"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD...He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Micah 4:2

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An Old Favorite

There are times when a book sticks with me and characters or circumstances are recalled often as fleeting thoughts or helpers in choices I must make in daily life.
There are books we mark as our favorites and gently pull them off the shelf to dust, tenderly remembering the plot, then carefully return them to their proper place on the shelf, knowing they are keepers and considered treasures for the rest of your life.

Leota's Garden by Francine Rivers is one of those books for me. The yellowed cover's edges curl up from use, a few coffee stains dot the pages, and although it's an old edition, but this simple designed jacket is a beautiful sight. I first read it while caring for my elderly mother-in-law through eight years of confusion. I fell in love with Leota as I read her inner struggles, prayers, and daily concerns for the spiritual well-being of her children. I loved recalling her memories with her and even sided with her in many of her struggles, yet, hoping that I would be as gracious and forgiving if the same trials approached me.
During times when I struggled in giving patient care, I would remember Leota's loneliness and her tears. My heart reached out easier and I understood some of the loneliness my dear one faced daily. I became aware of her losses and began treasuring her memories, valuing the time to listen to her stories and write some of them as they were told to me. Even though I knew she was often confused, I realized her present anxiety was very real to her.
Leota's Garden taught me patience that I may not have had without its shared knowledge.

Then the years of care for my dear beloved Dad were thrust upon me. I chuckled when I recalled Leota and honestly thought that an elderly man wouldn't have the same inner struggles and concerns.

Boy! Was I wrong! My Dad was just like Leota in many ways. He was so concerned about his children and grand children and often questioned if he had done enough to tell them he loved them. He wondered aloud often on whether he had used every opportunity God had given him to live life to the fullest. Had he been a selfish man? Had he squandered anything? Had he shared the Gospel plainly?
He shared some of his fears and how much his helplessness bothered him as he gave up driving, then walking distances, and finally, succumbing to the small apartment we could offer him. The Presence of the Lord became so precious to him and in the early morning hours, I shared moments of prayer that sounded very close to the ones Leota had prayed.
There were times I found him staring off into the gardens of our backyard and wondered if he had some of the same fond memories as Leota's memories. Had he enjoyed the tilling of the earth to see beauty grow?

Years have passed since my care giving days, but while visiting my family on an extended stay, I found this treasured book on my daughter's book shelf. I tenderly pulled it off, held it for a moment, and chose to read it again.
This time, I found my focus on the children, grand daughter, and dear young friends sweet Leota left behind. She had touched each one in different ways through her lifetime, and each had made choices in their relationship with Leota. This time, I fell in love with Eleanor, the little daughter torn by bitterness and misunderstandings. I saw the wisdom of the old professor who encouraged a young man to serve another human before choosing his philosophy. I encouraged the young man to search deeper for life's meaning. I hugged the grand daughter's heart often as I read her prayers and dreams, and I even wanted to work beside her in restoring the Garden and home of her beloved Grandmother.

This book is still a favorite, but this time, I gained new friendships with the other characters who impacted the elderly Leota. It became a new story to me because of the different stage of life I face now. There's no end to books I want to read and I'll always have a cart full of new stories to call favorites, but it was good to read this old treasure. So, I encourage you, dear reader, to pull an oldie off the shelf and read it again.
Do you think it will impact you now as it did years ago? Will you see different opinions and struggles? Will it help you once again through a hard time or happy stage of life or will it remind you why it became one of your favorites?
Leota's Garden has a new cover and is even available on Kindle, and its contemporary topics makes it worth the read over and over again!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reading to Little Ones is MORE than Words

With grandchildren living on the other side of the globe and another living more than a 24 hour drive, it would seem silly for me to write a professional post on reading to little ones. Yet, this week, I was reminded several times just how much both generations can learn when reading is part of the precious time spent together.
So, I decided to take a moment and tell you what great fun it's been to hang out with four of our little ones and read the same little books over and over to them.

My Don and I arrived on the tropical island of PENANG, Malaysia about two weeks ago and the youngest took to "Grandpa" immediately when read a familiar book. He was fascinated to watch a stranger read the same words others had read to him, yet I'm sure he was a little puzzled with the different tones, pauses, and with even some of the sound effects this Grandpa added! From that moment on, it was like he couldn't get enough of one book! We constantly endured the repetition of words while we watched for the huge smile that crossed his face on certain pages!

Over and over the book was read.
We noticed this repetition even taught the little one about noises he could make with his own hands. Grandpa would read the words while pounding on the arm of the chair..."Dum * ditty **, Dum *ditty **, Dum* Dum* Dum!" (the ** represents the pounding we all endured!). At first, baby boy just stared. Then, Grandpa used the little hands to pound out the beat to the repetition. Finally, they were both quite good at pounding the beat of the drum on the armchair. The little guy began to watch his own hands in other activities, and by the end of the week, his hands gleefully participated in rhythm as he joined the family in many clapping songs.

So now, my Don left for the States, leaving me behind to pick up where he left off WITH THE SAME BOOKS!
But, really...I don't pound chairs, or add his other sound as I simply read to the playful little guy, I honestly didn't think he was paying any attention until I decided to read the calmer Fireman Small. He became so excited as he anticipated the sound made when the "water "WHOOSHES" from the hose". I saw his mouth copy the shape of my mouth!
But what really took me even more by surprise was how shocked the little guy was when I couldn't see the page completely and added MY OWN WORD, replacing farm with town!

His little head snapped around and he looked at me with the most puzzled look! It was hilarious! He seriously took in the situation, and probably thought "This lady needs help!" 
Amid much laughter from the others nearby, I learned babies really listen to each word, notice the added expressions, watching your mouth form the sounds and even looking at the pages as if to put it all together. Reading plays a huge role in their quest toward verbal skills!
The next time I read Hand, Hand, Fingers,Thumb he actually started laughing aloud as he wiggled and squirmed on my lap. When comfortably in place where he could reach the arm of the chair, he anticipated with giggles the DUM*DUM*DITTY** and with the biggest grin on his face, he correctly pounded out the beat his Grandpa had taught him!
I know Grandpa added a new dimension in the little guy's love of books!

But I also realized he was not the only one who had listened and thought this Grandmom needed help in reading skills. A couple of hours later, our little 3 year old joined me at the table with the book Fireman Small. "Grandma, I will show you how to read this book, ok?"

If you cannot see this video here, go here on You Tube

How precious to watch it "read"! It's so obvious that this book had been opened many many times over through the years to all these little ones!
I know this earnest little face reading to me is a real memory keeper!
I especially loved her expression on "WHOOSHES" and "Hooray, Hooray, the fire is out!"

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Trusting a Faithful God

A NEW Biblical Fiction
OK. I admit it. I like reviewing new books.
I love the smell of ink on the pages, the feel of stiff paper before use does its damage, and it gives a certain pleasure to be the first one to bend back the cover so a book never really closes tightly again!
For me, Mesu Andrew's books never really close again in my mind. The mere mention of this title will bring back memory of the living biblical characters of past centuries. Their traits, struggles, loves, and most of all, their learned steps of walking by faith parade through my mind again and leave a sweet smile in my heart.

Thank you, Mesu, for allowing me these joys with the gift of your newest book In the Shadow of Jezebel. There are lessons in this book that my heart wants to grab tightly so that I become a more faithful follower of our loving God. I want my heart to trust His protection and walk in His purpose, faithfully proclaiming His goodness and helping others respond to His love because they learn to serve Him.

Even more than reviews though, I love seeing how an author weaves biblical principles into the decisions of fictitious characters and allows her readers to ponder the greatness of a loving God who patiently "works good according to his purpose for those who love him."
I realize Jehosheba is the main character, but I fell in love with the Jehoiada's heart while he was still second to the high priest and assisted in daily struggles of the elderly honorary. As I read the opening pages of the plot, I was given the opportunity to hear the musings of his heart and his conversations with his God, Yaweh.

Photo by Desiray Lewis
So often, those who have faithfully followed the Lord obediently and consistently, believing the Scriptures to be the manual for a godly life and God's final word on any matter are overlooked by those who are prone to wander from their God.
In every circle the discussions begin on a modern trend that accepts the acts of unbelief and disobedience as "a normal" for the majority. I recently found this online rejection to the popular Christian discussion, reminding believers to claim the power in the gift of the Holy Spirit given to God's children .

For some reason, there are some who show the possible acceptance of God's love immediately and use His Word as their guiding lamp throughout the rest of their lives. Jehoiada is one of these men. He was trained to know and practice God's laws and be a leader in righteousness, but he also learned to live faithfully in his daily decisions because he believed in the comfort of a loving God. He picked up the mantle and followed a holy calling voluntarily because he recognized God's awesome Presence and trusted God's mighty help in times of trouble.
When this approach is mentioned in modern Christian circles, the word perfection is scoffed. Yet, Mesu did an wonderful job showing that Jehoiada's love and obedience did not make him perfect, but allowed him to surrender to the constant peace of God's involvement in his nation, in his personal life, in his relationships, in daily decisions made on his account, and in his priestly service.
I wondered at Jehoiada's family tree as I read the many times where anger was his first response. As far back as Genesis 49, a patriarch's blessing marks the anger of his forefather, Levi, as a constant historical remembrance. This could have been a red thread of sin that Jehoiada inherited in the flesh and had to battle constantly in his zeal for the Lord. His anger almost blinded him to common sense and reason, made stumbling doubt creep into his heart and confronted his faith as a substituted worshiped god. His anger was his constant personal battle and often hurt those he loved.
Yet this anger also turned to zealous courage when he needed to stand against the audacious and confused king who questioned the righteousness and sovereignty of God's law. His zeal also stood boldly, upholding the faithful worship of Yahweh when confronted by the evil queen and her false religion. His aging body often challenged this zealous strength in his fight on the Lord's side, and although he admitted his weakness was part of his sinful nature, he didn't allow it to have ultimate control or become the normal excuse.
He strongly stands firm when he turned his weakness into a godly trust and lived God's Word for others to follow. His faith leaned on the knowledge of a Sovereign God for the outcomes of life and was rewarded over and over again for his faithful walk with His God.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Preparing Hearts for Easter

LENT is a traditional religious season leading up to Easter and carries the meaning of "preparing one's heart" for the victory found in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As a child, my family didn't practice LENT. I was taught that it belong to only a certain religious group and had nothing to do with the fellowship we attended. I only heard bits and pieces of the external practices tied to this season, and none of them really were explained to me.

Even though we had a deep love for the Lord Jesus, my younger years were filled with external family preparations with the practice of cantata music, Spring cleaning, shopping for new clothes, and of course, parties, hunts, and the childish hopes of a Spring basket full of candies.
Oh, our parents taught us the Easter story and hoped we understood the victory celebrated each Sunday because Christ arose from the dead long ago. As a little one, I even remember becoming very excited the week before Easter when our Sunday School class made paper palm branches and marched around the room singing "Hosanna! Hosanna!" We all knew it was the announcement of another special holiday coming in just a week and shouted all the more!
As a young pre-teen, the Passion Week celebrations became ETERNAL for me. I realized Christ suffered and died for me. He became my personal Lord and Savior, forgiving me of all my sin that put him on that cross. I began my spiritual journey with Him.

This year while overseas visiting our daughter's family, we're enjoying the daily "ritual" of family devotional time around the dinner table. Last night, it was absolutely adorable to hear the youngest response for the reason of LENT.
"We're preparing our hearts for Easter".

These parents pulled an older book off the shelf which our daughters found when they were old enough to prepare for Easter themselves. They shared their love of Preparing for EASTER by James Evans with me. I found it a beautiful treasury of daily devotions.
Around this table, I've been reminded of how rich this whole season became to me as a young adult.
Each daily Scripture readings points to Jesus, "who became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him".

The little object lessons explain the daily Scriptures read and the truth comes alive using common household items. The older children are challenged to answer specific questions by writing their thoughts in a journal each day during their own quiet time. These journal entries hopefully help their hearts grasp the truth of the focused Scriptures and then, verbally relating their thoughts help the parents know whether the truth is grasped or needs further explanation.

My own heart has been challenged to stop and ponder what God did for us in Christ as I listen to these daily devotions. The little object lessons make me realize that even the youngest among us can retain truth retold. It is a wonderful practice and could enhance many special family times for my friends back home.

So, just what does Easter mean to you?
If you asked your kids what EASTER means to them...what would be their first response?
Do you have a traditional practice that prepares your family's hearts for the special celebration of Easter?
I'd love to hear what you do to help you and your children understand Christ's sacrifice and resurrection a little more this year.

It's not too late for your family to pick up a good devotional book to get started preparing your hearts for a wonderful celebration of victory found in the empty tomb.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A Scavenger Hunt, a Snowy Day and a BIG HOP to..

OK...being snowed in wasn't too bad an experience for the first weekend of March.
More than showing an empty cup from the comfort of steaming hot chocolate, I have accomplishments to give value for my time spent warmly tucked in.

I finished reading an excellent novel,
In the Shadow of Jezebel. I wrote a review, began work on a devotional, and made several comments on FB and Google+, hoping my friends would join in the SCAVENGER HUNT Blog Hop and win the prizes. I even had some time to work on my personal notes and comments containing several favorite sections in the book.
Through this online connection with her fans, I now call the author, Mesu Andrews, a new friend and look forward to reading more of her biblical fiction books.

I also enjoyed hopping to new blog sites and reading reviews in my participation in the Scavenger Hunt Blog Hop hosted by Tina Chen @ Mommynificent. Hurry, dear readers!
This HOP is only for a couple more days (March 1-4)
Good Reads
I had so much fun blog hopping! I found new authors and more books to add to my personal list of "books I'd like to read" on Good Reads.
I'm beginning to think that my summer leisure list is being planned out quite rapidly, even before the snow has melted and the blossoms decorate the gardens!
Tina Chen

But really, who cares about snow when packed suitcases are lining the free spaces of the rooms? We are going to actually HOP on a plane and visit this Scavenger Hunt host and her family.
Our "End this Winter thing" begins when packages start to arrive at the door and piles of curriculum books rapidly grow in the spare bedroom. We add shopping items making new piles, and finally, we turn the calendar page and pull out suitcases and scales to evenly pack all our collected items.
In just hours, we leave this frigid air, the snow, and the remains of a long winter and board a plane for a real HOP...

As I work around the house, I remember that hit song "Leaving on a jet plane..." and smile.

We're glad for Skype and photos sent through internet outlets, but nothing compares to the real hugs waiting for us on a warm tropical island. It's so fun to actually see how tall the grandchildren have become, or maybe it's just how much more we're beginning to bend over in old age!
We love the scenes and feel of this tropical island, but even more we love to become part of the daily routine of our loved ones and watch them perform home school assignments, laugh and play in their yard, and visit the favorite places they've discovered in our year's absence.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

In the Shadow of Jezebel Scavenger Hunt and Book Review

HI! I'm Debi and this is my journey...
Welcome to my "journal" where you'll find records of little steps I've attempted as I mine "the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God..." (Rm 11:33)
Like most of my hand scripted journals, there is a little bit of everything experienced on this trek toward my heavenly home. My pilgrimage began as a young girl when I met Jesus Christ as the Forgiver of my sins. Years later, I realized the Bible was His manual for success and I accepted His offer as my Guide and Teacher. God also uses my gleanings from a harvest of good books to strengthen my faltering steps of faith. Often, I discover hidden treasures through biblical fiction because I see others who struggled through their time of life. This helps me grasp a deeper understanding of the spiritual battle I am a part of in God's plan to regain His Kingdom. It also helps me grasp a little tighter onto the love God extends to me. Through my musings, I hope to help others trust the Guide through valleys or over mountains of their own personal journey.

We are having a scavenger hunt! 
Wanna play? Read the rules and then jump right in!
Somewhere in my review below, there is a single word that is in BOLD AND ALL CAPITALS. Write it down. Then, go to the other stops to find more hidden words. Once you have all the words, unscramble them to find a verse from the Scriptures. You can enter it into the Rafflecopter on any of the stops to have a chance to win a great prize from Mesu herself!
In the Shadow of Jezebel Scavenger Hunt Blog Hop March 1-4

About the Book

Title: In the Shadow of Jezebel
Author: Mesu Andrews
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Revell
Print Length: 417 pages
Summary (Amazon):
Princess Jehosheba wants nothing more than to please the harsh and demanding Queen Athaliah, daughter of the notorious Queen Jezebel. Her work as a priestess in the temple of Baal seems to do the trick. But when a mysterious letter from the dead prophet Elijah predicts doom for the royal household, Jehosheba realizes that the dark arts she practices reach beyond the realm of earthly governments. To further Athaliah and Jezebel's strategies, she is forced to marry Yahweh's high priest and enters the unfamiliar world of Yahweh's temple. Can her new husband show her the truth and love she craves? And can Jehosheba overcome her fear and save the family--and the nation--she loves? With deft skill, Mesu Andrews brings Old Testament passages to life, revealing a fascinating story of the power of unconditional love.


In the Shadow of Jezebel book cover
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My Review of this Book

Recently, my favorite type of fiction led me to Mesu Andrews.
I love the way she surrounds the plot with actual places, times and biblical characters who learned to walk by faith in their unseen God. Through their spiritual struggles, inner conversations, and prayers, I watch them hold onto the promises of God. Many times as I read her book, my heart fell deeper in love with a beautiful God who declared Himself in all creation, throughout history and who gently loved me before I was even aware of Him.

I was thrilled to be given this gift of her newest book, In the Shadow of Jezebel. In its pages, I was drawn to see Yaweh through the personal thoughts of a dear experienced High Priest who served God's people in the temple.
Jehoida has so many of the same inner turmoils I have on my spiritual journey. He stumbles, questions, doubts, and even fails at times, yet, he also stands strong, is brave, and intimately talks to God as His precious friend. As I trudge this daily walk of trust in God's guidance, I stand AGAINST the same spiritual enemies of faith and respond with so many of these same deep emotions.
My favorite quote from her book has become a prayer and challenge this week. In an intimate moment with his young wife. Jehoida finishes telling a miraculous story of God's protection in their history and quotes Psalm 17 to her.
Smiling in the dark, he admits secretly his recitation also comforted his own heavy heart, but with growing awe, he muses, "And I get to demonstrate His love to you for the rest of my life." 

Oh! My desire is that in each relationship, I would grasp the awe of such a marvelous privilege!
We are given so many opportunities by our awesome loving and protective God and all He asks of us is to demonstrate His love to others! By this demonstrative love, they will know that we are truly His disciples and perhaps, they will learn to trust the loving outstretched arms of our God.

The Buzz - Praise for Mesu Andrews' Biblical Fiction

"Mesu Andrews has pieced together Scripture's truths with historical supposition through her masterful, research-based writing and captured the spiritual climate of those ancient days."--CBA Retailers+Resources on Love in a Broken Vessel "Andrews weaves a beautiful tale and takes readers to an ancient Jerusalem rich with history and customs and a culture that struggles to follow the one true God."--RT Book Reviews, 4½ stars, on Love's Sacred Song

About The Author

Author Mesu Andrews
Mesu Andrews  is the award-winning author of Love Amid the AshesLove's Sacred Song, and Love in a Broken Vessel. Winner of the 2012 ECPA Christian Book Award for New Author, she has devoted herself to passionate and intense study of Scripture, bringing the biblical world vividly alive for her readers. She lives in Washington.

Mesu's Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

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