Jamie from the PerpetualPageTurner has this awesome End of the Year Book Survey going on @ Her Blog
1. Best book of 2010? WOW!! This is almost too difficult to answer having read some really AWESOME books this year! I would have to say.......Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes
2. Worst book of 2010? Indivisible By Kristen Heitzmann
3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010? Nothing really disappointed me this year :)
4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010? Lynette Eason's Women of Justice Series books. When I got this book for review I honestly put off reading it based on the cover. It did not look like one that would be good AT ALL! Finally, the time came and I picked it up. Suffice it to say....It was one I could NOT put down
5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010? Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes Choosing To See by Mary Beth Chapman Patrick Bowers Files by Steven James Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Alonzo Nudge by Leonard Sweet Outlive your Life by Max Lucado Predator by Terri Blackstock Texas Roads and A Path Less Traveled by Cathy Bryant
6. Best series you discovered in 2010? Patrick Bower Files by Steven James Women of Justice Series by Lynette Eason Prescription for Trouble by Dr. Richard Mabry
7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010? Honestly I was RIDICULOUSLY sheltered in my reading! I practically ONLY read Karen Kingsbury before I started reviewing books. NOW.... I am sooooo thankful to have found soooo many NEW phenomenal authors! To name just a few.....
Cathy Bryant Steven James Lynette Eason Terri Blackstock Richard Mabry Lisa Tawn Bergren Billy Coffey
8. Most hilarious read of 2010? Don't know that I could say "Hilarious" so how about cute/sweet? That would be either: Christmas @ Harringtons by Melody Carlson ~OR~ Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul
Both Christmas stories :) Hmmm, that's is funny huh!
9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010? The Bishop by Steven James
10. Book you most anticipated in 2010? Unlocked and Take Four by Karen Kingsbury
11. Most memorable character in 2010? Patrick Bowers
12. Most beautifully written book in 2010? Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes
13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski
Thanks Jamie :) This was fun to reflect on all I had read this past year. I am sooo very thankful to be able to read and review sooo many amazing books and meet others who share the love of reading and blogging as well! My family has been reading more as well and that always makes a momma happy :)
What about you? What were your Favorites this year???
Kaye Redmond, a "can do" kind of woman, has the magical touch when it comes to staging houses to attract buyers. Her ability to make things "perfect" has served her well in her career. If only it could transform her personal life as well. With a failed marriage, an angry teenage daughter, and an ex-mother-in-law who is no fairy godmother, Kaye's life is about as imperfect as it gets.
Blessings come in the strangest packages. Like her ex-mother-in-law landing on Kaye's doorstep after a botched facelift. Could caring for the impossible woman help Kaye get what she wants most: her husband back? Isn't that what God would want and what her daughter needs? But no fairy princess ever faced such obstacles: and ex-husband's surgically enhanced mistress, hormonal teenagers, and -- worst of all-- an extra handsome prince! How's a woman supposed to find happily-ever-after with all that going on?
I have to say I had a love/hate relationship with this story line. The story of Kaye Redmond caring for her ex-mother-in-law was more than frustrating for me to read. Marla (the ex-mother-in-law) is verbally abusive & very condescending to say the least. Cliff, Kaye's ex-husband and Marla's son, manipulates Kaye into caring for HIS mother after she has a botched facelift. Kaye wants nothing more than to have Cliff come home and have her family back together so she is willing to do anything to make that happen. (And I mean ANYTHING!) At times, I thought the book should have been titled "The things we do for love!"
Izzie, Kaye's daughter is going through her typical teenage years but even Izzie sees clearly that her mother needs to stand up for herself when it comes to her grandmother as well as her Father. Izzie has a great heart and as the storyline unfolds, she matures into a precious young woman and her relationship with her mother becomes quite special.
Jack, a man who needs Kaye's assistance to "stage" his home so he can get it ready to sell. Jack is very handsome and quite charming! He knows all the right things to do and to say, but she wants her ex back afterall ....right??
Facelift, I would have to say is a story of finding yourself. Each character, from Kaye all the way to Marla are in a place that they don't quite know what or who they are, or that life's hurts have taken over and their behavior clearly shows that! They think they know who they are and for some, they think they are doing what God would want. This Journey takes this family on a path to finding out some things about themselves, some things about life as well as reminding themselves who they are in Christ instead of who the world thinks they are.
Facelift is a good read and one that reminds us that no matter what changes and challenges life brings us the only constant is the Lord. HIS Love is Unconditional! HE is with us ALWAYS and will NEVER leave us.
Danielle @ The 1stDaughter hosts this meme so if you would like to join in go here Here is a little bit about it.....
We all leave our “footprint” on the world, in one way or another. We each, individually, do something or are someone that makes the world a little better just by being here. I created this weekly meme to get to know the blogging community I love just a bit better. To know what makes them tick, outside of books, that is. Each week I will post a question to be answered in the following week’s “A Bit of Me(Me)”. Check back each Saturday to get the info for next week’s post and link up with your current post right here. I know, some of you are skeptical about putting yourself out there on the internet and I completely respect that. That’s the entire reason I have no desire to ever reveal the “real” names of The Turkeybird and Littlebug. In time, once they’re old enough, if they chose to do that on their own I will respect their decision. So, if ever during the time I’m doing this meme do you feel the question is just too personal for your liking, feel free to post something else, I never want anyone to feel uncomfortable with what they share and I promise it will always be “kid-friendly”. I mean, this is a primarily children’s and young adult site, you know?
So, let’s get started!
This Weeks Question: What’s your favorite holiday movie? The one you could watch every year and it would always remind you of that time of year.
I just shared on my Family blog this past week, that one of the many things I LOVE about Christmas Break is that we take a day, stay in our pajamas and have a Christmas movie marathon. I put on some home made soup, we have a fire in the fireplace and we completely chill and watch our favorite Christmas Movies!
This day would not be complete without "It's a Wonderful Life"
Of Course we have to watch all of the "Home Alone" Movies
This one has to be one of MY personal favorites! ELF
I could go on and on :) What about you? Do you have a Favorite Christmas Movie?
Steve Elder, a sough-after speaker, wealth advisor, professional coach, husband, and father, often counsels people about their life goals. His painful experiences ~ a near death car crash and later a bankruptcy ~ led him to ask hard questions about his life's purpose: What is it that you want? And how much longer will you wait to honestly answer that question? With a passion born of deep trauma and tough choices. How Much More Longer will convince you that the time to decide how to live is now.
My Review: How Much More Longer is the story of author Steve Elder. The trials and tribulations that Steve faced physically, emotionally and financially are unbelievable. I think his story is one that many could relate too. You know, we all have our life planned out in our minds ~ we live our life doing the normal day in day out activities but in Steve's case ....one day his normal changed forever. He faced his challenges, determined to conquer them, surrounded by his loving family who walked by his side daily.
Life continued for Steve and once again he found himself facing Pain in a new form. Steve's story will encourage you to see Pain in a whole new way. To embrace it, allow it to help you look within and find it's Purpose! Steve's story will challenge you, inspire you to ask yourself some deep questions and he provides some of those questions to ponder at the end of each chapter.
I read this book straight through and was so inspired and honestly saw Pain in a whole new way. To me, Pain can be paralyzing in so many instances but Steve will show you why it should be embraced. I will definitely spend some time going back and sitting down with these questions and pondering them as well as seeking the Lord to bring about revelation on the "feelings" (fears) that I have most likely swept under the rug (per se') or just flat out ignored because I didn't want to face them!
How Much More Longer is a wonderful book and one that I feel so many could relate to and learn from! Steve is as real as one can be and his story is one that provides many lessons for others to learn from. I am thankful to have read this book for sure!
Thank you Maryglenn McCombs for providing me with this complimentary book in exchange for my honest review! How Much More Longer is a ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ FOR SURE! I would clearly recommend this to everyone!
The classic 365-day devotional from Billy Graham, now back in print.
No matter your place in life, this classic collection of devotional readings is designed to bring you daily to that special place of renewal— to help you pause and gaze "unto the hills" for help and inspiration.
Each of the 365 daily readings in this inspiring collection offers a carefully chosen passage of scripture, a brief, thoughtful message from Dr. Graham, and a heartfelt prayer composed especially for this book. Distilled from a lifetime of study and ministry, these devotionals supply daily food for thought about living fruitfully and joyfully in an often fretful world.
Simple, direct, encouraging yet challenging, this book offers itself as a heartening companion for your daily walk in the valley. This collection is a gentle but constant reminder that we can find help for all our needs as long as we remember to look up . . . unto the hills but especially unto the Lord.
MY Review: I love devotionals. I may have different devotionals in different areas of my home so that I can pick them up, read that day's devo and be encouraged or maybe just to bring a smile. This Devotional however, is one that, goes deep. Billy Graham is an amazing man of God. It is no surprise to me that his devotional is an amazing and powerful book. The lessons teach on every single page. The Prayers are powerful as well. I was challenged as I read these devotionals and I know this is one that I will love going through yet again ~ One day at a time.
Each Good day is a Gift from God! A life open to God and filled with the beauty around you, sharing it with those you love, and finding time to relax so you can be the best you can be: these are the Recipes for a Beautiful Life!"
"Madaline and Julie have created a "time-out" for women in Recipes for A Beautiful Life. Enjoyable pictures and Scriptures, refreshing herbal bath treatments and rejuvenating homemade facial products to encourage us to take a few minutes to renew our bodies and souls. Beth Lester, Owner Home Staging Designs of California
I am always looking for great books and even better ~ books that make great gifts! This is just that book! It is filled with precious Pictures and Scriptures that will speak to your heart. You will find some great recipes that will help you spend some quiet time with the Lord or just relaxing yourself. We all love a little pampering every now and then don't we??
Recipes for a Beautiful Life is a wonderful book and one that I would recommend to all! It is one that would be perfect lying on your coffee table or one that would make a great dinner conversation piece with your children. Take a page a night and share your thoughts on the pictures, Scriptures or just how that particular page spoke to each person!
Thank you so much for the complimentary issue in exchange for my honest review!
A Texas gal since birth, Cathy Bryant continues the Mayberry RFD--only Texas Style!--stories with Book 2 in the Miller's Creek series, A Path Less Traveled. Her debut novel Texas Roads was a 2009 ACFW Genesis finalist. Cathy lives in a century-old Texas farmhouse with her husband of almost 30 years and a phobia-ridden cat. To visit Cathy go here
About the Book:
Trish James is tired of being rescued. When a spooked horse claims her husband’s life, she’s determined to blaze a path for herself and her traumatized son without outside help. But will that mean leaving the place etched on her heart?
Andy Tyler has had to struggle for everything, and starting a new law practice in Miller’s Creek, Texas is no different. Though prepared for business challenges, he’s not prepared to fall in love--especially with yet another woman who will probably abandon him for her career.
Will Andy and Trish be able to see past their limited human understanding to take a path less traveled?
I was so very blessed to be contacted by Cathy Bryant to review her debut novel “Texas Roads” It quickly became one of my favorite reads last year! I fell in love with the characters and looked forward to knowing them even more so in the next book of the series. This time I won the 2nd book that was to come out in November. I anxiously awaited the arrival and AS SOON as it arrived in my hands I began reading! I have to say Cathy has done it again! A Path Less Traveled is full of lessons, a love story you in which you may find yourself cheering on or very possibly speaking strongly to the characters to stop being so stubborn! Well, maybe that is just me. Or maybe it is me when I read Cathy’s books! She brings that out in me and I LOVE it! It tells me how completely engaged in her books I am. That doesn’t happen with every book I read LOL
It was so much fun being in Millers Creek once again. Checking in on those I fell in love with in the first book. Seeing their lives now and meeting some new friends as well. I am looking forward to what is in store next for all of them, but especially Trish and Andy and Trish’s little boy.
Cathy has quickly become one of my favorite authors and her books I would recommend to everyone! She is an author that lives what she writes. She loves the Lord and it shows in all she does!
Thank you Cathy for allowing me this opportunity and I simply cannot wait for A Way of Grace that comes out in 2011!
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bo Caldwell’s short fiction has been published in Ploughshares, Story, Epoch, and other literary journals. Born in Oklahoma City in 1955, she grew up in Los Angeles and attended Stanford University, where she later held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing and a Jones Lectureship in Creative Writing. She has received a fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council of Santa Clara County, and the Joseph Henry Jackson Award from the San Francisco Foundation. Her personal essays have appeared in O Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, and America Magazine. Her first novel, The Distant Land of My Father, was one of The Los Angeles Times’ Best Books of 2001, and was selected for community reading programs in Pasadena, Santa Clara County, and Claremont. She lives in Northern California with her husband, the writer Ron Hansen.
List Price: $25.00 Hardcover: 304 pages Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (September 28, 2010) Language: English ISBN-10: 0805092285 ISBN-13: 978-0805092288
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Suppose it is an autumn day, fine and clear and cool. Late afternoon, when the sun nears the horizon and turns the sky into a watercolor of pastels. It is beautiful, as though God is showing off. As you approach the city you first see its wall, an immense gray brick structure that is as solid as it is imposing, nearly as wide as it is high, some thirty feet. If you are coming from the east, it will be in sharp silhouette against the lovely changing sky. Near the city the air begins to smell of smoke, but mostly it has the sweet, clean scent of the ripening winter wheat in the surrounding fields.
From a distance the city may not look like much; only that dark wall is visible, and what can that tell you? Some say the cities in the North China Plain are by and large alike, one indistinguishable from another; to them this one might look like any other. But it is not; I can testify to this, for it is the place on this earth that I love the most, the city in which my wife and I lived for nearly twenty-five years among beggars and bandits and farmers and scholars and peasants, people whom we deeply loved. The name of the city is Kuang P'ing Ch'eng—City of Tranquil Light—and although I now reside in southern California and have for many years, that faraway place remains my home.
And it is often in my thoughts. Above my bed hang three Chinese scrolls depicting New Testament scenes, painted by our most improbable convert and given to me when we left China. In the first, the prodigal son kneels at his father's feet as the father rests his hands on the young man's head. The son's pigtail is disheveled and his blue peasant's tunic and trousers are dirty and torn, while the father's violet silk robe is immaculate. In the second, an oriental woman lovingly washes our Lord's feet with her tears and dries them with her long black hair, her own bound feet tucked beneath her, and in the third, a slight but sturdy Zacchaeus, wearing a gray scholar's robe and with his long braided queue hanging down his back, climbs a persimmon tree for a glimpse of Yeh-Su, Jesus. A Chinese lantern of bright red silk—red is the color of happiness—hangs over my writing table, and a small carved chest made of camphor wood holds my woolen sweaters. My Chinese New Testament, its spine soft and its pages worn, sits on the table by my reading chair, with a strip of faded red paper, a calling card given to me long ago, marking my place. I still read the Scriptures in Chinese; I find I am more at home in it than I am in English, just as my Chinese name, Kung P'ei Te, given to me at the beginning of this century, seems more a part of me than my legal name, Will Kiehn.
On my dresser is the photograph taken on our wedding day, November 4, 1908. Katherine and I were married at the American Consulate in Shanghai, and we are wearing Chinese clothes in the picture; our western clothes were too shabby for the occasion, and by then we had dressed in Chinese clothes for two years. Next to the photograph is my wife's diary, a thin volume I never read while she was alive but whose pages I now know by heart. Reading her sporadic entries is bittersweet, for while they bring our years together to life, they also show me my flaws and the ways in which I hurt her, unintentional though they were. But her pages make it seem that she is near, and if the price I pay for that closeness is regret it is a bargain still, albeit a painful one. I was her husband for over thirty-seven years, during which the longest we were apart was thirty-one days. She taught me the self-discipline I lacked, believed I was capable of far more than I did, and loved me as a young man as well as an old one. She was the one and only love of my life.
When I was twenty-one and on my way to China, I tried to envision my life there. I saw myself preaching to huge gatherings of people, baptizing eager new converts, working with my brothers in Christ to improve their lives. I did not foresee the hardships and dangers that lay ahead: the loss of one so precious, the slow and painful deprivation of drought and famine, the continual peril of violence, the devastation of war, the threat to my own dear wife. Again and again we were saved by the people we had come to help and carried through by the Lord we had come to serve. I am amazed at His faithfulness; even now our lives there fill me with awe.
Last week when I was sitting in the small reading room of the retirement home in which I live, a man selling Fuller brushes visited. It was a hot day, and the man was invited in for a glass of water. He looked to be about fifty years old. There were several of us in the reading room, and as the salesman approached and awkwardly began to show us his great variety of brushes—nailbrushes, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, scrub brushes, whisk brooms—I heard his difficulty with English, and because he was oriental I asked if he spoke the standard language, Mandarin. He nodded and I began to speak in our shared tongue, and when he asked my Chinese name and I gave it, he stared at me in wonder.
"Mu shih," he said urgently, Mandarin for shepherd-teacher—pastor—"you baptized me and took me into church fellowship when I was a young man. I am your son."
I am retired now, and while at the age of eighty-one I know this is as it must be, it is strange not to be involved in active ministry; gone are the responsibilities that filled my life for so many years. I continue my work by praying for those who still serve, which I am able to do as my mind is sound. My physical health is also good; my nephew, John, a medical doctor, keeps careful watch over me, and I am well taken care of in these years, measured and monitored as never before. My niece, Madeleine, and my great-nieces and -nephews and their children also visit, and I am doted on by these younger generations.
I am also in the good company of many who have placed the Great Commission foremost in their lives. I live at Glenwood Manor, a home for retired missionaries in Claremont, California, a small town some thirty miles east of Los Angeles. With its parades on the Fourth of July and Homecoming Weekend, its parks, and its tidy downtown, Claremont is wholesome and wholly American. From my room I look out on a small vegetable garden that thrives despite my come-and-go attention. Beyond the garden are the city's eucalyptus-lined streets, and beyond them citrus groves and the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount Baldy. Each morning I walk to Memorial Park and the Public Library, and afterward I answer letters and read a daily Chinese newspaper and books to which I had no access during my years in China. Once a week I read a newspaper in German, the language of my parents and my childhood. At the start of the day when I read the Scriptures, I see truths I have never seen before, even after several decades of preaching the Gospel. And I dream of Chung-Kuo, the Middle Kingdom: China.
I am an ordinary man and an unlikely missionary. The talents I have been able to offer my Lord are small and few and far outnumbered by my faults. I am often slow in getting things done, and at times I exhibit a marked willingness to avoid work. I have never considered myself an intuitive person, and I am inexperienced in many of the ways of modern life. I have, for example, never learned how to drive—I gave up after twice failing the required test—and I know little about the world of finance. I am absentminded and I often misplace things, and while I struggle with pride, I am rarely angry. Nor am I greedy, for which I have my heritage to thank; I am the son and grandson of Mennonite farmers who came to America for religious freedom, and I was raised to aspire to a simple life of farming the land and following Christ. But despite my ordinariness and the smallness of my talents, I have led an extraordinary life. This is God's grace, His unearned favor.
When I was twelve years old, a missionary spoke at the small schoolhouse in Washita County, Oklahoma, where my three brothers and two sisters and I were taught weekdays for six months of the year. We spoke English at school, but at home and in church we still spoke the mother tongue, low German, though our parents had been in America for more than twenty years. German must be God's language, my uncle told me with great seriousness, because that's what the Bible was written in. He did not see the humor in this.
The missionary was from India and he said he was returning there the following month, which I found startling, for he was old and frail. He told our class that in foreign lands the need for those to share the Good News and to care for people's bodies and souls was great, and that a missionary could be a doctor in the mission field as long as he had a good strong brush and plenty of soap and water. "A missionary brings light to the darkness," he said. "We are called to go where there is little light, and where there are people in need of help."
It seemed he was speaking directly to me; my face grew hot and I felt a pull somewhere inside. At the end of class when the offering was taken, I gave all I had—the quarter I had earned for work on the farm, plus six pennies.
At that time, I had not yet been baptized. As Mennonites we believed that faith comes not as an inheritance but as a personal decision; it is a gift freely offered and up to each individual to accept. My parents worked hard to help their children be ready to receive that gift; my mother knelt and prayed with us each morning, and in the evening my father read to us from Scripture. I was taught that faith should be apparent in every area of one's life, and I saw evidence of my parents' faith in their actions. They shared what they had with those who had less, they never turned a stranger away, and they showed me that loving our neighbor often meant feeding and clothing him, even if that involved less comfort for us. These things were as much a given in our home as taking your hat off when you were spoken to.
While faith was not my inheritance, it was my heritage. My German ancestors were people who lived apart from the world and much to themselves in Prussia, preferring not to unite with the state and its church. They wanted no part in government affairs and refused to take up firearms, for doing so would violate the commandment Thou shalt not kill. Czarina Catherine II of Russia, hearing that the community was skilled in building dikes, offered its members a deal: she would give them large tracts of virgin farmland in Polish Russia and the freedom to practice their beliefs, in return for which the people would improve the land.
Mennonites believe in the dignity of labor, and they accepted Catherine's offer. Six thousand souls left Prussia for Polish Russia, where they built their own churches and schools and were exempted from military service. They were allowed to substitute an affirmation for an oath—swearing of any kind was forbidden by God—and they were allowed to bury their own dead. They began to work the swampland along the Vistula River, where they built dikes high enough to keep the river's overflow from the lowlands, eventually transforming vast expanses of swampland into thousands of acres of wheat. They continued to speak German and they thrived for many years.
Until 1873, when Alexander II, Catherine's great-grandson, revoked their special privileges, causing the community to look once more for a place where they would be free of the demands of an aristocratic government. The United States seemed to be the answer; its Constitution promised equal rights to all, and Congress had passed a bill that excused conscientious objectors from bearing arms. The community sent a delegation to America to spy out the land, and they returned with good news: fertile farmland could be had for very little, and the state of Kansas exempted Mennonites from military service. The Santa Fe railroad sent an agent to Russia to offer free transportation on a chartered steamer.
Thus in October of 1874, after selling their land for a fraction of its value, it was to America that everyone went. With their families and friends, my parents traveled by rail to Antwerp and from there to New York on the Netherland. The group settled in Kansas, but my parents soon found that their one-hundred-and-sixty-acre farm was too small to support a family of six. In 1885, the year I was born, they traveled to the western part of Oklahoma territory and leased a section of land that had never been cultivated.
Again and again, my ancestors said yes to God, and as I grew I saw those around me say yes as well. Over the months then years I watched one person after another in our community walk forward at Sunday services. At times I looked wistfully, even enviously, at the new church members and wished that I, too, could say the words, could produce the faith. But I could not; I was suspicious of God and was afraid that, if I said yes to Him, He would change me in ways I would not like and ask of me things I did not want to do. I thought of the visiting missionary, and of what I had felt as he spoke. What if God should ask me to leave home? That I could never do. So I tolerated the restlessness that dwelt in my heart and decided that faith could wait.
Which it did, for four years, until early one morning in late summer when I was in the fields. I was sixteen years old and farming was what I loved. I knew how to prepare seedbeds, plow the fields, plant and tend our crops, and harvest wheat and fruit at the optimal time, and I felt a deep satisfaction in watching things grow. Our property was bound by a creek to the north and a line of dogwood trees to the south, with the Washita River running through the center of our land. To the south of the river we grew wheat and to the north was grassland for cattle, with orchards on either side. We harvested more grain and fruit than we could haul to market, and nearly everything on our table came from our farm: cheese and sausage, bread and eggs and jam, apples and peaches and corn.
That morning I fell to my knees behind the plow to pray before I began the day's work, just as I did every morning, for while I was unable to surrender myself to God, I was equally unable to turn my back on Him, and I could not discard my habit of cautious prayer. The day was already hot and the sun warmed my back as I knelt in the cool red dirt and thanked God for my life and asked Him to help me plow a straight line.
I was about to stand when something stopped me. It was the quiet, a deep calm that I did not want to leave or disturb. I stayed very still, and as I gazed out at the wide expanse of rich red earth, my mind and heart grew still as well. I felt a Presence that seemed to surround me and pursue me at the same time, a Presence that I knew was God, and I had the sense that I was deeply loved and cared for. I had been told of this love since I was small, but on that morning it seemed to move from my head into my heart; knowledge became belief. As I remained kneeling in the red soil, it seemed that the gift of faith was being offered to me. I whispered, "Help me to believe," and a feeling of great relief came over me as I realized how I had been longing for enough faith to give myself over. From somewhere inside I felt a yes, and an unfamiliar peace replaced the restlessness in my soul.
Two weeks later, I gave my testimony at our meetinghouse. As I looked out at the congregation, my face grew hot and my voice trembled and I felt myself perspire, but I persevered. Four Sundays later, with our congregation gathered around me, I walked into the clear rushing water of the Washita River. As I knelt, our pastor cupped his hands behind my head and I lay back in the water and felt it rush over me. Then I was up, gasping and wet and cold, and I felt new.
When I finished school three years later, my father sent me to the Gemeinde Schule—community school—a small Bible academy established by the church in nearby Corn, Oklahoma. The younger members of our church community were trained to take on the work of the older ones; my father hoped that when I finished at the academy I would attend the church's Bible College in Hutchinson, Kansas, then return home to become superintendent of our Sunday school.
But that is not what happened. On a Saturday afternoon in late summer of 1906, a few weeks before I was to leave for Kansas, we had a visitor. His name was Edward Geisler, and he and my father greeted each other with a holy kiss, the custom among members of our faith. He was nearly family, my father said; Edward had left Russia in the same group as our family, and he had given himself to God's service. He had traveled to China in 1901 with five other young volunteers as part of the South Chihli Mission, and a few years later he and his wife and another Mennonite, the first Mennonite missionaries in China, had formed the China Mennonite Missionary Society. Now he had come home from China's interior to seek an increase in support for their work and to take new recruits back with him to China. "Our friend is following the Great Commission," my father said. " 'Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Gospel to all creation.' "
The next morning Edward spoke at our church. What God asked of us, he said, was nothing less than absolute surrender. "The Gospel tells us this clearly: 'Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.' The question we must ask ourselves is, What are we holding back? What is it that we will not give up?"
I felt found out, as thoroughly convicted as if Edward had addressed me by name. Something tightened in my center, a tense feeling that stayed with me the rest of the day, and at dinner that night I did not speak. My mother asked if I was ill and whether I wanted to leave the table. A part of me did, but I stayed where I was.
I was sitting next to Edward, who seemed to single me out from my siblings. He asked me kindly about school and farming and my baptism, and he said he could see that I loved God and that my faith would bless me all my life. I said no more than what was required, not because I disliked Edward but because I was so drawn to him. He was tall and thin and awkward and not handsome—unexceptional, like me, I thought—but when he spoke of China, I could not look away.
He talked of Keng-Tze Nien, the Boxer Year six years earlier when thousands of Chinese Christians and 186 missionaries and their children had been murdered for following Christ by members of the secret Society of Righteous Harmonious Fists. But Christ's message would not be stopped, Edward said; the people's needs were too immense. They suffered from ignorance about hygiene and lack of medical care. Many infants died at birth, and fewer than half of those who lived survived to their first birthday. Mothers fed their children rat feces to cure them of stomach ailments, men applied the bile from the gallbladders of bears to heal their children's eyes, and opium addicts and beggars slept in the streets.
Yet Edward made no capital of what he had seen. "The suffering is great, as is the need for help, physical and spiritual." He paused, and his expression softened. "But the rewards are also great. The people are the kindest and most generous I have known. They are wise in many ways, and there is much to learn from them and to admire. They have the right to hear the Gospel."
Toward the end of the meal, Edward turned to me. "I return to China in a few weeks. My wife is there, caring for our children and carrying on our work. We need helpers, for the harvest is great, the laborers few. Why don't you come with me, Will? The Chinese language is difficult, but far easier when you are young. Perhaps this is your calling."
I saw my siblings trying to stifle their laughter. Of all our family, I was the least likely to leave. I wasn't good at speaking in front of people; I became nervous and I stammered. I was quiet and shy, I wasn't a good student, and I disliked being away from home.
"I'm needed here," I said, my voice cracking. "I haven't any training or gifts of that kind."
Edward said, "The Giver of those gifts may feel otherwise," and he looked at me, his blue eyes bright. "A torch's one qualification is that it be fitted to the master's hand. God's chosen are often not talented or wise or gifted as the world judges. Our Lord sees what is inside"—Edward touched his chest—"and that is why He calls whom He does." Then he turned to my father and they began to talk about wheat.
In the morning Edward left to visit other churches; he would return in a week. During those days I struggled, for while I felt pulled toward Edward's work, the idea seemed too foolish to even consider. I couldn't imagine leaving home; I suspected I was unfit for anything but farming, and I thought surely God would want me to remain where I had been planted. I decided I was being proud to think I might be remotely capable of meeting the challenges that must face a man like Edward every day, for in the few years that had passed since I joined the church, I did not feel I had made much progress spiritually. I yearned to walk more closely with God, and while I did experience moments of joy, they were often followed by days of despair. I told myself that surely God would not ask me to do work that was so clearly beyond me, and I fervently prayed that China was not my calling.
The night before Edward was to return, I woke suddenly in the night. When I couldn't fall back to sleep, I crept out of bed and down the ladder that led from the attic bedroom I shared with my brothers. I sat down at the table my father had made from the elm trees that edged our land, and for a while I just listened to the nighttime sounds of our home—the even rhythm of my father's snoring in the next room, the soft rush of the wind outside, the neat ticking of the kitchen clock—sounds as familiar as my own heartbeat.
As I sat there, I suddenly knew I would go to China. The realization was as simple and definite as the plunk of a small stone in the deep well of my soul, and despite the fact that it would mean leaving what I loved most in the world, I felt not the sadness and dread I had expected but a sense of freedom and release. The tightness in me loosened like cut cord, and I was joyful.
The next morning I stood nervously in our kitchen, my hands gripping the rough wood that framed the door, as I waited to tell my father of my decision. I was worried about his reaction; I expected disappointment and anger and dreaded them equally. I had not disobeyed my parents since I was a small boy, and the thought that God might ask me to do so now made my heart clench.
I saw my father coming toward me from the chicken house. He had barely entered the yard before I hurried to meet him.
"I have something to tell you," I said. "I feel that God is calling me to serve Him in China. I know it makes no sense; I know I'm unqualified and I'm needed here and my decision must seem all wrong to you. But yes seems the only answer I can give."
I had braced myself for my father's objections, but none came. He stared at me without speaking for a long moment; then he put his arms around me and embraced me tightly. "Will," he said, "you have chosen the better part. How could I refuse you?"
Edward was to leave for Seattle from his family's home in French Creek near Hillsboro, Kansas, in two weeks. My parents went with me to the farewell meeting, which was held at the home of fellow Mennonites, where, with the friends and relatives who were able to join us, Edward, myself, and three other recruits sat outside at rough tables and benches under shade trees while Edward read Scripture and prayed for us and led us in the four-part singing of a few hymns. A few of the group gave their testimonies; then we shared a fellowship meal, and our families and friends wished us well.
At the end of the meeting, my mother took me aside. "Will, do you have money to travel?"
I felt instantly foolish and ashamed, for I hadn't even thought about money; I had somehow thought Edward would take care of it. Out of pride and embarrassment, I said, "I hadn't worked it out. Edward invited me. He'll pay the bills."
My mother shook her head. "Here," she said, and she took my hand and pressed a roll of bills into it, more money than I had ever seen. She smiled at my amazement. "It's my inheritance from my parents, two hundred dollars. Edward says it will cover the train to Seattle and the steamship across the ocean." She held me close for moment. Then she said, "My sweet boy—I will miss you more than you know."
At the railway station, my parents and I stood together awkwardly. When it was time to board, my heart pounded and I suddenly wanted to change my mind; it seemed that doing something right shouldn't hurt so much. But the conductor called out and waved his small flag, and I knew I had to go.
I embraced my mother and father a last time. None of us could speak. I walked to the train and climbed aboard, then hurried back to the last car and watched my parents until I could no longer make them out in the distance; even my father waving his broad-brimmed felt hat was gone. I worked at committing this last sight of them to memory, so I could call it up at will, and I tried to console myself with the idea that I would return in five years. But it did not ease the ache in my chest.
My mother had never sent me off anywhere without food, and this departure was no exception. Packed in a small basket were homemade sausage and biscuits, apples from our orchard, spice cake, and tea, all of which I shared with Edward and the three other recruits, whom I found intimidating, for at twenty-one I knew I was the youngest and least experienced. Jacob and Agnes Schmidt were a married couple who had met at the Salvation Army, and Ruth Ehren was a deaconess, which meant, Edward explained, that she had completed a two-year nurse's training program at an orphanage and hospital in Berne, Indiana, so that she could devote herself to the care of the poor and sick. The long black dress and black bonnet she wore signified her training and position. A fourth recruit, another deaconess, would join us in Seattle.
After three days on the train we reached Seattle, where we would spend our last night in America with friends of Edward's. At the railway station Edward asked me to stay with the luggage while he took the others to our hosts' home. While I was sitting on the trunks, a young woman passed by. She wore the same type of black dress and bonnet that Ruth did, and when Edward returned for me, he brought this young woman with him and introduced her as Katherine Friesen, from the Deaconess Hospital in Cleveland. "She's also my wife's sister," Edward added, and I heard the pride in his voice. She smiled fondly at him but seemed to ignore me, which was fine by me, for I could not speak. Although slight, she was so sure of herself and so imposing in her black dress that I was in awe of her from the start.
October 3, 1906
I am far away from home tonight, the farthest I have ever been, sitting in the comfortable parlor in the home of strangers in a rainy city I do not know on the edge of this continent. Tomorrow at this time I will be even farther away, miles out to sea—I, Katherine Friesen, who have spent my life in the middle of this country with not so much as a glimpse of the ocean, will be in the middle of it! I have surprised myself this evening, for while I thought I would be anxious or afraid, I am neither. Although I love my family and will miss them, and although I have no idea what to expect of the days, weeks, and months ahead, here is my secret: I am happy. My heart beats strangely; I feel more like I am returning home than leaving it.
These giddy feelings seem wrong. Shouldn't a good daughter, a good sister, a good deaconess, be ambivalent about leaving home? But I'm not, which amazes me. I'm amazed that I've made it to Seattle, amazed at my good health, amazed that one obstacle after another concerning money and the details of the journey has been overcome. Here I am, sitting at this cherrywood table by a warm fire, "en route to the Far East," as our hosts put it; how glamorous it sounds!
The other recruits don't seem to share my high spirits; they already look homesick. The married couple appears to be aware only of each other; I haven't seen them more than two feet apart all evening. Young love, I suppose. Ruth Ehren, the other deaconess, is as somber as if our journey were a punishment. She's what people often envision when they hear the word missionary—a serious soul who travels to faraway lands to turn heathens into Westerners. I don't understand her; being morose seems like such a loss.
Then there is Will Kiehn, who strikes me as awkward and dreamy, but Edward certainly sees something in him; his strong encouragement is the reason Will is going to China. I can see that Edward loves this clumsy boy, for he already favors him every chance he gets; tonight at dinner he passed Will extra crescent rolls (the boy seemed ravenous—I kept wanting to ask if anyone had been feeding him) and afterward he made sure Will wrote a letter to his parents. Edward says Will reminds him of his younger self, that when he talked to Will about China, Will's expression of wonder mirrored his own feelings when he was starting out. That's how I felt too when I began to sense the idea of China in my soul, a kind of irrational certainty that I would go, even though it made no sense. Edward says that when Will told him of his decision to go with him to China he felt a bounce of joy inside; he was certain he'd met a like-minded soul. This is high praise, for while my brother-in-law can be impetuous and unorthodox in his ways, he is as wise as he is kind, which makes me believe there must be more to this Will than I see. Perhaps he isn't as bothersome as he seems.
Edward's excitement is a dramatic contrast to the somber mood of the others. His eyes are bright as he talks of leaving in the morning, and I see the energy in his step and his movements, as though this tidy home in which we are guests constrains him. Of course he really is returning home—to Naomi and the boys and the new baby, all of whom I'm eager to see—so there is reason for his joy. But I think it is more than a homecoming. He is excited about the work.
As am I. I have no idea what this life will be like, nor can I guess whether I'll be gone for five years or fifty. I know only that I am happy—in my heart and mind and soul and even my body, which feels strong and sturdy and healthy. I'm weary too, but I don't mind the fatigue; I am on my way to China, and that is enough.
Early the next morning we left for the Seattle docks and for the S.S. Minnesota, which was to depart shortly before noon. Edward settled us on board then went to secondhand stores to purchase a few last supplies he knew he couldn't get in China. Noon came and he hadn't returned, a problem because he had the tickets. The whistle blew once, then a second time, and finally Edward came charging up the gangplank, awkwardly carrying a load of folding chairs he'd bought at what he excitedly said was a most reasonable price.
The thick ropes tethering the ship to the dock were untied and we were under way. I stayed on deck, and in my mind I said goodbye to my family once again as I watched Seattle and America recede.
Edward joined me, and for a while we were silent. Then he said, "Perhaps it's time to learn your first Mandarin phrase."
I was immediately anxious; I did not feel at all up to tackling a new language. But when he spoke again, I was so drawn to the sound of what he said that I couldn't help asking its meaning.
He smiled and repeated it. "Tsaichien mei-kuo," he said. "Tsaichien is goodbye, mei is beautiful, kuo is country. That's the name for America: Beautiful Country."
I tried to repeat it. Then I asked him the word for China.
"Chung-Kuo," he said. "It means Middle Kingdom, because of the people's ancient belief that their country was at the center of a vast square earth, surrounded by the Four Seas, beyond which lay islands inhabited by barbarians. That's us." Edward turned and faced the front of the ship, and the expanse of ocean spread before us, so that America was behind us. "The strange part," he said softly, "is that after you've been there for a while, it truly does feel like the center of the world. It becomes a place you never want to leave."
I nodded, willing to be convinced. For at that moment, despite the homesickness that had accompanied me like a stowaway since I'd left home, I had a dim hope that, given time, I might come to feel the same.
Bo Caldwell's book City of Tranquil Light is a powerful book of Love, dedication and inspiration. Will and Katherine are two mennonite missionaries that feel called from their heartland to go and share the Gospel with those in China. For me, it was just as much about serving and sharing as missionaries as it was about seeing a godly example of marriage. The hardships they face, as well as the loss they experience only brings them to a deeper faith. Their love they have for one another will bless you as you read it and seeing the Hand of God in their circumstances will astound you.
I would recommend this book to everyone and am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to read it, in exchange for my honest review!
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rev. Dr. Robin Currie is the Early Childhood Librarian/Preschool Liaison for the Glen Ellyn Public Library and serves on the staff of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She is also the retired pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn. Before and during seminary she was a children’s librarian for public libraries in Illinois and Iowa. She holds master’s degrees in Library Science from the University of Iowa and in Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, as well as a Doctor of Ministry in preaching from LSTC. Her published books include seven resource collections for librarians and over a dozen children’s Bible story collections.
List Price: $9.99 Reading level: Ages 4-8 Board book: 36 pages Publisher: David C. Cook; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2010) Language: English ISBN-10: 0781403685 ISBN-13: 978-0781403689
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER (Click on pictures to see them larger):
This is just the sweetest Baby Bible that shares our favorite stories of Christmas in an easy way for little ones to understand. It is a hardbound book so they can hold it, turn pages, etc. and there is no need for concern of pages ripping! The pictures are vivid and so colorful and there is a prayer and Scripture on each page! This is a book that I will enjoy with each one of my grandchildren for sure!
Thankyou Wildcard for allowing me this complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review
Today's Mama along with GameStop are hosting an unbelievable giveaway! If you have any video game lovers in your home this is a must to enter!!
Do you have or want a WII? Do you have or want a PS3?? Do you have or want a Nintendo DSI?? or how about some serious gift cards from GameStop? All of these are being offered over @ Today's Mama so head on over and join in!!!
These are some of the questions she is asking of those who are joining in on the giveaway....
1. What is your holiday wish for your family? To celebrate the true meaning of this Season ~ Jesus. All HE has done for us.
2. What is your Christmas morning / Hanukkah Nightly tradition? We sing Happy Birthday to Jesus (yes, even though the kids @ 18 and 14 we still do this!) Then we open our gifts and have the traditional Sausage Biscuit made from our dear friend Janet. She delivers them to us every year for the last 16 yrs!! Thanks Janet!!
3. If you could ask Santa for one, completely decadent wish for yourself, what would it be? Housekeeper ~ LOL
4. How do you make the holidays special without spending any money? either go to an assisted living and play games with the elderly or just sit and talk with them
5. What games did you play with your family growing up? yahtzee, monopoly or Gin yummy
6. What holiday tradition have you carried on from your own childhood? leaving cookies, milk and a note for santa and finding a note in return the next morning
7. Where would you go for a Christmas/Hanukkah-away-from-home trip? Hawaii. Even though it would be warm and without snow It would be so wonderful to be with my family on a beach!!