Homesick

 “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come” – Heb. 13:14

A beautiful, young woman has been brutally murdered, her husband charged and arrested, and her family and friends have been left reeling, mourning for a life that seems to have been cut short too soon.

Valerie Joy Harmon Tieman was a vibrant, loving, kind person, who touched the lives of many. While she was a few years behind me in school (her brother was in my class), our small, Christian school was pretty close-knit, and I enjoyed being a band mate with her my senior year. Her bubbly personality and ability to turn a bad day into a good one seemed to be one of her best qualities, and I see from posts all over social media that I am not the only one who saw Valerie in this way.

The last time I spoke to Valerie (a few years ago), she and I shared the heartache of infertility, and she asked me a lot of questions about adoption. But even though it’s been a few years since our last conversation, I still feel the loss hits too close to home. Her family is precious and dear, and my heart aches for them as they seek justice for their daughter, sister, and aunt.

Anyone would understand if the Harmons wished for an eternity of hell for the man who took their only daughter from them. But instead, Valerie’s parents have prayed for his soul and hope for his salvation.

In fact, her father has grabbed onto the grief that Job knew and proclaimed as Job did:

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” – Job 1:21.

Perhaps that seems strange to you. Perhaps you are wondering how we can possibly believe in a God who would allow something like this to happen to one of His children. Perhaps you are wondering if we are crazy for loving a God who seems to mercilessly allow “bad things to happen to good people.”

The truth is that we are angry. We are sad. We do cry out to God asking why He allows evil to win again.

But then we remember. Evil hasn’t won.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.                                   (I Cor. 15:54-57)

You see, we can forgive and have hope and even offer love because our God is bigger than the evil we see. And because (as the old hymn says), “This world is not my home/I’m just a’passin’ through/My treasures are laid up/Somewhere beyond the blue. . .”

So while we mourn over the loss of a beautiful, 34-year-old woman, our grasp on this world weakens a bit more, and we become homesick for our eternal home with our heavenly Father. You see, this place that we are just passing through is full of crime, domestic violence, hate, pain – SIN!  But the home we long for, our eternal place, is perfect – no more pain, no more tears.

Still, it’s hard to be the ones left behind. Each day is hard, and we miss those who have gone before us.

But God is good ALL. THE. TIME.

Even when a baby dies in their sleep. Even when a child drowns in a swimming pool. Even when a husband abuses his wife.

God is still good!

How do I know?

“You have taken account of my wanderings;
         Put my tears in Your bottle.
         Are they not in Your book?

9Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
         This I know, that God is for me” – Ps. 56:8-9.

I don’t know what is happening in your life today. Perhaps you are battling a difficult situation. Perhaps you are being abused. Perhaps you are going through a deep loss or heartache like the Harmons are. I can’t take away your pain. But God is here. He is with you now.

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” – Deut. 31:8.

If you want to know more about my God, I would love to talk to you! Please feel free to message me!

*Please if you or someone you know is being abused, don’t wait to make the call. Contact the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

R.I.P Valerie Joy Tieman

Gone, but Not Forgotten

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TV Series Better Than Book Review

 

Where Hope Prevails is the third book in Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan’s Return to the Canadian West series.  The series has actually been picked up on the Hallmark channel as a television series titled, “When Calls the Heart,” and I highly recommend this wonderfully sweet series to anyone who loved “Christy” or “Little House on the Prairie”!

The series follows teacher Elizabeth (“Beth”) Thatcher, who has left the comfort of a rich, city life to teach children in the mountains of Coal Valley, where most of the families work in the mines.  Along the way, Beth has fallen in love with Canadian mountie Jarrick Thornton, who is planning to propose to her and take a more stable job with her father in the city.

But Beth doesn’t want to leave her teaching job and doesn’t want to see Jarrick leave a position that he loves. One of the most irritating things about Beth – in my opinion – is her inability to speak what she thinks when it is appropriate and to keep her mouth shut when it’s not.  Rather than express her concerns to her future husband, Beth spends the entire story sulking over what is going to happen after they marry. She also ruins the joy of her engagement by – once again – not expressing to her fiance that she wants him to play a part in planning their wedding. Left to her own devices, Beth seems silly and frivolous and shallow.

Added to her cowardice, Beth also seems to think that she is above everyone else and has the right to judge every situation. When she finds out that she will be sharing her students with another teacher, Beth refuses to open her mind to the possibilities of expanding their education and is quite rude and obnoxious to the new teacher, who happens to not believe in God. While everyone else around her (including the preacher) seems to be able to extend Christian charity to the man, Beth holds on to her “high ground.”

Even the godly wisdom of her friend, Abigail, who is older and wiser, doesn’t seem to truly penetrate Beth’s thick skull.  Even when Abigail’s own daughter makes a decision that Beth disagrees with, she is unable to accept Abigail’s position on the situation, once again believing that she knows best.

All in all, the book version of Beth came across as a spoiled, snotty, rich, city girl who hasn’t grown much in her time in Coal Valley. But the television version of Beth is quite delightful and easy to imagine as a friend.

I love Janette Oke’s books, so I was a bit disappointed in the way this story played out. But I think that I would still recommend it to someone looking for a good read as I know that my observations may not be the same as someone else’s.

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

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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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