Courageous is an exciting historical read

#3: Courageous

Courageous is the third book in the Valiant Hearts series by Dina L. Sleiman and is a must-read for any history buff.

Focused on fictional characters, Rosalind of Ipsworth and Sir Randel Penigree, Courageous brings to life the adventures of children who were once eager to fight in the Holy Wars.

Rosalind and Randel are both on the same path – trying to pay for sins they had committed in hopes of easing the pain.  Rosalind has decided that she is unworthy of love, and Randel is determined to join the Knights of the Templar.  But on the way, they find themselves falling in love and finding that the only true path to redemption is through God.

I reviewed the first book in this series, Dauntless, last year and compared it to a Christianized Robin Hood.  But Courageous really dives into history with characters and events that actually came from that era.  The final book in Sleiman’s trilogy draws in all of the characters from her books to bring it back full-circle.

It may be hard to believe, but at one time, children were eagerly jumping aboard ships and heading to the Holy Land to reclaim the land for Christianity.  Sleiman breathes life into the memories of these children by creating believable characters of all ages who are focused on the battle before them.

Rosalind and Randel lead this band of unlikely warriors, praying for a chance to redeem themselves.  But it seems that evil lurks around every corner just to destroy their carefully-crafted plans.  Is there a traitor in their ranks?  And what could their motive be?

Behind the quest is Sapphira, a young teenage girl who claims to hear from God regarding their next steps.  But many of the adults in the group doubt the young girl’s spiritual insight and ignore her warnings about the enemy.

Will the children be successful in their quest, or will the doubt of the adults bring failure?  Is Sapphira truly who she claims to be?  And will Rosalind and Randel be able to forgive themselves?

If you are looking for a book filled with adventure, historical facts, and interesting characters, then Courageous is just the book for you!

*I was given this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

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From This Moment: A Novel Review

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden is a historical novel set in Boston in 1897 during the construction of the subway system.  Obviously, this was a time when the city was a mess, tempers were high, and businesses suffered from the inability of customers to get to their stores.

Camden sets her characters right in the midst of the chaos.  Romulus White is the co-owner of a prestigious scientific magazine, but his success could easily topple if he doesn’t gain a firmer hold on his subscribers.  Confident that the artistic genius of renowned artist Stella West will help his magazine, Romulus sets out to woo her to work for him.

But when Romulus finally runs into the beautiful Stella, he finds that she has abandoned her talent in exchange for finding the person she believes murdered her sister, who was reported as accidentally drowned.

Romulus convinces Stella to work for him in exchange for his help in the case, but what will be the cost to him?  As the two dig deeper, they both begin to find they have a lot more to lose – possibly even themselves.

As if that’s not enough for this story, the subplot of Romulus’ friends and co-owners, Clyde and Evelyn, adds another layer to this story.  Once married, the two separated to pursue their own dreams.  But now Clyde is back to work on the subway, and the two pick up their fight where they left off.  But when an accident happens mid-construction, will Evelyn be able to find a way to forgive Clyde and rekindle their relationship?

I enjoyed this story just as much for its plot as for the additional historical details.  I was fascinated to learn more about the beginning of the subway system through this book.

I believe I would recommend this book to someone interested in historical fiction.

*This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review from Bethany House Publishers.

 

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Love Your Enemies

My seven (now eight)-year-old daughter ran to me from the ocean, tears streaming down her face.  Her Native American skin is always more pronounced in the summer, and her raven black hair blew wildly in the wind.  My first concern was that she had been stung by a jellyfish, a very common occurrence on our Atlantic coast.  But when she reached me, my heart sank to hear her words.

“That boy told me he didn’t like the color of my skin,” my very image-conscious beauty sobbed.  “Why did he say that, Mom?”

I gave her some lame answer – something about how beautiful she is and how that boy had not been taught good manners.  I told her that the next time someone said something about how she looked that she should tell them to take it up with God because she is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14).

That moment on the beach made my mommy heart ache.  My children are destined to hear hate spewed at them throughout their lives simply because of their beautiful, dark skin.  There have even been jokes made about them by people who love them and, therefore, think it’s okay to make fun of their ethnicity.  As a Christian white woman living in the southeastern United States, I haven’t grown up in the racism war – until now.

We are a multicultural household.  We are white, Native American, African American, Hispanic, and Asian.  We are Irish, German, English.  And we are American.  We are not color-blind in our house because we have, in my biased opinion, the most beautifully-colored home in the world.  But not everyone agrees that my family is beautiful.

So as a mom of a multicolored household, I believe I have to stand up and say something.  Because when you generalize any group of people, you are probably talking about someone in my family, and we have done nothing to deserve that.  Your prejudiced ideas about a “certain group of people” and how they “deserve” to be treated does nothing to breed peace and unity or to promote the Gospel.

You say that all lives matter, and I believe they do.  But do you?  Did you consider the approximately 42 million babies who are killed annually through abortion?  Do they matter?  What about the 140-150 million orphans that are waiting for forever families around the world, many of them dying from AIDS, starvation, or simply neglect?  Do their lives matter?

And here’s the hardest one of all for any of us to consider – do the lives of our enemies matter?  Jesus tells us in Matt. 5:44 that they do – “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  He doesn’t say to only love the enemies who are kind of annoying or who disagree with you.  He doesn’t even give us the choice to just love the enemies who look like us!  He says to love your enemies!

We are in the middle of a cultural war right now.  There are people on all sides of the equation who are loudly declaring they represent all of “their people,” and they are wrong. They represent themselves and maybe a few other people, but they don’t represent the majority.

My mommy heart cannot stand the violence.  When I hear of another shooting, my heart doesn’t shut down because they are a different color, a different sexuality, or a different religion than me.  I don’t run in fear from the police officers who I believe are serving us well.  My first thought is to the mother of the person who was shot – the woman who held them in their arms and sang them to sleep, the one who carried them for nine months and went through the physical pangs of labor or the emotional roller coaster of adoption, the one who may have given all she could just to find that it wasn’t enough.  I think of their children or their spouse or their friends.  Do their lives matter?  They must matter to someone!  And I KNOW they matter to God.

I am proud to be an American.  I love this country and the freedoms that we enjoy.  But my fellow Americans, we are perpetuating a state of fear, and we cannot possibly live in this state permanently!

 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).

We have the POWER to make change happen – with LOVE and a SOUND MIND.  We don’t need a cultural war.  What we need is to see everyone as a person.  We need to look in each other’s eyes and see another person’s soul.  We need to stop classifying everyone in uniform or everyone of a different race or religion or sexual orientation as “the enemy,” and we need to sit down together as all part of the human race.

We need to, but we won’t.  Because sin is in the world, pride, selfishness, greed, hatred, and war will continue.  It’s simply a fact.  I can’t change everyone.  But I can change me.  And you can change you.

If all lives matter, then that means we have to face some tough issues and say that even those causing the pain and evil in our world matter, too.  We can’t be like Jonah, who decided God couldn’t possibly want to save the people of Ninevah, whose lives were so deplorable and antagonistic towards God that no good person was found in their city.  We can’t choose to share the Gospel with only the people we deem worthy.

You want to rally together?  Then rally for Christ!  Love the people He created.  Do good to those who persecute you.  Speak peace when anger is shouted.  And let’s treat each other with respect.  God has the same desire and love for us all –

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” – John 3:16.

I know that there are people of all colors, nationalities, religions, sexual orientation, and world views that want to do evil and not good.  My children are growing up in a world where there are people who will tell them they are not good enough.  Are you going to be one of them?

It’s time to change the conversation.  We need to stop screaming like bratty toddlers when someone disagrees with us.  We need to stop looking at ourselves and what hurts us and start looking to serve others.  We need to start acting like adults.

Today is the day for change, but what will the change be?  Good or bad?  Are you going to help or hurt?  The choice is yours.  Your nation is counting on you.

 

 

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A Cold Case for a Hot Summer – Book Review

Traces of Guilt

Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson is the first book in her new series, An Evie Blackwell Cold Case, and it is an excellent read for your summer vacation.

Evie Blackwell is a skilled Illinois police detective, who has been recruited to join a special task force to clean up cold cases across the state.  While she takes the time to decide on whether to accept the offer, Evie takes a two week vacation to Carin County to help solve some cases that rocked the small town several years ago.

When she gets to town, Evie is immediately welcomed by local sheriff Gabriel Thane, whose family has lived in the town all their lives.  The cold cases are personal for Gabriel, and he wants nothing more than to be able to put these cases to rest.

Working together, can the two finally help the town find the peace of mind it needs to move forward?  Will Evie and Gabriel’s friendship materialize into something more?

I love how Dee Henderson makes her characters believable, keeping their feelings from developing too quickly and allowing for additional characters to be as richly developed as the ones at the forefront of the story.  I also thought she did a great job in this book of keeping the reader guessing to the final outcome for the cold cases.  She also does an excellent job of weaving God throughout her stories without throwing religion into the reader’s face.

I would definitely recommend this book as a great summer read!

*This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review by Bethany House Publishers.

 

 

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Book Review of The Midwife’s Dilemma

#3: The Midwife's Dilemma

I recently finished the final book in the At Home in Trinity series by Delia Parr and was not overly impressed by the ending of the story.

Martha Cade is the midwife in the town of Trinity, but her calling seems to make her lose sight of her friends and family.  She often comes across as though she is smarter and more capable than anyone else in the town and seems to look down on the very people who love and support her.

In The Midwife’s Dilemma, Martha is struggling to find a replacement midwife so that she can marry her old sweetheart, Mayor Thomas Dillon.  But she refuses to accept his offer of marriage until she has found a replacement.  Although he is willing to let her continue working after they are wed until she finds someone, Martha seems determined to make the choice more difficult by refusing him until her job is complete.

At the same time, her daughter, Victoria, whom she had alienated with her passion for her calling, has returned home and is determined to marry.  But Martha seems once more to want only her way and makes the match quite difficult for the young couple.  Martha is then surprised when her son comes for an unexpected visit, bringing along his wife and two new daughters, whom she immediately becomes attached to.

Our heroine also seems to always want to control what is happening at the confectionery, where she has made a home with two spinster sisters, Ivy and Fern.  She seems constantly to be concerned for them and for the two bachelors on the outskirts out town, who are caring for a young, orphan boy.

She also seems to want to mother the new girl in town, Jane, who is a mother herself to a special needs daughter.

In every scenario through the series, Martha seems incapable of seeing the strength and ability in others.  I honestly hoped she would soften by the end of the book, but even then, she seems determined to have things done her way.

The story overall was pretty good, but the heroine definitely got on my nerves.  I guess I would recommend this for a light summer read.

*I was given this book in exchange for my honest review by Bethany House Publishers.

 

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Birth Day Memories

Eight years ago, a tiny little pink bundle was born – but not to me.  I loved her, prayed for her, longed for her, but I hadn’t met her – yet.  I had a nursery all set up for her – green walls with classic Winnie the Pooh bedding, a brand new rocking chair, a lovely new crib, but I hadn’t heard her heart beat or felt her kick me from inside of me.  Yet she was mine.

I used to sit in that nursery every night, praying for her, writing letters to her in my journal, and hoping for the day that I would hold her in my arms.  I had one picture of her – the ultrasound that her birthmom so lovingly handed over to me the day we met.  I knew her name, but she as yet only existed in my thoughts and prayers.

The first time the call came early, and we made the five-hour journey to the hospital to pick up our baby, who had not been born yet.  But we were unable to find out that information for three days because it was a weekend, and the person in charge didn’t work on Mondays.  It was actually a good time for my husband and me to spend some much-needed time together before two became three.

The day we received the “real” call, I was alone at work, running the office by myself.  My husband and I decided to finish out the work day, spend the night at home, and then head out the next day as we wouldn’t be allowed in the hospital until the birthmom had been released (hospital protocol).

The first time I laid eyes on that beautiful, ebony-haired, furry bundle, I was in love.  She was squalling when the nurse pushed her in to the makeshift nursery they had set up for our privacy.  But the instant she saw me, she stopped crying and looked at me as if to say, “It’s about time you got here, Mom.  I’ve been waiting for you.”

When we were finally released from the hospital, I remember thinking that they had made a mistake allowing this little, needy person to go home with two such naive human beings!  Our first night was a rude welcome into the world of parenting, and we were uncertain that we would be able to handle this new stage of our lives.

But oh my goodness how that little love just wrapped us around her little finger!  How we adored her from the very beginning!

Eight years have gone by, and we have now become a family of five.  But she is still the one who made me a mom.  She is the one who challenges me in ways that I could never imagine.  I made all of my first parenting mistakes with her, yet she grows and loves and exceeds my expectations every day.

That little bundle in my arms has turned into a fiery, opinionated, loving, charming, thoughtful, energetic, creative eight-year-old girl.  And I am still terrified of this mom thing!

I pray every day that the mistakes I make will not harm her long-term.  I pray that she will grow to be a woman after God’s own heart.  I pray that her dreams of serving the Lord will come true.  I pray that I am the mom that she needs.  And I pray for the amazing woman who gave her to me, who carried her for nine months and then loved her enough to give her a bright future.

The most amazing thing to me is how God gives us grace every day to do the things He calls us to do.  I am so overwhelmed when I think back to those days of heartache when all I longed for was to be a mother.  What love He has shown me in creating a family for me in such a unique way!  And what mercy He gives every day when I fail as her mother, and He lifts her up to do great things for Him DESPITE me.

Today, I remember the prayer I prayed along with Hannah in I Samuel 1:27:

 “For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to Him.”

Thank you, Lord, for this amazing gift!

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This is the Day!

This is the day that death was conquered.

This is the day that death lost its sting.

This is the day that hope was born.

This is the day that Love won.

“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).

Today is NOT bunnies hiding eggs.

Today is NOT chocolate, jelly beans, and treats.

Today is NOT your yearly visit to church.

Today is NOT just another holiday.

Today is the day that we celebrate complete and utter victory!

Today is the day we celebrate God’s fulfilled promises.

Today is the day my Savior redeemed us!

Today is “the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2)!

 

Friend, if you spent today lost in the excitement of Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies, then I have to tell you that you wasted the day!

God made you!  He loves you!  He sent His only Son to be made a mere man just so He could suffer and die FOR YOU!  All He wants for you is to surrender yourself to His love!  Please don’t let another day go by without committing yourself to a relationship with Christ.  I am happy to pray with you or answer any questions you might have.  “NOW is the day of salvation”!

HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY!  HE IS RISEN!!!

 

 

 

 

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