September 6, 1938. She was just six days shy of turning thirty. Al, two years younger and two inches shorter, regretted these facts most of his life.

Why my parents went to China was never a mystery to me. In church service after church service they told of how God had laid on their hearts the burden for the lost. They were dedicated to answering the Master’s call for reapers to work in the harvest field for lost souls, as they would express it. They were merely obeying the great commission to go into all the world to bring the message of God’s love and salvation to people in heathen darkness. These words and phrases I heard often. I have never doubted their sincerity and resolve. They were more committed to their duty to obey Jesus’ imperative to preach the Gospel than to any other obligations, even to each other. Their marriage, based on their sincere desire to serve God, seemed to them at the beginning, to be God’s will. But before long, my mother began to recognize the smoldering notion that she had made a grave mistake. Where was God in this? How was God going to work this marriage out to his good?

“But you’re here,” my mother would say, dodging my question whenever I asked her why she stayed with my father for all those painful years. So, it was my existence and that of her other three children that enabled her to endure and be faithful. To her, the ever self-sacrificing handmaiden of the Lord and Al, divorce was unthinkable. God must have some purpose in it for her, she often reasoned throughout her prolonged heartache. It was her duty to persevere, to keep up family appearances for the sake of us children and “the ministry.”

I’m sure now that it was her strong sense of duty, her belief that marriages are made in heaven, her determination to endure to the end, bound and kept her locked in that disappointing marriage. Like the flight plans imprinted in those cranes’ brains, the mechanisms that steered the course of my mother’s life were those strongly implanted religious beliefs. I have inherited some of my mother’s sense of adventure, her perseverance, as well as strong religious beliefs, but for me, marriages cannot possibly be made in heaven. Where does it say that in the Bible? People make those choices, some good, some unhealthy. Somewhere along the line I have learned, contrary to family maxims, that if you make your bed, you don’t necessarily have to lie in it. You can get up and move, especially when one encounters, emotional, physical, sexual or even spiritual abuse.

Never once did I hear my mother question God’s sovereignty. To her, that would imply that the God whom she trusted with all her heart had led her down the wrong path. In her theology, and reinforced by my father with quotes from the Bible, that it was God’s will that she submit to her husband. She was committed (and coerced) to love, honor, and obey him until death intervened. “I accepted the future in simple faith that the Lord was leading me all the way,” she said. Simple faith did not permit her to question. A professional Christian counselor was out of the question, even if there were any around to be consulted a half century ago. Seeing a counselor pre-supposed that intense prayer and fasting and Bible reading were inadequate remedies to life’s problems. She told very few about her anguish, and never to her children while we were growing up.

During the time my mother kept the Chinese chest in her small apartment, it lay shrouded under a heavy, black brocade cloth. Stacked on top of the chest sat her phonograph player, her photo memory books, and piles of assorted record albums. Out of sight, the noble cranes lay hidden for decades until my mother moved into an assisted living residence. I remember her broad smile when I told her that I would take good care of her beautiful camphor chest, this lovely thing she bequeathed to me. She had begun to distribute her “things,” as she called them, to her four children. My mother lived to be eighty-nine. Clues to her life had been locked away in that Chinese chest for most of those years. In time, it was my joy to unearth some of the mementos and letters she had penned to her mother when she first sailed to Shanghai on the Empress of Japan to marry “by faith” a man she barely knew.

As I look at those cranes now, embedded in that chest that has come down to me, the bewildered one in particular seems to encapsulate much of my mother’s fascinating, woeful life. She, like the cranes, had mated for life, despite the unhappiness she endured. I suppose that if we children had all turned out to be preachers or missionaries to a foreign country, she would have felt some recompense, but none of us did. Throughout her lonely migrations to strange and foreign lands she kept searching for a resolution to the sadness she was feeling but could not verbalize. God did not provide the reconciliation to her husband and brother that she had so desperately prayed for. To bolster herself, she often took comfort in the words of the old hymn: “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus; life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.” I am sure that now she has found the answers in heaven and has found peace–the peace that passes understanding. What has she learned over there? What have I learned from her life experiences? How does one resolve the problem of pain in a Christian worldview? C. S. Lewis has helped me understand what my mother knew and quietly bore: many questions in this life are left unanswered. Life in Christ is a faith journey indeed. The Bible reminds us that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” (Rom. 8:18 NIV) Trust and Obey were the three little words that guided the choices my mother made throughout the bewildered maze of her life.

My Opinion:

Delving into Mary Anne’s life as a Missionary Kid (MK) was a moving read. I enjoy reading the harrowing stories of missionaries but have never read a first hand account of a MK and what it’s like to be a child of a man who truly believes that being called to be a missionary means he may just have to sacrifice his children and his wife. Gently Mrs. Phemister delves into her past, painful or not, and exposes lessons she had literally learned from a broken chopstick.

She was exposed to a culture that she never fully belonged to and sent to a posh boarding school – sent back to a world that she never knew. She was between cultures and strove to make it work for her – even though at times it seemed it would be almost impossible, to me that is. She saw first hand what extreme legalism can do to families but also how others can balance the life of missionary with having a family.

With love and honesty she opens up a world that I’ve never heard discussed before the life of a missionary child. In her time as a MK it was par for the course for the families to send children to mission run boarding schools and only see their parents a few times a year. Mary Anne Phemister talks candidly about this time and again lovingly handles all she was given. There is no bashing of missionaries or of God – if anything I felt she may even have a deeper love and appreciaton of God – just an eye opening view of an adult woman who grew and ultimately healed from her past by fully embracing her past.

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FIRST Book Tour for "The Swiss Courier" by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey **contains spoilers**

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:

Tricia Goyer
Mike Yorkey

and the book:

The Swiss Courier

Revell (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of the LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***


Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW’s Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana.

Visit the author’s website.

Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man’s Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California.

Visit the author’s website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Revell (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800733363
ISBN-13: 978-0800733360


To the Reader

In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanze—Wolf’s Lair—the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der Führer’s demise.

Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one o’clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanze’s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Front’s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitler’s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.

Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still alive—and unhinged for revenge.

Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.

An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitler’s orders, treated the failed attempt on the Führer’s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.

What many people do not know is that Hitler’s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germany—the atomic bomb.

This is that story . . .


Waldshut, Germany

Saturday, July 29, 1944

4 p.m.

He hoped his accent wouldn’t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.

Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposed—as if he were marching down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogans—he willed himself to remain confident.

His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A day’s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of

Paris—and quickened French hearts for libération. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.

Earlier that morning, he’d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and they’d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.

Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierre’s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gun’s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.

His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, “Nachrichten!” The boy’s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.

Jean-Pierre didn’t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.

Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.

Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,

the men would soon be free from the Nazis’ clutches. If not, the captives’ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questioned—tortured if they weren’t immediately forthcoming— until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.

Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, they’d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.

Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watch—a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heart—just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had

to keep reminding himself of that.

Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the town’s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed woman—her left arm ringed with a red

armband and black swastika—directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.

She was like no traffic cop he’d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolle’s gray-green

uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.

She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was

to come. “Entschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?” a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.

“Ich bin nicht sicher.” He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.

“Es tut mir Leid.” With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.

He didn’t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.

Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.

“Don’t move, and nothing will happen to you.”

Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.

A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. “Halt!” He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.

Jean-Pierre met the soldier’s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.

A shot rang out. The German soldier’s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.

“Nice shot, Suzanne.” Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.

Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.

Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to

know well.

One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truck’s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.

As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.

Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.

The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.

“Los jetzt!” He clasped Suzanne’s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.

Jean- Pierre couldn’t remember their names, but it didn’t matter.

What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contact’s information had been correct.

With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.

“Don’t shoot!” one cried.

The sound of a police siren split the air.

“Everyone out!” Jean-Pierre shouted. “I’ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.” He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.

The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passenger’s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.

Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisoner’s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. “Move it, come on!”

Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierre’s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.

Jean-Pierre’s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisoner’s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadn’t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.

They needed to find cover—

More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.

The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmut’s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.

Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.

“Suzanne, we have to get out of here!”

She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. “They’re surrounding us!” The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. “But what can we do? We can’t let them see us run into the store.”

“Forget that. We have no choice!” Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.

“Listen to me,” he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. “You have to go. You take this guy, and I’ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, it’s just twenty more meters to Helmut’s store.” His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.

“But what if—”

“I’ll join you. Now go!”

Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fire—not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.


Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanne’s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping

with a thud. The gangly prisoner didn’t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.

I can’t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.

Yet to chase after the prisoner meant he’d have to leave his partner behind.

Suzanne . . .

He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.

“Go,” Suzanne whispered.

“I can’t leave you. Stay with me—”

Her eyelids fluttered. “You need to go . . .” A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.

Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanne’s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of

black hair from her face.

Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with

the prisoner.

He planted a soft kiss on Suzanne’s forehead. “Until we see each other in heaven,” he whispered.

Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the man’s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.

With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.

Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.

The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.

Soon they’d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother

Switzerland—a skiff piloted by the mentor who’d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.

Jean-Pierre’s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agent—a good woman and a friend—had been sacrificed.

He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.

Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,

Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission

My Opinion:

I am so happy to say that this is another prize winning book by Tricia Goyer and her co-author Mike Yorkey. I have truly grown to enjoy Tricia’s writing and the historical facts she (and co-authors) expertly weave into the story. From the go the reader is pulled into the story – one that is extremly hard to put down – I finished it in two days which is quite a feat when one is a homeschooling mom of three young ones! I just cannot say enough about this book!

I am a history buff so when I am completely pulled into a story like “The Swiss Courier” I know it’ll be a great read. I could feel the tension as Gabi has to cross the Swiss/German border and I could feel the sorrow of the Jewish mother and her husband as they were being escorted back to the Germans and felt they had no choice but to jump off a bridge rather than be tortured in the concetration camps. When an author, or authors, pulls the reader into the book so thoroughly then it’s a smashing success!

Even though there is some romance between two main characters, I was appreciative of the fact that there were no risque love scenes. There was a kiss between two characters right before a dangerous mission but nothing like some books I have read lately. This is truly a godly book and one that I would not be afraid to let my daughter read when she is old enough to understand about the horrible nightmare that was the Third Reich. Way to go Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey!

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