Monday, November 24, 2008


I am once again participating in a First Wild Card Tour. Come along for the ride!

This is the first book by Alton Gansky I've ever read. I'm wondering why. Enoch was fabulous. The action moved at a good pace. There were many twists and turns, which made it exciting to read. The story line, while supernatural, made you wonder if this could really happen. After all, anything is possible when God is involved.

There were a few places where I was easily able to figure out what was going to happen but then there was always a little twist. I like it when books are not totally predictable. This one was not. Gold star.

The one scene where they were interviewing Noel literally took my breath away. I was so shocked, I had to put the book down and get my composure. It was a powerful scene and message. Platinum star. Also, pay close attention to the ending. There is a message there for all of us.

I highly recommend this book if you like action thrillers. Good read. Now enjoy the first chapter.

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


Realms (October 2, 2008)


Alton Gansky is the author of twenty-one published novels and six nonfiction works. He has been a Christie Award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and an Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice). He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies and has served as senior pastor for three Baptist churches in California, with a total of over twenty years in pulpit ministry. He and his wife live in the High Desert area of Southern California.

Visit the author's

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 307 pages

Publisher: Realms (October 2, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 159979344X

ISBN-13: 978-1599793443


He first thought of his feet.

It seemed an odd first thought, but there it was. His gaze drifted to a pair of soft-topped shoes, each with a symbol stitched to the side.

"N." He wondered why anyone would stitch a letter on footwear.

He raised a foot, then wiggled it. The shoe felt good. He dug a toe in the sandy dirt, then raised his head. A field surrounded him. No crops, no buildings, no people. Just a wide expanse of rugged scrub that shivered in the cold wind.

A full-circle turn revealed nothing but the same: miles of empty land. He blinked against the wind and the bits of dirt and dust it carried. To the west the sun lowered itself to the horizon. In the opposite direction, darkness crawled up the sky, keeping pace as if the descending orb pulled a curtain of night behind it.

Turning to face the sun again, he saw a break in the expanse of near-barren ground. At its edge ran a thin fence. He moved toward it, amused at the soft crunch the earth made with each step of his N-shoes.

Something scampered to his right. A covey of quail sprinted away and then took to the air, flying a short distance before making contact with the earth again. The sight made him smile.

Henick wrapped his arms around himself to ward off the chilling breeze. The material of his multicolored shirt felt soft against his arms and palms. He kept his gaze down, protecting his eyes from the sun's glare and looking up only long enough to get his bearings and check for holes or rocks that might cause him to stumble.

The fence was a simple series of metal stakes supporting four strands of metal wire punctuated with evenly spaced barbs. He extended a finger, touched one of the points, and frowned. The knife-sharp tip drew a drop of blood. He stuck the offended finger in his mouth. A quick scan of the fence's length revealed no gate.

A short distance from the fence ran a wide, smooth, black surface with a series of white dashes down the middle. He marveled at its unerring straightness.

He returned his attention to the fence. He wanted to be on the other side but preferred to arrive there with skin and clothing intact. Placing a hand on the top strand, he pushed down. The metal wire moved, but not enough to make straddling the thing acceptable. He tried again, this time using both hands. The wire fence gave more but still too little.

Henick decided on a different approach. He stepped to the nearest metal upright and tested it. It looked old, as if it had spent a lifetime stuck in that one spot. Seizing it with both hands and careful to avoid the stinging wire, he shook the thin metal pole. It wiggled. He leaned into it and then pulled back, repeating the motion twenty or thirty times. The metal felt cold against his bare hands, and gritty rust tinted his flesh.

When he had worked the pole loose, he lifted its base from the ground, then moved to the next upright and reenacted the procedure. With two posts loose, Henick could step across the barrier without injury.

Once on the other side, he replaced the posts, stomping the surrounding dirt with his foot until the soil was as compact as he could make it. In time, weather would reseal the posts to their original strength.

The exertion had warmed him enough to raise a film of perspiration on his brow and beneath the black hair that hung to his shoulders. The breeze found each moist area and chilled it. He could expect a cold night.

Stepping to the middle of the black path, he bent and touched the surface. It appeared smooth but felt coarse beneath his fingers. The black material radiated gentle warmth. He straightened and looked up and down the long road. It seemed to have no end in either direction. Deciding that one direction was as good as the other, Henick began to walk, choosing his course so the wind would be at his back and not in his face.

When the last of the sun's disk fell beneath the horizon, Henick had made two or three miles. He passed the time by counting the white dashes in the middle of the strange path or wondering about the letter N on his shoes. He liked the shoes; they made walking easier.

A quarter moon replaced the sun in the sky but offered little light. Soon the final light would follow its source below the distant horizon. If he had remained in the open field, he would have had to stop his journey. Walking over uncertain and irregular terrain with no light would be foolish, but the hard path with its white lines made it possible for him to continue.

Just before the sun said its final good-bye, Henick saw a black and white sign with a puzzling, irregular shape and the words Ranch Road 1232. Sometime later he saw a sign that read Don't Mess with Texas.

The air moved from chilly to cold, but the breeze had settled.

Henick kept moving.

Lights and a rumble approached from behind. The light split the darkness and gave Henick a shadow that stretched impossibly long before him. He stopped and turned, raising a hand to shield his eyes against the glare.

The roar grew louder. The lights neared.

A sudden blaring assaulted his ears, but Henick stood his ground.

"What are you? Nuts?"

The voice came from behind the glare. A large metal device pulled alongside. The words pickup truck entered Henick's mind.

The vehicle stopped. "Have you plumb lost your mind, boy? I coulda run you down and not even known I hit ya. What are you thinking?"

In the dim light, Henick could see two people seated in the truck: a man in his sixties and a woman of the same age.

"Go easy on him, Jake. He looks confused. Maybe he's lost." The woman's voice rode on tones of kindness.

"That it, boy? You lost?"

"I am just walking," Henick said.

"In the dark? Where you headed?"

Henick thought for a moment. "That way." He pointed down the long stretch of road.

"Ain't nuthin' that way but Blink, and there ain't much reason for going there unless that's your home. I'm guessin' it ain't. Pretty small town; I think I'd have seen you before."

"I don't live there."

The man the woman called Jake exited the truck and eyed Henick. "It's a bit cold to be out in nuthin' but blue jeans and a flannel shirt. It's supposed to drop into the forties tonight."

"It is true. I am cold."

"Give him a ride, Jake." The woman had slid closer to the driver side door. "We can't leave him out here. He's liable to step in some pothole and break a leg."

"More likely he'd step on a rattler. They like the warm asphalt."

"Either way, Jake, we can't leave the man out here."

"All right, all right, just keep your shoes on." Jake looked at Henick. "Turn around."

Henick raised an eyebrow.

"Turn around, boy. I jus' wanna make sure you ain't packin'."


"Totin' a gun. You sure you haven't wandered off from some kinda home for the slow?"


"All right, Eleanor, I don't mean no disrespect." He motioned for Henick to turn in place. Henick did. "OK, here's the deal. I'll give you a ride, but that's all. Me and the wife were going into town for a meal. Friday night is our evening out. Been doing that for thirty-five years."

"I would like a ride."

"Yeah, well, don't have no room for you up front, so you'll have to ride in the back. I got some blankets to keep the wind off you. It's the best I can offer."

"Thank you." Henick climbed into the bed of the truck and leaned against the cab.

"Blankets are behind my seat. I'll get 'em."

A few moments later, Henick, snug in two wool blankets, turned his face heavenward, gazed at the stars, and wondered what a "Texas" was.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Truth Heals

Well it's our last chapter of Lisa Whittle's book Behind Those Eyes. This has been a fabulous and life-changing book. I am sad to send it end. Lisa did a wonderful job with this book, allowing God to use her to get after us about "the hard stuff". Thank you Lisa for your obedience!

I know this post is really late, but that's what happens when your Internet connection goes bye-bye for no apparent reason. So without further ado, let's wrap up. Remember all items in orange are direct quotes from Lisa.

"The truth is, in one way or another, we all show people the "us" we want them to see." You know, like when you are yelling at your kids and the phone rings. You don't answer it and growl "Hello" in to the receiver. Oh no. You put on your sweetest, most syrupy voice so you appear calm, cool and collected. Or how about when you and your husband had a disagreement on the way to the small group get- together and when you arrive, you act like he's the love of your life. You want to strangle his neck, but no one will ever know that if they are waiting for you to reveal it to them. These are just small examples but you get my drift. We all do it.

But aren't we supposed to be trying to be more authentic and real to people? That's my goal. Is it yours? If so then we need to embrace and live out the truth. What is the truth? Well Lisa laid it out very plainly for us.

Truth #1: Recognition

God created you exactly the way you are, with your unique personality and temperament, since He is incapable of making a mistake.

So that means He meant to give you that curly hair, freckles, wide hips, or crooked teeth. He knew exactly what He was doing when He made you impatient, shy, outspoken, compassionate, math savvy or forgetful. Quit being stressed out, angry or sad about it. He absolutely, unequivocally right "on the money" with how He made you.

Honey, if He made you exactly the way you wanted to be, would you depend on Him for anything? Would you want His presence the way you do now? I bet not. You'd be too busy admiring how great you were. Personally, I'd rather have more of God and less of Mari. Really.

Truth #2: Admission

God created you with a free will to choose your behavior and mess up your life.

Yeah and we do such an excellent job of messing up our lives. From time to time I wax nostalgic. I try not to do it often because there is a lot I'd like to forget. Stupid decisions, silly mistakes. I am still living with the consequences of a few of those. Lisa tells us that "God is quick not only to forgive us; He is quick also to restore us." And thank Him for that. I've been restored so many times. I am so grateful for that part of who God is to me, to us.

What's even better, He not only restores us but "God often uses broken people - the people with the most baggage - for His honor and glory." Think about it. Who better to help you in your situation than someone who has walked through it, been forgiven and restored and is now available to you by God's grace and design. Don't tell me God doesn't know what He is doing. He surely does.

Truth #3: Resolution

God created us to discern and discover who we are and where we function most effectively, without trying to be someone else.

Can I be honest? I no longer care to use my precious energy to attempt impersonation. It's enough work just being me. Add in trying to be someone else and you might as well just lay me out on the sofa for the rest of my life. Since God made me the way I am, I think I'll just let Him decide what to change and when to change it. If he chooses not to, then I need to spend my energy saying "Lord help me accept your decision." That's a much better use of time because it draws me closer to Him.

When it's all said and done, here is what is left. I am, you are, we are "completely flawed yet forgiven completely; an awesome spirit being, truly loved and accepted by God."

Go forth ladies and be YOU. And be blessed by the the Truth, Jesus the Christ.

****Stop by Lelia's for more insight on this closing chapter. You'll be able to check out the next study that begins January 6, 2009.*****

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Title Trakk Book Tour

Welcome to the 1st ever Blog Tour!

This week we're chatting about:

The Fantastic Fall Giveaway Contest!

Just in time for the holidays, you could win over
$335 worth of books, cds and dvds!

Sponsored by our friends at:

The Grand Prize Winner will receive:


Whispers of the Bayou by Mindy Starns Clark
Rachel's Secret by BJ Hoff
Beach Dreams by Trish Perry
Playing God by Michelle McKinney Hammond
White Soul by Brandt Dodson
The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka
Finding Marie by Susan Paige Davis
The Power of Praying Through the Bible by Stormie Omartian
A Man After God's Own Heart by Jim George
Evidence for Faith 101 by Bruce Bickel & Stan Jantz


Wake Up! Wake Up! by Everyday Sunday
Rock What You Got by Superchick
Sunday by Tree63
Houston We Are Go by Newsboys (Live CD/DVD)
Nothing Left To Lose by Mat Kearney
I Am Free Worship Collection
Salvation Station by Newworldson
Not Without Love by Jimmy Needham
Pages by Shane & Shane
Colors and Sounds by Article One


Love's Unfolding Dream
The Ten Commandments Animated
Between the Walls

But that's not all!
We're giving away even more!

During this blog tour (November 10th - 16th) we'll be drawing 2 winners daily from the contest entries to win an additional free book or cd!

Visit the Contest page today to enter the contest and place yourself in the running to receive the Grand Prize, plus all the daily prizes! Deadline to enter is November 17th.

Founded in 2006 by Tracy & C.J. Darlington, is an interactive website spotlighting Christian books, music & movies. Updated weekly, we feature author and musician interviews, album and book reviews, music videos, movie reviews and interviews, book excerpts, surveys, polls, and fun contests. Learn more:


I encourage everyone to stop by TitleTrakk. I *heart* this website something fierce. It has everything you need for your Christian entertainment needs. Did you take a good look at the prizes in the giveaway? SHUT UP!

Hurry on over and enter ~ it is so worth your while. Then hang out and look around. Get cozy. You will enjoy it. I promise! And if you win, I might want to borrow a book or three :) because I am a voracious reader. I promise I'll send them back. Now shoo - go enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Completely Flawed Yet Forgiven Completely

Wow - what a title. What a concept! I'm talking about Lisa Whittle's book Behind Those Eyes that we've been studying for several weeks. All bold orange text are direct quotes from Lisa.

Lisa states "It's an absolute truth that we women, as people and as followers of Christ, are completely flawed and yet completely forgiven." Completely flawed. Yes that would be me. Completely forgiven. Praise God, that's me too. At the same time.

One year, the leader of a bible study I was in, made keepsake books for us. Each member had to write something positive about each of the other ladies in the group. She then had someone write these comments and verses in a wonderful scrapbook for us. As I read through the comments on each page, all I could think was, "Wow, is this what they see?" I was blown away. Much of what was written was probably really true. But much of what was not written was also true.

What things? Things like I've been in the pit. Many times. I've been in deep ones, shallow ones and wide ones. Heck, I've even dug the pit and leapt in with both feet and with eyes W I D E open.

I'm not perfect. No one is - except Jesus. It's good to know the good things about yourself. But it's also good to be aware of those rooms that we either need to unlock so Jesus can get in and make assessment of how much redecorating is needed or ones where we need to ask Him to please do some spring cleaning.

I don't mind being flawed. I mean I hate it in its truest sense because it's sin. However I don't mind it because it keeps me on my knees, pressed in to my LORD. Lisa expressed it so well when she said "For if there were no flaw, there would be no reason for forgiveness. And then we wouldn't get to see the awesome power of God miraculously at work in our lives." I'll just add a big AMEN!

Ladies, despite the sin I've been in, the pits I've sat in, the mud and muck I've been mired in, I'm forgiven. And guess what? You are too! Beth Moore often says no one has been in a bigger pit of sin. I often say "Ah sweet Beth, I'm just not so sure. I've lived me for 43 years. I'm not sure you can claim that one." Not that it's worth claiming anyway, other than to let people realize that God can forgive anything. Anything? Yes.

I'm reminded of the commercial where the lady is with her friends and they are admiring some decorating she's done. They're looking at the "do-it-yourself" book asking her if she did that. And she responds I did that, with this (referring to book). And then the conversation goes some thing like this.

"What about that?

" Yes that"

"And that?"


"Even that?"

"Even that!"

I imagine us asking Jesus if He can forgive that thing we did. And He says, "Yes I can forgive that."

"Well Lord, what about that? Surely you can't forgive me for that."

"Yes, I can forgive that too."

"And that ?" (referring Him to yet another major transgression)

"That too"

Saving the biggest, doosiest (yes I made that word up just now) sin for last, we think we've found something He can't forgive. So we gingerly point it out. And we whisper, "Lord, even that?"

Triumphantly, He holds out His nail ridden hands and bows His head towards His nail ridden feet and He boldly professes, "Even that!"

"Jesus Christ loves and forgives you without conditions. Period."

He forgives it all. Even that.

"While Satan would love for you to believe that you are to flawed and too unworthy of forgiveness, Jesus wants you to know that nothing could be farther from the truth."
Again I say, AMEN.

I leave you tonight with a song. I thought of it as soon as I saw the verse, Psalm 103:12. I knew I would include a video of it. Imagine my delight, seeing it referenced by Lisa in the study questions.

Listen and know that, yes, you are completely flawed. But moreover, you are forgiven completely.

Be sure to stop by Lelia's and read more insight on this chapter. You will surely be blessed, as is my prayer for you always.

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" Psalm 103:12

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Plain Perfect

Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)


Writing has always been a part of Beth Wiseman’s life. When she was introduced to the Amish, she gained an appreciation for their simpler way of life and began writing novels featuring this endearing group. Her first novel was Plain Perfect. She and her family live in Texas.

As a newspaper reporter, Beth has been honored by her peers with eleven journalism awards in the past four years - most recently, first place news writing for The Texas Press Association. She has been a humor columnist for The 1960 Sun in Houston and published articles in various publications. However, writing novels is where her heart is. Following completion of five manuscripts, Wiseman's inspirational fiction series set in Pennsylvania Dutch Country is where she found her voice.

"It took me a while," she says. "But I knew right away that Plain Perfect was the one. Writing about the Amish lifestyle within a fictional love story has been a wonderful experience. The Amish and Mennonite contacts I have established in Lancaster County help me to keep the books authentic. These very private people might dress differently, avoid the use of electricity and modern conveniences, but they are just like everyone else. They love, hurt, have daily challenges and struggles, and strive to be the best they can be. An often misunderstood sect of people, it has been a privilege to learn about their ways."

Visit the author's

Product Details:

List Price: $ 14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (September 9, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546308
ISBN-13: 978-1595546302


LILLIAN PEELED BACK THE DRAPES AT THE FRONT WINDOW and squinted against the sun’s glare. She’d called the taxi almost an hour ago. If her ride didn’t show up soon, she would have to forego her plan and spend another night with Rickie. Biting her lip, she worried if she would have enough cash to change her flight if she didn’t make it to the airport on time.

She lowered the drape and paced the living room in Rickie’s house, silently blasting herself for ever moving in with him in the first place. Her stomach writhed at the thought of one more day under the same roof with him. And yet her window of time for her departure was closing, she realized, glancing at her watch.

She tugged at the drapes again. Relief fell over her when she saw the yellow cab pull into the driveway. Snatching her red suitcase and purse, she bolted for the door, shuffling toward the driver as he opened the trunk.

“Please hurry,” she said to the driver, handing him her suitcase.

The driver stowed her luggage without comment and was climbing into the driver’s seat when she saw Rickie’s black Lexus rounding the corner and heading up the street. Her heart sank.

“Where to?” the driver asked.

“Intercontinental Airport,” she answered. “Hurry, please.”

As the driver made his way down Harper Avenue, Lillian watched out the rearview window. Rickie’s car slowly neared the house.

The cab driver turned at the corner. She’d made it. A clean getaway.

Irma Rose Miller couldn’t help but notice the bounce in her husband’s steps. The cancer kept him down and out on most days, but not today. Today Lilly was coming, and his anticipation and joy were evident.

“Danki,” Jonas said as Irma Rose poured him another cup of coffee.

“You’re welcome.”

Her tall husband, once muscular and strong as an ox, sat hunched over the wooden table between them. His healthy load of gray locks and full beard were now thinning and brittle. Dark circles under his eyes and sunken features revealed the many sleepless nights of pain he had endured over the past few months. God had given her husband of forty-eight years a challenging road to travel, and he was making the trip with dignity and grace.

“Our Lilly will be here this afternoon.” Jonas smiled and raised the cup to his mouth. His hands trembled, but his eyes twinkled with a merriment Irma Rose hadn’t seen since the first mention of their granddaughter coming to stay with them. She hoped he wouldn’t be disappointed. They hadn’t seen the girl in seventeen years, since she was ten years old.

Irma Rose stood to retrieve some donuts from a pan atop the wooden stove.

“It will be wunderbaar gut to have her here.”

Irma Rose placed two donuts on her husband’s plate. “Ya, that it will. But, Jonas, you must keep in mind how different our ways are. We will seem like foreigners to our Englisch granddaughter.”

“These donuts are appeditlich,” Jonas said.

“Danki. But, Jonas, you need to prepare yourself. Sarah Jane raised Lilly in the outside world. We don’t know her. As a matter of fact, we don’t know exactly how Sarah Jane raised her.”

The thought twisted Irma Rose’s stomach in familiar knots. It had been hard enough when her daughter chose to leave the Old Order Amish community at the age of eighteen, but even more difficult when she wrote to tell them she was in a family way soon thereafter . . . with no husband.

“She was a glorious child,” Jonas said. “Remember how quickly she learned to ice skate? What a joy she was. What a gut Christmas holiday we all had.”

Irma Rose shook her head at her husband’s ignorance of the obvious. Lilly wasn’t a child any more. She was a grown woman. Jonas had talked about that last Christmas together until the next season came and went. When Sarah Jane and Lilly didn’t show up the following year, he merely shrugged and said, “Maybe they will visit next year.” And each Christmas thereafter Jonas anticipated a visit that never happened.

Jonas never uttered a negative word about Sarah Jane’s choices. But she’d seen the sadness in his eyes when their daughter left home, and she knew the pain dwelled in his heart over the years. But he only said it was impossible to always understand God’s direction for His children—their child. Their only child. The good Lord had only seen fit to bless them with one. A beautiful daughter who had chosen a life rife with hardship.

Irma Rose had prayed hard over the years to cleanse herself of any discontentment with her daughter. Sarah Jane’s choice to leave the Amish faith was prior to her baptism and church membership. Therefore her daughter was never shunned by the community. She had chosen to avoid visits with her parents. From the little Irma Rose gathered over the years, Sarah Jane and Lilly had lived with friends and moved around a lot.

An occasional letter arrived from her daughter, to which Irma Rose always responded right away. More times than not, the letters were returned unopened. It was less painful to assume Sarah Jane had moved on and the letters were returned by the postal service. Although sometimes it cut Irma Rose to the bone when she recognized her daughter’s penmanship: Return to sender.

She was thankful her last letter to Sarah Jane had not been returned. She couldn’t help but wonder if the news about Jonas’s cancer had prompted her granddaughter’s visit. When Lillian’s letter arrived over a month ago, Irma Rose had followed her instructions not to return a letter but to call her on the telephone if at all possible. She wasted no time going to the nearby shanty to phone her granddaughter. The conversation was strained and the child seemed frantic to come for a visit.

“I’m a teacher and when school is out in May, I’d like to come for a visit,” her granddaughter had said on the phone. “Maybe stay for the summer. Or maybe even longer?” There was a sense of urgency in the girl’s tone.

Irma Rose feared her faith had not been as strong as her husband’s and that a tinge of resentment and hurt still loitered in her heart where Sarah Jane was concerned. She didn’t want any of those feelings to spill over with her granddaughter. She would need to pray harder.

As if reading her mind, Jonas said, “Irma Rose, everything will be fine. You just wait and see.”

It wasn’t until the plane was high above the Houston skyline that the realization of what she’d done hit Lillian. After landing in Philadelphia, she caught a train to Lancaster City and hopped a bus to Paradise, which landed her only a few miles from her grandparents’ farm. She was glad there was a bit of a walk to their property; she wanted to wind down and freshen up before she reacquainted herself with her relatives. Plus, she’d had enough time on the plane to wonder if this whole thing was a huge mistake. Her mom hadn’t wanted to be here, so why think it would be any better for her?

Not that she had much choice at this point. She had no money, no home, no job, and she was more than a little irritated with her mother. When her mom had begged Lillian to loan her the money she’d painstakingly saved to get away from Rickie and start fresh, Lillian reluctantly agreed, with the stipulation she got her money back as soon as possible. But her mom had never repaid a loan before. Lillian didn’t know why she thought it would be any different this time. When the promised repayment never came, Lillian quit her job and made a decision to distance herself from her mother and Rickie by coming to a place where she knew neither of them would follow: Lancaster County.

Lillian shook her head, wondering if she was making a bigger mistake by coming here. She didn’t know if she’d ever understand what ultimately drove her mother from the Plain lifestyle. From what she read, it rarely happened—Amish children fleeing from all they’d ever known. The circumstances must have been severe to drive her mother away.

Although . . . it didn’t look so bad from Lillian’s point of view, now that she was there. Aside from having a dreadful wardrobe, she thought the Amish men and women strolling by looked quite content. They seemed oblivious to the touristy stares. The women wore simple, dark-colored dresses with little white coverings on their heads. The men were in cotton shirts, dark pants with suspenders, and straw hats with a wide brim. Box-shaped, horse-drawn buggies were abundant.

Ironically, it all seemed quite normal.

She took a seat on a bench outside the Quik Mart at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Black Horse Road and watched the passersby. Clearly, Paradise was a tourist town, like most of Lancaster County, with everyone wanting to have a look at the Amish people.

Watching them now, she wondered if the Amish were all as peaceful as they appeared. Despite her initial thoughts, she decided they couldn’t be. Everyone had stress. Everyone had problems. Surely the Plain People of Lancaster County were not an exception.

But they could have fooled Lillian.

Samuel Stoltzfus gave hasty good-byes to Levina Esh and Sadie Fisher and flicked his horse into action, hiding a smile as his buggy inched forward. The competitiveness of those two widow women! First Levina had presented him with her prize-winning shoofly pie. Not to be outdone, Sadie quickly offered up her own prize-winning version. Stalemate. The two of them had stood there glaring at each other while he tried to think of ways to escape unhurt . . . and unattached.

He might have to rethink his shopping day. Both women knew he went to the farmer’s market on Thursdays . . . Once he cleared town, he picked up the pace. The road to his farm near the town of Paradise was less traveled, and he was particularly glad of that on this day. It was a glorious sunny afternoon, perfect for a buggy ride through the countryside.

Pleased he had chosen his spring buggy instead of his covered one, he relished the warmth of the late afternoon sun. Rachel had loved this time of year, when spring gave way to summertime and all the world felt full of promise.

God’s soil was tilled, and corn, alfalfa, and grain had been planted. Life would be busy as he awaited the bountiful rewards of spring’s labor. There was the garden, with peas to pick. The strawberries would be ready. Lots of canning and freezing. Much time went into preparing a garden for harvest.

And Rachel’s garden had always been lush and plentiful. Gardening was work for the womenfolk, but Samuel had done the best he could the past two years. He was thankful his sisters took care of most of the canning and freezing.

He closed his eyes, his shoulders lifting with his sigh. He missed Rachel the most this time of year.

Lillian felt like a fool. Didn’t “down yonder a spell” mean right down the road? The friendly Amish boy had pointed down Black Horse Road and uttered those exact words when she’d asked for directions to her grandparents’ farm. She’d thought the walk would do her good—help her shed some of the calories she ingested while sitting at the Quik Mart with a large cinnamon roll and cola.

Evidently, she’d mistranslated “down yonder a spell.” There wasn’t a farmhouse in sight.

She really should have considered the strappy sandals she was wearing before opting to venture down the road to nowhere. Her capri blue jeans and short-sleeved pink-cotton shirt were good choices, however. The clement sun mixing with a soft breeze made for a perfect day. An excellent day for a walk . . . if only she’d had better shoes.

Setting her red suitcase on the grassy shoulder of the paved road, she plopped down on top of it and scanned the farmland surrounding her. It was so quiet. Peaceful. She could only hope that some of the peacefulness the Amish were known for would rub off on her during her stay. She needed it. Life had not been easy to her the past few years.

Her mom’s idea of parenting had left much to be desired— jumping from one man to the next looking for something she never seemed to find. All the while she’d toted Lillian along. Lillian had grown up changing schools, saying good-bye to friends, and continually hoping Mom’s next boyfriend would be better than the last. At the first chance, Lillian had bailed on the situation, telling herself she could do better.

Despite her good intentions, she’d ended up close to following in her mother’s footsteps. After putting herself through college while living with three other girls in a small apartment, she’d landed a teaching job. There had been boyfriends, and she’d definitely made her own share of mistakes.

But always, something had whispered to her that there was another way to live. Sometimes she’d listened, sometimes not. But she never felt comfortable enough to ask herself just where that voice was coming from—she just didn’t know enough to form an opinion. She didn’t listen to the voice when it cautioned her not to move in with Rickie. But when the voice became too strong to ignore, she knew it was time to get out of that situation.

Despite the complete lack of religious upbringing, she always suspected there might be a God looking down on her. But in light of her mom’s thoughts on church, she couldn’t ask her about it. Her mother seemed angry at religion. While she heartily encouraged Lillian to attend various churches with her friends when she was a child, she herself would have no part of it. It was a huge contradiction in parenting, and Lillian didn’t understand it to this day.

Now, knowing the Amish to be solid in their faith, Lillian decided it might be best to keep her suspicions about a possible God to herself around her grandparents.

“Guess I better get moving and find out how far ‘down yonder a spell’ really is.” She jumped off the suitcase, gave it a heave-hoe, and started back down the paved road, gazing to either side where the acreage stretched as far she could see. The sun pressing down on the horizon left her a tad worried about how much further the farm was.

“Whoa, boy!” Samuel yelled to his horse. The animal slowed his pace to a gentle trot, bringing the buggy alongside an Englisch woman cumbersomely toting a bright-red suitcase. She was minus a shoe . . . if you called a flat-bottom sole with two small straps a shoe. Certainly not a good walking instrument.

“Can I offer you a ride?” He pulled back on the reins and came to a complete halt, as did the small-framed woman. When she turned, he was met by radiant green eyes in a delicate face.

Delicate, that is, until she grimaced and blew a tendril of hair out of her face.

Then she smiled, and her face transformed, lighting up like the morning sun. He was momentarily struck dumb.

It didn’t matter. The woman was focused on his horse. Deserting her suitcase on the side of the road, she stumbled over to Pete and reached out to stroke his nose without so much as a “May I?”

Thankfully, Pete was a gentle giant.

“He’s beautiful,” she said, glancing briefly in Samuel’s direction, eyes sparkling.

He cleared his throat. “Ya. And a fine work horse too.”

What an interesting woman this was. Unafraid. And beautiful, he had to admit. He watched as her long brown hair danced in the wind, framing her face in layers. She wore no makeup and seemed lacking in the traditional Englisch look, although her brightly colored blouse and calf-length breeches certainly gave her away. A tourist, most likely. But a tourist walking alone down Blackhorse Road?

The woman’s mouth curved upward in delight as she cooed over Pete. The horse gently snorted, nudged her, and she laughed heartily, her head thrown back. It was a thoroughly enchanting scene.

Suddenly uncomfortable at his thoughts, he straightened and coughed. It was enough to bring the woman’s attention back to him.

“I would love a ride!” With a final kiss on the old horse’s muzzle, she went back for her suitcase. “Where should I put this?”

“Ach, my manners.” Samuel jumped out of the buggy and made his way to the woman. “Let me.” He took the suitcase from her, quite surprised at how heavy the small bundle was. After stowing it behind the double seat, he offered his hand to assist her into the buggy.

“Thank you.” Now she was studying him . . . seemingly from head to toe. At her open glance, he felt a flush tint his cheeks.

“I’m Samuel Stoltzfus,” he said, extending his hand but avoiding her questioning eyes.

“I’m Lillian Miller.”

Her hands were certainly that of an Englisch woman, soft and void of a hard day’s work. The Plain women in Lancaster County tilled gardens, shelled peas, kneaded bread, and a host of other necessary chores uncommon to Englisch women from the city. City women’s hands were not only smooth and manicured, but pleasing to the touch.

Returning to his seat, he started up the buggy again. The woman was obviously tired and happy to be resting; with a slight groan she stretched her legs out. He found his eyes wandering her way and silently remonstrated himself.

“Where are you from, Lillian? Or, more important, where are you going?”

“I’m from Houston.”

“Ya, Texas,” he said, slightly surprised. They didn’t usually get Texans walking the roads out here. “Lots of farms in Texas. What brings you to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania?”

“I’m coming to stay with my grandparents for a while.” She smiled. “They’re Amish.”

Amish? He was once more at a loss for words. Not to worry— the Englisch woman wasn’t.

“Actually, I guess I’m Amish too,” she added.

Discreetly glancing at her Englisch clothes, he wondered how that could be so.

“My grandparents are Irma Rose and Jonas Miller. I’ll be staying with them for a while.” She looked his way as if waiting for a response that never came. “I’d like to adapt myself to the Amish ways. I need a peaceful, calm lifestyle away from the city. Anyway, I’ve decided to be Amish for a while.”

Samuel had been trying to connect this vivacious outsider with the staunch Irma Rose and Jonas he knew, but these words jostled him out of his musings. “You’d like to be Amish for a while?”

“Yes. Although I don’t plan to wear one of those dark-colored dresses or white caps like the women I saw strolling by earlier.”

In spite of himself, Samuel chuckled. “Do you even know what being Amish means?” He didn’t mean the remark as harshly as it sounded.

Lillian slanted her eyes in his direction, as if slightly offended.

Unexpectedly, the buggy wheel hit a rut. With an oomph, his new friend bounced in her seat. She was a tiny little thing. Luckily, she didn’t catapult right off the seat and onto the pavement.

“Yikes!” she said when her behind returned to the seat. And then she giggled. As Pete’s ears swiveled back to catch the commotion, Samuel couldn’t help but grin. The woman’s enthusiasm was contagious.

He decided to drop the subject. He knew Irma Rose and Jonas well enough to figure they’d set her right about being Amish and what it really meant. Samuel reckoned they’d have their hands full with their granddaughter.

As Samuel righted the buggy, he asked, “When is the last time you saw your grandparents?” He hadn’t even known Irma Rose and Jonas had a granddaughter.

“When I was ten. Seventeen years ago. It was the first time I saw snow. Real snow.” Her eyes twinkled from the memory.

“Anyway, I know things will be different from what I’m used to. But I can live without television. There’s too much bad news on TV anyway. And I know Amish women cook a lot. I’m a great cook.” She shrugged. “I’m a hard worker in general. I know Amish get up early and go to bed early. I know they work hard during the day. And if that’s what it takes to feel peaceful and calm . . . I’m in!”

Samuel found her enthusiasm charming, no matter how misdirected it was. “Lillian, I’m sure Irma Rose and Jonas will appreciate you helping with household duties, but it will take more than chores and giving up worldly things to provide you with the peacefulness you’re lookin’ for.”

“Well, it’s a start,” she said, sounding optimistic.

As for that . . . who was he to argue?

Lillian remembered the Christmas visit with her grandparents at their farm, especially the snow. Unlike the icy mix of sludge found rarely in her hometown state, snow in Lancaster County glistened with a tranquil purity. Almost two decades later, she could still recall the towering cedar trees blanketed in white and ice skating on the crystalline pond in her mother’s old ice skates.

The presents had been few. She remembered that. And while she recollected her grandparents as warm and loving, she also remembered the tension between them and her mother. Her grandfather had kept the mood festive, suggested the ice-skating, and seemed to make it his mission for Lillian to have a good time—even carting her to town and back in his gray, horsedrawn buggy. It had been the highlight of her trip.

“I remember liking the way my grandparents talked,” she recalled to Samuel. “I didn’t understand a lot of things they said. Things like ‘Outen the lights until sunrise when we’ll redd-up the house.’ And ‘It wonders me if it will make wet tomorrow.’ Mom translated those to mean ‘Turn out the lights until in the morning when we’ll clean up the house’ and ‘I wonder if it will rain tomorrow.’”

“That would be right,” Samuel said.

Grandma and Grandpa both spoke another language she’d later found out was Pennsylvania Deitsch. Lots of times they would commingle their language with English. “Danki, Sarah Jane, for bringing our little kinskind for a visit,” her grandfather told her mother that Christmas. To which Sarah Jane Miller forced a smile and nodded.

“Grandma, why are you and Grandpa wearing those costumes?”

Lillian recalled asking her grandparents.

Grandpa had just laughed and said, “It is our faith, my kinskind. We wear these plain clothes to encourage humility and separation from the world.”

At ten, Lillian had little understanding of what that signified. Except somewhere in the translation she knew it meant they couldn’t have a television or a phone. Several times after their one and only trip, Lillian had asked her mother if she could call her grandparents. Mom reminded her no phones were allowed at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

“Evidently, my grandparents came to Houston a couple of times before our visit at Christmas, but I don’t remember,” she told Samuel. “That Christmas was my last trip to Lancaster County and the last time I saw my grandparents. Until now.”

“I reckon Irma Rose and Jonas are really looking forward to seeing you.”

“I hope so.”

Lillian tried to keep her gaze focused on the road in front of her. But her eyes kept involuntarily trailing to her left. Samuel Stoltzfus was as handsome a man as she had ever seen in the city. His plain clothes did little to mask his solid build and appealing smile each time she glanced in his direction. But it was his piercing blue eyes Lillian couldn’t seem to draw away from.

“So, how long have you been married?” Nosey, nosey. The astonished look on his face confirmed her worry. She was crossing the line. “I’m sorry. I just noticed that you have the customary beard following marriage.” She’d done her research before arriving here. “And . . . I was just . . . curious.” And curious why? He’s Amish, for heaven’s sake.

“I’m not married. I’m widowed.”

“Oh,” she said softly, thinking how young his wife must have been when she died. “ I’m so sorry. When did your wife die?”

“Mei fraa, Rachel, passed almost two years ago,” he answered without looking her way.

“Again, I’m so sorry.”

Samuel continued to stare at the road ahead. “It was God’s will.”

There was no sadness or regret in his tone. Just fact. Lillian knew she should leave it alone, but . . . “I’m sure you miss her very much.”

He didn’t glance her way. “There’s Irma Rose and Jonas’s farm,” he said, pointing to their right. “I better take you right up to the house.” He coaxed Pete down a long dirt drive leading from the road to the white farmhouse.

“Oh, you don’t have to do that. I can walk.” She wondered if Samuel Stoltzfus was ready to be rid of her. His eyebrows edged upward beneath his dark bangs and he glanced at her shoeless foot.

Point taken. “A ride to the house would be great.”

As Pete trotted down the dirt driveway toward the farmhouse, reality sank in. This would be her new home for the summer—or however long it took to accomplish her goal. At first glance, everything seemed lovely. The prodigious fields on either side of the lane were neatly mowed, and the white fencing in good repair. But unlike the farms she passed on the way, there were no signs of new life planted. It wasn’t until they drew closer to the farmhouse that she spotted a small garden off to her left enclosed by a wire-mesh fence. Parallel rows of greenery indicated vegetables would be forthcoming.

Also off to her left was a large barn, the paint weathered and chipping. Another smaller barn to her right also was in need of a fresh paint job. She recalled the barns they had passed on her journey down Black Horse Road. Most were a bright crimson color.

The white farmhouse appeared freshly painted, but with flowerbeds absent of flowers or shrubs. They must have been beautiful at one time. But now they—and the rest of the yard—lent an air of neglect to the farm.

A wraparound porch with two rockers looked inviting. But while the idea of curling up with a good book in one of the rockers was appealing, Lillian knew it was the inside of the house and its inhabitants she feared most. Her grandma had seemed pleasant enough on the phone, but what if she and her grandfather were too set in their ways to make room for her? And what if she couldn’t adjust to their ways? No electricity meant no hairdryer, curling iron, or other modern convenience she considered a necessity. How would she charge her cell phone? And she couldn’t imagine a summer without air conditioning.

Grimacing as the thoughts rattled around her head, she reminded herself why she’d come. She’d had a month to consider all of these factors. She thought she had. But as her fantasy of leaving everything behind for this became absolute, her tummy twirled with uncertainty.

She was still attempting to envision her new way of life when Samuel brought Pete up next to a gray buggy parked on one side of the house. Samuel moved quickly to get her suitcase from behind the seat and extended his hand to help her out of the buggy. Towering over her, he promptly released her fingers.

“Thank you for the ride. Maybe I will see you again.” She could only hope. But his lack of response as he quickly jumped back in the carriage left her wondering.

Lillian waved good-bye and watched until horse, buggy, and man were back on the paved road. She knew she was stalling. Her grandparents would be strangers to her, and she would be a stranger to them. Yet they had encouraged her to come and stay with them. “For as long as you like,” her grandmother had said.

Striving to cast her worries aside, she turned around, picked up her suitcase, and headed up the walk toward what would be her new home . . . for a while.

This book was a good read. I generally do not read romance novels, but this one really held my attention. The transitions were not predictable and there were surprising twists, which made me press on eagerly to find out what would happen next.

I enjoyed the honesty of the characters. They were not plastic but were written as real people with imperfections. That made it easy to identify with and relate to the characters.

I loved the way Lillian's faith grew. God was present throughout the story but it was never overbearing or suffocating. He was evident enough in some areas to make you curious and more prominent in others to satisfy that curiosity.

Finally, I enjoyed that some things were let to your own imagination. It really added to my enjoyment of the book. The story felt more interactive because of this. I would highly recommend this book, even to those who don't read this genre.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

She Finally Gets It

Last Friday my 13 year old came home with an amazing revelation. The conversation went like this.

Daughter: Mooohhhhmm, guess WHAT?!

Me: What honey?

Daughter: I need to have a good GPA. I mean, really mom, it's IM-por-tant.

Me: Yes honey I know. I've told you that before.

Daughter: So I **have** to do better this year in 8th grade. I can't fool around. I need good study skills if I'm going to have a good GPA in high school. (standing about 3 inches from me with her eyes as big as cookies - see example)

Me: Yes you do. Haven't we talked about this?

Daughter: (completely ignoring Mom's last comment) I need to go study (this is a Friday now) because I've got important GPA stuff to accomplish.

Daughter bounces happily upstairs to study in preparation for her good GPA. Apparently, the teachers and counselors are trying to prepare them for high school.

Now I could be bitter because I've said all this before. I usually got the eye roll. You know the one.

I've cajoled, pleaded, bribed, scolded, counseled and supported. Nothing. Nada. Zip. She just went her merry little way, haphazardly making whatever grade she felt like making that quarter.

Needless to say I've been frustrated. Now a teacher says the same thing and it's important. Bitterness was surely knocking on the door. However, instead of being bitter, I choose to rejoice in knowing that she finally GETS IT! I'll just hold on to the idea that I planted the seed. Her teachers and counselors watered it. Now we all get to watch it bloom. What a great gift!

As always, be blessed this week!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Completely Loved and Accepted Completely

I missed posting last week. I'm going to post on Lisa Whittle's book, Behind Those Eyes, this week but in a truly different way. (As usual bold orange text are direct quotes from Lisa)

I find posting hard to do this week. Besides my fibromyalgia, two deaths in my family and something that happened tonight that broke my heart, I have something else that is heavy on my heart. So in this post I speak my heart so that I can let God heal it when I'm done. And then I'll move on, with some of you and, I'm sad to say, probably without some of you. Either way, God will still completely love me and accept me completely.

All over blogland and TV and radio, I hear people speaking of fear and how America made a bad choice on November 4, 2008. Many are Christians.

I don't even pretend to know if we made the right choice or not. I'm not God and frankly neither is anyone else. I know there are some real and true and strong Christians that were not dismayed by the choice that was made. And they, we, are being made to feel like we are not true Christians because of our choice.

But I can say that even though I feel condemned by my fellow Christians for my choice, I know God still loves me. Because as Lisa said, "Someone who would go to the trouble of counting the number of hairs on your head (Matt 10:30) loves you entirely and accepts you completely, with sheer abandon." That's enough for me - every day - even today.

Lisa also said: "Whether we desire Him or not, we are irresistibly desired by God." That's great news to me today. I need to know that He desires me. And He still desires for me to spend time with Him, so He can remind me He is in control. And since we really don't know His plan I can say, "Ah sovereign Lord, I trust you, even in this time of division and strife. I trust you even as I trusted you during the past eight years when I thought a wrong choice had been made on a November 4th. "

So tonight as the sadness over all that is going on in my own life here in Raleigh and in this world envelopes me, I cling to a verse Lisa listed:

"The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delights in you, He will quiet you with His love" Zephaniah 3:17

I encourage you to stop by Lelia's blog for very different perspectives on this week's study. Mine is just that, mine. There are many ways to process this material and I think it is imperative that you look into what other's got out of this chapter.

Now, I am going to go spend some time with the "amazing heavenly Dad I have."

As Always, be blessed.