Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Thursday, June 03, 2010
From the Bethany House website:
Johanna Ilg has lived her entire life in Main Amana, one of the seven villages settled by devout Christians who believe in cooperative living, a simple lifestyle, and faithful service to God. Although she's always longed to see the outside world, Johanna believes her future is rooted in Amana. But when she learns a troubling secret, the world she thought she knew is shattered. Is this truly where she belongs?
Berta Schumacher has lived a privileged life in Chicago, so when her parents decide they want a simpler life in Amana, Iowa, she resists. Under the strictures of the Amana villages, her rebellion reaches new heights. Will her heart ever be content among the plain people of Amana?
About Judith Miller:
Judith Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her novels, two of which have placed in the CBA top ten lists. In addition to her writing, Judy is a certified legal assistant. Judy and her husband make their home in Topeka, Kansas. Visit her Web site at www.judithmccoymiller.com.
Having read Judith Miller's work before I knew I was going to have a great book to sink myself into. Set in Iowa in the Amana settlement the reader gets to take a look at a communal life of a segment of devout Christians. This is not your Amish fiction, it's a book that takes a peek into the lifes of those who believe in hard work, simple living and devotion to Jesus Christ while still keeping a fast moving plot line.
Thankfully there is no outward displays of affection or romance, even though the new family's daughter likes to ask her friend, Johanna whether or not she is in love with a man who works with her father. The only kiss comes at the end of the book and only after an engagement/courtship and impending marriage has been agreed upon - if I tell who is getting married then you'll not read the book.
Keeping up a fast pace with page turning dialogue and character conflict this book has it all when you're wanting to escape and leave behind the real world for awhile. There really was an Amana, which you can read about at the Amana Heritage website, so there is some truth weaved in making it an excellent historical fiction book.
**I was provided a copy of Somewhere to Belong by Mr. Hart at Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review, no other compensation was given.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Touchstone; 1 edition (May 11, 2010)
Boyd Morrison is an industrial engineer with ten U.S. patents to his name who has worked for prestigious companies ranging from NASA to Microsoft's X-BOX Games Group and RCA Electronics. He is also a "Jeopardy!" champion and a professional actor who has appeared in commercials, stage plays, and films.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 420 pages
Publisher: Touchstone; 1 edition (May 11, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I was excited to read this book, I enjoy Christian suspense novels and with this one concerning the Ark I just had to read it. I must say I couldn't finish it, which dissapointed me since it would have been a great book. The story line and plot were well done and I found myself getting engrossed in it and caught up with the characters.
While I did enjoy what I read, the disappointing part came when I realized how many cuss words and saying "Oh my ***" came into the dialogue in this book. It is marketed to the Christian arena, however I find it lacking in what I expect to find for a Christian market book. If the cuss words and other offensive language had been removed this would be an excellent book.
If language isn't a concern then I think a reader would find themselves as engrossed as I was in the beginning. Again, like I said this book did have redeeming qualities such as good solid plot line, intrigue, well developed characters and would make a fascinating read for the person who can finish it.
Friday, May 28, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2010)
Catherine Martin is a graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary, the founder of Quiet Time Ministries, the director of her church’s women’s ministries, and an adjunct faculty member of Biola University. Her many books include Six Secrets to a Powerful Quiet Time, Set My Heart on Fire, and A Woman’s Heart That Dances.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
She stood behind the open door, her eyes fixed on the English missionaries who had come to visit her in-laws. Hidden from view, she stared at their gentle faces and felt deep sobs welling up from a place inside she did not care to reveal, not even to herself. No, I can’t entertain the hope I see in these people. How could I have possibly arrived at such a despicable life, with no way of escape? Trapped in this house, forever doomed. At 19, she was already a widow with a child—a most desperate position for any woman in India in the late 1800s.
Buried in her memories were earlier years of tender love from parents who regarded her as their greatest treasure, naming her Ponnamal, meaning “gold.” Her parents showered her with every possible advantage, blessing their bright young daughter with a good education. Then, as was the custom, she was given in marriage to an older man. Clothed in silk, decorated with beautiful jewelry, high-spirited and gentle Ponnamal left the warmth of her father’s house to marry a professor at the mission college. Her marriage brought disillusionment, but the birth of a child brought her joy. And then came the sudden, shocking death of her husband only a year after their wedding. Ponnamal had journeyed from safety to sorrow and now to despair. Widows were outcasts in India. What would she do? Where would she go?
“We’ll take you in,” responded her in-laws with disdain and resignation ringing in their voices. Ponnamal realized her place in their home. They never let her forget. “You’re only here because of the child. No, you can’t change your clothes. You’re a widow. Only soiled things become you. No, you can’t have a comb. You are no good. You’re a burden on us. Even if you work all day, it won’t be enough to repay all we have done for you.”
At first Ponnamal thought, Surely they don’t know me. When they see how hard I work and how much I want to help, they’ll be kind. They’ll change. But the more she tried, the worse her situation became. Sinking into despair, she began to believe their lies.
One night she thought, I cannot endure my lot in life. I hear the well calling me as it has called others in the past. I can end my suffering with death. She waited for her mother-in-law to fall asleep and then grasped the door’s iron bolts and slipped out into the darkness of the night. She felt relieved to escape as the open air and vast starry sky soothed her heart. She stood by the well, ready to throw herself over the edge.
But then she remembered something she had read long ago. Wasn’t there an Indian widow who actually accomplished a great deed for her country? I know I read that somewhere. If she could accomplish something worthwhile, then why can’t I do the same? Maybe there is hope for me yet. Fleeting excitement simmered within and drove her back to her bed, where she lay for hours, thinking wishful thoughts until dawn.
The next morning her eyes sparkled with anticipation of unknown adventure. And now, only days later, standing behind a door, invisible to all but God, she listened intently to Mr. and Mrs. Walker, missionaries committed to sharing Jesus with others in India. They asked about the wild-eyed young girl they had noticed. “Who is the young woman living with you?”
“She is the widow of our son,” replied Ponnamal’s in-laws.
“We’d like to invite all of you to attend church,” replied the Walkers.
Surprisingly, Ponnamal was allowed to attend church on Sundays. The preacher gave deep, vibrant, Spirit-filled messages with rapid sentences in the complicated Tamil language. He may have thought only the men were understanding and hearing the message. But Ponnamal discerned the meaning of those words better than all others in attendance. This Jesus is the one I have been longing for all my life. I never have to feel alone again. Transformed, Ponnamal entered into new life in Christ and was filled with a supernatural joy and peace. Outwardly, she endured the same trapped, hopeless existence, but with newfound serenity, she performed the drudgery of duties in a strength and triumph no amount of reproach could weaken.
One day, Mrs. Walker, with characteristic gentleness, asked, “Could Ponnamal stay an extra hour after the Sunday service to teach Sunday school?”
Again, surprisingly, her father-in-law responded, “Yes, she may.”
Ponnamal excitedly thought, I can hardly believe I have this open door. But I will walk through it. And walk through it she did, teaching women of all ages.
Ponnamal was teaching one Sunday when she noticed a slight, gentle-faced, dark-haired English woman watching her. I wonder who she is? She seems like someone with whom I could pour out my soul.
The English woman watched Ponnamal teach and thought, What strikes me is her power over them. There is something quite unusual about her. Ponnamal is a woman set apart. Later that morning, the woman walked up to her and said, “I’m Amy Carmichael.” Ponnamal could have never guessed how one meeting would alter the course of her life.
Amy intently watched Ponnamal’s in-laws at church. One Sunday, she saw the father-in-law crush a butterfly against the church wall during the service. She thought with disgust, How symbolic the crushing of that insect seems. The only one he has within his power to crush is Ponnamal. Amy began wondering, What can I do? and then What must I do?
Amy knocked on the in-laws’ door, determined in her purpose. Winsomely, knowingly, she approached in the way God had shown her, finally asking permission for Ponammal to come with her for just one afternoon. “I would like Ponnamal to accompany me on visits out on the mission field.”
The father-in-law assured her, “Name the afternoon, and she may go.”
Ponnamal, on hearing those words, felt the prison doors open. This is the day of Jubilee for me. Life will never be the same. And she was right.
When Amy arrived at the in-laws’ house, she scanned Ponnamal’s face, looking into eager yet powerfully controlled eyes intent on answering God’s call. Amy thought, Yes, Ponnamal, we will serve the Lord together in His love and power. Together they walked out of that oppressive house into an afternoon of service for the Lord.
Some time later, Amy boldly asked the in-laws, “I would like Ponnamal to join me in ministry and travel throughout India, serving the Lord.” Miraculously, they agreed. Thus began the adventures of Amy Carmichael and Ponnamal, coworkers in the missionary work of Dohnavur Fellowship in India.
In Ponnamal’s story we see a tremendous rescue and restoration of a soul. What made her rescue possible? Grace—God’s pure and powerful grace. Ponnamal was helpless, unable to save herself in her life situation. She seemed to be doomed to a life of drudgery and despair. Then, amazingly, she experienced spiritual transformation. She was given a life of ministry with one of the greatest missionaries of all time. Grace benefits the least likely and showers the unfortunate with unimaginable gifts, producing results that are almost too good to be true. God, because of His grace, finds invisible people and pours out His gifts of grace: new identity, beauty, strength, provision, new life, forgiveness of sins, and more. Ponnamal received the touch of God’s grace and lived forever after in its warm embrace. And you and I must do the same.
Grace is seemingly a mystery. To many, grace is a theological term, not an experiential reality. When asked to define it, most cannot find adequate words. But you and I need the grace of God. Without God’s grace we cannot be saved, thrive, grow, or live. We depend on God’s grace every waking moment. More often than we care to admit, we don’t realize the miraculous work and wonder of God’s grace.
A number of years ago, during a busy time of ministry, I remarked to myself, I want to grow deeper in my relationship with God. I wonder what God wants to do in my life? A phrase came to mind then that I could not stop thinking about: Grow in the grace… I thought, That must be part of a verse in the Bible, but I have no idea where it is. Finally, when I dimly began to wonder if God might be trying to speak to my heart, I pulled out my trusty concordance to see if I could find it. Sure enough, I found 2 Peter 3:18: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” I read that verse as though for the first time. Although I had not yet plumbed the depths of it, I felt I had discovered one of God’s secrets in the Bible, a truth reserved for those who will open the pages of His Word and regard seriously what He says. I knew the secret was related to grace, but I also knew I couldn’t give a good definition beyond what I’d heard others say about it.
Since my college years, I’ve known grace as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. This acronym helps me remember part of what God’s grace does for me, but I wanted to know more. What is grace, really? And more importantly, how relevant is grace to me? Why do I need grace, and how can I get it? So I began living in this one simple verse, thinking about its meaning for my own life with the Lord.
The lessons I’ve been learning about growing in the garden of grace and receiving God’s gifts of grace form the substance of this book. Grace grabbed my heart and enlarged it, enabling me to powerfully experience more of the presence and person of God Himself. The more I realized the truth about grace, the more I experienced true freedom in life. What Jesus says is true—the truth will make you free (John 8:32). More than anything, we need to know the truth about grace, for grace unlocks the door to blessed freedom in Christ.
Grace is the free, unmerited favor of God. You can’t earn it. You don’t deserve it. Grace is at the heart of all God does toward you, for you, and in you. Grace finds you, saves you, and keeps you. Grace gives you everything you need, more than you could ever want, and places you in an eternal, secure, favorable position forever. You stand in grace, according to Paul the apostle (Romans 5:2).
A.W. Tozer writes in The Knowledge of the Holy that grace is the “good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits upon the undeserving.” Chuck Swindoll, in his book The Grace Awakening, points out that “God helps the helpless, the undeserving, those who don’t measure up, those who fail to achieve the standard.”
The foundation of grace is the New Covenant, an unchanging, binding agreement made by God, ratified by the blood of Christ, and guaranteed by promises that can never be broken (Hebrews 8:7-13). The Old Covenant was based on the law, which could be broken (James 2:10). When we receive Christ, we are forever under grace (Romans 6:14), and our future is secure, for the covenant can never be broken because Christ guarantees its fulfillment. The fulfillment of the New Covenant of grace never depends on us, only on God.
The apostle Paul is the perfect New Testament expositor of the grace (Greek, charis) of God, for he knew grace perhaps better than most in the first-century church. He was a Pharisee and knew the finer points of God’s law. He hated the church and persecuted those who loved and followed Christ. And yet Jesus met him on the Damascus road, loved him, saved him, forgave him, and gave him everlasting life. Paul knew he did not deserve salvation, yet he could not deny his experience on the road to Damascus that day. He met Jesus. He personally knew the manifold grace of God. Grace became one of Paul’s favorite words. In fact, he loved describing grace with additional words like much more grace, abundant grace, superabundant grace, abounding grace, reigning grace, exceeding grace, exceeding abundant grace, glorious grace, and sufficient grace.
John Newton, the slave trader turned preacher, joined in Paul’s practice of elaborating on God’s grace gift. For Newton, the free, unmerited favor of God was “Amazing Grace.” And grace is amazing! Here’s why. Paul explained that salvation is not possible any other way but by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Again, you can’t earn what God freely gives. You can only receive God’s grace-filled gift. Paul referred to “the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Throughout the New Testament, Paul constantly attached grace to every aspect of our experience with God.
The effects of God’s grace in our lives are endless. Joseph Cooke, in his book Celebration of Grace, describes grace as “nothing more or less than the face that love wears when it meets imperfection, weakness, failure, sin. Grace is what love is and does when it meets the sinful and the undeserving.” Donald Grey Barnhouse, a twentieth-century expositor and preacher, explained the relationship between God’s unmerited favor and love when he said, “Love that goes upward is worship; love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace.”
I like to think of grace as God’s love in action. When you think of grace, think of God’s arms open wide to you, regardless of what you have done. Grace opens the floodgates and allows God’s endless love to pour into our lives, moment by moment, on into eternity. You have grace for today, grace for tomorrow, and grace forever. Now that’s an extravagant, outrageous grace. Cathleen Falsani, in her book Sin Boldly, describes grace as “audacious, unwarranted, and unlimited.”
At the heart of grace is a gift. I recently read a friend’s Facebook page, and he mentioned his own thankfulness for his son’s recent university scholarship. He wrote, “We are thankful to God, for it is a gift of grace.” My friend earned a doctoral degree in theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, so his words are highly credible. He understands, in the deepest theological sense from God’s Word, that everything we receive from God is a gift of His grace. God gives and gives and gives some more. His gifts are the overflow of His grace because giving is what grace does. In understanding grace, we need to imagine a huge box wrapped in a big beautiful bow. And when we pull the bow off and unwrap the gift, we find infinite, unending riches from God.
The greatest gift the God of all grace gave you is Christ, who is full of grace. Brian Edwards says, “Grace is not merely God’s attitude towards undeserving rebels, it is ultimately and above all God giving himself to us and for us—as the Man on a cross.” Christ’s death on the cross opens the floodgates of grace in your life. He died in your place, paid the penalty for your sin, and cleared the way for you to live with Him forever. In Christ, you are given manifold grace, riches, and an eternal inheritance. When you believe and receive God’s grace, you realize the best news imaginable is true—you are no longer alienated from God, but accepted and loved by Him forever.
The power of grace in our lives is seen in Peter’s words, “Grow in the grace…” That little word in points to the place where we truly live once we enter into a life-changing relationship with Jesus. It’s one thing to believe grace or even receive grace. But it is quite another thing to live in grace. Living in grace means being planted in the environment, breathing in the air, and thriving in the atmosphere of grace. Grace is like a beautiful garden where we may grow and flourish.
When I was a little girl, I enjoyed walking in my grandmother’s garden. My grandmother would spend many hours in her garden, caring for the flowers and vegetables she had planted. And so it is in the garden of grace. There in God’s wondrous garden, we meet with the Lord Himself and receive from Him everything we need for renewal and restoration. The garden of God’s grace is a place of security, abundance, provision, joy, and hope. Grace gives you what you need when you need it. Grace can make you grow into the woman God wants you to be.
God is the God of all grace. He wants to shower you with every grace-filled gift you need to grow—His provision for your needs, His perspective for your circumstances, and His presence for your journey from time to eternity. And so the most important aspect of grace is learning to receive all the gifts God’s grace-filled heart gives you. In fact, we are actually stewards of grace, which means we are entrusted with the responsibility of receiving and sharing God’s gracious gifts (1 Peter 4:10).
We often struggle to believe God’s grace is really extended toward us. We think, No, God can’t really love me. Not after all I’ve done. I think about the day I first surrendered my life to the Lord. I immediately remarked to my college roommate, “How can God possibly forgive me?” God’s grace is usually a surprise for the sinner, an undeserved gift waiting to be unwrapped and enjoyed.
We are trained to earn what we have. And if an undeserved, unmerited gift is given to us, we often turn it down, reeling from the sting of our own guilt and pain. Many spend their lifetimes trying to earn or pay for what God has already given by His manifold grace. Many are pursuing something they believe is elusive, trying desperately to find God. What an eye-opening day when we discover that God is the initiator who seeks us out and extends the gift of His grace.
In God’s land of grace, we discover grace is received, not earned. David Jeremiah describes the discovery of the intoxicating light of grace as “finding a knothole in the high gates of heaven.” Grace washes away our guilt and shame and gives us forgiveness and eternal life. Eventually, God’s grace opens our eyes to our future and a blessed hope. Most importantly, we experience God’s plan and purpose in our lives when we recognize, receive, and enjoy the gifts God gives us out of His heart of grace. And so, let’s resolve together that we will no longer try to earn or work for God’s grace. Instead, believe it, knowing that what God says is truer than what we feel. Receive it, daily unwrapping God’s abundant gifts of grace. And live it—growing deep and thriving in God’s garden of grace.
A young man grew tired of living at home. When would his father die so he could receive his inheritance? All he could think about was the money he would receive and the freedom such wealth would afford. Finally, he could wait no longer. “Father, give me my share of what will come to me at your death,” he demanded.
Such a request was insulting, and the father could rightly have chosen out of anger to disown the son. But then he would have no hope of reconciliation. And so the father, with a broken heart, said, “Here is your portion.” His older brother clearly resented his brother’s actions and responded with silence.
Normally the eldest son would step in and plead with a rebellious brother on behalf of the father. He would remind the young man of the father’s love. But in this case, the older brother could say nothing, for he was in rebellion of another kind. And so the father’s heart ached for two lost sons. They both rejected their father’s grace, mercy, and love.
The younger son took his inheritance and left town in a hurry, not wishing to face the scorn of the entire community because of his actions. I’m out of here. Now I’m free to do what I want! he may have thought. He left his own country for a foreign land.
In a short time, he squandered all his money. Now what will I do? I can’t go home. My brother hates me. And I cannot endure the reproach of the people in my village because of what I’ve done to my father. And I have insulted my father, so he has surely disowned me. The young man’s bad situation worsened, and he became desperate because of the famine in the land. I’m starving. I’ve got to find something to eat! I’ll see if I can hire on with one of the wealthy landowners here in this country.
The landowner looked at this beggar asking for work. Who does this young man think he is? I know how to get rid of him—I’ll offer him a job he would never even consider. I’ll let him feed the pigs.
“I’ll take it!” replied the desperate young man. As he offered the food to the pigs, he thought, I wish I could stomach what these swine are eating. I’m so hungry. Even the pigs eat better than me. There is no mercy for me. Not a drop of kindness from anyone. Only disgust.
Suddenly, in his weakened state, he came to his senses with a new thought. What am I doing? Even my father’s hired hands eat better than this. I can earn my way and eat enough by hiring on with my own father as one of his hired hands. He planned his words carefully. I’ll say, “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” Yes, that will work, he thought as he began the long journey home.
The young man fully expected reproach from the community and a long wait before he would be granted an audience with an angry, estranged father. What the young man had not counted on was his father’s heart. He thought his father was like all people. He didn’t yet know his father was unlike all others in the world. His father did outrageous, out-of-this-world things because of one quality—extravagant grace.
Walking on the dusty road, approaching town, the young son grew more fearful, dreading the impending confrontation. What will happen when I enter the village? he thought. His head was down, his eyes on his feet as he trudged along.
But then he looked up. What is this? Who are these people running toward me? And then his heart lifted. What he saw was more than he could bring himself to believe. Could it be? No way—but it is! My father! Running toward me with his arms wide open!
The father, setting aside the cultural rights of estrangement and throwing himself into one act of humiliation, left the comfort of his home and raced out to receive the young man, not as a hired hand, but as his beloved son. The father would have nothing less than the very best for his recovered child. He paid the price of humiliation and loss of face and raced out to his son, thus settling forever in front of the entire town the nature of their relationship and full reconciliation.
Stunned by the outpouring of his father’s love, the young son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Now he knew, as never before, what he had in his father—the relationship, the love, the grace, and the greatness of his father. How could I have been so ignorant of my father’s great love for me?
The father gave him no time for further thought. “Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.” The father restored their relationship in the presence of all. The robe signified restoration to sonship, the ring entrusted him with power, and the shoes symbolized his rank as a son, not a servant. Only the father could restore these things through his own gracious favor. The result of extravagant grace was reconciliation between father and son and the fulfillment of the father’s steadfast, unchanging desire.
But the father had yet another son who needed his grace. This son had troubles of a different kind. He did not know his father’s love any better than the son who left home. The older son had rejected the father in perhaps a deeper way, having refused intimate fellowship while living in the same house. Equally estranged, he was aloof and distant from the father. He didn’t understand that he had broken his father’s heart as much as the younger son had. Standing outside the house, the older son asked one of the young servants, “What is going on? Why is there music and dancing?”
The servant quickly responded with excitement. “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.”
“Of course! Typical. My father throws a party for a worthless son but has never thrown one celebration for me. What has he ever done for me? I have done everything right and yet received nothing for it. I’m infuriated that my father wouldn’t make such a terrible son pay for all he has done against the family.”
Standing outside the house, the older son’s anger rose to a boiling point. He refused to enter the house or engage in the celebration. In their culture, his aloofness and absence from the party would have been considered an insult to the father and the guests. Once again, the father could have chosen to reject and disown a rebellious son. But again, he responded with extravagant and outrageous grace.
Just as the son was thinking about the celebration, he looked up to find himself face-to-face with his father. Not afraid to lose face with his guests and suffer the humiliation of lowering himself to quell unjust rebellion, the father left the party to reach out to his son.
When the older son saw the father, he became more obstinate. “Look! I’ve been serving you for a long time, and I’ve done everything you told me to. It’s not fair. Your younger son doesn’t deserve the party—I do. But you’ve never thrown a party for me!”
The father loved this son and wanted him for his own, not estranged, but in fellowship. And so he did what no other would do. He did not walk away, but reached out in grace-filled love. “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live and was lost and has been found.”
How did the older son respond? What did he say to such grace offered in the face of callous hatred?
A hush most likely moved across the crowd of listeners, and palpable tension may have filled the air when Jesus told this story. Through the windows and rooms of every detail and character, hard-hearted Pharisees were encouraged to see themselves and others anew—with eyes of grace. Jesus invited them to enter into a relationship with God and share His heart of love expressed in grace-covered actions. When He heard them say, “This man receives sinners and eats with them,” He was compelled to show them God’s magnificent grace through the art of a pointed, passionate story. He gave them this parable of the prodigal son, a beloved tale of hope for every sinner saved by grace.
But really, this grace story encompasses two sons who desperately needed God’s unconditional love and unmerited favor. Both were in a hopeless state, unable to help themselves in any way, completely reliant on their father’s mercy. We know the rest of the story for the younger son. But what about the end result for the older son? That part of the story is unfinished. God seems to leave all who listen, including the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, with a question: “Will you set aside your prejudices, resentments, sins, despair, and despondency, and step into the garden of My grace? Live here in My grace and share in My heart of love.”
The highlight of Jesus’ story, looming larger than any of the details, is the father’s heart. His actions were unexpected, nothing like human responses to sin and rebellion. And that was His point. God seemingly says to us at every turn, “Know Me. Understand My heart. I love you and want you in close relationship with Me.” He wants us to know Him not as we think He is or want Him to be, but as He really is. He is always more than we think He is and more than we know Him to be. There is always more to know of God and His infinite, eternal, magnificent grace.
God’s grace is outrageous and a huge surprise for all who receive it. We can relate to the younger son, who squandered opportunities and needed forgiveness for willful sin. Sometimes we are like the older son, caught up in pride and arrogance, stepping out of the grateful appreciation of God’s grace-covered gifts in our lives. Often, we don’t even realize God’s grace and mercy acting on our behalf because we are so focused on ourselves. Through a poignant word-woven picture, Jesus extends the invitation to enter into the land of grace and enjoy an intimate relationship with the Father.
Jesus shows us the Father’s heart. If you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus, for He explains God (John 1:18). The more you watch Jesus in relationship with others in the Gospels, the greater you will realize, experience, and understand His grace.
Jesus, in telling the parable of the prodigal son, confronts legalism with love and grace. We can know by looking at Jesus that we cannot earn favor; we can only receive His grace. We can receive God’s grace because Jesus died in our place on the cross, receiving the full penalty for every one of our sins. His death was enough for every sin.
Legalism places the burden of performance on man, not God. But if we could do anything to earn God’s love and acceptance, then Jesus died needlessly on the cross. Bill Bright used to say that legalism is the greatest heresy of Christianity. You can’t earn God’s favor or love, but you can receive it. Stepping off of the performance treadmill is a challenge for any child of God. And sometimes, even in the church, grace is a missing element. There are always those who pull you into a legalistic way of approaching God. Philip Yancey says, “Oddly, I sometimes find a shortage of grace within the church, an institution founded to proclaim, in Paul’s phrase, ‘the gospel of grace.’ ”
I grew up wanting desperately to be accepted by my classmates in grade school. Without a doubt, I was one of the great people pleasers of all time. I would often think, If only I have the right clothes and get the best grades, I will be part of the in crowd. Meeting Jesus changed my whole approach to life because I became assured of His love and acceptance. He pulled me into a whole new environment with Him—the garden of grace. And living in the grace garden, breathing its atmosphere, walking and talking with Him, I realized God loves to bestow gifts of grace on undeserving sinners. His love changes us as He transforms us on the inside, makes us beautiful, provides for our needs, and sets us free to love, worship, and serve Him. In the garden of grace, we find ourselves in the perfect environment to thrive and grow.
Have you ever traveled to another country? I remember my first trip to Europe. My husband chose Italy for our destination. I thought, Oh, I can’t wait to get off the plane and visit this new place I’ve heard about but never seen! I studied books about Italy and learned about various tourist attractions. But nothing prepared me for that first moment when we boarded the vaporetto (a boat) and traveled on the water to the Hotel Danieli in Venice. I had never been to a place where people traveled by boat to reach their destination. With time in Italy, I grew familiar with the ways of the people and their customs, and I even learned some of their language.
The garden of grace is like a new country, a place unlike any you have known before. We need to learn the ways and language of grace because grace has a unique vocabulary unlike what you will hear in the world. Here’s how Joseph Cooke describes it:
Grace is not the kind of thing that you can study once, and then conclude that you have it nailed down…Grace needs to permeate deeper and deeper and deeper into our minds, attitudes, feelings, relationships, behavior, service for God and others. It needs to go on and on changing us. It needs to become an ever more vital, motivating force in our lives.
You can always spot those who know life in the garden of grace, for they act with unusual mercy and love, and they speak out of kindness and compassion rather than resentment and vengeance. They are selfless and are filled with loving, compassionate actions. And those who have never known grace are touched and moved by it. And if their hearts are open, they are changed forever.
One day while D.L. Moody was preaching, a homeless man, starving and bitterly cold, wandered into the meeting room. Moody’s message that day encompassed the grace of God. Afterward, the man walked up to Moody and said, “I didn’t come to hear you. I came to get warm. But my heart is broken. Do you think the grace of God can save me—a poor, miserable, vile wretch like me?”
Moody assured him, “Yes, definitely!” Moody later remarked, “It was refreshing to preach the gospel of the Son of God to that poor man.”
Moody prayed with the man and found him a place to stay for the night. But Moody didn’t stop there, for grace gives and gives and then gives some more. The next day, Moody arranged for someone to retrieve the man’s coat from the pawnshop. This man, without a hope in the world, wandered into a warm meeting hall for protection and found the secure love of Jesus in the garden of God’s grace.
Moody, one of the greatest evangelists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, influenced thousands of men and women and understood grace better than most people. He used to tell his audiences, “I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man I’ve met.”
Ponnamal certainly discovered the power of God’s grace when God found her tucked away in a far corner of India. Who could have guessed that God would give her the gift of ministry with Amy Carmichael? And the story of God’s grace continues through your life and mine.
Friend, as I write these words, I wonder if you have discovered the magnificence of life in the garden of God’s grace? Do you hear God’s invitation to come and live in His garden? Do you know His love and acceptance as a reality in your own life? Do you realize you can do nothing to earn His favor? If so, it’s time to throw a party for those who are lost have been found. And the adventure has only just begun. Let’s step into the garden and discover the lifelong, always-new, incredible experience of growing in God’s amazing grace.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)
Donna Partow is a bestselling Christian author whose books have sold almost a million copies. She has travelled in ministry on six continents and has been featured on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including the Focus on the Family daily broadcast. Donna has operated her own home-based business since being laid off as an investment banker in 1988, routinely generating a six-figure annual sales volume. She has spoken nationwide on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship, including two engagements at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Donna also appeared three years in a row at Senator John McCain’s conference for Arizona women. She attended the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts & Sciences, and Wharton Business School. She holds a B.A. in English from Rutgers University. Donna and her family live in Arizona.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (March 4, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Foundations for a
Seven years ago, Kimber King was a busy stay-at-home mom with three boys, ages six, four, and two. She wasn’t looking for a way to make money from home, but when she began using a line of products that dramatically impacted her health; she couldn’t help telling everyone she knew about it. Kimber recalls, “The products were sold through a network marketing company and I actually had a very negative view of the industry. But the results I had with my own health far outweighed all the negative things I felt about the business.” So she quickly signed up enough family and friends to reach the top rank level in her company in the first six weeks. Within ninety days, her monthly earnings matched the full-time income she had previously been paid in the corporate world.
Kimber soon began reaching beyond her immediate circle of contacts through social networking on the Internet. She recalls, “One night I stumbled upon a site on the Internet that described itself as a business networking site. It was free and on the site you had the opportunity to create a profile page for yourself. I dove right in and started connecting with a ton of people. I did some things very naturally that literally launched my business on the Internet and to this day, from this one site I have an organization of six thousand plus members. Then I started branching out onto other sites like message boards and forums. I began cultivating online relationships mostly focusing on other stay-at-home moms.”
Another of Kimber’s success secrets is working with a personal business coach. Although she was earning a great income from home, she was working long hours on the computer and her income had remained the same for nearly two and a half years. “It was a very lucrative income for a stay-at-home mom of three,” she says, “But I began to have great goals for my family and helping others, and I was frankly stuck.”
Within eight weeks of working with the network marketing coach, Kimber was earning a monthly five-figure income and an annual six figure income while reducing her workload to less than twenty hours per week.
Kimber also credits her parents for much of her success. “My dad instilled a spirit of excellence in me. By watching my mother work in her own hair salon, I learned how to treat customers.” Kimber says the key is focusing on others. “It’s always about them and not me! What are their needs? What are their goals? What are their strengths? What are their desires? It’s never been about me and my income goals or rank advancements. If you focus on others, all that will come! One of my mentors says it like this: ‘If you focus on the mission, you get the commission!’ ”
Trust in God is also central to her business approach. As she explains, “When I start a dialogue with someone, my main intention is to discover how I can bless them. It might not be about business at all. It’s all about relationships first and then anything that flows out of it from there I leave up to God! I trust Him completely with my business and that He will also put those in front of me that I am supposed to serve. When people ask what I do to create success in my home business, I tell them two simple things: Pray and take action. I pray for those who are looking for me and for those I can serve. Then I pick up that phone
or connect with someone. “Faith without works is dead!” I have faith in my heavenly Father to provide the way but I also know that I have to step out on that path in faith.”
Kimber has stepped out in faith knowing that God is the provider in her home business and that’s made all the difference. Now seven years later, she earns a six-figure income from home, working part-time, raising her sons, and modeling the same entrepreneurial spirit she saw in her own mother.
Working from Home
Let me begin with a brief look at the “why ” of running a home-based business to show you the benefits, because your motivation and belief in the benefits are what keep you going when the going gets tough. But then we’ll quickly shift gears to the more essential and practical how-to suggestions on the following pages.
Like any job, working at home offers both advantages and disadvantages. In the days and months ahead, times of discouragement will come. You may struggle with prioritization and time management. In addition to those burdens, the physical and emotional demands of promoting your business can drain you. You may begin to wonder if all your hard work is worthwhile, and you may even be tempted to give up your plans. In those moments, turn back to this chapter, reexamine the many benefits of working at home, and redouble your efforts to succeed. Remember, anything worth having is worth fighting for.
Your Home Can Be the Center of Your Life
There’s no place like home. I believe that with all my heart. Home can be the center of our lives, not just the place we come to recover from our lives. We can create an environment that fosters creativity and launch not just one narrow home business but a broad range of income-generating activities.
My first home-based business was in marketing communications: writing press releases, brochures, and ad campaigns. It was hard to get people to take me seriously as I tried to compete with the big-city advertising agencies. But I had a talent for writing and was absolutely determined to be a stay-at-home mother. I landed my largest client when I walked into his office wearing a dark pinstriped business suit and pushing my newborn in her stroller. Thisman said he was impressed with my motivation and touched by my priorities.
Over the past twenty years, I’ve launched countless different moneymaking enterprises. Some were dismal failures; others were wildly successful. Most were somewhere in between. As of this writing, I have a dozen income sources. Granted, some provide only $20 here and there. But hey, $20 is $20!
Let me illustrate. While away on a recent missions trip to Mozambique, I received checks from three businesses, totaling $800.The amazing part is that it was all passive income from businesses I had set up on autopilot on the Internet.
How would you like to earn $800 a week? Would you be thrilled with $800 a month? Maybe you plan to become a business tycoon and earn $800 a day. It’s up to you! But whatever your financial goals, I’m here to tell you that anyone can make extra money or have a full-time career from home if he or she is willing to work smart.
For almost twenty years, I’ve been a leader in promoting home-based businesses for women. I have spoken around the country on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship, including two events at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and three conferences hosted by Senator John McCain. I have loudly proclaimed my firm conviction that every man and woman in America should develop some creative way to make extra money from home. And, under appropriate learning conditions, children, too, should develop those skills.
You Can Be Available for Your Children and Others
By working from home, you can avoid the hassles and costs of day care (which are far more substantial than most people realize) and enjoy spending time with your children. Even if you have to hire a babysitter to watch your kids in your home while you work, you’ll be available at a moment’s notice if needed. And you can keep a watchful eye on all that
goes on throughout the day rather than sitting at a desk wondering if your children are okay.
My older daughter, Leah, is now in college. She was homeschooled much of her life, and I was a stay-at-home mom throughout her entire childhood. Although I was often extremely busy working forty hours a week, and even more on my businesses, I was always available when she truly needed me. Won’t it be nice, when your children reach adulthood, to look back and say the same?
Perhaps you have a disabled family member or are caring for elderly parents. Maybe someone in your home has a chronic illness, and you need to be available for doctor and other appointments. Working from home allows you to be there to care for them and gives you the flexibility to take time off during the day, setting your own schedule.
You Can Be a Positive Role Model for Your Children
Some would argue, “I’m too busy raising my children to run a home business.”
I counter, “Don’t you think it just makes sense to include your children in your business so they learn to be entrepreneurial and self sufficient under God’s sufficiency? Don’t you think that training them to run their own businesses might prove to be more significant than running them around to various afterschool activities?”
Fortunately neither of my daughters has the mind-set that some corporation is going to give her a paycheck and job security for the rest of her life. That is an absolute delusion. We need to train our children for the real world, where wise people use the gifts God has given them to mind their own businesses—even if they also have careers. Both of my daughters, who are now nineteen and thirteen, have already had many moneymaking businesses. They’ve done everything from making bookmarks and jewelry to running my book table and processing credit-card orders from my Web site.
When my oldest daughter was fifteen, she organized a teen missions conference that attracted seven hundred people. I had very little involvement. How did she know how to do that? She’s been working at Christian conferences since she was two years old! Leah has also raised thousands of dollars for her various missions trips by making and selling
In addition to being able to watch my children grow while I worked from home, they also watched me grow as a businesswoman. By observing me model entrepreneurship, both ofmy daughters learned valuable business skills.
You Can Help Shoulder the Financial Load
Not only can you work from home; you should. With few exceptions, it’s unwise to rely solely on one income source in today’s unstable economy. Now more than ever, I thank God that I have multiple streams of income from my various home-based enterprises. All over the world, mothers not only nurture their families, but they also play a vital role in ensuring the economic survival of their families. I’ve seen this with my own eyes as I’ve traveled worldwide—from the subsistence farmer in Africa bent over her crops with a baby slung on her back to the Asian mother selling items in the local market while children sit nearby, often working as well.
Women throughout history have contributed to the economic survival of their families. We can do the same, and if we exercise wisdom, we can do so in a way that won’t detract from our role as nurturers. In fact, working from home will enhance all of the roles we play and increase our stature in the eyes of our family members. My children not only love me, but they also openly admire me. How can you put a price tag on that?
You Can Enjoy a Sense of Accomplishment
One of the most important things I hope my children have learned from observing me making money from home is that productive work is not a punishment; in fact, it’s inherently rewarding. Many of us have experienced that exhilarating feeling of working hard to complete a project or the joy of beholding something we’ve made with our own hands. A home business will provide abundant opportunities for you to enjoy that exhilaration.
As the old saying goes, “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s equally true that when Mamma is happily enjoying a sense of accomplishment, everyone around her benefits. I think I’ve modeled a wonderful lifestyle for my daughters. It’s a lifestyle I’m quite certain they’ll choose to replicate.
You Can Be Your Own Boss
Many people fear dependence on a corporation because they have had the rug pulled out from under them or have seen it happen to so many of their colleagues. The days when you could rely on a company to look out for your best interests are long gone. While you’re working diligently for XYZ Corporation, it’s entirely possible they’re filling out your pink slip. Once you establish your own home-based business, you’ll have the pleasure of signing your own paycheck. And when you think you deserve a raise, you can give yourself one.
When you work for an employer, you’re required to work when, where, and how they choose. When you have your own home business, you have more control over when, where, and how you work. Of course, you’re still responsible to your customers, and there will be crunch times when you don’t have a choice about how many hours you put in. But there is usually much more time flexibility when you are your own boss.
Once in a while when I’m struggling with some aspect of my home business, one of my relatives will joke, “Donna, you should go back to banking.” But we all know I’m completely unemployable! I’ve been my own boss for too long, and I don’t think I could ever go back to having someone else tell me what to do with my time.
You Can Continue Your Career
Many women spend years training for a career before their children arrive on the scene. Teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and many other professionals can quite easily transfer their hard-earned skills to a home-based business. Knowing that your career isn’t on hold will give you satisfaction, even though the majority of your time may be spent with family. This is especially important if you want to resume your before children career after the children have grown.
The amazing thing about the Internet is how easy it now is for a woman to stay current and relevant in her field while mothering and earning money from home. These types of opportunities were hard to come by when I wrote my first home-based business book. Now they abound. Let’s hear it for technology!
There Are Opportunities for Tremendous Success
When you work nine to five for someone else’s company, to a large extent your boss controls how well you do. But when you work for yourself, only your ability and determination set the limits, assuming you start with a great product or service people want. Maybe there’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Now is your chance to do it! You
may aspire only to make a little extra money, but there’s always the chance that your “silly idea” will catch on, and you’ll find yourself transformed into a very successful entrepreneur. Someone has to think up those great ideas. Why not you?
I know a number of Christian women who earn six-figure incomes thanks to their home businesses. Yes, you read that right. Six figures! I even know women who’ve earned more than a million dollars, and one woman who has earned several million. With few exceptions, these women did not set out to achieve such tremendous success. They were just doing what they loved, and the success followed. Put another way, they were walking in obedience, and God’s blessings chased them down the street and overtook them. It could happen to you!
The Top Ten Ways to Avoid Scams
1. Surf with caution. Understand that the mainstreaming of the Internet has created both good news and bad news for aspiring home-based business entrepreneurs. Good news: Opportunities abound. Bad news: Scams abound.
2. Beware advertisements. No legitimate company on the planet will advertise to hire an employee to work from home. Not gonna happen. Never. No, not ever. Why? Very simple: If a company had a legitimate interest in hiring employees to work from home, there would be an instantaneous pileup of current employees and their circles of influence. The very fact that a company is advertising work from home is your first clue that it’s a scam.
3. Never buy a list or directory of companies that supposedly hire people to work from home. These are phony! Once and for all: The answer to the question of who will hire you, keep you secure, pay you lots of money, and grant you the freedom to set your own hours from home is no one. You don’t need a list or directory of no one.
4. Choose freedom or security. I constantly hear from people who want the freedom of working from home as well as the perceived security of a job. Freedom and security are always a trade. Will you give up some of your freedom for security? Or will you give up some of your security in return for freedom? You’ll never have both in full measure. Accept reality: You cannot ha e your cake and eat it too.
5. Understand the role of oDesk and similar outsourcing Web sites. In the introduction, I mentioned the emergence of Web sites like oDesk and, in one sense, this is an example of companies looking for people to work from home. And yes, many Americans are trying to capitalize on this new trend. Some are e en succeeding. Howe er, for the most part, companies who post on oDesk aren’t “hiring”; they’re simply outsourcing on a project-by-project basis for the express purpose of not hiring employees. So although some opportunities exist, I belie e sites like oDesk are actually bad news for any North American woman who wants to work from home and is hoping she might find someone to hire her. If you thought the competition was fierce when millions of Americans were looking to work from home, now millions more people around the globe are in the mix. You’ll ha e to compete with people who are willing to work for a few dollars an hour, and it’s nearly impossible to build a successful North American business like that. Now, if you’re willing to move overseas, that’s a whole new ball game, and oDesk can become your very best friend. That’s well beyond the scope of this book, but if it’s something you’re interested in pursuing, read The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss.
6. Know the code. As soon as you hear phrases like “more work than I can handle” or “looking to train someone” or “just want to help others duplicate my success,” run for the door. Or click the mouse. It’s a scam. If these people really had more work than they could handle, their relatives and friends would be beating down the door to get in on it. But since it’s a scam and they’ e already driven away all their friends and relatives, they’re on the Internet trying to scam you. Don’t be fooled. . Beware whirlwind friendships. There are some unethical people whose entire marketing strategy consists of befriending people just to recruit them for this, that, or the other “business opportunity.” Over the years a number of people have swept into my life with a friendship that felt more like a whirlwind romance. In every instance it turned out they were in a network marketing business. As soon as they discovered I wasn’t interested, the whirlwind friendship ended, and they moved on to the next person.
8. Check it out. Don’t rely on information provided by the person trying to sell you. Turn to Google, the Better Business Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to verify the claims and promises.
9. Take your time. Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a decision on the spot. If it’s a great opportunity today, it will be a great opportunity a week from today.
10 . Big dollars should raise a big red flag. It shouldn’t cost more than $500 to $1,000 to launch a business from home.
Each story in Mighty Acts of God is retold in lively, modern-day language from a Reformed perspective, and is followed by an application section with several discussion-sparking questions and prayer points. By moving chronologically through both the Old and New Testaments, parents and children glimpse the person of God as one of consistency, vibrancy, passion, and love.
This is a beautifully done hardcover Bible story book that each family will enjoy reading for daily devotions or just to let thier children learn more about the stories that are still pertinent to us today. While I'm not sure what historic Reformed Christianity is, and it's not something I want to delve into theologically, I will say I found nothing that would diminish what we believe.
Done in chronological order, we read about the Creation all the way to the book in Revelation all in an easy to read and understand way but also not dumbed down for the older children. This is unusual for some authors as not everyone can write a book and include a large age range from 4 to 10 years old. All three of my children ages 8, almost 4 and almost 6 have enjoyed looking at, reading or being read from this beautiful book.
The book is illustrated by Tim O'Connor and the pictures are just beautiful which adds to the overall effect of the hardcover book. It is definitely worth the price for this book which would will be used over and over to bring home Biblical truths to all the children in your family and it will enable them one day to learn more and be able to defend thier faith.
I was provided a copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for my honest review, no other compensation was given.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Zondervan (March 19, 2010)
Bryan Davis is the author of the bestselling fantasy series Dragons in Our Midst, Oracles of Fire and Echoes from the Edge. He and his wife, Susie, have seven children and live in western Tennessee where he continues to cook up his imaginative blend of fantasy and inspiration.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (March 19, 2010)
TO BROWSE THE BOOK, CLICK ON THE BUTTON BELOW:
With this being teen fiction I wasn't sure what to make of it however I must say that I was surprised and it did turn into a fantastic read. It reminds of an allegory similar to what C.S. Lewis wrote, however this resembles a parallel-like world in which fire-breathing dragons live with humans as their slaves that they stole from the parrallel world.
I don't think this is a book I'd let my young teen read however I would let my older, mature teen read it (when my children get to that point) with the stipulation this is to be seen as a Biblical allegory and nothing else. There is a great plot outline that does grip the reader and pull you in, if you are an adult you need to keep in mind this is teen fiction and not written with adults in mind.
I think this would be perfect for young men to read, especially since I'm finding out that there isn't much on the general market that is affordable to most families for young men to read. Given that fact I would say this with it's allegorical line would prove to make an interesting read for a young man who strives for valor and the right way to live and needs to stand up in a world of evil.
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar has been writing stories and poems since she was a little girl and has published articles and devotionals as well as 31 novels and novellas. In addition to her writing, Andrea is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as: Write-To-Publish; American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW); Oregon Christian Writers Conference; Mount Hermon Writers Conference and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is co-founder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its Advisory Board and as its CEO.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 291 pages
Publisher: Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Raindrops splattered against the garden’s cobblestone
walkway, forming puddles in low-lying areas.
Above, the heavens seemed to mourn in tearful shades of gray.
Staring out the floor-to-ceiling window, Valerie Fontaine realized
she’d forgotten the dreariness of the season. She’d been back
in New Orleans only a week, arriving Christmas Eve, but now
she questioned her decision to leave Miss C. J. Hollingsworth’s
Finishing School for Young Ladies, a year-round boarding school
in Virginia where she’d studied for the last sixteen months. She
let out a long, slow sigh. Life here at home was—well, worse than
Closing the shutters, she stepped away and hugged her knitted
shawl more tightly around her shoulders. She strolled from the
solarium to the parlor, steeling herself against her father’s continuing
tirade. But at least they were talking now. He hadn’t said more
than six words to her since she’d been home. “You should have
stayed at school.” She had thought Father would be glad to see
her, given that it was their first Christmas without Mama.
But such wasn’t the case. Instead of spending the holiday with
her, he’d been at his gentlemen’s club almost continuously. His
actions hurt Valerie deeply. Nevertheless, he was the only family
she had left now.
“You should have stayed at school,” Edward Fontaine muttered
as he poured himself another scotch. His third.
“Yes, so you’ve stated. But isn’t it obvious why I came home?
I’m grieving, and I need the love and support of my father.” She
gave him a once-over, from the tip of his polished shoes to his
shiny, straight black hair. “And it might not seem like it, but I
think you need me too.”
“Need you? I should say not!” He teetered slightly but caught
her reaction. “And don’t roll those pretty blue eyes at me either.”
Valerie turned toward the roaring hearth so he wouldn’t see
her exasperated expression.
Holding out her hands, she warmed them by the fire. Although
temperatures registered well above the freezing mark, the cold and
dampness had a way of seeping into her bones. She shivered.
“I told you, ma fille, your efforts, as you call them, aren’t
She flicked him a glance. “I think perhaps they are.” She
sensed her father mourned Mama’s death too. However, drowning
himself in scotch would hardly help, and he’d lose his good
standing in society if anyone found out about his . . . weakness.
Did neighbors and friends already know?
Valerie turned to watch as he seated himself in a floralpatterned,
Louis XV wingback chair.
“You were to stay in Virginia and complete your education.”
Father gave a derisive snort. “I doubt Miss Hollingsworth will
give me a refund on your tuition.”
Valerie placed her hands on her hips. “How can you value
money over my well-being?”
“This is not a question of one or the other. These are
ous times . . . there are plans that you know nothing of . . . ”
“What plans?” Curious, Valerie tipped her head.
He lifted his gaze to hers, and she saw a flicker of something
in his eyes—regret perhaps? Then his face hardened. “My plans
were for you to stay in school and marry a young man from an
Valerie groaned. Running her hands down the wide skirt of
her black dress, she gathered the muslin in clenched fists of frustration.
How could she make him understand? She simply had
to follow her heart and come home. Otherwise, she surely would
have stayed at Miss Hollingsworth’s, as many students did. On
most holidays, like this one, time constraints restricted travel.
School let out the Friday before Christmas and began next week,
on the sixth of January. However, Valerie didn’t plan on returning,
and her reasons to leave boarding school ran deep.
She lifted her fingertips to her temples as a headache formed.
“Father, school proved too much for me after Mama’s untimely
death. I tried to make it, stayed all last summer, but after the war
broke out I had to come home.”
“Silly girl. You risked your life traveling through that part of
the country. Did you think I wanted to bury a daughter too?”
“No, of course not. But I thought you would have wanted to
see me at Christmastime.”
He didn’t comment on her remark. “So, what am I going to do
with you? I can’t very well send you back. It’s too dangerous.”
“It’s not as if I need a nanny.” Indignation pulsed through
Valerie’s veins. “I’m almost nineteen, and I can take care of
myself—and manage the household for you too.”
“I manage my own household.”
Hardly! she quipped inwardly. Thankfully for him, Adalia,
their precious and loyal maid, had seen to almost everything
since Mama died.
But Valerie wouldn’t tell her father that. She’d learned neither
retorts nor reasoning did much good when he’d been imbibing—
which was frequently of late.
She watched as he swallowed the dark golden liquid, emptying
the crystal tumbler in his hand. He made a sorrowful sight, to
be sure. And yet Valerie knew her father was an honorable man,
a capable man who owned and operated a large business. Her
grandfather had started Fontaine Shipping when he had come
from France. Father grew up near the docks and learned everything
about ships and cargo, importing and exporting, and then
he took over the business after he had finished his education at
Harvard. Grandpapa had been so proud. And now Father secured
his importance among the international shipping community as
well as in New Orleans’s society.
Or at least that’s the way she had remembered him.
“I see I’ll have to marry you off myself.”
“Oh, Father, I’ll marry when I’m good and ready. Right now I
can’t think of a single man I’m even remotely interested in.”
“And what of James Ladden?” Father asked
“James is . . . a friend. That’s all.” Valerie moved to the
burgundy-colored settee. Gathering her black hoop skirts, she sat
down. Her fingers played across the rose-patterned, embroidered
armrest. Her father’s gaze seemed troubled. She shifted. “Perhaps
I should ask Chastean to bring you some coffee.”
He gave her a blank look, as though she’d spoken in a foreign
“Our cook . . . will bring you some coffee.”
He held up his empty scotch glass and said, “I’m fine with this.”
Valerie sighed when he rose to pour another drink. His fourth.
How she wished she could hide that scotch bottle!
“We’re having a houseguest tonight,” he said.
“What?” Her jaw slacked at the surprising news.
“You heard me.” He eyed the amber potion glistening in his
glass. “A houseguest.”
“Who is it?”
He lifted his slim shoulders and wagged his dark head. “Last
name’s McCabe. Don’t know his first. He’s the son of an acquaintance.”
He looked her way. “I extended the invitation before I
knew you would burst in from school unannounced.”
Valerie chose to ignore the slight. “Where did you meet him,
or rather, his father?”
Father’s gaze met hers. His brown bloodshot eyes watered
slightly, and his Adam’s apple bobbed several times as if he were
struggling to contain his emotions. “I met him,” he continued in
a pinched voice, “just after your mother passed away.”
Valerie swallowed an anguished lump of her own. He’d so
rarely spoken of Mama since her death.
Her mind drifted back to that terrible day she’d received the
news. She’d been at school, getting ready to paint with the other
girls when a telegram had been delivered. The weighty sorrow
that descended then returned now as she recalled the words:
Your mother took ill with a fever on 23 June 1861 and
has died. You have our sympathies and our prayers. The
telegram was signed Mrs. Vincent Dupont, the doctor’s wife.
Upon returning home, Valerie learned that a tropical storm
had detained the family physician when her mother had taken
ill. He hadn’t been able to reach Mama in time to help her.
Valerie had never gotten a chance to say good-bye or even
attend Mama’s funeral.
“I miss her too.” Valerie whispered the admission, hoping this
time it wouldn’t fall on deaf ears.
But Father drained his glass and poured another. Number five.
“Our guest will be arriving sometime tonight. I’ll be out. I’ve
left instructions with Adalia.”
“You won’t be here to greet him?” Valerie swiped away an
errant tear and squared her shoulders.
“Not tonight.” He suddenly hollered for his coat, hat, and
“Where are you going?” Stunned, Valerie strode toward him.
“The club. For supper.”
“Again? But I had so hoped you’d come to the Donahues’
tonight and celebrate the coming of the New Year with me.”
“You should know right now, ma fille, that hope is a useless word
in the English vocabulary. All of mine died with your mother.”
Valerie’s breath caught at the admission, tears obscuring her
vision as the portly British maid, who’d been part of the family
ever since Valerie could recall, entered the room carrying Father’s
belongings. He donned his winter coat.
“I hadn’t planned to stay home to entertain a houseguest.”
“I don’t expect you to.” He moved into the foyer and adjusted
his black top hat. “Adalia will show him to his room, and you
can go to your party.”
“But—” He swung open the front door and disappeared, closing it
behind him before Valerie could speak again. All she could do
was stand there, stunned.
At last she exhaled, her lower lip extended so the puff of air
soared upward and wafted over the strands on her forehead. “Oh,
this is a fine mess.” She folded her arms.
“You needn’t worry. I’ll be sure to tidy the gentleman’s room.”
“I know you will.” Valerie smiled at the good-natured woman.
“You’re welcome, dearie. But here now—” Adalia bustled
across the room and slipped one arm around Valerie’s shoulders.
“Don’t look so glum.”
“I can’t help it.” Valerie’s bottom lip quivered as she peered
into the maid’s bright green eyes. “My father has no room in his
life for me, Adalia. I’m a burden to him.” She paused. “Maybe I
always have been, but I never noticed because of Mama.”
Adalia patted her shoulder.
When the moment passed, Valerie straightened. “Well, Father
said I can go to the party. I’ve been looking forward to it.”
“Go. I’ll take care of Mr. McCabe. Now you’d best be getting
Valerie gazed down at her dark skirts. “And another thing. I’m
tired of this dreary mourning garb. It’s been six months.”
“That it has, and you’ve fulfilled your societal obligations and
behaved as any good daughter would.” Holding her by the shoulders,
she turned Valerie so they stood face-to-face. “I don’t think
I’m out of place to say that y’ mother’d want each of us to go on
with our living. So go and have fun tonight. As for y’ father’s guest,
he can occupy himself in the library. Plenty o’ books in there.”
Valerie sighed, remembering some of Father’s former houseguests.
“He’s probably some eccentric old geezer who’ll just want
to read and go to sleep anyway.”
Adalia snorted. Her eyes twinkled with amusement. “We’ve
seen our share of those over the years, now haven’t we?”
“Yes.” A smile crept across Valerie’s face. “We certainly have
Beneath the bright glow from her bedroom’s wall sconces, Valerie
studied her reflection. She selected a sapphire-blue silk gown
with satin trim around its off-the-shoulder neckline. The flouncy
creation matched the color of her eyes and complemented her
pale complexion. Adalia had expertly swept up Valerie’s dark
brown hair into a becoming chignon, although several tendrils
rebelliously escaped and curled around her face.
“Pretty as a princess, y’ are. Just like y’ mother.” Adalia stood
back to admire her. “You look just like her.”
“Thank you.” Valerie took the compliment as high praise. “But
do you think I seem a bit pale?” She pinched her cheeks until
they turned a rosy pink.
“Not anymore.” Adalia placed her hands on her hips. Valerie
smiled, then chuckled. Adalia turned and folded an article of
clothing on Valerie’s four-poster bed. “Now, you be sure to catch
the latest gossip, dearie. Chastean and I are dependin’ on you.”
Valerie whirled from the full-length mirror in a swish of silk.
“Why, Adalia, I don’t listen to gossip.”
“’Tis such a pity. We’ll be needin’ something to talk about
while we stir our soap.”
“Mama’s soap.” Valerie’s grin faded as wistfulness set in. She’d
almost forgotten how she and Mama used to create the specially
scented soaps from garden herbs and the essential oils that Father
had shipped in from around the world. The practice had started
with a church bazaar for which Mama had to bring something
she’d made, something unique.
She called her little square bars “Psalm 55 Soap” after her
favorite passage of Scripture. Mama gave them to friends or
left them near the basin in the guest room with a handwritten
portion of that psalm. Feeling a sudden deep determination to
hang on to the memory, Valerie decided to somehow keep her
mother’s custom alive.
“We’ll make a new batch soon,” she said.
“Good, ’cause we’re down to the last few bars of the lavender
rose.”One of Valerie’s favorites. “They’re from the last batch Mama
Adalia replied with a remorseful bob of her gray-blonde head.
That weighty sorrow descended again. Valerie’s shoulders
Several long, reverent seconds ticked by, and finally Adalia
picked up where she’d left off. “I’m particularly interested in
hearing if Mrs. Field’s wayward daughter married that sailor she
ran away with.” She fidgeted with Valerie’s dress. “So listen up.”
“I’ll do no such thing. Besides, James told me yesterday that
Nora Mae married the man in a private ceremony.”
“Y’ don’t say!”
Valerie turned to her. “I shouldn’t have even repeated that,
except there’s nothing wrong with saying a wedding took place,
Valerie narrowed her gaze. Maybe she had succumbed to
gossiping after all.
“Now you’d best get downstairs.” Adalia wisely changed the
subject. “Mr. Ladden’ll be here soon, and you know how impatient
that one gets if he has to wait even a minute.”
“You go on down. I’ll be there in a bit.” Valerie wanted to
check her reflection one last time.
The maid left, and Valerie checked her reflection once more. It
felt good to shed those black mourning clothes. She thought of all
her friends she hadn’t seen in the almost year and a half since she’d
been away at Miss C. J. Hollingsworth’s. They’d always been such
fun-loving girls. Valerie smiled, thinking about how they used to
laugh together with chatter of balls and beaus and fashion.
Would it be the same when they saw each other again tonight?
Sadness spilled over her when she thought things might have
changed. She felt so removed from those subjects now. They
seemed trite, considering her present circumstances. She’d
never imagined her life without Mama. But here her future lay,
stretched out before her in grim uncertainty.
Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee . . .
Valerie smiled as part of Mama’s favorite psalm waltzed across
her mind. Drawing in a deep breath, she plucked her satin shawl
from where it lay on her canopy bed. She pulled it around her
bare shoulders, admiring its ivory softness, and fixed her mind
on the gala. She’d laugh and dance, and maybe some semblance
of joy would return to her life.
Leaving her bedroom, Valerie made her way down the stairs to
the parlor. As it happened, she turned out to be the one who did
the waiting. It seemed forever before she heard James’s carriage
pull up in front of the house.
At long last he entered the foyer, looking dapper in his overcoat
with its fur-trimmed collar. He shed it and handed the garment,
along with his hat, to Adalia. Valerie noted his foggy-gray dress
coat, waistcoat, and matching trousers. The flame-red curls on
his head, usually unruly, were combed neatly back.
“Why, James Ladden, don’t you look handsome!” She held out
her hand in greeting, and he took it at once.
“Thank you, honey. I’ll have you know this suit is cut from the
best cloth money can buy.”
“It’s quite . . . nice.” Valerie felt a bit wounded that he didn’t
remark on her gown or the style of her hair.
Instead James puffed out his chest and smiled. “We have some
time before we have to go.” He ambled across the parlor’s large
Persian carpet. “Perhaps a drink to warm the blood would be
“Yes, of course. I’ll call for Adalia.” She flicked a glance at him,
hoping he didn’t imbibe like Father. This was, after all, their first
public outing together. A moment later she decided to serve hot
cider in spite of the fact he hinted at something stronger.
She looked at him again. James had been a childhood friend,
an auburn-headed prankster who annoyed her by putting twigs in
her braided hair and calling her names. He threw slimy, creepycrawly
creatures at her and laughed when she screamed in terror.
But then James matured into a dashing young man, and when
he discovered that she’d come home from school, he offered to
escort her to every social event in New Orleans beginning this
New Year’s Eve. She’d accepted because . . . well, it was a kind offer,
and James seemed to have transformed into a gentleman.
“Is your father home?”
“No, he chose to ring in the New Year at the club.”
“He won’t be at the Donahues’, then?”
Valerie shook her head.
“I had hoped to speak with him tonight about an important
subject.” His frown turned to a smile. “You.”
“I have courtship on my mind.”
His news surprised her. “I thought we were just friends, James.”
“We are. But the way you look tonight makes me wish we were
So he’d noticed. That was something anyway. However, his
backhanded flattering didn’t change her feelings for him. But
unwilling to hurt him, she chose her words with care. “I am fond
of you. It’s just—”
“Y’ father’s houseguest just arrived.” Adalia poked her head into
the room. “What would you like me to do with him, dearie?”
Valerie grimaced. “Oh, yes . . . ” She’d almost forgotten about
the man. “Show him in.” Looking back at James, she said, “Excuse
me for a few minutes.”
“What’s this?” He stepped forward, frowning his displeasure.
“Forgive me. My father only told me at the last minute.” She
moved toward the door. “I must see to him. It won’t take too
Putting on her best hostess’s smile, Valerie strolled into the
foyer in time to see a tall but shadowy figure of a man coming
down the hallway. He must have entered through the back way.
Over his shoulder he carried a large satchel and, in the opposite
hand, a valise. As he neared, she saw that he was soaked to the
skin. Rain dripped from the wide brim hat.
“Good evening.” He set his burdens down with a thunk onto
the tiled floor. “Name’s Benjamin McCabe.”
“Valerie Fontaine.” She held out her hand to him. He took
it politely, and Valerie felt how cold he was. He also appeared
young, in his midtwenties. Hardly the old codger she and Adalia
“Miss Fontaine, I must say you look . . . lovely this evening.” He
spoke in a velvet baritone, and yet Valerie heard a hint of a twang
in his voice.
“Why, thank you.” It had been more of a compliment than
what she’d received from James.
He shifted his stance. “The liveryman is seeing to my wagon.”
He gave a backward nod. “I trust it will be safe in the stables.
Most of my equipment—”
“Your wagon will be just fine,” Valerie assured him. “Willie is
a very capable attendant.”
An awkward moment passed as Valerie tried to get a better
view of the man standing there in the dim, candlelit entryway.
“I apologize for dripping rain on your floor.” Mr. McCabe
glanced down at the puddle forming beneath him. “That last
downpour caught me.”
This was a great book, set during the Civil War, I was able to really get into it and lose myself in the plot and characters. I could feel the pain of Valerie losing her mother and then later another close relative and of Ben's seemingly failing search for his brother. This book had the twists and turns that you can lose yourself in.
Andrea Boeshaar's love of writing is displayed in this book and the care she puts into each character, as if they were her own family. The care she has taken in crafting this story is one that can be relished wether in bite sized nuggets or sitting and reading it all at once. With no unseemly romance scenes this is a book that any lady could feel safe with reading and not sacrificing her beliefs.