GrowingForChrist

Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

The 5K!!!! #86


Well I hope you all are just wondering how the 5K I walked last weekend went?  Have you been waiting all week?  Probably not, but I have to say completing the first 5K of my life left me feeling very satisfied and happy.  I never thought I’d ever do a 5K, and before someone says, “Well you didn’t run it” – trust me had you seen the path that the 5K was on you wouldn’t wanted to have run it.

 

I thought those who were running, were a bit crazy LOL it was cross country literally but if you check out the times, you’ll be surprised by the ages who finished in the top 3.

 

I wasn’t one of them.  I don’t care.

 

My shoe tag, this tracks your time – instead of having a bib – much nicer.

 

It was obvious that some of the people out there were ‘professional’ 5Ker’s and I can’t help but wonder where the people went who were behind my friend and I, but oh well.  I got the shirt 🙂

 

 

The 5K was actually 3.1 miles – and that .1 mile well that was the longest part of the 5K.  Here is where you can see all the results – Speedy Feet.  I placed 86th and my time was:  1:24:59.4  however we had to deduct some of that time because I dropped my iPod and we had to back track about 10 to 15 minutes to go find it.  I’m especially grateful my friend went back with me – although she didn’t have to.  Thank you M!

 

Me getting ready to head out – in my culottes, warm hoodie (it was freezing out!). It wasn’t no beauty contest!

 

I’m doing another walk – it’s called a fun walk as it’s only 2 miles – on May 18th and I’m collecting sponsors.  My goal is to raise $500 for the Women’s Center that gives care and support to pregnant women and their families and affirms that life is precious.  If you’d like to learn how to donate I’ve set up a Facebook event at Sarah’s Walking for Life.

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CWA Review: Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids by Jill Richardson


ISBN-10: 0615581188

ISBN- 13: 978-0615581187

List Price: $8.00 Softcover, $3.99 Kindle

Page Count: 134

About the Book:

Short-term missions have traditionally been the province of singles, youth groups, and married-with-no-kids.

Five years ago, few would have picked up a book about taking the family on a short-term mission. Now, more and more of us 30 and 40-somethings with kids are asking―

Why can’t we do something meaningful for others with our kids? 
Why do we have to wait until they’re teens and then and pack them off on a youth group trip?
Why can’t we let them experience using their gifts in ministry now? 
And why can’t we discover those gifts alongside one another in an experience they’ll never forget?  Well, you can. With some planning specifically geared toward making a family mission trip successful, you can. And you should.

Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids interweaves personal experience stories with extensive how-to information.

Statistics tell us over three-fourths of our kids will leave the church when they leave home. Why? Part of the reason is their feeling that church is irrelevant to their lives and they can get entertainment and fulfillment elsewhere. If we taught our kids early that the church is relevant because they are the church, and it is fulfilling because they fill it with their gifts and ministry, we could reverse those statistics.

Serving together can be a huge part of that.

About the Author:

Jill has a BA in English and Education and an MDiv in theology. She is ordained in the Free Methodist Church and has served as a worship, preaching, and discipleship pastor. She is also a professional speaker available for speaking engagements. Jill is represented by Diana Flegel at Hartline Literary Agency.

With three daughters, three cats, and (thankfully!) only one husband, she keeps busy otherwise with community theater, gardening, reading, scrapbooking, and bugging her last child to do 4H projects. Jill loves oceans, cats, chocolate, teenagers, her family, the Cubs, and God, not necessarily in that order.

Follow Jill on her Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or on Youtube.

You can purchase the book on Amazon.

 

My Opinion:

 

I have one daughter whose dream is to become a missionary, she is 8, so many have asked her, “Why?”, or “You could do ABC instead.” – so when I had the chance to read and review Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids I was excited and Jill Richardson has reaffirmed my hearts desire to take the children on a mission trip.  I’ve always wanted to take my children on a short term mission trip, but kept thinking I needed to wait until they were older, given that my children are 11 (she’d be fine but very sensitive), 8 (also fine and very sensitive) and 6 almost 7 (all boy, needs lot of stuff to do and often doesn’t pay attention) – I kept thinking there is no way I could take them on a mission trip and have them help in the building of a well or house or church.

 

Thank you, Jill, for opening my eyes and re-inspiring me – I want to keep my 8 year old’s flame ignited and going as well as to have my other children be Jesus’ hand and feet.  My heart is called to Africa as well as China – and while my husband probably wouldn’t be able to accompany us – I’d love to be able to raise the support to take my children and I to show Jesus to those who otherwise wouldn’t get to see Him.  Jill’s books offers very doable advice in how to prepare yourself both physical (like vaccinations), emotional and the legal side of things (I’d have to get a document stating my husband is allowing me to take the children out of the country) as well as how to evaluate if your doing the mission trip for the right or wrong reasons, things to pack and not to pack, and probably most importantly, fundraising – her family of 5 had to raise $10,000 (most of us don’t have that lying around).

 

I’ll definitely be re-committing the desire to do some mission work, even if it’s just out West or in the mountains of Kentucky to begin with, to prayer and see if the Lord begins to move my husband’s heart to do this, even if it’s just his blessing for us 4 to go.  Fundraising scares me, especially big time fundraising, but I know I can draw the strength from the Lord and He will provide and give us those people who will help fund us.  If you’ve ever wondered if you can take many small children on a short term mission trip, if will have any affect, and how to do it – grab Jill’s book and a high lighter and get to reading.

 

 

If you’d like to see what other women thought visit the Christian Women Affiliate review page.

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Random 5 on Friday (on Saturday) – April 27, 2013


Well it’s time for another random 5 link up over at The Pebble Pond – hop on over to join in or to visit the others who are participating.

 

1.  I did my 5K – I’ll be writing a more in depth post on it.  It was cold.  It was long (3.1 miles start to finish).  It was fun.  I finished #86 with a time of 1:24:59.4 BUT my friend and I had to take off some time as I dropped my iPod on the trail and we both went back after it.

 

2.  The day after the 5K we left for vacation to Tennessee – it’s not a good idea to plan a 6 1/2 hour car trip the day after you do a 5K.  I loved seeing the mountains and would totally love to move to Tennessee, although my husband and children don’t agree.  We are already thinking of going back next year.

 

3.  A vacation to Tennessee needs to be at least two weeks long and taken with a lot of money.  There is an awesome steakhouse called Alamo, which I highly recommend and there is a great outdoor go-cart place that charges only $5.00 during the week per ride per person.  It was fun although one of the men working was watching to see how I entered the go-cart in my skirt – it can be done.

 

4.  More stops are needed on the way home than on the way down.  My hubby indulged my historian side and stopped at a sight for the Battle of Richmond in Kentucky – one of the volunteers had a dog named Max who two of my three children enjoyed petting, and of course we couldn’t help but stop in Erlanger for dinner at Greek to Me.

 

5.  Tired.  It was great to get away and enjoy some things we wouldn’t normally do or eat (there is no way we’d spend almost $100 on dinner in our city, but on vacation we do) but it’s tiring.  We didn’t do everything we wanted but we did enough to keep us busy and have some fun and it would be totally worth another 7 hour drive to do another round of go-carts and eat at the Alamo again.

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Litfuse Publicity: Hidden in the Heart by Catherine West (review)


About the book:

After losing her mother to cancer and suffering a miscarriage soon after, Claire Ferguson numbs the pain with alcohol and pills, and wonders if her own life is worth living.
Adopted at birth, Claire is convinced she has some unknown genetic flaw that may have been the cause of her miscarriage. She must find a way to deal with the guilt she harbors. But exoneration will come with a price. With her marriage in trouble and her father refusing to answer any questions about her adoption, Claire begins the search for her birth mother. For the first time in her life, she really wants to know where she came from. But what if the woman who gave her life doesn’t want to be found?
Hidden in the Heart has been nominated for a 2013 Grace Award and is on the long list for an INSPY award.
Hidden in the Heart can be purchased on Amazon.

About Catherine West:

Catherine West is an award-winning author who writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. Her first novel, “Yesterday’s Tomorrow”, released in 2011 and won the INSPY for Romance, a Silver Medal in the Reader’s Favorite Awards, and was a finalist in the Grace Awards. Catherine’s second novel, “Hidden in the Heart“, released in September 2012. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two college-aged children.

Visit Catherine at her website.

My Opinion:

This book gripped me from the first page – the story line brought me in and kept me turning because I just had to know what was going to happen next.  I could sympathize with Claire on the loss of her first baby and the feeling of loss – even looking to alcohol to numb her pain – combine that with the loss of her mom, wanting to find her birth mom AND the potential failing of her marriage, well she was depressed.  Claire sets out on a quest to find her birth mom and a series of coincidences that have her staying at her birth grandparents inn where her birth dad also works as a handy-man – seems a bit too, well coincidental – but if you’re a Christian reading the book, you’ll see how God works through a series of chance happenings.

My only caution about this book is the frequent use of the c**p word – I recognize the author lives in Bermuda and I’ve found out that sometimes some words are cultural – to me that word is a cuss word, and one that Christian’s shouldn’t use – but that may not be the case outside the US.  The struggles were there and I liked the fact that Claire’s husband kept trying to reach out to her, both with his love and the use of Scripture (some may find it preachy, but I liked that).  Whether your adopted or not, have a heart for adoption or adoptees this book really does have an inspirational message for everyone.

 

To see what other bloggers had to say about this book visit the Litfuse Landing Page.

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FIRST Tour: Fisher of Men (The Dunbridge Chroncicles, #1) by Pam Rhodes


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:
Pam Rhodes
and the book:
Fisher of Men
(The Dunbridge Chroncicles, #1)
Lion Fiction (2013)
***Special thanks to Noelle Pedersen for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For many years Pam Rhodes has presented the world’s number one religious television program, Songs of Praise. She writes for the Daily Mail’s Femail section, and is also a successful novelist, author of With Hearts and Hands and Voices and four other novels, as well as a number of other books.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The country church of St Stephen’s, Dunbridge, under the leadership of the formidable Rev. Margaret Prowse, is getting a new curate. The whole congregation is abuzz as the shy but earnest Neil Fisher arrives to take up his very first post.

Though intimidated by Margaret, he is determined to overcome his shyness and immediately sets out to meet the congregation. As often occurs when a man of the cloth is single, his mission becomes somewhat sidetracked when his attention is first drawn to Ros, the spiky single mum who looks after the vicarage garden, and then commandeered by Wendy, leader of the church music group, who is determined to bag herself a vicar for a husband. And if that isn’t enough, he also has to contend with his opinionated mother, who strongly disapproves of her son’s vocation.

Product Details:

Pages: 256

Size: 5 x 7.75 inches

Published: 2013

Rights: NA

Imprint: Lion Fiction

Price: $14.99

ISBN: 978-1-78264-000-4

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

It was the spire of St Stephen’s that Neil noticed first. In fact, if it weren’t for the spire standing head and shoulders above every other roof in the town, he might have needed to keep a closer eye on the map he had balanced on his lap as he navigated round the one-way system which seemed intent on taking him out of rather than into the market town of Dunbridge. Actually, to describe this cluster of houses and shops, some very old, some alarmingly new, as a “town” might suggest more than Dunbridge really delivered. Neil had read that 6,000 people lived here. As he rounded the last corner, he wondered where Dunbridge put them all.He felt his chest tighten with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation at the sight of the grand old church which stood solidly at the end of the square, looking for all the world as if it were peering down the High Street keeping a benign, unblinking eye on its faltering flock. Neil swallowed hard as he felt beads of sweat spring up on his top lip. Wiping his finger sharply across his face, he firmly reminded himself he had absolutely nothing to worry about. After all, this was just a first visit – to see if the Reverend Margaret Prowse thought he might make a suitable curate in this parish, and to decide if he felt Dunbridge could be a place to call home for three years during his training as a curate.

And wasn’t this exactly the moment he’d been working towards for so long? As a soon-to-be-ordained deacon (the ceremony was less than two months away now), those years of longing, of recognizing his call, of study and preparation, had surely all been leading up to this moment – when he finally settled on the parish in which he would start his ministry. Was this the place? Would he become the Reverend Neil Fisher of the Parish of St Stephen in Dunbridge? He rolled the words over in his mind. They had a nice ring to them.

He glanced at the notepad on the seat beside him. “Drive up towards the church, then follow the road round to the right,” Margaret had instructed. “You’ll find the Vicarage down the first turning on the left. You can’t miss it!”

He hated it when people said that. It always made him feel even more of a failure when he proved them wrong.

On this occasion, though, the directions were spot on. A sign on the well-worn gate proudly announced that this was indeed The Vicarage, a large sprawling Edwardian house whose faded glory was camouflaged by a huge wisteria on one side, and a scarlet Virginia creeper on the other. Uncertain whether he should pull into the drive, he decided that it would be more polite to park a bit further up the street, just round the corner from the house, under the arch of a huge horse chestnut. Neil grabbed his briefcase, clambered out and locked the door.

The gate squeaked as he opened it.

“Come round the back!”

The voice came from somewhere above his head. Neil shaded his eyes as he squinted up into the low morning sun.

“Take the path down the side of the house!” came the command again. “The kitchen door’s always on the latch. Daft, really, but I like the idea of an open house.”

Neil could just make out the silhouette of a round, female face surrounded by thick, neat curls leaning out of the upstairs bay window.

“You must be Neil. You’re early! I’ll be down in just a sec. Put the kettle on! Mine’s a coffee…”

And the head abruptly disappeared.

Getting to the back was quite a challenge. Neil clambered over two bikes, a trailer and a hawthorn bush which had very nearly succeeded in its attempt to straddle the narrow path alongside the house. Finally, he made it to what seemed to be the back door, which was not just ajar, but wide open. Closing the door tidily behind him (he just couldn’t help himself), he stepped into a large, alarmingly muddled kitchen in which the table, the worktops and even the hob were piled up with everything from stacks of plates and cutlery to columns of letters, newspapers and magazines. On top of the cooker was a Holy Bible on which was precariously balanced an open copy of the Book of Common Prayer. Neil grinned. Not much doubt a vicar lived here!

Something brushed his trouser leg. He looked down into the calculating gaze of the biggest, fluffiest ginger tom he’d ever seen. He was on the point of leaning down to give the little dear a tickle under the chin when he found himself staring into yellow eyes that gleamed with malevolence. Plainly this four-legged resident didn’t take kindly to visitors, as it did a slow reconnaissance figure of eight around Neil’s legs. He grabbed hold of a nearby stool and sat on it hastily, clasping his briefcase to him and pulling his knees up as high as he could.

“Frank!”

The same voice, sounding twice as loud, rang through the house from somewhere upstairs.

“Tell him where the tea is, there’s a love! I think we’re out of biscuits.”

Intrigued, Neil looked towards the open kitchen door as the sound of slippered feet padded in his direction. Round the corner came a dapper little man with grey hair but, surprisingly, bushy dark brows. Taking stock of the positions of both man and cat before him, there was a sympathetic gleam of understanding in his eyes as he smiled at Neil.

“Sorry,” he said, “my wife’s only just got back from an unexpected hospital visit. She’ll be down shortly. I’m Frank, by the way. And that’s Archie. Quite harmless really, even if he does look a bit fierce. What can I get you? Tea?”

“No, thanks all the same,” gulped Neil, not taking his eyes off the feline predator below him. “I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”

“Oh, the kettle’s always hot in our house,” smiled Frank. “You’ll need to learn that if you’re joining the ranks. Your first appointment as a curate, eh? Well, you’ll be all right here. Margaret will look after you.”

“Frank, have you found him?” That voice again.

“Yes, dear, he’s fine. Archie’s got him cornered…”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, give the poor man room to breathe, Archie!”

The Reverend Margaret Prowse strode into the room, her arms clasped around a large box full of collecting tins.

“Take these, dear, before I drop them. Why Peter left them here when they should be at the Church Centre, I really don’t know!”

There were seconds of confusion while the box was handed over, almost dwarfing Frank, who staggered over to deposit the lot on top of the one pile of papers which was flat enough to perch it on.

“Margaret Prowse!”

Pushing her spectacles further up her nose so that she could peer at Neil a little more closely, she moved towards him, her expression warm and welcoming, her hand stretched out to clasp his.

“How nice to meet you, Neil! Did you have a good journey?”

“Not bad at all. Most of the traffic was going the other way. And I’m very pleased to meet you too!”

Neil became aware that Margaret’s attention had diverted from him, as she suddenly stared at the clock on the wall behind him.

“Heavens! Is that the time?” She grimaced towards Neil. “Look, I know this isn’t ideal, but you’ll soon realize that parish life is never predictable. I hope you won’t think me rude, but I do need to pop out for a short while. I won’t be long, but I had a call early this morning from Violet, one of our regular congregation members. She’s in a dreadful state – bereavement, you know.”

“Oh,” said Neil, “has she lost a family member?”

“Yes – and no. It’s her budgie, Poppet. When you’re nearly ninety and your bird is your only companion, then losing that friend is a dreadful shock. Her daughter is coming over at half ten for the ceremony…”

Neil felt his eyebrows shoot up with curiosity.

“Nothing formal. Not even consecrated ground, although a bit of holy water will soon put that right. No, Poppet is destined to rest in peace in the shade of Violet’s magnolia tree.”

“Have you worked out just what you’ll say, dear?” enquired Frank.

“Not really. I’ll play it by ear. That’s why I was looking in the Book of Common Prayer earlier on, to see if there’s anything that might fit the bill. Nothing quite right, I’m afraid. Any ideas, Neil?”

“For the burial of a budgie?” Neil loosened his grip on his briefcase, then lowered it to the ground behind his stool as he watched Archie wander away in boredom. “It’s difficult, really, when you can’t even give a potted history of the life and achievements of the dear departed, as you would for a normal funeral.”

“Quite!” agreed Margaret. “But Violet tells me she’s written a poem. That might do the trick. And perhaps a hymn? What do you think?”

“‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’,” suggested Neil. “That’s got a line about God making their tiny wings, if I remember rightly…”

Margaret grinned with approval. “Great minds think alike! Exactly what I came up with. And that reminds me. I’ve downloaded the accompaniment for ‘All Things’ on to my iPod. A bit of music might add a touch of atmosphere. Where are those speakers we take on holiday, Frank? You know, the ones that work on batteries?”

“In the upstairs cupboard, I think. I’ll go and look.”

“Great! Meet me with them at the front door. And you…” Margaret turned her gaze towards Neil, “… might like to take a look around the church while you’re waiting. I really won’t be long. Sorry I can’t take you with me, but I don’t think Violet could cope with new faces just at the moment.”

“I quite understand. And I’d welcome the chance to take a look around the church while you’re gone.”

“Go straight out the gate at the end of our garden. You can’t miss it.”

Not again!

“The door’s open, but it’s a tight fit. Just watch it doesn’t slam shut because it’s the devil to open again! Back soon. We can get down to business then. OK?”

Neil nodded, not quite sure which part of the deluge of words he was agreeing to.

But Margaret was already out of the room.

“Frank! Frank, I’m leaving! Where are those speakers? Oh, there you are.”

Surprisingly, Neil heard the unmistakable sound of a kiss being planted firmly on a cheek.

“Remember to get those chops out of the freezer. And don’t forget you’ve got to rearrange your dental appointment on Friday. Oh, and the recycling bin needs to go out today. Bye, dear. Bye!”

There was a sudden draught as the door opened, then slammed shut – and she was gone.

“Right,” said Frank as he came back into the kitchen. “I’ve got my marching orders and so have you. The church is that way. Down the garden, through the gate, up the lane a bit – and you’re there!”

This time Neil really couldn’t miss it. St Stephen’s loomed ahead of him the moment he stepped beyond the garden gate. He caught his breath. He’d always loved old buildings, and churches had been a particular favourite even when he was a small boy. That was probably because old churches had been a passion for his father too. There was nothing he’d liked more than coming across a church which he had never visited before. Story books – that’s what Dad had called them. Neil remembered so many happy hours when the two of them had wandered around and inside an ancient church, noting a Norman carving here or a Gothic arch there. They would discover masonry marks left by the builders, faces carved in the wooden screen or the christening font, or even at the top of pillars – faces which probably looked very like some of the congregation members in the artist’s time; towers hung with bells which had been rung every Sunday for countless generations (except during the Second World War, so his Dad had explained); tapestries and fading medieval paintings telling the Bible stories to congregations who couldn’t read or write; even swallows nesting in the eaves, just as they had done for as long as anyone could recall.

Young Neil had listened, mesmerized, imagining the stonemason, picturing worshippers of times gone by, looking up at the great bells which had called the faithful to worship down the years. And to that small boy, it did seem that his father could read the story of each church as if it were a book, noticing details, large and small, which revealed so much of those who’d known the building before them.

“If these walls could only speak…”

Neil could still picture the softening of his Dad’s face as he’d said those words.

“… drenched in all that’s happened here, those walls are. That’s why old churches have such a wonderful atmosphere. They’ve seen it all and felt every emotion. All the worries, hopes, joys and sorrows of the people who’ve come here down the years – these walls have absorbed the lot. What a tale they could tell!”

Neil found his pace slowing as he thought again of his Dad. Fifteen years on, and he still missed him. That final illness had robbed him of his zest for life and his dignity too. At least he was at peace now. Neil gave a wry smile. Well, at peace from Mum’s sharp tongue, at the very least!

It was often said that Neil looked like his Dad – and he could see the likeness in the thick, wiry hair he’d inherited from his father. Nowadays Neil kept his cropped short, so the tight curls were hardly noticeable – unlike his Dad, who had let his hair grow quite long towards the end, much to his Mum’s annoyance, especially as it turned grey. Father and son had also had the same lopsided grin when they laughed, which was often, because they shared a similar sense of humour – but beyond that, Neil could recognize little of his Dad in himself. His broad shoulders and stocky frame came from his Mum’s side of the family. Her brothers had both been rugby players “for the county!”, as she never tired of telling anyone who’d listen. Physically, Neil was perfect for a scrum half. Actually, the thought of getting anywhere near a scrum was his idea of a nightmare.

The graveyard was nice. A strange thing to think about a graveyard, but he’d always found them fascinating since he’d spent hours wandering around them reading epitaphs as a kid. Taking a quick look at the stones immediately near the path as he walked, Neil was vaguely aware of the church clock chiming noon as he reached the imposing Gothic-arched porch door. In spite of Margaret’s warning, one twist of the round metal handle was enough to release the latch, so that Neil could easily push the door wide enough to slip inside.

He hadn’t realized how much warmth there had been outside in the late Spring sunshine until he stood for a moment breathing in the essence of the building as he walked along the back pew, then turned to make his way up the centre aisle. There was a quiet coolness about the church, an oasis of tranquillity which didn’t entirely cut out the bustle of the surrounding market town. He could still hear traffic noise, children’s voices from a nearby school and even gentle birdsong, but it felt as if a blanket had enfolded the building, filtering everything until it seemed distant and removed from him.

Could this church become his spiritual home? He considered the thought as he walked towards the rail and looked up at the huge carved wooden cross suspended above the altar.

Was this it? Would he be able to bring something worthwhile to this community? Would his contribution as a curate in this church make a difference that was beneficial? Could he be happy and fulfilled here?

Like a sigh, he felt a sweep of cold air brush past him – and at that exact moment, caught by the same sudden draught, the heavy church door slammed shut, shattering the peace and shaking the rafters as it echoed round the old building.

* * *

Frank picked up the phone almost immediately it rang.

“Oh, Frank dear, I’m glad I caught you!” Margaret didn’t bother to wait for any greeting from her husband before she continued:

“This budgie thing is proving to be a bit more complicated than I thought. Violet lives in sheltered housing run by the council, as you know, and because she wants this ceremony to take place as the body is buried, some ‘jobsworth’ is saying we need written permission before the budgie can be interred anywhere on council land! Can you believe it? Well, of course you can! Anyway, Violet is bereft, her daughter is threatening to call the local newspaper – and I need to be here for a while to pour oil on troubled waters.”

“And perhaps even pour holy water on council land sometime this afternoon!” chuckled Frank. “Oh, you poor old thing. Still, if anyone can get things sorted out, you can.”

“It’s just Neil, that new curate – well, hopefully our new curate, if I can persuade him to join us – must think I’m dreadful to be so tied up when he’s come all this way…”

“Well, he’ll be getting a measure of how busy it is here, and how much he’s needed, won’t he!” replied Frank.

“Can you explain and ask him to bear with me? Do you think he’d mind holding on for a bit? Tell him to have a look at the minutes of the last few parish council meetings. Give Peter a ring and see if he’ll pop round to talk to him about how involved the churchwardens are at St Stephen’s…”

“But he’s not here! He went over to the church, as you instructed, around twelve o’clock, and although I know I was out for a while, I really don’t think he came back. Just to be sure, I did pop down to the church about two to check if he was there. I stuck my head round the door and called out a few times, but there was no sign of him, so I suppose he must have taken himself off home again.”

“How strange! From his letter, it sounded as if he was more interested than that. Oh well, he must have taken one look at the church – and us – and decided it wasn’t for him, then!”

“His loss.”

“Absolutely.”

“Odd, though.”

“Certainly is.”

“Right, I must get on. Good luck with the budgie, dear.”

“Oh, I can handle the budgie. It’s the council officials who need to be handled with care.”

“They’ve not met you yet, have they? You’ll knock them into shape.”

Frank could almost hear her smiling at the other end of the line.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can. Bye, dear!”

And the line went dead.

* * *

The main relief was that he’d found the loo. It was now three hours since the door had slammed shut on him, and in spite of shouting, thumping, kicking – and a lot of praying – the door refused to budge, and he was well and truly stuck. Worst of all was the moment about five minutes after the door slammed when he first realized that his briefcase was still stashed behind the stool where he’d been cornered by Archie in Margaret’s kitchen earlier that day. In that briefcase was his mobile. Without his mobile, he was lost.

For one hopeful moment about an hour before, he thought he’d heard someone trying the door. He’d been closeted in the vestry at the time, idly looking through papers on the desk and books on the shelves, for lack of anything else to do. He was just opening a hymn-book, thinking that perhaps a verse of “How Great Thou Art” might make him feel better, when he heard something. The sound of footsteps, perhaps – and was it a voice calling his name? He rushed out into the main body of the church and ran back down the aisle, yelling at the top of his voice, then banged his fists for all he was worth on the unmoving old door which had imprisoned him – but there was nothing. No voice from outside filled with relief to have found him. No sound of a key turning in the lock or a shoulder thumping against the door. No sound at all. Zilch.

Exhausted with frustration, Neil staggered back to lean against the old stone font. How come they hadn’t missed him? Why weren’t they searching for him? Where was Margaret? Hadn’t Frank wondered about him not calling back to the house?

What was it Margaret had said about that door? A tight fit? Something about it being the devil to open? Neil slumped down into the back pew, exasperated and exhausted by another bout of trying to pull, prise, cajole, punch or even kick the door open. It simply wouldn’t budge.

He ran his fingers through his hair and sat for a while with his head cupped in his hands. He just couldn’t understand why no one had come looking for him. Could that have been Margaret or Frank he thought he’d heard earlier? Did they just think he’d taken himself off again without even saying goodbye? Surely they’d see his briefcase? An image slipped into his mind of the Vicarage kitchen piled high with bits and pieces on every available surface. He’d tucked his briefcase behind the stool he was perching on. Would they see it there? Surely they’d find it! He frowned as he wondered if they ever found anything in that muddle. But then there was his car! He groaned out loud when he realized how he’d parked it up the road a bit so that it didn’t block their driveway. Margaret and Frank didn’t even know that car was his, so why would they take any notice of it?

When might the church be opened again? Perhaps for evening prayers? What time would Margaret think about doing that? Mind you, in a small parish like this one, with only one incumbent, evening prayers were often missed because the vicar was just not available to say the office at the right time. Margaret was tied up this afternoon at the budgie’s funeral service. How long would that take? Would she find time to fit in evening prayers tonight?

Neil became aware of a deep rumbling noise, then realized it came from his stomach. He was not a man to miss meals without noticing. He remembered longingly his boiled egg and toast soldiers eaten at eight that morning, and glanced at his watch. He’d been imprisoned in the church for nearly four hours. No wonder his tummy was complaining. He needed food – now! Like a fox out on a night raid, he decided to search every possible nook and cranny for something to munch. There must be some biscuits here, surely. All churches ran on tea and biscuits!

He set off towards the vestry, a man on a mission.

* * *

It was gone six o’clock before Frank heard Margaret’s key in the door.

“Mission accomplished,” she grinned. “Poppet had a very good send-off quietly after five o’clock, when the council official had knocked off for the day. We sang the hymn and said a few words in Violet’s flat, then nipped down and did the deed when he wasn’t there to see us.”

“Oh, well done, dear. I knew you’d think of something.”

“No sign of Neil, then?”

“None at all.”

“Odd.”

“Very.”

“Can I smell those chops in the oven?”

“With baked apple, just the way you like them.”

“And roast potatoes?”

“What else?”

“I’m starving! Give me five minutes to sort myself out, and I’ll come and set the table.”

“How about, as a special treat, having it on our knees in the living room?” suggested Frank. “We can watch the news as we eat.”

“Perfect,” agreed Margaret, heading upstairs.

Minutes later, when she joined Frank in the kitchen, her nose twitched at the aroma of apples as he dished up the chops and gave the gravy a final stir. Margaret reached down beside the dresser to grab the padded knee-trays which they could balance on their laps as they ate. Suddenly, she stopped.

“Frank, look!”

Following her gaze, his eyes opened with horror.

“His briefcase! Neil left it here!”

“But why didn’t he come back to collect it?” asked Margaret.

“Perhaps he just forgot.”

The two of them stared at each other for several seconds, obviously registering the same thought.

“Or perhaps,” said Margaret slowly, “perhaps he didn’t leave.”

“He couldn’t still be in the church… I went there. I shouted. There was no reply.”

“Did you look in the vestry?”

“Why would he be in there?”

“Why not? He might have got cold. Or bored. Or needed the loo. Oh, Frank, he can’t still be in there, can he?”

“That blasted door!”

The two of them moved as one, out of the kitchen and down the garden path. It was as they were running through the graveyard towards the church that Frank spotted the light.

“I didn’t leave that on!” wailed Margaret. “It must be him!”

Within seconds they ran into the porch, and Frank grabbed hold of the iron ring which turned the latch on the ancient door. Funnily enough, it worked very easily from the outside. Making it work from the inside, however, was a quite different story. It took practice, a lot of practice, to get the knack just right. Why on earth hadn’t they made that clearer to Neil?

Practically falling through the door, their calls were greeted by absolute silence. Neil was nowhere to be seen. One small light was on, but the church was quiet and empty.

“Maybe he’s in the vestry?” suggested Frank. “I’ll go and check.”

“Frank.” Margaret’s voice was practically a whisper. “What’s that noise?”

He stopped in his tracks, his head tilted to one side as he listened.

“Whatever it is, it’s coming from in here,” gestured Frank, looking around the main body of the church. “Down the front there, I think.”

“Be careful, dear. It may not be him.”

Frank hushed her by putting his finger to his lips, then he began to tiptoe down the aisle, stopping suddenly as he drew level with the row of seating second from the front. Moving silently along the pew, he slowly leaned over to peer down on the seat in front of him.

“Come and take a look at this!” He turned to her with a smile.

What she saw when she joined him made her smile too. They looked down on a peacefully slumbering Neil, snoring loudly, his mouth wide open, his legs curled up along the seat, and his head resting comfortably on a hassock. On the floor below him was an open box of Communion wafers – or at least, what was left of them. He’d apparently found the Communion wine too, because the silver goblet they used in Sunday services stood beside his dangling arm with just a mouthful of red liquid still in the bottom.

“He didn’t starve, then,” said Frank. “That’s a relief.”

At the sound of their voices, Neil’s eyes shot open, and for a second it was plain he was struggling to remember just where he was.

“Right, then,” said Margaret in that no-nonsense tone he would later come to know so well. “It’s pork chops for tea. Coming?”

My Opinion:

 

I loved this book, it is set in England, and since we’ve gotten hooked on BBC T.V. it was so lovely to be transported to Dunbridge and meet all the fascinating people in the little town as Neil visits with them.  I cried when an elderly parishioner died and again when her sister died after the family forced her out of her house and into our American version of a nursing home.  Neil’s mom isn’t happy with her only child and son’s choice of vocation but Neil is flourishing and becomes one of the village as the story goes on – even gaining what everyone thinks is his future wife – although Neil is torn.

 

Filled with lots of British terms I felt like I had walked into a nice comfy bed and breakfast in the English countryside just in time for tea with maybe some Hobnobs or biscuits.  Since I don’t know a lot about vicar’s and curates and such it gave me a glimpse into church life that I don’t know much about and so while fictional it also gave me a bit of an education.  I’m looking forward to reading the next book and get to follow Neil around after he becomes officially ordained.

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Litfuse Publicity: Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell (review)


 

About the book:

 

Lucy Kendall returns from a tour of the Continent, her luggage filled with the latest fashions and a mind fired by inspiration. After tasting Europe’s best confections, she’s sure she’ll come up with a recipe that will save her father’s struggling candy business and reverse their fortunes. But she soon discovers that their biggest competitor, the cheat who swindled her father out of his prize recipe, has now hired a promotions manager-a cocky, handsome out-of-towner who gets under Lucy’s skin.

Charlie Clarke’s new role at Standard Manufacturing is the chance of a lifetime. He can put some rough times behind him and reconnect with the father he’s never known. The one thing he never counted on, however, was tenacious Lucy Kendall. She’s making his work life miserable…and making herself impossible for him to forget.
You may purchase the book at Amazon.

About Siri Mitchell:

Siri Mitchell is the author of nearly a dozen novels, among them the critically acclaimed Christy Award finalists “Chateau of Echoes” and “The Cubicle Next Door”. A graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in business, she has worked in many different levels of government. As military spouse, she has lived in places as varied as Tokyo and Paris. Siri currently lives in the DC-metro area.

You can visit Siri at her website.

My Opinion:

I’ve only read one other of Siri’s other books, Love’s Pursuit, which I really enjoyed, and this newest book, Unrivaled, is no different – full of twists and turns and conservative romance I felt swept into the story almost immediately.  I say almost, because at first I thought there is no way the candy making industry would be as ruthless of Siri portrayed it!  It’s candy, not a cutting edge, medical breakthrough like the cure for cancer, know what I mean?  However, it indeed was ruthless and even cut  throat at times, which I appreciated in the notes at the end of the book, so I’m thinking Siri knew that some readers may doubt that making candy could be so vile.

While I enjoyed the book, the characters, were well, whiny and all about me, me, me – whether it was Lucy’s mom or Lucy herself or Charles or his father – the main characters were all about chasing their own dreams.  Of course, while the characters admitted to believing in a God, they didn’t have a saving faith in the God – which, if you know people who believe in a God they usually act differently than those who have a Saving Faith in the God.  I would have liked to see Lucy’s Aunt and Uncle and her father play more of a part in the book, but her father was bedridden and ill so I can sort of understand why he wasn’t more to the story.

Since I so enjoy history, I think that is what played the biggest part for me – as there was quite a bit of history woven into the story and plot.  At one point, my heart does ache for Lucy when she is jilted just a short time before her wedding to Mr. Arthur – but honestly what made the book sweet (pun intended) to me was the history that Siri obviously took so much time in researching to make the book authentic feeling to the reader.  I look forward to reading even more books by Siri when the time allows me to do so.

If you’d like to see what other bloggers thought visit the Litfuse Landing Page.

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Blogging Through the Alphabet: F is for Fun (and Family)


Blogging Through the Alphabet

 

Well it’s been a busy but fun last few days!  Yesterday, we returned to Ohio from our vacation in Tennessee.  The last time I was in TN was when my mom was carrying me – so I didn’t remember much!  (if you didn’t get that humor, I apologize).  It was beautiful and overwhelming at the same time.  Pigeon Forge had a lot to do and we arrived about 4p.m. on Sunday afternoon and stayed until Thursday morning.  We had a great hotel suite at a Microtel Inn and Suites, it was clean and we had two queen beds and a pull out couch.  Our only real complaint was the free breakfast which was the same everyday – sausage gravy, biscuits, waffles, cold cereal, juice, milk and coffee.

 

Welcome to Tennessee – sorry about the van antennae.

 

We had a whole list of things to do – our first night we did the Prehistoric dinosaur ride, which was a bit expensive but it was so much fun!  Then we had dinner at IHOP – the service was horrible, even the food wasn’t good (this is the IHOP you’ll come to first as you enter Pigeon Forge before entering Gatlinburg).  After dinner we went to the dinosaur ride, of which we were the only ones riding – which made it so nice and then we went back to the hotel to re-group and figure out what to do on Monday morning.

 

Entrance to the Prehistoric dinosaur ride.

 

A large cross on the side of the road that we saw at our last pit stop after entering Tennessee.

 

So it’s been a fun week – we went to several Ripley’s attractions, ate at some restaurants that aren’t in our area at home, saw some beautiful and also back woods areas.  For the most part, all three children were very well behaved in the van (even if we had some issues once we arrived) during the very long drive to Tennessee.  We got away from the stresses of hubby’s job, our schooling, and life in general and just got to enjoy one another.  Our kind neighbor watched our two dogs and two guinea pigs – because while the hotel allowed animals, it’s not a vacation IMHO if you have to take your animals with you.

 

I’ll be sharing some more pictures and thoughts of our vacation over the next few days – hey it gives, you and I, both a break from the reviews!  As well as some pictures from the 5K I walked the Saturday before we left (not such a great idea!).  So F is for Fun and family – and with that I’ll leave you with a beautiful picture I took:

 

In Tennessee going down the interstate with some mountains far off in the distance, it was a beautiful and scenic drive.

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Crew Review: Progeny Press: Hall of Doors: The Dragon’s Hoards book and study guide


One of the things I love about homeschooling is making sure my children get lots of great literature and Progeny Press makes it so easy to study literature in a Biblical context – even if it’s a secular book.  I was given Hall of Doors: The Dragon Hoard’s unit study and the print book to use for 4 weeks and review it.  Hall of Doors: The Dragon’s Hoard is an imaginative book that reminds the reader of The Hobbit as it draws the reader in and takes them on a wonderful journey of imagination, character building and allegory.  The suggested grade level is grades 2 to 4, and I read the book aloud to all three of my children ages 11, 8 and 6 while having my 11 year old do the study guide portion.

The book description from Progeny Press’ website is:

Upon walking into a hidden hall of doors in their barn on a rainy day, Kennan and Beth are propelled into an adventure beyond their expectations. They choose a door and find themselves on a windswept mountain summit with a dragon flying all too nearby. As they travel across this land following the clues they’ve been given, they encounter a lost pony, talking crows, elves, and the spiders of Mirkwood. Realizing they are in a story from a book, they must follow the clues to the end to return home, having learned a special lesson in courage along the way. This courage will help them to serve “The King they already know.”

The first in the Hall of Doors series.

The book is relatively short, at only 64 pages divided into 7 chapters it can easily be read in just few hours.  I know once we began the book my children didn’t want me to stop but I wanted to carry on the suspense a little while longer, so I carried it out over a period of two days.  I too found myself getting very carried away in the story of Kennan and Beth as they enter this new world and embark on an adventure to carry on a King’s Quest and also learn more about themselves on the way.  It is also beautifully illustrated with black and white pictures depicting Kennan and Beth’s adventures.  The illustrations are done by Mary Duban.

The book provided my entire family with an exciting tale about characters they could relate too as they were right around my children’s ages and since there was a boy and a girl as the main characters my daughters and my son could relate to that.  The adventure kept us turning the pages so we could figure out how they would get back as well as how they would complete the quest that they were on.  You can buy the book for $6.99 but if you’d like the author to sign it add another $2.50 and if you’d like the author and illustrator to sign it then it’ll be an extra $3.50 – it’s always a nice touch, especially when giving as a gift.

The study guide is an important part of really understanding and digging deep into the book.  The guide covers all seven chapters and gives questions, vocabulary, word find, critical thinking, and other ways to really dig into the meat of the book, which was once a short, fun, read aloud has become a complete study on literature using the Hall of Doors: The Dragon’s Hoard.  I had my daughter work on it little by little every day for a few days – knowing that we were supposed to use it for four weeks, but she finished it quicker than that.  I think it only took her a week and half to finish it because it was something she actually enjoyed having added to her school day.

The study guide can be purchased via PDF download ($15.99), on CD ($15.99) or printed booklet ($16.99) – we were given the PDF document version along with answer key.  I saved a file using my daughter’s name and Dragon’s Hoard, so the original is still as it was when I downloaded but all her answers were saved making it easy for me to ‘grade’ her work.  All she had to do was get into the folder and open her own document and begin working then I’d open her document and the answer key and go over her work.  I’m happy to say she did very well with only few corrections needed on my end.

Here is what my oldest had to say about the book and study guide:

I really, really liked the book- not to mention the fact that I liked the fact that Mrs. Gilleland didn’t over exaggerate, nor under exaggerate. I’m not sure what chapter I like best, though!

The study was fine as well, and I liked the formatting she used for it.  Some of the questions were slightly hard, but over all it was enjoyable. I really like the chapter seven questions on the study- not too easy, not too hard, and it was really fun.

I loved The Dragon’s Hoard very much!

If you’d like to read what other homeschool parents had to say about this and other Progeny Press products visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Blogging Through The Alphabet: D is for Diet and E is for Exercise


Blogging Through the Alphabet

 

Well I’m late again!  So I’m doing two letters – having had convention and trying to get some stuff done in school before vacation – things have been busy so here I am – this week’s letter is E but I’m doing D is for Diet and E is for exercise.

 

They go together nicely don’t you think?

 

So, D is for diet.  Most of you who have been reading Growing For Christ for any length of time know I’ve struggled off and on with weight and food – and it was just this February that I made a concerted effort to really lose and get healthy.  One of the things I’ve had to deal with is my diet – I sometimes still miss the days of curling up with my Kindle Fire with a can of Coke and a bag of chips by my side – but the thing I don’t miss is the lethargy that would follow soon after.

 

Me in February.

 

I’m down almost 30 pounds and I feel great!  I am going to be walking my first 5K this coming Saturday and am so excited.  Plus I get a shirt!!!  I’m also accepting sponsors for the fun walk (2 miles) I’m doing in May, the Walk for Life to raise money for a women’s ministry for those women who have chosen to keep their babies, either to raise on their own or to adopt.

 

One thing that I’m having trouble with is the fact that there is so much information.  One person suggests juicing is the way to health, others suggest no meat is the way, others take a more relaxed approach and see it as it doesn’t really matter since we’re all going to die anyway.  I’m currently reading my way through Trim Healthy Mama (a review will be forthcoming) and I’m liking what I read.  I also bought Wheat Belly but haven’t started it yet.  Do you see why I’m confused?

 

Eat grains, don’t eat grains.  Eat fat, don’t eat fat.  Eat sugar, only use xylitol or stevia.  Don’t use any sweeteners.  **sigh**  What’s a girl to do?

 

Ultimately, I have to put it to prayer.  I can read the information.  I can put it to use but really what use is it if I don’t put it against Scripture so I know what God says.  God gave us animals to consume, knowing they are healthy.  God gave us grains to consume.  He is the one who created the Stevia plant.  He didn’t create our bodies to subsist on only veggies, only fruit, only grains, only meat, or tofu (which is soy so it’s bad anyway) or drink only juices.  So as I read I put the information I glean to the test against Scripture and see if it holds water as well as how I feel – I know God created the plant that gives us sugar, but I know after eating sugar I get lethargic and grumpy.  I know He also gave us grains, but I too know that after eating certain grains I have to make a stop in the restroom.  He gave us foods and He created our bodies and we must use what Scripture says as well as our bodies to determine how we should be eating for our unique bodies.

 

As for exercise.  I hated it.  I even tried to avoid doing PT in boot camp – it wasn’t easy but it can be done.  Now I feel like something is missing if I don’t exercise.  At convention, I didn’t exercise by what I typically do, but the amount of walking was astronomical so I was okay.  My calves were so sore for two days after!

 

Now Scripture doesn’t really say anything about exercising.  There is nothing about ‘thou shall exercise 6 days a week and rest on the 7th’.  We are told though that our bodies are the Lord’s temple and given that we should be taking care of them.  I feel grumpy when I don’t exercise, of course my children would say I’m also grumpy while exercising (of course refereeing a fight isn’t easy to do while you’re panting).  I digress…..

 

It’s said that a woman like me needs to exercise at least 1 hour a day most days of the week to lose weight.  There are some fun ways to exercise out there – I really enjoy the Wii Fit Plus – if I change it up it gives muscle confusion.  Of course I also enjoy Debra Mazda and Leslie Sansone too.  Diet also plays a factor, you can’t exercise an hour a day and still expect to drink all the Coke you want – you’re going to gain.  Diet soda isn’t good either and it’s being linked to weight gain even though it’s ‘sugar free’.  I drink water and unsweetened ice tea (if I do sweeten it I use Stevia).  I drink one cup of coffee in the morning and maybe some almond milk if I have a bit of cereal (yes, I measure it – usually 3/4 cup of cereal and 1/2 cup of almond milk) – otherwise it’s water or the occasional tea.

 

I’ve talked with others and some will tell me they just can’t lose the weight but then they’re holding a can of Mountain Dew.  Or ‘I have so many children, there isn’t time to work out’.  I have to say I’ve given up the excuses.  If you’re really wanting to get fit – stop the excuses (I think someone may have said that back in the 80’s?) but it’s the truth.

 

If I can make the time, if I can lose the weight, if I can walk a 5K then you can to so let’s look at your diet and your exercise and see what can improve.  Cut out the soda to start with, or cut down – you drink 10 cans a day, cut down 2 cans a week until you’re at none.

 

Can’t work out for an hour?  Start with 15 minutes and build up.  Carve out that time, if it’s time that you’re finding hard.  I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. (sometimes I turn it off and sleep in but I still work out) eat breakfast and work out – if I get up I can have my work out in before I wake up the children.  Better yet, go for a walk with the children a couple times a day.

 

So, what’s you’re excuse?

 

Me in March.

 

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Litfuse Publicity: Tales of the Defended Ones by Beth Guckenberger (review)


About the book:

Ben and Joseph lose their mothers, but find a family looking just for them. Antonio is rescued from what seems like a hopeless situation. Caitlyn dares to trust that truth will set her free. Jorani is delivered from slavery into the arms of grace.
Follow these real-life stories as they take you on a journey to foreign places and extreme struggles. Travel through their challenges and see the hand of the great Storyweaver – our Defender God shielding and defending the defenseless in the amazing ways only he can.These are the tales of the ones left wounded and weak-ones made whole and strong . . .
You can purchase a copy on Amazon.

About Beth:

Beth Guckenberger and her husband, Todd, are the founders of Back2Back Ministries which communicates a lifestyle of service by sharing the love of Christ and serving God through service to others. Guckenberger travels and speaks regularly at women’s and missions conferences, as well as youth gatherings and church services. In addition to her children’s releases in the Storyweaver series, Guckenberger has written two mission-minded books. She has also partnered with Standard Publishing on the mission content in its 2013 VBS program. The Guckenberger family lives and serves in Monterrey, Mexico.

Find out more about Beth at http://www.bethguckenberger.com/.

My Opinion:

I’ve had the pleasure of reading Beth’s other book Tales of the Not Forgotten so when I had the chance to read this next book I jumped on it.  Like the other book, you’ll meet 5 different children who seem like God and the world has truly forgotten them, that there is no one to defend them as they fend for themselves.  Of course, that isn’t how our Living God works – He is always there always helping and sometimes it isn’t until the end that we see how He has woven events together to help the least of these.  Beth refers to God as the Storyweaver in this book, and at first I was a little skeptical, as I don’t like referring to God in ways that seem irreverent but after spending time reading the book, Beth uses the name Storyweaver in a very reverent way – one that really does tell us that God is weaving a story in each of our lives.

Don’t think though that you can read this book and walk away when you are done.  I had tears in my eyes as I read this book and I almost handed it to my 11 year old to read, but as sensitive as she is I think I’ll need to wait another year – this book is one that will leave you wanting to do more, to help God in His weaving of other children’s stories – in your community or in the world.  I read this book in a day, more like a couple hours, because I loved seeing how the children in the stories rose above their circumstances and came to see how God could ultimately save them.  The stories are heart breaking but the triumphs that the Lord has worked are truly miraculous and will leave you inspired.

If you’d like to read what other bloggers had to say visit the Litfuse Landing Page.

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