WORDS As Seeds, Stakes, and Harvest

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Seeds, stakes, and nurturing yield a rich harvest of tomatoes. They can also yield a rich harvest in lives when planted by words in hearts.

WORDS ~ They’ve been on my mind a lot lately. I heard a few powerful, provocative statements that got me once again pondering their impact.

Words as seeds, words as investment, words like a stake in the ground that we shove into the earth, stake our claim and say “Upon THIS belief I plant myself.” Then like the center pole of a merry-go-round, we proceed to live out our moments, our days, and our decisions around that principle.

Robin W. Pearson is a mom and fellow author. She homeschools her 7 children. (I’m imagining Laura Ingalls Wilder’s one-room schoolhouse.) Recently Robin wrote about listening to an educational show on the mysteries of the Bible where “scholars, theologians, and experts” basically contradicted much of Scripture in “authoritative” voices. Robin pondered the impact of such scholars on children, asking, “How might they influence those tender hearts while they’re busy steering their seeking minds?”

Legitimate concern about the types of seeds planted.

Another vignette: After years of answering “Why…?” questions, instruction on living by God’s priorities, and modeling God’s empowering despite one’s feelings, a parent receives a gift of simple words strung together, “Where do you think I learned that? … From you!”

Or one’s heart fills with hope for the future hearing, “Next time we come here, we should …”

Bountiful harvest of seeds planted.

Condoleezza Rice recently shared a story that demonstrates the planting of seeds. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. One election day, she and her father were driving and discussing the candidates and election results. Referring to George Wallace, she said “Surely we aren’t going to elect a segregationist like that.”

Her dad said that it appeared Wallace would be elected.

As they passed a line of blacks waiting to enter a polling place and vote, she asked, “Then why do those people even bother?”

“Because they know someday their vote will count.”

Powerful harvest shared.

Proverbs 25:11 equates well-spoken words to precious metals.  What words have been seeds someone planted in your life? What words might be a stake for you?

 

Book Review of GALLERIES OF STONE by C. J. Milbrandt

Statues on the legendary Moonlit Mountain have a life of their own.

c Roger Mosley

c Roger Mosley

Oh, my … Statues, a life of their own? How? What will they do? Should I be afraid?

And the adventure begins.

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Book 1

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Freydolf, keeper of Moonlit Mountain, lives alone on the upper slope and needs someone to help tend the fires and carry water so he can focus on his work as Master Sculptor. When he descends to a hamlet on the plain, his choices are slim ~ because the villagers have heard terrorizing tales of a monster who reigns on the mountain. He selects Tupper, a small lad who doesn’t even stand as tall as Frey’s waist.

Tupper has been sent to work with the guidance, “Be brave and do your best.” Then he’s plunged into a foreign and unpredictable world, his only company a man with a beast-like appearance who gets so immersed in sculpting that he forgets everything ~ and everyone. Learning how to navigate his new job and environment is a massive challenge for the “slow” lad. While Tupper is parsimonious with words, he’s lavish with kindness. That, along with his courage and astonishing insight deliver to us readers a thoroughly entertaining and satisfying journey.

STONE Burial statue 2 - horizontalMilbrandt weaves a marvelously creative, whimsical world where mountains have moods and some people can discern those moods, even hear the mountain. Where mountains have keepers to protect their hearts. And stone statues can be woken. This is a tale brimming with love, loyalty, and delight ~ where every person and thing is valuable.

While the Galleries of Stone series may be labeled YA, the stories are chocked full of fun, mystery, and life lessons. Well worth reading as a family.

HARROW

Book 2

HARROW cover CJ

TreviFountainFromLeftSide - crop -wiki HORSEYou might think a story about statues who come to life would be frightening and morbid with people being tossed about like rag dolls until crushed. But when I finished reading Harrow, I was left amid a cloud of warmth and delight.

Milbrandt expands her cast of intriguing and engaging characters ~ stone and otherwise. She tells a lovely tale in which characters face challenges from prejudices, peas, and powerful adversaries and grow their talents, courage, faithfulness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m absolutely crazy about young Tupper. Such a sensitive soul, he hears the needs of others ~ stone and otherwise ~ before they even make them known. Then, with utmost creativity and kindness, he finds solutions and adds abundance to all who live on Moonlit Mountain. Growing from child to teenager, he spends some time considering what characteristics he wants in a wife when the time finally comes. Having watched many silly, idle girls, one thing he’s decided: “He didn’t want a girl who didn’t pick her own lettuces.” The boy is practical as well as compassionate! And he is devoted to Freydolf, the master sculptor who hired him.

SCULPTURE - figures in fountain fr Scotland -Pla crThere isn’t much I don’t love about these stories. The characters and setting come boldly to life. And why shouldn’t a magic mountain and the varied, charming characters come to life. I mean—if statues awaken … And I’m fascinated by the varied ways in which the statues wake.

The story overflows with creativity, heroism, love, and joy. Though the Galleries of Stone trilogy may be labeled YA, these are family-friendly stories along the line of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and are equally good for reading by any age, aloud to little ones, or as a family. I couldn’t have summed up any better than a Goodreads reviewer Megan Williamson: “Love, wonder, and laughter grow in all who are fortunate enough to be welcomed onto the Moonlit Mountain.”

Milbrandt is a master craftsman of creative story-telling. I recommend this book to all who want more light and joy in their day.

RAKEFANG

Book 3

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Rakefang reunites us with beloved characters from the series ~ mystified Freydolf, taciturn Tupper, flamboyant Aurelius, darling sweetpea-of-a-girl Dulcie who says “I luff you, Unca Doff” at every encounter with Frey. Indeed, all the varied cast of characters is here and they, with a few new ones, have formed a lively community atop Morven.

One of my favorite elements in Milbrandt’s engaging, fast-paced series is watching as each citizen’s strengths and talents are mobilized to resolve challenges, face threats, vanquish foes. They form a close-knit society, one most of us would love to join.

This charming tale brims with self-sacrifice, courage, loyalty, and bountiful love and creativity.

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Milbrandt’s Galleries of Stone stories are wonderful, and as good for all ages as The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings. Don’t pass up these classics-in-the-making.

Postscript ~ Putting this review together over the past week ran into Easter. I described in my previous post (April 17) how the song “Arise, My Love” touched me. It so clearly showed a heart full of love tenderly expressed. And it reminded me of the little family headed by Freydolf in the Galleries of Stone series. Please don’t be put off by fantasy elements or reference to magic. I cannot put words in the author’s mouth, but the “magic” in these stories to me represents miracles we see in Scripture. Like the Narnia stories, you’ll see representations of God in every chapter.

The author shares interactive activities and fun background information on her website here. And all manner of story art on her Pinterest page!

Note: Photo credits:

The misty mountain that leads us off here is really titled “Striped Peak across Freshwater Bay” by Roger Mosley. You can see more of his stunning work or contact him here: https://www.facebook.com/RogerMosleyPhotography

Horse sculpture, section of Trevi Fountain by Paul Vlaar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46580

Last photo, gallery of 3 statues, also section of Trevi fountain by Livioandronico2013 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45365468

An Easter Meditation ~ Love

Reflects my thoughts for Maundy Thursday into Good Friday ~

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And the darkness and horror and heartbreak dragged on through Friday. Most thought when Jesus died on the cross ~ it was over. But some parts of creation watched. And waited ~

After the darkness … and the watching … The Light burst forth. And an angel said to the women, “He is not here: for he is risen as he said.” ~ Matthew 28:6

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

And Easter morning “Arise, My Love” was sung … and I was undone. Undone by clearly hearing The Father’s heart bursting with love for The Son when He says:

“Arise, My Love, the grave no longer has a hold on you.”

Who can resist such a heart full of love expressed so tenderly? Not me. I wept most of the day, because that same heart full of love is also for me. And for you.

This song, decades old, is by Newsong. I’d never heard it. Have you? I’ve listened to a number of versions on youtube since then. Some with videos; some with only singers. The simple version I heard Easter Sunday at Shadow Mountain Community Church still seems the most beautiful rendition. You can listen to it if you’d like by accessing the church’s archives for a few weeks. “Arise, My Love” can be heard at 23:30 if you don’t have time or inclination to listen to the entire service. (But Pastor Jeremiah is well worth listening to. :-) ) May you know and feel that love, and the peace of the baby rabbit ~ waiting.

Kristy Cambron’s Stunning THE RINGMASTER’S WIFE

ringmaster_final-cover_nov-11In The Ringmaster’s Wife, Kristy Cambron takes us deep into the rapidly-changing 1920s with young ladies Mable and Lady Rosamund as they carve out lives of their own choosing, following their own dreams.

Cambron’s characters, both fictional historical, are totally believable and engaging. They’re delightfully flawed yet with redeeming aspects that make them endearing. A few times as decisions were made, I wanted to yell, “No! Don’t do that.” And while I was certain danger or heartache lay in that direction, each decision was consistent for that character.

MANOR HOUSE - perhaps ATHOLL fr Paula cr br summerWhether the reserved air of an English nobleman’s estate or the flamboyant life of the circus, Cambron creates a story world that sizzles with life. She has an uncanny ability to choose a golden-nugget detail that conveys the essence of a character, a place, a time. Each line brims with insight into both observer and observed. For example:

“Rosamund watched her mother’s transformation … showering compliments. Dripping with charm. Why her very words could have slithered through piles of sugar.”

CASTLE sitting room-museum frPaula cr Have we any doubt how Rosamund and her mother relate?

“He stood tall, owning his spot by the hearth with a devil-may-care ease unusual for a drawing room in Yorkshire.”

Or that the shocking new visitor captures Rose’s attention?

Scenes and settings come alive in the theater of our minds:

“Mable … walked through the halls of a sanitarium, trying to angle stiff crinolines and yards of lace around the metal wheels of hospital beds positioned as fabric traps …”

Cà d'Zan, Mable & John Ringling's home on Sarasota Bay in Florida.

Cà d’Zan, Mable & John Ringling’s home on Sarasota Bay in Florida.

With a thorough grasp of historical research (like another favorite author, Laura Frantz), Cambron’s stories ~ the fictional saga of Colin and Rosamund and the historical lives of John and Mable Ringling ~ are perfectly interlaced. The novel is such a seamless blend, it’s impossible to dissect the two threads while reading. So superbly woven that if Cambron didn’t tell me, I’d never suspect that half of the novel is not based on actual people. *

Because the two women around whom the story builds are 25 years apart in age, the story unfolds in chapters that jump back and forth in time. While each transition is marked with a date/location slug, I still found following the story a bit difficult. At times I had to return to the previous chapter in order to map out the relationship of the new action with the previous. A minor frustration in a story that captivated me. I cared about what happened in each person’s journey. And I will take great pleasure in re-reading The Ringmaster’s Wife with Cambron’s signature powerful story, lively settings, and fascinating characters. And her lovely way with words.

“Allowing … the clippings, one by one, to float out across the surface of the water. Every one of them danced.… Photos of Steinway pianos. Drawings of pink roses. Catalog pictures of fashion models … all disappeared in the blackness of the sea. It was a ticker-tape parade of forgotten dreams.”

Ahh …  Re-reading this is like savoring the finest chocolate.

* Cà d’Zan photo, courtesy of By Fred Hsu  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57645633

Vision for a Tough Valentine’s Day

Ever feel left out on Valentine’s Day as waves of affection pour from radio, TV, even the grocery store? The expressions are meant to convey appreciation and love. But it can be a brutal day. When one is alone, the sentiments floating about the universe fly right past—aimed like Cupid’s arrow at someone else.

Years ago I was a struggling single mom living in a city away from family, and I cringed as the day full of hearts approached. One year our church planned a banquet—but unlike most year’s, billed it not as a Valentine’s Banquet but a Love Banquet. Everyone was invited—whole families, not just couples.

At last ~ a Valentine’s Day where I was not locked out from the celebration.

I asked a neighbor, another singleton, if she’d like to attend. So that evening we enjoyed great food. Pleasant chatting. A program singing and reading and preaching about love. But then the pastor asked all married couples to stand, face each other, hold hands, and then repeat a vow similar to marriage vows. My friend Linda & I endured a five-minute emotional beating as it appeared we were the only people sitting who were over the age of ten!

Loneliness is excruciating, even more so when a spotlight shines on you as the one loser in a crowd. I avoided all Valentine’s day banquets after that—no matter how family-friendly they were billed.

For those enduring loneliness through the Valentine’s Day hoopla—whether truly alone or lonely in a relationship—there’s GOOD NEWS!

Max Lucado’s devotional today reminds us that in God’s economy—no one “will be left out. God will see to that …. God will praise his children.” He reminds us that “the praise is personal! … Awards aren’t giving a nation at a time, a church at a time … The crowns are given one at a time. God will look you in the eye and bless you…” *

So if this day is difficult for you, turn to the Lover of your soul who cares about you—yes, you—personally and individually. He will whisper “I love you” and keep you in His tender care. And if you haven’t yet experienced that personal embrace from God, know this: There is nothing lacking in it. You will know you are precious to Him.

* From Max Lucado’s devotional, Grace for the Moment, Feb. 14. Published by J. Countryman.

[adapted from previous post]

A Journey through A MOONBOW NIGHT by Laura Frantz

MOONBow woods cr-BACKGROUND LOCATION - Woods450 COPYWhew. What a journey. I just returned from an arduous trek, blazing a trail thru untamed mountain wilderness of Kentucky. The doctors and lawmen back in Virginia could not help us with catastrophes there. But we enjoyed gifts along the way ~ like when lush moonlight “silvered  the woods and river.” And the “hallowed, heavenly magic … a star shower.” The moonbow rose from the mist of the falls, spanning the river, bands of white streaked with red and indigo and pale green, “vivid against the froth of the falls.”

 

 

GREEN VEIL OVIBut the journey was long. Through springtime teasing with warm breeze but dumping snow at night, “the cold polishing every rock and speck of grass like barley sugar.” Summer with its veil of green protecting us but also hiding danger. And heated “air shimmering like a cast-iron skillet.” Autumn with its canopy of color, treacherous when wet and fallen.

MOONBOW copy-SNOWY EVERGREEN TREE -crop - half Cmkm colorI ache with the walking and carrying supplies. My mind and senses cannot rest after months of being alert to any subtle change. Getting lazy in observing allows death to strike. I wonder if I will ever settle, not react to every slight sound. Every variance of breeze or temperature or color of the sky …

 

But wait. As I rouse, a book slips from my fingers and I sit in my own room. I glance around. Gradually senses adapt as I drift out of story-world reality of A MOONBOW NIGHT and into my 21st-century home.

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As a reader I love a good story. One that invites turning pages quickly, chasing plot turns with characters that have captured my interest. I want be so immersed in a book that closing the cover and returning to my time and place is a shock. Laura Frantz writes stories that come alive. A venture she succeeds in every time. For a reader, that is enough to know opening A MOONBOW NIGHT will bring satisfaction.

Frantz creates living, breathing characters. Though this is her fourth novel set in l770-1790 Kentucky, her characters are always fresh, distinct, and seem to emerge perfectly from the era. Not a retread among them.

She places these characters in a time of keeping delicate balances. Frontier living was living on a knife’s edge. Survival was tentative at best. The times demanded one be constantly alert and correctly interpret even the most subtle of things around them. A rapidly-hidden glance. A slight weather shift. A near-indiscernible sound. A barely-there hint of something out of order—a fallen leaf out of season, birdsong gone silent, hoof print with no shoe… Missing natural or human clues left one vulnerable. Death could be sudden—in a rockfall, a storm, gunshot, snakebite. 

Trkee river

Much of MOONBOW unfurls as Tempe Tucker or Sion Morgan (with various companions) travel. Sometimes they trek familiar, narrow paths; other times unfamiliar territory, be it tough terrain, rough rivers, forests lost in fog or laced with enemies. Many miles are walked, then backtracked. Yet throughout Frantz keeps the action moving in a setting that some might see as an endless slate of green and wood to forge through. Not once does she revert to lazy repetition.

MOONBOW Yosemite - falls close up brtWith her extraordinary observation and writing skill, every turn of trail and fortune unfolds in a vividly-drawn setting. Much like inhabitants of extreme northern climes have a vast number of words for snow, Frantz finds a seemingly infinite variety of sights, sounds, and senses within which to place the action. No cookie-cutter travelogue descriptions here. Rather, an endless diversity of vegetation impedes progress or provides food, fuel, or healing agents as the characters move thru the forest. A variety of sounds soothe … or frighten, an array of sights assist in navigating the journey … or stirring emotions.

An example is when Tempe recalls first traveling to Kentucky. Weeks upon weeks amid a long, snaking column of people and animals, eating cornbread and meat that tasted of wood smoke and ashes, clothes full of briars and burrs. Then one night she was lost in a sunset, “a blaze of red and gold, the sky pretty as a party dress.”

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The germ of the story is a little-publicized event in the life of Daniel Boone. Frantz says learning about it as a child impacted her greatly. Around that incident, she’s woven a plot as filled with twists and turns as paths early surveyors had to travel through the wilderness. Sion, Tempe, and her family~indeed all the secondary characters spring to life so authentically connected to the era and location that MOONBOW seems a tale of history told, not a novel spun from Frantz’s imagination. Even knowing beforehand that part of the story was fact-based, as I read I could not find the line between fact and fiction.

Frantz’s diction is another area where she displays her skill and her readers benefit tremendously. Her language is fresh, evocative, sensory, and captures the dialect of the times.

LIFE is chancy posterShe also captures the unsettledness and danger of 1777, a year of much violence and bloodshed in Kentucky known as “the bloody sevens.” Indian attacks grew more common. Constant vigilance and heightened senses were required. The story shows the toll vigilance takes, and the price of being careless.

Fog in valleyTempe, as expert as any professional guide, regularly finds solace from the past that haunts her by wandering through the woods. But now fewer patrons stop at their inn, and fog settles in. “The lull unsettled her. She didn’t dare venture far with the fog. It seemed to take the land captive whilst scrambling her usually sound sense of direction. Without the sun or North Star as her guide, she felt adrift.”  [p 65]

MOONBOW - blossom“Tempe was struck right then by how chancy life was. Like a spider’s web or an eggshell or a butterfly’s wing. Their world seemed made of little losses. She was always having to say goodbye, part with something. A brilliant sunset. A blossom. A sweet feeling.”  [p 182]

And again as Tempe trekked toward a favorite place:

MOONBOW - tree-massive“A hymn stirred in her spirit. Her mouth opened, then shut. She sensed the meadow wasn’t entirely hers … she felt a cloudiness. Not fear, just a foreboding, a heightening tension. She stepped behind a chestnut, its bulk broad as two men.

Raven.

He crossed the clearing, moving with an easy grace, gaze turned toward her as if telling her she was plain as a parakeet with its noisy chatter and brilliant plumage. She looked down at her showy skirt, dyed pumpkin orange … Half Chickamauga Cherokee, Raven seemed rootless, restless, living between two worlds, never quite at home in either. Whenever she saw him he was on the move, usually on the Warrior’s Path. But today he was in this very meadow, near her beloved Fairy Rock.

She felt … wronged.

Chafing … she stepped from behind the tree as if to banish any territorial thoughts. This was Indian ground be it anyone’s. She had no special claim … ‘Twas more Raven’s than hers.”  [p 70]

SCOTs AZALEA or rhod - MOONBOWThough the story is set in a turbulent, violent era, and covers many raw, tough days, do not fear it’s a dark and overwhelming story. That all is relieved when Frantz peppers the story with beautiful observations, joyous experiences, noble deeds, glimmers of hope, as well as snatches of humor. In this example Tempe, concerned by the reserve between her brother Russell and her friend (clearly smitten with him) decides to intervene.

“Mama, maybe it’s time to give Russell a talking to.”

[Her mother’s] dark brows arched. “What for?”

“Don’t you want some grandchildren?”

“I’d like a wedding first.”  [p 95]

Laura Frantz’s skill as a story-teller astonishes me. A MOONBOW NIGHT is filled with accurate historical detail, intricately woven, and beautiful. As a writer, I re-read her novels as a master class on technique. Though I must say studying them to explain details of writing craft feels like an intrusive act that violates their integrity and beauty, much like dissecting a delicate flower or pinning a lovely butterfly.

Thorough research is another of Frantz’s hallmarks. I could fill a page listing the areas she has mastered to give us the verisimilitude in this story—history, tracking, Indian languages, plant/animal knowledge, food preservation, weapons, to name only a few. All that plus her keen observational skills, and familiarity with and love of the region combine to create a world so immediate that a reader cannot help but inhabit it. You will find yourself holding your breath, the hair on the back of your neck tingling as you sense, without knowing why, impending doom. And relief will make your legs go weak when help arrives.

I think the magic of Frantz’s writing (which in my experience is shared by only a few) is that her stories are not so much read as lived.

 Visit with Laura on her blog or Facebook or Pinterest. She’ll be thrilled to meet you.

THE THORN BEARER by Pepper Basham

This is a bold, compelling story that sweeps across minefields of the Atlantic and of the heart. From the back cover:

From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all.

When her fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed – who could ever love a soiled woman? In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn’t traveling alone.

Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend’s former fiancé and his own childhood companion.

As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship. When the truth of Ashleigh’s past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough – or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever.

The description of The Thorn Bearer paints a heavy, emotional journey for Ashleigh, Sam as well. And indeed it is. But the story proceeds at a brisk pace, and relief comes in bright spots of various forms ~

~ Generous support of a kindred spirit, such as Sam comforting his friend: “None of this was your fault, Ashleigh … Michael was the fool and coward. I’m sorry he broke your heart.”

~ Insights that might resonate with readers, such as Ashleigh’s: “Time has proven to heal many of the wounds Michael left behind, it has also clarified other feelings. Time is a powerful friend or adversary.”                    

~ Tender interactions with children

~ Self-sacrifice by many characters

Multiple storylines bring us characters who arouse both interest and emotion. They’re wounded in a wide variety of ways. Their lives collide and twist together then apart, at times by choice. And sometimes the separation is forced upon them, such as when the Lusitania is torpedoed and sinks.

The Thorn Bearer is a dance of communication amidst a fast-flowing stream of situations that shuffle the characters and their futures. Exquisitely veiled dialogue allows much opportunity for misunderstanding and plot complications. Basham excels in hinting at feelings not shown and things left unsaid. Romance stories benefit from this skill.

To be fair, romances are generally not my genre of choice. And romance in this novel is a major focus. Some sexual elements are also involved—though sensitively handled and more referenced than shown. But the story is equally about forgiveness (in many contexts other than sexual). Some typos/repeated words interrupted the flow briefly, but not enough to prevent understanding.

Basham braids her story around the taut theme of broken people needing to give and receive forgiveness. Her characters indulge in a wide variety wrong-doing ~ lies and half-truths, assault, betrayal, theft, cruelty among them ~ allowing all story lines to be neatly woven into a powerful, cohesive tale. The spiritual elements emerge and flow naturally from the characters’ struggles.

THE THORN BEARER is an energetic story (much like the author herself) that covers a lot of territory ~ both across the dangerous miles of the Atlantic Ocean and the minefields of the heart. It is a satisfying book and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

You can learn more about Pepper, her abundant joy, bountiful humor, and the romances she weaves these into on her blog.

 

UNEVEN FOOTING at CHRISTMAS

We’re traversing an unsteady season of life in our family. A journey that requires attention to each step taken. Tender hearts are at risk. The magnitude of the impact of decisions made and actions taken makes the path feel perilous. A step in the wrong direction, a stumble, a misunderstood word can send one’s life careening off a cliff.

Oh, for a level, well-lit pathway.

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Recently I attended a meeting at a lovely venue all decked out for Christmas. From the parking lot it was a glorious sight: massive evergreens festooned with ribbons and garlands that glittered in the morning sun. Friends gathered, and as we crossed the mosaic-floored terrace I tripped on an uneven tile and had to pull my gaze from decorations to the ground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe entered a grand lobby with glittering lights. Bedecked topiaries dotted the slate floor. The uneven slate floor. Again I had to look away from the surrounding beauty.

Once settled at the table, I relaxed and lifted my eyes, taking in the glowing fireplace, candles, wreaths and colorful packages. And the radiant faces of friends, gathered to enjoy each others’ company, our journeys as writers, and joy celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Later I thought about that precarious path and bristled at the fact that to traverse it, I had to keep my eyes glued to the floor ~ missing some delightful scenery. Then the memory of the uneven, perilous path facing our family came roaring back. I realized that I felt cheated by having my life forced into a narrow lane. I was missing opportunities to connect with people, missing out on pleasures and joys. It wasn’t fair. I wanted to pout. Wanted to complain and ask God to fix it.

pathway-blocked-at-far-end-maybe

And He did.

He reminded me, during this season of Christmas, that …

He is Emmanuel ~ God with Us.

That my path is not precarious. Nor is it devoid of beauty.

The Lord Himself holds my hand. And if I look at Him, the view is more glorious than any beribboned, ornament-laden tree. If I hold tightly, He can keep me from falling … and missing opportunities to connect with others.

The difference is not in my path but in where I choose to look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I wish you plenty of time and freedom to gaze without limit on a season filled with light to remind you of The Light of the World, God With Us.*

Merry Christmas!

*John 8:12, Matthew 1:23

FALL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

Do you enjoy fall? The cooling temperatures. The colors changing. We enjoy the respite after intense summer heat. I’ll be taking a break from the blog for a number of weeks to address some construction projects we have underway ~ home, library, and literary among others. I hope you have wonderful adventures and explorations in this changing season. Meanwhile, I invite you to connect on  Facebook, Pinterest, or Goodreads. I’ll be popping in there.  Happy fall to you.

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Fear. Faith. Family. A SPARROW IN TEREZIN by Kristy Cambron

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Bound together across time, two women will discover a powerful connection through one survivor’s story of hope in the darkest days of a war-torn world.

Present Day—With the grand opening of her new art gallery and a fairy–tale wedding just around the corner, Sera James feels like she’s stumbled into a charmed life—until a brutal legal battle against fiancé William Hanover threatens to destroy their future before it even begins.

Now, after an eleventh-hour wedding ceremony and a callous arrest, William faces a decade in prison for a crime he never committed, and Sera must battle the scathing accusations that threaten her family and any hope for a future with the man she loves.

1942—Kája Makovsky narrowly escaped Nazi-occupied Prague in 1939 and was forced to leave behind her half-Jewish family. Now a reporter for The Daily Telegraph in England, Kája discovers the terror has followed her across the Channel in the shadowy form of the London Blitz. When she learns Jews are being exterminated by the thousands on the continent, she has no choice but to return to her mother city, risking her life to smuggle her family to freedom and peace.

Connecting across a century through one little girl, a Holocaust survivor with a foot in each world, these two women will discover a kinship that springs even in the darkest of times. In this tale of hope and survival, Sera and Kája must cling to the faith that sustains them and fight to protect all they hold dear–even if it means placing their own futures on the line.   [from back cover]

For some people there are hundreds of things that spark hope and joy. But for Europeans living during the 1940s, choices, safety, and reasons for optimism were shrinking.

800px-monmouth_regimental_museum_-_qrpedia_5In A Sparrow in Terezin Kristy Cambron works her alchemy of words and brings her story world to life in my living room—even more so in my mind and heart. While stories set in WW II may seem already too familiar, Cambron’s impressive research allows her novels to brim with new information, twists, perspectives. As in The Butterfly and the Violin, the first of the Hidden Masterpiece series, Cambron introduces places and incidents that were new to me. And her writing style with fresh images makes the stories even more enjoyable. For example, in all the WW II movies I’ve seen or reading I’ve done, I had never been shown an infant in a pram covered tip to toe in a special suit to protect him like the adults carried gas masks. *

I’ve enjoyed numerous split-time novels. But in A Sparrow in Terezin, as eras shifted I was at times reluctant to leave. I felt less engaged in Sera’s present day story than in Kája’s. I wondered if spending more time in each story before switching eras might have solved that particular problem, but I’m not certain. As the stories progressed I did become more engaged. And Cambron’s gift for making the horrors of war real yet tinged with hope is a big reason.

Numerous themes are presented: hope, love, faith, sacrifice, family. These interplay and inspire. And the book includes many surprises. While not all loose ends are tied up at the conclusion, I found the ending satisfying. Though I must say, closing the cover of a Cambron book is never a complete pleasure because many months will pass before another of her tales is available. I highly recommend this book.

*1939 Second World War-era baby’s gas mask in Monmouth Regimental Museum. This design covered the whole of the baby except for its legs. Photo By Rock drum – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19528798