GrowingForChrist

Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

American Heritage Girls – summary


We had our awards ceremony in June, so I’m a little behind but I want to share what a wonderful program American Heritage Girls is.  My daughters and I were so happy when a new troop started that was within a short driving distance of us and I also decided to become a Unit leader, so I work with the Explorer Unit and it’s so much fun.

 

One of our service projects was to meet at a nursing home and sing Jesus Loves Me to the residents who attend the church service then we walked the halls passing out homemade flowers to the residents.

 

Bethanne and one of her friends towards the end of our Camporee in May. Bethanne took BB guns and Hannah did archery. They each completed one badge. We all ended up sun burned but had a great time!

 

Our troop participated in the Memorial Day parade, the girls rode in the trailer while us moms/leaders walked it.

In June, we had our awards/cook out where the girls received their Joining Award (this is a big award, one they must earn before they can earn any other badges).

The joining ceremony symbolized the girls going out into the world and shining Christ’s light to all.

There were fun and games to be played and enjoyed by all. We had nice weather for the cook out.

The girls are working on badges through out the summer, I’ve had each go through their books and pick out one badge from each frontier.  Hannah’s goal is to reach the Explorer’s level award which is called Lewis and Clark, and there is a lot of work that goes into and she only has 1 year to complete it so I’m working on that with her in hopes that come next May/June she’ll have earned her Lewis and Clark award.

I’m so glad that there is a Christian alternative to some of the other groups that are available to girls today.  Not only do they earn badges but they are engaging in character building from a Biblical perspective and also encouraged to do a lot of service hours – my girls are wanting to volunteer time at our local Animal Welfare League.

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Crew Review: Moving Beyond the Page; Number the Stars and World Wars I and II #hsreviews


I get so excited when I get a chance to review a product that I’ve never heard of before, and that is what happened with Moving Beyond the Page – a literature based curricula that has science, language arts, and social studies units.  I was allowed to chose two units, one physical unit and one online unit – I thought my oldest would be the most interested and she chose World Wars I and II and Number the Stars.  Both of these units complement each other and fall under Moving Beyond the Page’s concept 2 unit 3 for ages 10 to 12 – concept 2 is titled Force and Power and this breakdown may make more sense by viewing the age 10-12 year at a glance page.

Moving Beyond the Page’s curricula is written by several women who are professionals in the education arena but most importantly is that they all have home educated their children and understand the difficulties that homeschooling parents can encounter when it comes to finding quality curricula for their families.  If you’d like to read more about the writers and creators of Moving Beyond the Page I recommend taking a look at their About Us page and if you’d like to see more of an overview of how the 10 to 12 age range works the overview page is full of great information.

Moving Beyond the Page - World Wars I and II  photo stars_zpsc4dd75f2.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Wars I and II had nine lessons and it’s recommended that children spend 3 hours on their science, social studies and language arts studies, and since my daughter would spend about 2 to 2 1/2 hours on just her social studies and language arts studies I’d say this is a generous estimate, thankfully we really didn’t have any other school going on.  The lessons in World Wars are:

  1. World War I Begins
  2. In the Trenches and on the Homefront
  3. The End of World War I
  4. World War II Before U.S. Involvement
  5. Mobilizing for the War
  6. Wartime Skills
  7. War in the Pacific and North Africa
  8. War in Europe
  9. The End of World War II

Group picture of the books for the unit World Wars I and II

There are some required books, these can either be purchased through MBTP or borrowed from your library or another source, A History of US: War, Peace, and All That Jazz 1918-1945 by Joy Hakim and Where Poppies Grow: A World War I Companion by Linda Granfield.  There are some basic school supplies needed but these are easily obtained or they will be noted as optional, which I appreciated to take some pressure off.  I initally set out to have my 11 year old do one lesson a day in World Wars I and II however there was a lot of reading in the supplemental books so I had her divide each lesson over the period of two days, I also went through and chose which activities to have her complete as some had two activities.  This book was spiral bound and is over 100 pages including how to use the guide and an answer key.

A propaganda poster she had to come up with and design to support the war effort on the home front.

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Map of the extent of the Japanese Expansion, Operation Avalanche and Battle of the Bulge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We used this by me going through and writing on sticky notes what she needed to do each day, including what to read in the book and her supplements as well as which activities to complete.  So all my daughter had to do was pull out the book each day and go to work on it and then I would check it when she was done, or if there was something that said to discuss with the parent, we would come together and discuss that part.  Some activities were a bit more involved and she did need some added help from me, which was fun because there was some things I didn’t know regarding the World Wars, unfortunate since I had Great Grandparents and Grandparents in the wars.

 

 

After having her work on her World Wars unit I’d have her log in to the online portion of MBTP and begin work on her language arts unit based on Number the Stars by Lois Lowery.  This portion was a bit more fun for her to complete as she’s been wanting to read the book – however I was not able to confine her to just reading the assigned chapters – she is like me and prefers to read the whole book through.  I allowed her to do this as her reading comprehension is excellent however she still used the book in order to answer the questions that involved the book.

 

Like World Wars I and II I gave her a list of assignments and she was able to log in to the site on her own and begin working.  I printed off the needed pages that she’d use to work on before beginning the unit and put them in a folder so she could access them when needed.  I liked being able to do this because she could focus on just the activity I wanted her to complete versus in the physical book where all the activity pages are included even if the child doesn’t want or need to complete it.  As each lesson is completed it’s crossed out making it easy to know where to pick up where she last left off – as well as making it easy for me to check her work.

 

Screen shot of Hannah’s Number the Stars online segment.

 

There are also nine lessons, the ninth lesson is to span 3 days and a final project which may take up to 3 days.  We have not yet completed the final project but we are both excited about finishing it and seeing the end result.  The nine lessons are:

  1. Background on Denmark and World War II (there is a PDF document that is easily accessed to get the information on Denmark)
  2. Soldiers on Every Corner
  3. The Button Shop
  4. In Hiding
  5. In the Country
  6. Aunt Birtie is Dead
  7. Run
  8. Little Red Riding Hood
  9. A Magazine Article
  10. Final Project

There is also spelling and vocabulary included in the language arts section which is meant to implemented during the studies.  It is worth mentioning that the curricula is not from a Christian perspective, which was okay for the units we chose and it allowed us to have some interesting discussions such as God’s view of being a woman versus what women went through on the home front as well as those who joined the Armed Forces.  Also, it is not a cheap curricula – however it is in depth and it does align with state standards – but for us it’d be used as a break from our regular work rather than a full on curricula.

 

There are several purchase options you can purchase the full year curricula for 10 to 12 year old for $842.58 and that includes science, social studies and language arts in their physical forms, the literature to go with the studies and the manipulatives needed.  You can chose the online versions of the studies that will also give you the literature and the manipulatives for $752.94.  Or customize your package and buy individual units based on subject or concepts presented.

 

If you’d like to read what other parents had to say about these and other Moving Beyond the Page units visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog.

 

 

 

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Blogging Through the Alphabet: N (need) and O (obedience)


I think it’s easy to come up with some words for the beginning of the alphabet, like A, B, C, D, E but as you get further in it becomes harder and I find myself thinking okay, this is the next letter what can I write about or asking my children to chime in.  For N they probably would have said the word “no” as they hear it quite often.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

I’m actually going with N is for Needy or Need.

I think we all are needy in one way or another.  I know I was and still am – in high school I needed to feel loved and that led to a lot of bad decision making – a lot and even post high and those decisions sometimes still haunt me.

We may be needy financially, emotionally, spiritually, or whatever – I think we all struggle with some sort of need or needy feeling from time to time – we are human.

Whatever our need is there is Someone who can help with those needs, isn’t it great to know that?  As I was thinking of a word I flipped to the concordance in the back of my Bible and looked up the word needy/need and there are verses that speak to that:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may received mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.”  Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV

Of course different translations will phrase it a bit differently but I looked it up in several and all were the same in what it said – Jesus draws us to Him, He wants us to find His grace in our time of need.  Don’t know where you’re next meal is going to come from?  How to fund a school year?  The loss of a loved one?  Seeking love from all the wrong places?

Hebrews assures us that we can come to the throne, God’s throne – not some man made king – but God, the One, True ruler and we can receive grace from Him.  Yes, there are more verses but for some reason when I read these verses in Hebrew it was like a balm, one we can cling to when everything seems too big for us, we can have confidence that the Lord sympathizes with us in our time of need!  How awesome is that?

I think we all also struggle with something else – it’s a word nobody, or most, don’t like to hear today – if you don’t want to hear cover your ears eyes.

Obedience.

No.  Not gonna do it.  I refuse.  Eye rolls.

Obey?  Not me.  We don’t want to obey our parents, our husbands, our children don’t want to obey us and I think, as Christians, we struggle with obeying the Lord.  Oh, we don’t want to admit it because then we’ll look like fake Christians, hypocrites, Pharisees.

We don’t want to obey, our very human nature struggles against obeying – in whatever form of authority is over us.  Sometimes, there is something to be said for not obeying, like in China – women who disobey the government mandates for a 1 child only and refuse to undergo forced abortions or commit infanticide.

Other times, it behooves us to obey – to stop at that red light or to obey that small still leading from the Lord directing us to give more out of our paychecks than planned.

Obedience hurts sometimes.  I know when I decided that I’d have one child, I didn’t have a relationship with Christ at the time, one child only – no more.  Well then, looking back the Lord was working in me even then, even when I didn’t acknowledge Him, when I didn’t want or need a Lord.  I’ll admit I haven’t had any big trials of my obedience, I haven’t had a child divulge some huge dark secret, I haven’t been called to start raising money to go to a foreign land, yet – but it’ll come.

Even Jesus was obedient to His father:

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Philippians 2:8 ESV

Obedience hurts.

Obedience makes us holy.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” I Peter 1:14 and 15

There are more verses on obedience and obeying.  One thing is for sure we are called to obey our Lord.  If we’ve given ourselves to Him, we need to obey Him – we can’t pick and chose what we’re going to obey (that is what is wrong with today’s churches, but that is another post) – we can’t say “oh, I’m only to stop at red lights on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays”.  No.  We must always stop at red lights and like that we must always obey our Lord.

We may grumble.  “Give up my fertility to God”, “How can I give more? My children need to eat?”, “Serve?  I just don’t have the time”

Jesus asked God to take this cup from Him but He knew He had to obey.  What if he didn’t obey?  What if God honored His request and took the cup of His sacrifice?  What if there were no sacrifice – how little is required of us to obey?  God isn’t asking us to sacrifice our child on the cross because He did that – His own Son was murdered on the cross for US – everyone – everyone who wants it.

How can we not obey?  Think on that, what if Jesus hadn’t obeyed His Father?

I’ll leave it at that.  If you’d like to read others thoughts you can visit Ben and Me (and I’d recommend it if you read mine all the way through).

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Bethany House Review: The Guardian (Book 3 in Home to Hickory Hollow) by Beverly Lewis


The Guardian by Beverly Lewis book 3 in Home to Hickory Hollow

About the Book:

Come home to Hickory Hollow, Pennsylvania–the beloved setting where Beverly Lewis’s celebrated Amish novels began–with new characters and new stories of drama, romance, and the ties that draw people together.

When Jodi Winfield comes to Lancaster to house-sit, the last thing she expects to find is a disheveled little girl alone on the side of the road. The young teacher is mystified when she learns there have been no reports of a missing child, and the girl herself is no help, since she can’t speak English. It’s as if the child appeared out of nowhere.

Then Jodi turns her attention to Hickory Hollow–and the cloistered world of the Old Order Amish–in search of answers.

You can buy the book at Bethany House or on Amazon, The Guardian (Home to Hickory Hollow, Book 3) in both print and e-book versions.

My Opinion:

I love Beverly Lewis, she is one author who I hope to meet one day in real life and her books helped to really spur me to come back to the Father and re-dedicate my life to Him so when the third book in the Home to Hickory Hollow series was available to review I knew I had to read this one too.  I’ve read The Fiddler and The Bridesmaid, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed so I was happy to return and meet some new characters and ‘see’ some old ones.  The difference with The Guardian, I think was it seemed to have more substance to the characters – it took me a bit longer to finish this one than the other two.

My heart broke for Maryanna as the whole community searched for her missing daughter and then my heart also struggled with Jodi as she tried to decide how she should deal with the little girl she found while out running.  I think to this book resonated with me since my goal is to run in some 5K’s, so I somewhat related to Jodi and how fun to run with a group of Amish runners!  Regardless, like all of Beverly Lewis’ books the characters struggled in their personal and their spiritual life – not everything comes with a pat answer or wrapped in a bow – and ultimately we see that this is sometimes what the Lord uses to draw us near to Him so we can put all our faith in where it belongs.

I won’t tell you how the story ends or what happens to Jodi’s heart or even to Maryanna as both women, living very different lives, come together and eventually find what the Lord has in store for them.  One could easily read this book first without having read the other ones as there wasn’t much overlapping of the stories – but make sure to read the whole series because it’s so nice to come back to Hickory Hollow.

Also in accordance with FTC regulations I am disclosing that this review may contain affiliate links which, if you buy through the link I will receive a bit of monetary compensation – this is not in conjunction with the publisher or for the purposes of the review.

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FIRST Tour: Epic Fail by Gordon Dabbs


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:
Gordon Dabbs
and the book:
Epic Fail: Gaining Wisdom from Failures of Biblical Proportion
Leafwood Publishers (May 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gordon Dabbs currently pastors a large congregation in Dallas, Texas. He holds a PhD in philosophy, advanced degrees in theology and ethics, and has ten years of experience as a church planter in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he hosted a weekly television program.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Why would our loving God choose to forever record the stories of men and women whose lives collapsed in sin and shame? Why share biographies of people like Jezebel and Judas, whose lives didn’t have happy endings? Perhaps the Lord recognized that their stories could powerfully inform and shape us. Their loss can become our gain. Epic Fail: Gaining Wisdom from Failures of Biblical Proportion is God’s invitation to learn and grow from the great collapses of the Bible.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (May 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 089112232X

ISBN-13: 978-0891122326

AND NOW…THE SECOND CHAPTER:

Pharaoh

A Problem with Pride
A short time back, my wife and I visited the home of some good friends who are parenting two spirited young boys. Upon our arrival, the oldest boy proceeded to show us the mountain of trophies and medals he had won in Taekwondo tournaments. I made a mental note to stay on this kid’s good side. After their sons had gone back to their room to play, the mother whispered to me, “Don’t be too impressed. At these competitions, all the kids get a trophy regardless of how they perform. They just want all the boys and girls to feel good about themselves.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head.
In America, whatever we’re doing to make us feel better about ourselves seems to be working. A recent survey of high school students revealed seventy percent of them believe they have above-average leadership skills. Only two percent believe they are below average. Back in the 1950s, twelve percent of high school seniors regarded themselves as a “very important person.” Recently, that percentage has risen to eighty percent.
Americans are more self-confident than ever. In a culture that magnifies self and injects children with daily doses of pride, it’s no wonder we’ve been labeled a generation of praise addicts.6 In this climate, we would do well to heed the warning of an ancient proverb, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Prov. 11:2 niv).
Growing Up as a God
What would it be like to grow up believing you were the center of the universe, or to be told by adults you should be worshipped as a god? What kind of a person would be produced by this kind of upbringing? How easy it would be, for pride to overwhelm the heart of a person indoctrinated to believe in their own divinity.
Welcome to Pharaoh’s world. From the elaborate royal protocol that surrounded every meeting with him, to his ornate garments, to the magnificent palace that was his home, everything surrounding the young prince was orchestrated to convince onlookers he was no mere mortal. Those who had dealings with Pharaoh believed that he was special. His people understood that he was a descendent of the gods; yes, this god-man was exceptional. After all, he was the leader of the world’s technological, economic, religious, cultural, and military superpower.
To be sure, there were a lot of Pharaohs during Egypt’s proud history. One, however, came to be remembered as the Pharaoh. This one would gain a unique status because his rule would intersect with the life of a man named Moses, with the multitude of Hebrew slaves he represented, and with the God he worshipped.
Four hundred years earlier, the Hebrews had first migrated to Egypt to escape a massive famine. Since Joseph, one of their own, had risen to become the right-hand man to the Egyptian ruler, the Hebrews were originally viewed as partners and friends of Egypt. Over four centuries, however, their status changed dramatically. The Hebrews came to be viewed as a social underclass; they were drafted into service to build grandiose monuments in honor of the Pharaohs, and mistreated as the miserable slaves of the Egyptian social elite.
Along came Moses with his brother Aaron into the royal court of Pharaoh. Moses claimed to have been sent by a foreign God who demanded that his people, the Hebrews, be released from their bondage in Egypt. As absolute ruler, the decision of how to respond to this demand was entirely up to Pharaoh.
Hard Heart Syndrome
Why would Pharaoh give in to the demand that the Hebrews be released from their enslavement? Well, God, through Moses, made a pretty compelling case. It was a shock and awe display of divine power the likes of which Egypt (and the world) had never seen. One by one, the Hebrew God dueled Pharaoh and his pantheon of Egyptian deities who proved to be no match for his power.
After each devastating plague brought against Egypt by God, after each demonstration of Yahweh’s divine power, Pharaoh was asked to release the slaves. Time after time, the mulish king dug in his heels, closed his heart, and proudly refused to be pushed around by any man or any god. At moments like this, when an individual is convinced they are the center of the universe, all the ingredients for an impending catastrophe are present.
The Bible depicts Pharaoh’s heart as hard. Unchecked ego can strip a person of perspective and wisdom. A pride saturated heart morphs into a closed system that refuses to accept any circumstance or opinion that does not bow its knees to the god of self. The absence of checks and balances that come through humility handicaps a person’s capacity for self-reflection and wise judgment.
Something which troubles many when it comes to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was the role God played in the process. “. . . The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron . . .” (Ex. 9:12 niv). Frankly, it seems wrong for God to do such a thing. Why would God hijack his free will? Shouldn’t Pharaoh be free to make his own choice?
A closer reading of the entire narrative reveals an important nuance of how Pharaoh’s will became closed. In reality, Pharaoh did a bang up job of hardening his own heart before God ever got involved.

The first time his stubbornness is mentioned, the Bible relates, “. . . he hardened his heart and would not listen . . .” (Ex. 8:15 niv). Repeatedly, during the first half of the plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
So, how exactly did God participate in making Pharaoh’s prideful heart inflexible? For starters, it was God who provided multiple opportunities for Pharaoh to release the Hebrews. Over and over again, God made the exact same request through Moses: “let my people go.” By providing these decision points, God gave Pharaoh opportunities to either humble or harden himself. Pharaoh chose the latter. Just as calluses are formed on the hands of a laborer through repetitive use, a heart becomes callused when the same prideful decision is reconfirmed over and over.
God also became a participant in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart because God ultimately decided to honor the king’s own choices. In his sovereign power, the Lord could have hijacked Pharaoh’s heart and mind and reprogrammed it to say yes instead of no to the demand of

Moses. Yet God, in his love and respect for human beings, preferred to honor Pharaoh’s freedom to make his own decisions. Only after the Egyptian leader had unilaterally chosen to ignore God’s demand, does the Bible say the Lord hardened his heart.
Pharaoh had transformed himself into a self-absorbed man, a closed system, a person unable to interpret the signs of his time and unwilling to listen to wise counsel. Even voices within his own inner circle could not break through his fortress of pride. “The magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is God’s doing.’ But Pharaoh was stubborn and wouldn’t listen” (Ex. 8:19 msg).
A wise person once said, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is six feet.” Every time Pharaoh chose to ignore the pleas of God, Moses, and his own counselors, he was digging a rut. That rut would become a grave for thousands of Egyptians, for his army, for his son, and for his legacy.
The Way of Humility
Hopefully, you were not raised in a home where you were allowed to be the ruler of the household or were worshipped as a god. But whatever our upbringing, a lot of us tend to struggle with pride. I certainly do.
One such struggle took place when I was finishing my master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. My course work was completed and all that was left was for me to take what were known as the General Exams. People around me, many of whom had already passed the exams and were working on their doctorates, told me I need not spend much time studying for the exams; they were really quite easy. The testing, I was told, was more of a rite of passage. Based on their opinions and experiences, and more than that, on an over-inflated estimation of my own knowledge and ability, I didn’t study. I was convinced the exams would be a piece of cake.
Unfortunately, I got a slice of humble pie.
A week after the testing, I received devastating news: I had failed. After all the course work, time, and money that had gone into my graduate studies, I was without a diploma. Suddenly my future plans seemed to be up in the air. My ego, however, came crashing down to earth. Thankfully, the merciful faculty allowed me to retake the exams and, after much study, I passed. Eventually, by the grace of

God, I was able to complete my doctorate in philosophy. To this day, I thank God for that painful and humbling lesson.
Whenever I start thinking too highly of myself, which is far more often than I’d like to admit, it seems God sends something or someone along to deflate my swollen head. One afternoon, I walked into a meeting and strode confidently to shake a fellow’s hand. As we greeted each other, he awkwardly observed I had a plastic toilet freshener suspended from the back of my belt. Ouch. Not cool. Sometimes, I’ve found, humility is pine scented.
A great measuring stick for how open a person is to growing in humility is to recognize how they tend to respond to losses. No one likes to lose, but being gracious in defeat, being able to laugh at yourself, and being open to learn from past mistakes prepares us to handle both future success and failure. Quite simply, Pharaoh didn’t know how to lose. He didn’t know how or when to accept defeat. Since we live in a “win at all cost” culture, this lesson may be difficult for us to learn, but learn it we must. Humility is needed.
While Pharaoh was a self-absorbed pride junkie, another leader in the Exodus story shows us a better way to live. In contrast with the Pharaoh, the Bible says, “Moses was a very humble man” (Num. 12:3 niv).
It is worth noting that, in all likelihood, Moses had been raised in the very same household as Pharaoh. They knew each other before Moses arrived in the palace to appeal for the liberation of the Hebrews. Moses had spent the early years of his life studying with the top teachers, enjoying the finest food and luxury accommodations, and reveling in all the perks and privileges of being a royal in Egypt’s court. Just like Pharaoh, Moses had been raised as a prince of Egypt, yet Moses was not an arrogant person.
When God appeared to him at a burning bush in the desert, inviting Moses to become the leader and liberator of the Hebrew people, Moses politely declined, citing his own inadequacies. “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:11 msg)? Understanding his faults and past failures (which included homicide), Moses basically said, “Lord, surely you can do better than me!”
After the successful exodus from Egypt, Moses found himself overwhelmed with the constant demands of leading a nation of people. Jethro, his father-in-law, challenged him to think about a new leadership structure that delegated authority to other capable leaders: “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (Ex. 18:24 niv).
Humility is a vital element of successful and balanced living. Humility is so valuable and necessary that it is the very first quality Jesus listed when he gave his famous description of the blessed life during his Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3 niv).
Cultivating Personal Humility
An important way that people move against their own pride is to admit their limitations, while remaining open to stretching those limitations by embracing new challenges. In Exodus 4, Moses offers to God his own self-appraisal, revealing he does not believe he possesses the requisite public speaking aptitude required to lead. He understood he was never going to dazzle crowds of people with the turn of a well-crafted phrase, or with stirring orations. He was a great leader, but he was keenly aware he was not a great orator.
The lesson for us is this—Moses did not allow his limitations to close his leadership horizons. God had called him to lead. God would equip him with whatever he needed. This calling from the Lord gave him a quiet confidence. The humility of Moses permitted him a balanced, realistic, and faith-oriented appreciation for what God could do with his life. As Gordon Smith writes, “Humility means recognizing both our limitations and our potential. . . . With sober judgment we simply accept who we are.”8 Enormous potential for growth and future accomplishment is unleashed when people tear up their selfadmiration society membership card.
Another way that humility is cultivated is by listening to the wise counsel of others, then making the necessary adjustments. When his father-in-law came with leadership advice in Exodus chapter 18, Moses didn’t scoff and say, “Look old man, I’m the chosen one here! God made me the leader of Israel, not you!” Instead, he humbly considered the counsel of this older, more seasoned man, and decided to tweak his leadership style accordingly.
What a contrast between Pharaoh and Moses. One arrogantly stuck to his guns and paid an incredible price for his hubris, the other listened and learned.
No one is saying that Moses was perfect. He had some failures on his résumé. For starters, most of us can say with confidence that we’ve never committed murder. Moses could not say this. At one point, he disobeyed the explicit instructions of God which were that he speak to a rock so that water would come forth from it to refresh the thirsty people of God. Instead of speaking to the rock, he stuck it with his staff. But even though his initial meeting with God revealed he was well aware of his weaknesses, and even though he had been forced to flee Egypt after committing a capital crime, he still made an impact on the world around him like few others ever had.
Giving a short overview of the life of Moses, a New Testament writer says, “He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25 niv). One thing we learn about Moses is he embraced his identity as one of God’s people. He could have bought into all the pomp and pride of being part of the royal family, but he chose to identify with God and with God’s family.
Like Moses, people also cultivate humility when they prepare themselves for spotlight moments by living their daily life understanding who, and whose, they are. In choosing Moses, the Lord chose to work through a person who was willing to serve a community and a cause greater than himself. Pharaoh’s ego left no room for any agenda but his own.
In an ancient sixth century Christian text, Gregory the Great wrote, “No one can learn humility in a high position unless he ceases to be proud when in a lowly position. No one who learned to long for praise when it was missing knows how to flee from praise when it abounds.”10 Once I humbly accept who I am, and that my value comes from the God I bow my knees to, then I am ready to open my eyes to a new reality. Then I find myself in a world shaped by an acute awareness of the constant movement of God in and around my life.
What about Moses? The Bible reveals that, “He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27 nlt). Whatever obstacle he came up against, he kept right on going.

What about you? An awareness of God’s presence in your life and in your world allows you to have the spiritual and emotional traction needed to pull through difficult and painful seasons of life. Whether in victory or loss, joy or sorrow, Moses kept on going. Why? Because he kept his eyes on the Lord.
This means the cultivation of humility is aided by recognizing the presence of Almighty God in day to day life. Consider this helpful insight of C. S. Lewis: “In God you come up against something, which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself…. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” If you are going to have a balanced and well-informed view of your potential and limitations, then you have to be awake and alert to your own spiritual brokenness, grateful and awestruck in the shadow of the Cross, and acutely aware of the greatness of God Almighty. Truly, if your eyes don’t turn upward to God, you will never have a clear-headed view of your own place in the world.
The more a person grows in the way of humility, the more room they give for God to operate in them and through them. Tender mercies and great strength are unlocked in the life of the humble believer.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet. 5:5–6 niv).
So, where is your source of perspective? Where are you grounding your identity? Where does your sense of worth come from? Are you a praise addict, clinging to the shiny medals and trinkets of a self-magnifying culture? Or, do you look upward? May God make you secure in his love so you can humble yourself, believing that only then, his grace will be released, and his mighty right hand will lift you up.

 

 

My Opinion:

I think that as Christians we sometimes to forget that even God can and does work through those who are less than stellar and His plan is going to continue to succeed no matter what a messed up human can do.  In Epic Fail we meet some bad boys and girls of the Bible who are often either totally vilified or ignored, but yet, God still worked through them to write HIStory.  You may be thinking, well surely God couldn’t use an evil woman like Jezebel or Simon the Sorcerer to do anything but evil?  Gordon Dabbs doesn’t tell us what they did was okay but that even God can used messed up lives, evil people, and screwy thought processes for His good – which also gives a glimpse into His grace and mercy.

One chapter that really spoke to me was chapter 3 titled Taking God Seriously which was about Nadab and Abihu (if you haven’t heard of them, no worries, neither have I but thankfully Gordon gives you Scripture so you can read their story in the Bible).  I’ve often been asked why do Christian’s have to fear their God, or a God of love shouldn’t have to be feared, or even more sad, I can’t worship a God that wants me to fear them.  Fear isn’t always bad – and I really enjoyed the way Gordon shows us what fear of God means, it isn’t fear of Him but of His power.  Gordon Dabbs tells the reader what the benefits of fearing God are, how the world has distorted this healthy fear, and of course how God used the fearless Nadab and Abihu to work His glory.

The chapters are short and succinct and even engaging, using some modern day names to get his point across while relating it back to those infamous people of the Bible to make it relate to our life today.  Some short questions or thinking statements are included at the end that will get you thinking about some of you preconceived ideas about those who have gone before as well as God.  Best of all, it’s all supported by Scripture – I can see this being a great study for teens in church who are tired of the “God Loves You” mantra and want to dig into God’s Word, a small group study for friends, spouses or Sunday School class for adults and teens.

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FIRST Tour: Way Back in the Gardenia Rows by Kay Wheeler Moore


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:
Kay Wheeler Moore
and the book:
Way Back in the Gardenia Rows:
Everyday God-Moments
and the Recipes that Accompany Them
Hannibal Books (April 29, 2013)
***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson, PR Specialist, Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kay Wheeler Moore is a Pulitzer-Prize nominee who stirred up her heirloom cornbread from “Way Back in the Country” and her tangy orange/pecan salad from “Way Back in the Country Garden” on live TV while she promoted preserving family history through recipes. Her other previous books are “When the Heart Soars Free”, a book of Christian fiction, and “Gathering the Missing Pieces in an Adopted Life”, based on her newspaper series when she was a Houston Chronicle reporter. She and husband, Louis, are parents of two adult children and their spouses and grandparents of three.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

What are the tangible moments in life when God has been so real to you, you can almost hear His heart beating? When has He provided such an unlikely solution to a dilemma, the answer had to be His doing and a result of no other source?

Pulitzer Prize nominee Kay Moore, author of “Way Back in the Country” and “Way Back in the Country Garden”, collections of family recipes and the stories behind them, now inspires readers to preserve God-moments in their own lives and to capture recipes of the foods that were served accompanying those life-changing times. Using illustrations from her own experiences, she contends that God shows up in quiet, everydaylife lessons as well as in miracles that may not be of the Damascus Road scale but nonetheless make a permanent imprint on the human heart.

As with her other “Way Back” books, Kay’s newest is packed with recipes for tantalizing foods, all of which are accompanied by small vignettes describing the context in which they were served and which illustrate the bond of food, family, and faith.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95

Paperback: 272 pages

Publisher: Hannibal Books (April 29, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1613150253

ISBN-13: 978-1613150252

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

IntroductionFood and Faith:

Holy Ground

Early June mornings, while the dew still shimmered on the summer grass, I wordlessly followed my mother out back to her prized spot by the hedge.

In my shirtwaist of starched organdy with its prodigious bow I stood expectantly while she took her shears and lopped off the most showy bloom from a bush in her gardenia rows.

Fragrance from the creamy white petals invaded my nostrils as she pulled a silver safety pin from her apron pocket and fastened the flower to my dress.

Down the street, bells from the tile-roofed steeple called neighboring children to line up for Vacation Bible School. Mother wanted to be sure I wore (and smelled) my church-going best even though the morning would find me wrist-deep in finger paints.

At noon, after my class of kindergarteners had memorized our Scripture verses and heard flannelgraph Bible stories and pledged allegiance to the Christian flag, I walked the short block back home to my house.

By that point my gardenia was limp and brown-tipped; its scent was diluted by my sweatdrops from the playground.

But none of that mattered, because my mother was waiting with her welcoming lunch of tuna-salad sandwiches and chocolate-chip cookies formed into bars.

When I think about the days in which the concept of God’s love first was introduced in my life, I can’t help associating those happenings with the gardenia blossoms and tuna fish and bars of chewy chocolate.

Those summer-sweet days at Bible School helped teach me Who God was, how He created the world, how He moved in history, and how He was a personal Father Who knew and loved me.

Interlaced with all those memories, something yummy to eat always was around the corner. Food and faith—they were an everpresent duo in my life—just as I know they are in the lives of others, as well.

* * * * * * * *

This book, simply put, tells stories of ways I’ve experienced God—and the food that accompanied some of those God-moments.

Some think Christian testimonies must be linked to a pat, memorized format of Scriptures or must cover a set of key points that spring from a proper acronym.

In God’s Word, however, Bible figures simply share their testimonies by relating what God has done for them. The blind man Jesus heals proclaims through the simple statement, “I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25). The forgiven woman at the well merely narrates, “He told me everything I ever did” (John 4:39). Before Agrippa, the apostle Paul quietly recalls the Damascus Road (Acts 26).

Old Testament writers repeatedly recount God’s hand in history (for example, Ps. 18). All are simple stories, earnestly told, of golden God-moments in each of their lives.

Way Back in the Gardenia Rows represents a collection of my faith stories—certainly not every one of them, since they happen every day and every hour. Oceans of ink could not possibly describe them all.

Part of them recount my “faith genealogy”—religious influences from past generations that trickled down to merge into the river of faith that flows into my heart. They show how God was at work in my life for generations before I ever was born.

Others delineate times in which God’s hand was so apparent that I could only stop and acknowledge, as Moses did, that I stood on holy ground. Some occur during a tsunami of tragedy and challenge; others happen on spiritual mountaintops; still others take place during unremarkable, quiet moments with nothing afoot except the stirring of the Spirit.

These are family stories; God works in families in every generation. From the first biblical grouping of Adam and Eve and their offspring He picks the family as the milieu in which He accomplishes His work. He places Jesus into a family. This is what He does with me as well.

Although our paltry lives may seem inconsequential, they actually are no different from those of the Old Testament patriarchs or the New Testament martyrs. All of us, as our pastor once instructed us, are involved in an epic that surpasses the great epic films such as Braveheart or Last of the Mohicans or Gladiator. We are involved in an epic tale that is the redemption of humankind. Every single day “we get to play a part in that huge story,” he told us.1

This is simply my version of my particular bit-part in that epic. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts, says Psalm 145:4. I want to make sure that the next generations are reminded of His mighty acts in my life and theirs, too.

As with my previous two cookbooks, which featured the antics of The Three Red-Haired Miller Girls (my mother and two aunts) and the generations that surrounded them, these family stories are linked to recipes—a food that was served at the dinner after a baptism, cookies that were prepared as we celebrated the miracle of our daughter’s graduation. I consider these foods to be integral to that particular memory from my faith journey. The story of that event wouldn’t be complete without remembering what we ate, who originated the recipes, and other lore that surrounded the cooking and consuming.

Many of these cooks have left this earth and today are dining in the banquet hall of the King. Telling about their special dishes almost seems to bring these dear ones back to life again.

* * * * * * * *

These happen to be my stories, but they are undistinguished. Every reader can spin similar yarns—only the names and circumstances differ from those of mine. Again, as with my two previous recipe books, I repeat the urging: tell your own tales, preserve your own happenings. Commend God’s works in your life to the generation that follows yours. While you’re at it, throw in a good recipe or two. Lock all this in for those that live after you.

Make sure they know that throughout your life, humble and ordinary as it may seem in the scope of human history, you—as I—have been standing on holy ground.

Today’s tuna-salad versions are so soigné with upscale additions, our forebears wouldn’t recognize this basic staple that was on the table at least three or four times a week (served on white bread with crusts removed) when I was a pup. All these years later I still think my mother’s cloth-coat variety is best.

Mable’s Tuna-Fish Sandwich Spread

1 (5-ounce) can tuna, packed in water

1 hard-boiled egg, diced

1 medium apple, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

In a medium bowl flake tuna that has been drained. Stir in egg, apple, and celery. Fold in mayonnaise. Spread on bread slices.

Chapter 1

Tippy-Toeing By

“Keep your eyes straight ahead, and whatever you do, don’t look out at the audience.”

No set of instructions could have been more of a siren song to a 5 1/2-year-old—even one about to follow Christ in baptism as she stood in slightly chilly waters on a spring morning.

After all, I had to know whether my daddy was out there among the onlookers. Daddy typically worshiped at his own church—Austin Street Church of Christ—on Sundays, while Mother and I filled the pews at First Baptist, Garland.

But on this red-letter day Daddy made a special exception and joined the Baptists in worship. All the more reason why I simply must careen my head ever so slightly toward the crowd to see whether I could nab a glimpse of him.

Then, just as the service was about to start, I heard him clear his throat. Nobody made this trademark, gutteral throat-

clearing sound like my Daddy. Suddenly I had the answer I needed. He’s here! I could assure myself.

I righted myself on the platform with its few bricks added so my shrimpy little head could be seen above the baptistery rail. Bro. Cockrell then baptized me as a symbol of my pledge to live for Jesus from that time on.

How did it happen that one so young—barely a first-grader—was making the most important decision of her life?

Long before my birth, did certain foundation stones that would help me one day decide I wanted to become a Christian get cemented in place?

Granted, God has no grandchildren. We do not inherit salvation just because we had righteous forebears. Every person must make his or her own decision about trusting Christ as Savior.

Yet the milieu in which I was reared most certainly created a fertile ground for being open to the gospel. Who had plowed that ground before me?

* * * * * * * *

To answer that question, I started by looking at the faith-lives of some of the Christians on my family tree. For example, if anyone ever found God’s grace dumped smack-dab in the center of her lap, it would be my maternal great-grandmother, Frances Mitchell Harris.

I let my imagination wander back to 1873 and tried to envision 20-year-old Frances as she and her family of eight jostled along in their ox-wagon on the rutted roads between their home near Jackson, MS, and their new location in northeast Texas.

Did Frances hear, No going back. No going back, every time a loose side board on their wagon made a clomp-clomp-clack, clomp-clomp-clack sound? As the prairie road snaked by her, Frances doubtless knew she might never return to her birthplace in the Deep South. Frances was the oldest offspring of her parents, Littleton and Annie Eliza Mitchell. What would Texas be like for the Mitchells in this new state to the west? she may have pondered.

In Frances’ mind, just about any place would have been good for putting the past behind her. Like many others, her family had lost everything in the Civil War. Littleton’s plantation near Jackson was burned out in the “late conflict”, as many called it. A friend of “Lit” already had relocated to Kaufman County, TX, and had a large farm there. He asked Lit to join him in Texas and help work the blackland prairie in that area.

Frances also had another reason for needing a new locale. She had ended a brief marriage to her young husband, James Miller. They had married in Mississippi a few days before Frances’ 15th birthday but parted only about a year later when things didn’t work out. James had been 21.

Twin babies lay buried under the soil back home in the Magnolia State.1 A wedded life that began with high hopes had gone afoul. Perhaps Texas would bring happier times.

* * * * * * * *

Another Texas newcomer—Joseph Francis Harris, who farmed land nearby—already made his home in Kaufman County, where the Mitchells soon would build their log cabin with its dirt floor. Though only 23 Joe Harris already had his share of rip-snorting life experiences.

Hailing from Washington County, IL, Joe at age 18 enlisted in the War Between the States, where he fought opposite Frances Mitchell’s South. Although he is not thought to have seen much combat, Joe was injured in a fall from a bucking horse while he was on Army duty in May 1865.2 After his discharge he was badly hurt while he worked on a dredge boat on the Mississippi River. Once in Texas he became a stagecoach driver; while doing this he almost froze to death in a snow-and-sleet storm.

But by the time the Mitchell family arrived in Kaufman County in 1872 or 1873, Joe had settled into farming. Sometime soon after the Mitchells landed in Texas, Joe and Frances met and fell in love. Frances never had obtained a divorce from James Miller, although they had been separated for several years. But a few days after that divorce was granted, a JP married Frances and Joe. The newlyweds lived on a farm about 12 miles from Terrell, TX.3

Before 11 months of marriage went by, a baby boy was born to the couple. Indeed, if Frances were grieving an empty cradle from an earlier time, the arrival of Charles Cornelius Harris on December 31, 1873, helped fill the hole in her heart. Before young Charlie reached age 2, a second boy, Eddie, joined the family; another brother, Thomas, was born before Charlie was 3. Twins Jesse and Albert would appear on the scene before Charlie celebrated his 5th birthday.

God truly had granted Frances a second chance from the life she left behind in Mississippi. At the end of the clomp-clomp-clack, no-going-back of the ox-wagon, God had made sure the man who would become her life’s companion and by whom she would have 14 children was already in place, waiting for her.

* * * * * * * *

How Frances Harris’ faith shaped her life in those days is not precisely defined in the record left behind her. Her obituary states that she had been a member of the Baptist church all her life. I feel fortunate to possess her family Bible and know she must have opened it for guidance, especially during times of heartache that were to lie ahead for her and Joe.

Their second and third boys, Eddie and Thomas, each died in young childhood. Their first daughter, Mollie May, did not live to see her 2nd birthday. A later son, John Delbert, died as a teen. Jesse, one of the twins born to Joe and Frances, ultimately left his wife and their five young children and didn’t return to the family. How I wish we knew the verses Frances claimed as anchors during those hours of trial.

But Frances had to realize that God was the source of all her blessings and was the One who turned her life around from those dark days in Mississippi. A total of 57 grandchildren, including my mother, Mable Miller, and her sisters Frances and Bonnie, emerged from the 49-year union of Frances and Joe. Among Frances’ offspring are many committed Christians. My maternal grandmother, Mattie (ninth child of Joe and Frances), no doubt was put on that pathway by a godly mother.

A loving family surrounded Grandma Harris with affection and care until her life ended at 92. As I wrote in my first cookbook, Way Back in the Country, Grandma’s photographs in later years always showed her with a contented smile, even though a broken hip left her wheelchair-confined during many of those latter years.

I’m convinced that Frances Harris was a woman with peace in her heart because she knew that God was the Source of all she had received in this life and would provide for her in the next.

Frances Mitchell Harris—the first plank in the platform of faith that would shape my years.

* * * * * * * *

The second plank—the Miller clan on the paternal side—also demonstrated faith in times of severe hardship—faith that would trickle down to my mother and ultimately to me. (This Miller family was no relation to Grandma Harris’ first husband, James.)

My great-great-grandmother, Rebecca Compton Miller, remained devoted to God even after her husband, Peter White Miller Sr., was butchered4 up and died from complications of his war injuries. He had served in the Confederate Army from Tennessee.

Rebecca, like many other Civil War widows, no doubt experienced cruelties in the years just after the war. Likely her land and other property eventually were seized. At the time, she was 46. Her children included a 2-year-old son.

Ultimately she moved from Tennessee to Delta County, TX, to join several of her kin. One of them was son Alfred Compton Miller, eventually grandfather to the Miller Girls.

Family historian Garland Button conjectures that a life of Christian dignity even in the face of suffering and separation characterized stalwart Rebecca. “The life of Rebecca Compton Miller must have undoubtedly been deeply rooted in the Christian faith,” Button writes. He says this was reflected in the lives of the 15 Miller children, all of whom lived to adulthood.

“This family is one that throughout its history has been made up of people dedicated to the Christian ethic in its fullest sense,” Button continued.

Like his father, Alfred C. Miller was not given the gift of years. At age 40 in 1892 he passed from this life and left his wife, Margaret, as a young widow with six children—a seventh one died just three weeks before Alf did.

At this point my mother and her sisters became direct eyewitnesses to the Miller family faith legacy.

Their grandmother, Margaret, as had her mother-in-law, Rebecca, lived with the families of various children after she was widowed. My mother, Mable, remembers Grandma Miller kneeling every night by her bedside while she stayed in the home of the Miller Girls’ parents, Mark and Mattie.

“We would see her praying and would tippy-toe by the door so we wouldn’t disturb her,” my mother recalled.

The bowed countenance of Margaret Miller, a grandmother who had suffered much, impressed Mable, Frances, and Bonnie Miller. In their adult lives all three sisters were Christian women devoted to prayer.

As they grew up, the Miller Girls were always in church—singing their red-haired father’s favorite hymn, “Wonderful Words of Life”, as well as other classics. As I wrote in the chapter, “Roll, Jordan, Roll”, in my first cookbook, Way Back in the Country, the three sisters never had a question about whether the family would attend services on Sunday; the question of where depended on the weather. Their own church was the New Hope Baptist Church, where Papa was ordained a deacon. But if rains had fallen on Saturday night and the roads weren’t dry, the Methodist church in Brushy Mound was closer to them and would do just fine.

All three girls trusted Christ as Savior and were baptized in the pool adjacent to the cotton gin in their community. Way Back in the Country describes frequent two-week tent revivals. At one of them Mable made her profession of faith.

History repeated itself into a third generation when the Miller Girls’ mother, Mattie, was left a widow while in the prime of her life—age 49. Three successive Miller men—Peter Miller; Peter’s son, Alfred, and Alf’s son, Marcus—all died in middle age, leaving wives and families that depended on them.

Once again a grieving Miller woman turned to—and found—help in the Heavenly Father. Mattie easily could have given God a real flaying and demanded to know why her beloved was abruptly taken from her. Instead she leaned on Him in her needy hour. Just as the Miller Girls had observed their grandmother in prayer, I often saw my Nanny with bowed head as she sat in her rocker with her Bible open. I always felt confident that some of those prayers were for me. Almost until she died, she gave enthusiastically to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Her means were few, but out of them she contributed to spread the gospel.

Christian role-modeling from this second plank of my faith legacy—the Millers. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them (Ps. 22:4).

* * * * * * * *

Matters of faith in the Wheeler family—the third plank in my platform—are detailed in chapter 2, “The Runaway”. But a visual that I observed when I once visited my grandfather Wheeler’s place of origin—Borden Springs, AL—summed up the story for me.

There, in a graveyard adjacent to the Church of Christ, were Wheeler markers as far as the eye could see. Towering over them was the headstone for the grave of Calvin Marshall Wheeler, my granddad’s grandfather—the progenitor.

Churches of Christ had a heavy concentration in Alabama as the movement grew in the middle of the 19th century. It traces its origins to the Restoration Movement (also called the Stone-Campbell movement) of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as Barton Stone-Alexander Campbell followers from Kentucky and Tennessee migrated into northern Alabama.

Cathryn Killian, my late cousin on the Wheeler side, told me that the Wheeler family had been aligned with Churches of Christ for many generations, which probably explains why my dad never quite was willing to sprint over and join my Baptist mom in her church membership. My granddad, James Devastus Wheeler (I nicknamed him “Bandad”), became a lay Church of Christ preacher, as the next chapter explains. His spiritual impact on my life was immeasurable.

My grandfather was a boy of 3 when his father, James Washington Wheeler (more on him in the next chapter) pulled up stakes from this idyllic setting in the Blue Ridge foothills and began his Texas migration. Whether my grandfather’s branch ever made return trips to Alabama to see those left behind is a matter of mystery.

But in their new state they decidedly brought their Church of Christ heritage. Once settled into Antioch, TX, in Delta County, they joined the Church of Christ. James Devastus grew up in that setting and at age 13 was baptized at nearby Rattan.6 As an adult, when he and Zella moved to Cooper in 1910, he found no Church of Christ congregation existed and drew together a few disciples to begin a local body.7 My Bandad, in my estimation, was one of the truest Christians that ever walked on the earth.

* * * * * * * *

The spiritual roots of the W.H. Wright family–my dad’s maternal side—are obtuse because of the situation that makes most Wright information cloudy. Chapter 10, “In Search of Mollie V.”, describes the early passing of my grandmother’s mother, Mollie V. Wright, when Mammaw was 6. Mammaw—Zella Mae Wright—then died when I was 10, so I was physically around her less and “caught” less information from her (except one rare jewel of a fact described later) than I did from any of my other living grandparents.

I do know that her family also evacuated from northern Mississippi in the wake of the Civil War aftermath—no doubt for some of the same atrocities that caused the Mitchells and Millers to flee the Deep South.

Regardless of the W.H. Wrights’ faith tradition, soon after Zella married my Bandad, J.D. Wheeler, she joined the Church of Christ and became a part of his family faith practices. She was baptized by C.E. Holt at Rattan, TX.

Here is what my grandfather, her life’s companion of 57 years, wrote on the one-year anniversary of Zella’s passing: “She spent much time in the study of the Bible and was a good Bible student. She spent much time in prayer. Zella was a devoted Christian and a true helper in life, in joy and in sorrow. I believe she is safe in the arms of Jesus.”

Little else needs to be said from this one who knew her best. As with my Nanny, the prayers of my devoted Mammaw, Zella Wright, may just have been some of her greatest spiritual contributions to my life.

* * * * * * * *

What were those prayers by my Nanny and Mammaw? I have no doubt that in part, they pled with God to send a child to their infertile children—Mable and J.D. (Doyce).

And does God answer prayers retroactively? Since prayer transcends time and space, did He know of the urgent petitions my Nanny and my Mammaw one day would utter and start answering them . . . before either of those godly women was even born?

Consider the following story, which concludes my first chapter. The name in this amazing tale—W.F. Kimmell—won’t appear on any of the family trees at the end of the book. But this Civil War narrative about W.F. is as vital to my family faith heritage as are any of these already told.

* * * * * * * *

Eager to do his part for his country, Albion, IN, native William Francis Kimmell enlisted in the 8th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry in April 1861. Enthusiastically he wrote regular and highly detailed letters home to his lady friend, Leah Crispell, back in Albion.8

Initially W.F.’s letters are cheery and buoyant. “I am here a United States soldier enlisted for three years and hoping to do something for my country before I come home again,” he wrote in June 1861.

As days wore on, the realities of the War Between the States set in for this Union frontline infantryman—who fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. Many times the enemy troops that faced the 8th Ohio were led by none other than the brilliant strategist, Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who knew nothing if not how to annihilate troops. “I helped bury fifteen rebels today,” William’s letter in October 1861 said. “A person never thinks of the dead and wounded during a battle. But it is a horrible sight after it’s all over.”

After the Battle of Blue’s Gap (WV), Kimmell wrote Leah on January 15, 1862, “There was a bullet went through my coat.” After the battle of Winchester, VA, in April 1862, he penned, “I had four bullet ho(l)e in my overcoat, one of them give me a little scratch on the arm.”

At the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day of the war, Kimmell wrote of his group, “Four killed and sixteen wounded out of the thirty-two engaged. How I ever escaped unharmed is a mystery to me . . ..”

After the Battle of Gettysburg, Kimmell wrote Leah, “There is but eleven of us left out of the ninety-eight that came into Virginia two years ago. My chances are growing smaller all the time.”

In December 1863 Kimmell described continued carnage: “I am now the last one of the six men left in the company (six men who shared a tent as they first came into Virginia two years beforehand). . .. Why should they all go before me? I was always considered the smallest and the weakest one of the lot.”

But W.F. continued to survive fray after fray and returned safely home to Albion in late July 1864. William and Leah, to whom he mailed the letters considered to be a unique, firsthand glimpse of frontline Civil War military life, married shortly afterward.

* * * * * * * *

A pensive W.F. once posed the question, “Why should they all go before me?” Earlier he had written, “How I ever escaped unharmed is a mystery to me.” W.F. pondered how he was allowed to live when bullets whirred all around him and death claimed comrade after comrade.

To God, however, the answer to W.F.’s questions was anything but a mystery. God saw beyond those bloody fields of battle and down through the generations to those Delta County prayers that one day Mattie and Zella would pray. The two women’s children—Mable and J.D.—were so, so, so meant to be parents but could not produce them genetically. Mattie and Zella surely begged heaven for a child to occupy this deserving home.

I believe God preserved W.F. because He knew that through his bloodline would spring the child God—from before the foundation of the world—already had picked out to fill those empty arms. He knew that in W.F.’s bloodline one day would be an infant who would need an adoptive mom and dad.

On a November day in 1948, a husband and wife from the combined merger of the Millers, the Harrises, the Mitchells, the Wrights, the Wheelers—all the families mentioned previously in this chapter—would show up at Florence Nightingale Maternity Hospital in Dallas and would present themselves to be just the adoptive parents that this child would need.

On the Civil War’s bloodiest days, God took me into account. It was an example of God’s prevenient grace—the grace that works ahead of time for a specific event in the future. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” Jeremiah 1:5 tells us.

I believe He kept W.F. alive so that His perfect will might be enacted.

My mother’s Golden Fried Okra was an after-church staple we could count on. Although I can’t guarantee it was on the table the Sunday after I was raised out of the baptismal waters, I know my mother missed very few Sundays preparing this dish, which has been called the “pâté of the South”.

Golden Fried Okra

20 okra pods, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1-inch cooking oil

Stir cut-up okra into beaten eggs; then dredge in mixture of flour, cornmeal, salt, and paprika. In large skillet fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Makes 4 servings.

 

 

My Opinion:

Have you ever had a God moment?  If you say no – take a moment and just focus on what He’s done for you.  You may not have been risen from the dead like Lazarus, or been saved from a whizzing bullet by a Bible, but what about a long awaited for child, or money arriving at the time when there might not be food on the table, or not purchasing something and finding out you may be able to get it for free?  God moments.  They don’t have to be big, huge and news worthy events, they can take place in the small, daily tasks that we see as just another daily grind – or as Kay Wheeler Moore says Way Back in the Gardenia Rows.  In her book Kay walks us through some of her God moments, they may be small and you may even wonder, ‘what is her point’, and then you reach the end of the chapter and you get the point.

At first I was a little leery, I didn’t want to hear someone else life story that may just sound like whining but Kay’s book was way more than whining – she showed me, the reader, how God works in even the most mundane ways.  It was amazing to me how her story wove together through the years and while her story isn’t done yet, God was always working – of course sometimes we don’t see His work until we are past that hardship or joyful encounter.  It’s like the time when I miscarried our first baby, how could good come of that let alone a loving God be doing something great.  Looking back, I couldn’t have seen His work because I didn’t acknowledge Him, but now I know that He needed that baby and in turn He gave me a beautiful daughter a few months later.

Tucked throughout the book are also some of Kay’s and her family’s treasured recipes that bring back a memory of something that happened in regards to that chapter and which shows a rich heritage.  Oftentimes there are foods that we relate back to a better time, for me it was my Grandma’s noodles and family gatherings just aren’t the same since she passed and the homemade noodles and beef just don’t taste the same made by someone else.  So tuck yourself into your favorite chair or couch, grab a coffee or tea and get ready to let Kay show you some of her God moments and maybe you’ll start to recognize your own.

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5 on Friday, on Saturday again.


Well it’s time again to write up my random 5 things from this week – it’s not easy!  Visit The Pebble Pond and read her random 5, join in or visit the other blogs who are participating.

 

1.  I’ve decided to try to give the Trim Healthy Mama another good go.  With help of my 8 year old who had to plan 3 meals for each meal as part of her AHG badge she’s working on this summer, she and I planned our menu this week using THM recipes.  I made some really delicious cheese and chicken quesadillas on low carb tortillas (not the plan ones but I found a brand called Ole).

 

 

2.  After getting our Picaboo yearbook for the 2012-2013 ‘school’ year I’ve decided I’m going to start making one for our 13-14 ‘school’ year, adding to it through the year so I don’t have to hunt for pictures.  I’ll be writing a review soon on the process of making and ordering a yearbook – it was fun.

 

3.  I went through my books yesterday and just when I thought I was caught up, see my last week’s random 5 post, lets say I found a lot more that I need to read and I need about a week to do nothing but read.  My Goodreads challenge is to read 200 books this year I’m at 75 and I think I may make it given how much I need to read.

 

4.  My new copy of Les Mis came, it’s a beautiful paperback copy but much sturdier than my original copy that I read in middle school and it has words from the story embossed on both the front and back.  My goal is to read at least the first half again this year and finish it next year.  I also bought the child’s version for my daughter.  Along with these came Phantom of the Opera and Oliver Twist and the child’s versions of both as well.

 

5.  It’s hot here. and humid.  Summer began officially yesterday and it came in like a lion – roaring with heat and humidity.  Even with weight loss I still find it hard to tolerate it which makes doing things outside in the summer with the children very hard 😦 we don’t have a/c in our van so traveling isn’t usually possible either.  This is one reason why we chose to school year round, then we can get out and enjoy the fall and winter which is when I really become active.

 

 

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2nd Week of College for Kids


If you didn’t see what the children did in their first week, check out my post here.  This week was much better as I only had one child, Christian, doing it this week and it was in the afternoon so I had two hours to read while waiting for him at the art museum.  He took nature’s mosaics and they even had time to make two, the second one I just need to seal with some glue or modge podge.

I have to say I was very impressed that my 6 year old, he’ll be 7 next month, was able to work on this for 2 hours.  If he had been at home he would have lost interest in about 2 seconds.  The teacher was very patient, and the class this time was small – only four and he was the only boy, which he also enjoyed.  We even managed to get some phonics work in this week but it’s still proving to be a struggle for him.

Here he is with the finished mosaic before it was sealed.

Finished chameleon.

I thought it was a shark and I was politely corrected that it is a dolphin that is smiling. I was very impressed with the waves he added.

Today, was spent doing some cleaning, some reading aloud and generally staying inside where it’s cool as our area is under a heat advisory on this first day of summer – it’s icky out.

I know that this is becoming something that more colleges are doing so check out your area college or university and see if they have something like this for your children.

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A Clearing in the Wild by Jane Kirkpatrick (review)


A Clearing in the Wild by Jane Kirkpatrick

About the Book:

Young Emma Wagner chafes at the constraints of Bethel colony, an 1850s religious community in Missouri that is determined to remain untainted by the concerns of the world. A passionate and independent thinker, she resents the limitations placed on women, who are expected to serve in quiet submission. In a community where dissent of any form is discouraged, Emma finds it difficult to rein in her tongue–and often doesn’t even try to do so, fueling the animosity between her and the colony’s charismatic and increasingly autocratic leader, Wilhelm Keil.

Eventually Emma and her husband, Christian, are sent along with eight other men to scout out a new location in the northwest where the Bethelites can prepare to await “the last days.” Christian believes they’ve found the ideal situation in Washington territory, but when Keil arrives with the rest of the community, he rejects Christian’s choice in favor of moving to Oregon.

Emma pushes her husband to take this opportunity to break away from the group, but her longed-for influence brings unexpected consequences. As she seeks a refuge for her wounded faith, she learns that her passionate nature can be her greatest strength–if she can harness it effectively.

My Opinion:

This was my first time reading a book by Jane Kirkpatrick and I will be rectifying that in the near future as I absolutely loved her style of writing and the historical accurateness of the book.  The book is based on actual events and people who lived and whose stories are true with some fiction woven in where there were spots that weren’t quite known or to add to the overall story.  This was not a bad thing – although I didn’t know it was based on truth until after I read the entire book but it wouldn’t have mattered because that is what made it so real.

This is not a fast paced book, in fact it took me longer than I thought to finish it as it was somewhat slow due to the details and wading through Emma’s thoughts.  The majority of the story is told through Emma’s perception of her life in the Bethel Community and as she moves West with her husband and other scouts to find a new land for this utopian community.  I’m very intrigued by this woman whose strenth shows through the pages as well as her very real struggle to follow God’s leading, support her husband and yet be the woman she knew she was supposed to be.

If you enjoy Christian historical fiction that is based on true events then this book will be right up your alley, even though Emma is in love with her husband and there is some very subtle teasing about their marriage relationship it’s not as centered around romance as other books in today’s Christian fiction market are, which I enjoyed.  The book presents Emma and those who lived in the Bethel community in a way that as one reads it you can feel them come to life especially Emma.

Young Emma Wagner chafes at the constraints of Bethel colony, an 1850s religious community in Missouri that is determined to remain untainted by the concerns of the world. A passionate and independent thinker, she resents the limitations placed on women, who are expected to serve in quiet submission. In a community where dissent of any form is discouraged, Emma finds it difficult to rein in her tongue–and often doesn’t even try to do so, fueling the animosity between her and the colony’s charismatic and increasingly autocratic leader, Wilhelm Keil.

Eventually Emma and her husband, Christian, are sent along with eight other men to scout out a new location in the northwest where the Bethelites can prepare to await “the last days.” Christian believes they’ve found the ideal situation in Washington territory, but when Keil arrives with the rest of the community, he rejects Christian’s choice in favor of moving to Oregon.

Emma pushes her husband to take this opportunity to break away from the group, but her longed-for influence brings unexpected consequences. As she seeks a refuge for her wounded faith, she learns that her passionate nature can be her greatest strength–if she can harness it effectively. – See more at: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?work=93262#sthash.zdZsZ06E.dpuf

Young Emma Wagner chafes at the constraints of Bethel colony, an 1850s religious community in Missouri that is determined to remain untainted by the concerns of the world. A passionate and independent thinker, she resents the limitations placed on women, who are expected to serve in quiet submission. In a community where dissent of any form is discouraged, Emma finds it difficult to rein in her tongue–and often doesn’t even try to do so, fueling the animosity between her and the colony’s charismatic and increasingly autocratic leader, Wilhelm Keil.

 

I’d appreciate it if you’d take the time to please visit Blogging For Books and rank my review on their site.  Thank you.

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FIRST Tour: Letters to Katie (book 3 in A Mayfield Family series) by Kathleen Fuller


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:
Kathleen Fuller
and the book:
Letters to Katie
Thomas Nelson (May 7, 2013)
***Special thanks to Kathleen Fuller for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathleen Fuller is the author of over twenty books, including the best-selling Hearts of Middlefield series. She lives with her husband of twenty years, James, and their three teenagers in Geneva, OH. Visit her website at www.kathleenfuller.com.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Everything changed between them the first time he called her Katie.

Katherine Yoder has loved Johnny Mullet since they were children, but he never actively returned her affections. Like so many things in their world, he assumes Katherine will always be there. Once his horse farm is a success, then he will court her in earnest.

For several weeks, Katherine has been plagued by severe headaches and dizziness. While resting at home, Johnny unexpectedly visits, but when dizziness strikes, she loses consciousness. She awakens hours later in a hospital bed, unable to remember how she got there.

Seeing Katherine injured and vulnerable stirs something in Johnny, and his guilt compels him to spend time with her while she heals. Soon his heart begins to stir with questions: Does she even remember why he’d come to her house that day?

As Katherine struggles to recall recent memories of Johnny, a surprise visitor arrives in her already unsteady world—a man named Isaac who claims they had been writing letters to each other, even considering marriage, before her illness.

With two men vying for her attention and her memory still elusive, Katherine has never felt so divided. The answer may lie behind a door she never considered opening.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 7, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1595547770

ISBN-13: 978-1595547774
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Oh, Katherine. This is so schee.”Katherine Yoder smiled at her best friend, Mary Beth. She’d spent hours working on the baby quilt, making sure the tiny stitches were as perfect as possible for Mary Beth’s new baby. “I’m glad you like it.”

“Of course I do.” Mary Beth touched the soft flannel quilt, running her fingers over the pale yellow, blue, and peach blocks. Each block had a ragged edge, a new pattern she hadn’t attempted before. The simple style was well suited for a baby, and Mary Beth’s was due within a few weeks.

“I love it.” Mary Beth folded the quilt and placed it on her knees, her expanded belly barely allowing the space. “Danki for such a beautiful gift. Although I don’t see how you have the time, working so many hours at the restaurant.”

All I have is time, Katherine thought. She pushed the self-pity aside and managed a smile. She didn’t want to ruin the moment between them with jealousy. Unlike Mary Beth Shetler, Katherine didn’t have a husband—and soon a child—to take care of. Outside of working at Mary Yoder’s and helping her parents at home, her only other pursuits were her sewing and needlework. She was always busy, yet longed for something different. Something more.

Apparently God had other plans.

Mary Beth managed to rise from the chair in her tiny kitchen. Her husband Chris had built the four-room home behind Mary Beth’s parents’ property. The dwelling resembled a dawdi haus, and likely would be used as such once the rest of Mary Beth’s siblings—Johnny, Caleb, Micah, and Eli—married and left home. But for now, the tidy, cozy home was enough.

And more than Katherine had.

Mary Beth placed the quilt on the table. “I’m glad you came over. Since I’ve gotten so big, I haven’t gotten out much.” Her light blue dress draped over her bulging belly.

Katherine’s eyes widened. “Are you sure you’re not having twins?”

“Nee.” Her friend laughed. “But I look like I am.” With a waddling gait she moved to the cabinet. “Do you want anything to drink?”

Katherine shook her head. “I can’t stay too long. I wanted to make sure you got the quilt before the boppli arrived. I have to work later today.”

“Maybe just a few minutes?” Mary Beth went back to the table and sat down. She reached for Katherine’s hand. “It’s been so long since we talked. ”

“We’ve both been busy.” She squeezed her friend’s hand. “And you’ll be even busier in a few weeks.”

“Ya.” A radiant glow appeared on Mary Beth’s cheeks. “But I don’t want us to drift apart. You’re mei best friend.”

Katherine released her hand. “And I promise I’ll be the best aenti to your boppli.”

“The baby has plenty of onkels, that’s for sure.” Her smile dimmed a little.

Katherine frowned. “What’s wrong? It’s not the boppli, is it?”

“Nee.”

“Chris?”

“Chris is fine too. We’re happier than we’ve ever been. “

“Then what is it?”

Mary Beth sighed, but she didn’t reply.

“You know you can tell me anything. If something’s troubling you, I want to help.”

Her friend looked at Katherine. “It’s Johnny.”

Katherine’s heart twisted itself into a knot. She glanced away before steeling her emotions. “What about Johnny?”

“Are you sure you want to talk about him?”

“I’ve accepted that there’s no future for us. What I felt for Johnny was a childhood crush.”

A crush. The truth was, Katherine had loved Mary Beth’s twin brother Johnny for as long as she could remember. For years she held out hope for a chance, however small, however remote. She had clung to that dream as if she were drowning and it was her only lifeline.

But not anymore.

She sat straight in the chair, brightened her smile, and said, “What’s going on with him?”

“He’s been acting. . .different.”

“What do you mean?”

“Distant. Partly because he’s been working so many hours at the buggy shop. Mamm said she barely sees him except for church service. He leaves early in the morning and comes home late. But when he is around, he’s quiet.”

“That doesn’t sound like him,” Katherine said. “Do you think he’s keeping something from your familye?”

Something. . .or someone?

Despite Katherine’s vow not to care, her heart constricted again at the thought.

“I don’t know.” Mary Beth’s brown eyes had lost the warmth they’d held moments ago. “He’s becoming like a stranger to me. To all of us. We’ve drifted apart.” Her smile faded. “Like you and I have.”

Katherine shook her head in protest. “You know I’m always here for you.”

Tears welled in Mary Beth’s eyes.

Katherine drew back. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“I’m always crying.” Mary Beth wiped her eyes. “It makes Chris ab im kopp. Hormones, I’m sure.” She sniffed, wiping her eyes. “I’m glad we’re still best friends.”

Katherine hugged Mary Beth. “We always will be.”

*****

Johnny Mullet put his hands on his hips and surveyed his new property. Four acres, a small house and an even smaller barn. All his.

The sad little farm didn’t look like much. But by the time he finished fixing everything up, no one would recognize it. He glanced at the empty pasture on the left side of the house. Tall grass, green and dense, swayed against a southerly breeze. He planned to purchase that acreage, too. Expand, and make his horse farm something he could be proud of.

If only Daed could see. . .

At the thought of his father, the grin faded from his face.

Hochmut, his father would say. Pride.

The worst character flaw any Amish could have.

But was there something wrong with feeling satisfied after hard work? After a job well done?

This wasn’t about pride. It was about independence. Making a good living. He’d seen his family struggle. He didn’t want that for his future. A future that, God willing, wouldn’t include only him.

With the hazy orange sun dipping below the horizon, Johnny hopped into his buggy and headed home. Ten minutes later he pulled up to his parents’ house. He was late for supper. Again. He quickly put up his horse and hurried into the house, sliding into his seat just as his father closed his eyes for grace.

After prayer, his mother passed his father a platter of ham. He speared a slice with his fork, peering at Johnny as he did. “Late day at work again?”

Johnny picked up a roll from the basket on the table. He drew in a deep breath. “Nee.”

“Then why are you late?”

“I bought a farm.”

Silence. Johnny glanced around the table. Caleb’s mouth dropped open, and Micah’s fork was poised in mid-air. Even six-year-old Eli gave him a funny look. “You what?” His mother’s eyes went wide with shock.

“You know that house down the road a piece? The one with the barn in the back?”

“You mean that shack?” Caleb shook his head.

Micah scooped up a forkful of green beans. “Calling it a shack is a stretch.”

Their father cleared his throat. The boys ducked their heads and kept eating. He turned to Johnny. “When did you do this?”

“Signed the paperwork yesterday.”

“Where did you get the money?”

He was already tired of the third degree, but he had expected no less. “Savings. From my job at Gideon Bender’s.”

“You must have gotten it for a song,” Caleb added. “Or less than a song. Maybe just a note.” He chuckled.

“Caleb.” His father shot him a silencing look before turning to Johnny again. “I wish you had consulted me first.”

“I’m an adult, Daed. I didn’t think I had to.” Seeing the flash of hurt in his father’s eyes, he added, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

“I hope so.”

“Maybe you two could discuss this after supper?” Mamm’s lips pinched into a thin line. “The food is getting cold.”

Daed nodded, and dug into his food. No one said anything for the rest of the meal. But all Johnny could think about was the disappointed look on his father’s face.

****

Cora Easely gripped the smart phone in her hand. “The doctor wants me to do what?”

“He’d like to see you again,” the nurse repeated in a crisp, emotionless tone. “As soon as possible.”

“Why?”

“He’d like to run a few more tests.”

“How many more tests does he need?” Cora looked down at the bruise on her arm from the blood draw she’d received a few days ago. For months she’d been poked, prodded, scanned, and questioned. The dehumanizing madness had to stop. Her weary body couldn’t take it anymore.

“You tell Dr. Clemens I’m through with his tests. If he doesn’t have a treatment plan by now, clearly I need to see a more competent doctor.”

Silence on the other line. The nurse cleared her throat. “Mrs. Easley, Dr. Clemens is just being thorough.”

“Too thorough, if you ask me.”

“Are you refusing more testing?”

“Yes. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

A pause. “I’ll mark that in your chart. You’ll still need to meet with Dr. Clemens at your earliest convenience. He will want to talk to you.”

“And I want to talk to him.” This nonsense had gone on long enough. She already had a diagnosis—Parkinson’s. What she didn’t have was a cure.

After making her appointment, Cora clicked off her phone and laid it on the glass coffee table. She walked to the large window in her penthouse and looked at the landscape in front of her. New York. The city of her birth, the place she’d lived all her life. But everything had changed in the past few months, changes she never expected.

Her hands trembled. The shaking had worsened over the past two weeks. Dr. Clemens had said to expect it. She hated that he was right.

Parkinson’s. The diagnosis terrified her. She’d briefly glanced at the literature about the disease, only to promptly dispose of the pamphlets after reading about some of the symptoms. Loss of memory. Loss of motor function. Loss of control.

Cora Easely had never been out of control. She’d dictated and orchestrated every aspect of her life except for one. And now she was facing the possibility that within the next couple of years, she wouldn’t even be in control of her bodily functions. What kind of life was that? Not one she wanted to live.

“Señora?”

Cora turned to look at her maid, a faithful servant for the past several years. If it hadn’t been for Manuela, her grandson, Sawyer, wouldn’t have found out the truth about his parents and the reason his mother ran off with his father. Or the story behind the estranged relationship she had with her daughter Kerry, and how Kerry had tried to mend the rift between them. Cora’s stubbornness had thwarted that. And now her grandson didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with her.

When he left to find Laura Stutzman two months ago, he swore he’d return. But he hadn’t. She wasn’t sure he ever would.

“Señora?” Manuela repeated. “Por favor. Did you hear me?”

“Sorry. Lost in my thoughts, I suppose.”

“Is everything all right?”

“Everything is fine.” But it couldn’t be further from the truth. She walked away from the window. “I need a glass of sparkling water.”

“Sí. Anything else?”

“No, just the water. Bring it to my bedroom.”

Manuela nodded and disappeared from the room. Cora made her way to her spacious bedroom. She sat on the edge of her bed, the silk comforter rustling from the movement. She picked up the landline phone on the mahogany end table. Dialed a familiar number. Tensed when she heard the voicemail.

“This is Sawyer. Leave a message.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but words failed. She couldn’t tell her grandson about her diagnosis. Not like this. She’d have to find another way. But she had no idea how.

 

 

My Opinion:

Normally I don’t have the chance to read the first two books in a series but since I had time I was able to get books 1 and 2 from the library before settling into reading Letters to Katie.  The book could stand alone but it may be harder than some to do that,  as a lot of the characters from the other two books join in the third one and some of their stories carry over even though the focus is more on Katie and Johnny than those from the others, they still have a lot of clout in the story.

Like the other two books, this one was fast paced and kept me turning the pages – I read it in about 3 hours, yes and I finished the entire series over the course of  3 days – as you can see the whole series hooked me in.  There was some great suspense written into the story as well as some tear jerk moments and the usual romance, except it wasn’t your usual as Katie decides to not pursue any form of courtship until she knows God is giving her the go ahead to do so.  There was some kissing but that is as far as the romantic touching went.

I’d love to see a fourth book come out in the series to somewhat wrap up all the stories within this series.  No matter where you start make sure you read Letters to Katie as this isn’t your typical Amish, everything is neatly wrapped up in a bow, book.  If you do enjoy Amish fiction then be sure to check out Kathleen Fuller’s books, you’ll be in for a nice, fast paced surprise.

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