How A Book Launch Quilted The Pieces of My Heart Together

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Healing takes time, and time is something I seem to have very little of. So when my father passed away very unexpectantly several years ago, as an only child I shifted into survival mode; checking on mom and making the necessary adjustments.  I gave myself very little time to grieve, and that was probably calculated to some extent.

Reading takes time, and time is something I seem to have very little of. So when my dear Emily asked me to be on her book launch team and read her first piece of fiction, A Promise In Pieces, part of me groaned.  Between running a non-profit, attempting to blog here and there, writing a novel, being a brand new freelance blogger at Family Fire, promoting a children’s picture book and caring for my family, the request seemed like another thing to add to an increasingly long “to-do” list.

But God…He is so good at multi-tasking!  I began reading this novel, and enjoying the strong female characters as I was drawn into their world…but as I continued I couldn’t put the book down.  What was the Holy Spirit doing here?  I wondered.  It seemed as though the last portion of the book so closely mirrored an area of my life that it was uncanny.  Soon I found myself sobbing, something I don’t believe I have ever done while reading, even the most sorrowful of stories.  And I wasn’t sobbing because the story was sad, but because Emily’s words caused me to take a journey where I hadn’t allowed myself to go years ago.  Now that the floodgates were opened, I couldn’t seem to stop the tears from falling.

And isn’t that the way God is? He gives rest to the weary, and in due time He comforts us as we grieve until we are broken. Then he sews up the scraps like the pieces of quilt in Emily’s book and creates a beautiful menagerie of brokenness, patched up and ready to bring warmth and comfort to others.

No matter how bright the light inside you, if everything around you is oppressively dark it begins to leak in through your eyes and eventually you either have to die or find a miracle.  And I found one. – A Promise in Pieces

That’s exactly what this book was for me…a miracle.  I am convinced that it is possible that God had Emily write this book, labor of love, hours of work, just. for. me.  Just so that I could face through another character what I wasn’t willing or able to face through my own character.

Healing takes time.  Reading takes time.  Death is the ultimate time taker. God used the gift He placed in Emily to patch up my heart, and I can not thank Him or her enough.

 

Emily Wierenga’s gook will be available on Amazon, April 15th. Would you consider becoming part of AmazonSmiles and choosing, Love INC of Tinley as your preferred charity? See the side bar for a link.

 

On Becoming Father Tim From Mitford

Years ago, in the midst of a difficult season I came across some books that saved my sanity, Jan Karon’s Mitford series. I call them vacation-in-a-book. The gentle perspective of an aging Episcopalian priest living in a fictitious small town in North Carolina brought peace and tranquility to my heart. Even though the protagonist, Father Tim, lives a far from a stress free life, the grace with which he lives it overcomes any turbulence he may experience.The true to life characters can be found in any parish, and the prospect of a romance for the never married sixty-something-year-old priest is intriguing.

Recently, I have been without a car, a predicament Father Tim prefers. My office is in the historic district of Tinley Park and I often find myself ambling along Oak Park Avenue visiting with small business owners while dodging red and yellow maple leaves from the trees.


I walk to the post office, while passing one of my participating churches and waving to the owners of Kernel Sweetooth.

I stop in to get my hair cut at the salon where they insist that I am much older than I am and continually give me a buffont.

I boost myself up onto a stool at an old fashioned ice cream parlor for a chocolate phosphate and talk about college with the handsome young man home for the summer.

My office door swings open to wonderful characters who make my life so much richer if not more complex. Finally, the mayor’s office calls me for information on an upcoming Love INC coat drive, and I pinch myself to ensure that I am not dreaming. When did I become Father Tim? When did I move to Mitford? How did I never notice? What a dream come true!

What book does your life emulate?

How To Avoid Becoming Mrs. Bennett

It’s true. I’ve allowed myself to become Mrs. Bennett. Recently, my daughter had the privilege of playing the most coveted female role ever, Elizabeth Bennett. As I sat there (bursting with pride, I might add) I found myself fascinated with Mrs. Bennett. She’s such a fun character to laugh at…that is, until you realize that you’ve become her!

The first characteristic I noticed in poor Mrs. Bennett is that her only ambition is to see her children married well. I must admit that as my children are approaching marriage age I have found myself often dreaming up imaginary romances for them. Unfortunately, I have directed their eyes to many an eligible batchelor/batchelorette rather than causing them to focus on God.  I have prayed for my children’s spouses, whomever they may be, and I don’t want to ruin any of the plans God has for them by distracting them from what they should be focusing on:  God’s desires for their life.

  • Work on your own romance, don’t imagine one for your children. I wonder how happy Mrs. Bennett could have made Mr. Bennett if she had redirected some of her energies spent on the romances of her girls to her own marriage.
  • Continue to place the hands of your children in the hand of God, not in the hand of a prospective suitor/suitee.

Next, I noticed that Mrs. Bennett’s nerves were always shot.  Whatever happened in the Bennett home, she was either in spasms of terror, the depths of despair, or squealing with delight.  Consequently, her husband and adult children and her entire neighborhood never took her very seriously.  Unfortunately, I feel it incumbent upon myself to inform you…that I have found myself highly emotional at times.  Proverbs 31 speaks of a woman who is clothed in dignity.  This woman is a very sensible woman, not moved by her own circumstances, but easily moved in compassion for the circumstances of others.

  • Clothe yourself in dignity.  You have no reason to be flighty and fretful if you are trusting God.
  • Be easily moved in compassion for others, while allowing Him to control your emotions for your own situations.

Mrs. Bennett is about as discreet as Howard Stern.  She doesn’t follow any protocol, and her outbursts of emotion are an embarrassment to her entire family.  She drinks too much, eats too much and talks too much.  The only thing she doesn’t do too often is think.  How often have I spoken before thought!  I am sure that I have brought embarrassment to my family and myself more times than I care to remember

discretion [dɪˈskrɛʃən]n

1. the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid social embarrassment or distress
“As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.” (Proverbs 11:22, NKJV)
  • Speak in such a manner as to bring honor to God and those around you.
  • Act as though you are preforming for an audience of One.
Lastly, I find Mrs. Bennett to be quite the worrier.  At one point she even imagines that Mr. Bennett will be killed in a dual and that she and the girls will be turned out of the house by Mr. Collins.  I have been ravaged by irrational fears from time to time, and never once has any of them come to pass.  Worry about the future brings discontent to the present.
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil. 4:6
  • Luke 12:25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his  span of life?
  • 1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Though Mrs. Bennett is a rather likeable character, she is not to be admired or taken seriously; and certainly not to be imitated. She, in fact, is almost the direct opposite of the Proverbial woman.  God’s Word transforms and changes us, where we can not change ourselves.  Therefore I will endeavor to allow His Word to change me into His likeness….even when I’ve been looking a little like Mrs. Bennett.

You can also check out my daughter’s post on Why Every Woman Wants to be Elizabeth Bennett.

Five Favorite Authors – Friday Favorites

5. Ann B. Ross – If you find yourself a little down in the dumps, you need to read the Miss Julia books. I have never laughed so hard in my life! Laughter is a medicine, and I’ve often healed myself reading Ann’s words!

4. Jan Karon – I call the Mitford series “Vacation in a book”. Often times I find myself encumbered by life with too much to do, with the demands of a wife and mother, and maybe filling too empty to give the way that I should. When this happens, I know that it’s time to grab a Mitford book. Her character development is pristine. I know that somewhere there must be a Father Tim and an Uncle Billy. They are too real not to be real. My daughter recently asked me what literary character I’d most like to be, I answered, “Cynthia!” She is so charming, and has such a positive, fun outlook on life. She is who I long to be.


3. Ann Voskamp – Isn’t she pretty? It had been a long time since I read words that stirred my soul the way Ann’s do. Her poetic prose is rich with image and feeling, and she conveys her beautiful heart so effectively. I love the way she thinks, and even more I love the words she comes up with to portray her thoughts; her thoughts the color on canvas, her words the brush. She had me from the first line, hanging onto every word. While reading her book, A Thousand Gifts I found that I would have to put the book down, just to savor the gift she had just unwrapped before me. Sometimes, I’d even meditate a day or two before returning because there was so much to learn from her. Not only is her book brilliant, (and a New York Times bestseller), but her blog draws me into her world as an intimate friend. I feel loved.

2. C.S. Lewis – My first taste of Lewis, was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I was in elementary school at the time, and very willing to be on the look out for a wardrobe of my own. The Chronicles of Narnia were a huge part of my spiritual formation. The next book I read was Screwtape Letters, and then Mere Christianity. I admire Lewis’ logic and clear philosophy.

1. Madeleine L’Engle – One of the greatest regrets of my life is having missed the opportunity of hearing Madeleine speak at Wheaton college. I guess I thought she and I had all the time in the world..but we don’t. A Wrinkle In Time is the first book of hers that I read. I so much identified with Meg. I was the geeky, uncomfortable in her own skin Meg with glasses and no self-esteem. Her triumphs were my triumphs. I read all of her young adult books with so much vigor! She opened a whole new world of deep thought to me, and dared me to think outside the box. And then as an adult, I found out about her wonderful non-fiction books. How I love to read her thoughts! I agree with some, disagree with others, but love the originality of her thought. I can not wait to spend time with her in heaven!

Why Every Girl Wants To Be Elizabeth Bennett – Friday Favorites (A Guest Post By My Daughter)

Recently, my daughter achieved a life long goal (even though her life has only spanned 17 short years). She is playing the part of Elizabeth Bennett in a local youth theater. Shortly before her audition, I asked her which of the P & P characters she thought I was. Her answer? She said that I was Charlotte. I was insulted. She said that I shouldn’t be, saying how she admires my good common sense and practicability and the fact that I’m able to make decisions without being swayed by emotion. I was still insulted.  After all,  I wanted to be Elizabeth! It was then that I realized that every girl wants to be Elizabeth Bennett.  So for this Friday Favorites, I’ve asked my daughter to write an essay on the matter. Continue reading

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Books That Inspire

One of my favorite books as a elementary aged student was the Newberry Award Winning, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Looking back on the book, it is obvious that it was written in a different time for a different audience, because the hero and heroine run away from home, walk around the city of New York by themselves and never seem to be in any danger.

One of the classic points of this book is how E. L. Konigsburg has the children face adult sized problems with intelligence and grace.

How did this book inspire me?  For one thing, it provoked in me a love of museums.  The children run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum  of Art in New York City.  If you’re going to run away, why not sleep in a Queen’s bed?  I also loved how responsible the children are; budgeting their money, and bathing in museum fountains.

To this day, when the Field Museum has sleepover parties, (they do by the way), I dream about going and pretending that I am Claudia.

 

The Witch of Blackbird Pond – Important Lessons on Judgement

Now that I’m done ranting and raving about defining the words “morality” and “Christian“, I’m back to my Monday series on Books that Inspire.  Today’s book is a book that I greatly influenced me as a young woman and consequently made a staple in my home school curriculum.

In my opinion no one has written young adult historical fiction as well as Elizabeth George Speare in The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  She has made her main character Kit sympathetic enough for any young lady to “feel” her circumstances, and yet has infused every moment with vital information from the setting and time and history of the story.  As an aspiring author of my first historical fiction, I’ve studied this book as a “how to” in this writing genre.

One of the things I have appreciated most about Ms. Speare’s writing is how deep the conflicts and characters are.  For instance, when one writes about the Puritans and Quakers during the colonial days, it can be a temptation to write stereotypically.  However, this book clearly includes the good, the bad and the ugly.  This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from this book:  when looking back in history, things are rarely as black and white as we report them to be later.  There are as many characters to be admired as there are to be despised in her story, and even those who are of good heart can become confused in the mass hysteria of a what the general public has decided.

Reading this book also buided me in times when someone in my oikos is being accused of an action, not to merely judge on the facts of the accuser, but to investigate the whole of the situation.  We are all shaped by our fears and prejudices, and must be careful of the conclusions we draw from surface information.

There is much to be learned from the relationship between Kit and her  Quaker neighbor  who is suspected to be a witch, simply because she worships differently from the Puritans. Kit follows her convictions and conscience; something all of us need to be encouraged in from time to time.

Another lesson of importance found in The Witch of Blackbird Pond is the reminder to always consider culture when considering a person’s differences.  Kit had come from Barbados, where the rules about what was proper for a young woman were quite different from those of Puritan America.  All of the conflict in this novel could have been avoided if the Americans would have considered the culture from which Kit came from and if someone had warned her of what was socially acceptable in the new land to which she traveled.

Lastly, this book taught me something about religion and history.  It was this book that first made me aware of the irony of  the Puritan’s hatred of anyone different from themselves, seeing that the reason they came to this country to begin with was to escape persecution from those who ridiculed them for believing differently than mainstream England.  Isn’t that true of all of us?  We fight for a particular freedom only to impose our restrictions on someone else?  It kind of reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the man owing a debt.  He was forgiven his huge debt, but then harshly demands a much smaller amount from someone owing him.

Speare, in her masterful writing, caused me to become aware of the dangers of imposing restrictions and standards of what it means to be a Christian or in this case a witch beyond  the confines of God’s Word.  Making up our own rules outside of God’s rules get us and others in trouble every time.  No where does the Bible qualify a witch as someone who can float, or swim, yet this is the standard by which Kit’s accusers begin to investigate her life by.

If you’ve never read the book, you can check out this blog.  Or if you would like to download a free study guide for your home schooled student or co-op class, you can download this.

Lessons Learned From the Austin Family – Books That Inspire

As an only child, I reveled in reading about a large, noisy and happy family.  The Austin Family.  Madeleine L’Engle again influenced and shaped everything I was to become with her deeper than surface writing.  As an author, she never talks down to children.  She expects them to handle difficult issues, death, life and everything in between.  She forces the reader to see what is of eternal value.

These books are theologically “safer” than the time quintet.  The star, Vicky Austin, has a grandfather who is a retired minister and any doubts about God and life are generally run by him and his wise and Judeo-Christian mind.

And although Vicky deals with feelings of sexual awareness and attraction to the dark and brooding Zachary at a rather young age, I am reminded that these books were written in the late 60’s and early 70’s when love and marriage were accepted at a much younger age.

What did I learn from the Austin series?

1.  How to deal with a changed plan.  The Austins have the balance of their family rhythm tampered with when a hurting, recently orphaned Maggie comes to live with them.

2.  How to plan a great practical joke.  Don’t ask – just read Meet the Austins.  I also learned that practical jokes rarely have a happy outcome.

3.  I learned that I wanted to experience an ice storm at some point in my life.

4.  I learned my favorite poem…ever.

If thou could`st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, `This is not dead`,
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He says, `This is enow
Unto itself – `twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.

Sir Thomas Browne  (apparently, a kind reader told me that it is a common misconception that Sir Thomas Browne wrote this poem.  You can check out his information here:  http://penelope.uchicago.edu/false.shtml

5.  I learned that I’d like to go camping across the country(It’s actually on my bucket list because of the second book Moon By Night.)

6.  I learned about the fascination of a bad boy to a good girl.  (And what to do with it.)

7.  I learned tons about marine biology.

8.  I learned about death, and how I’d like to handle it gracefully.

9.  I learned about the right guy rather than the exciting guy.

The Ring of Endless Light was a Newberry Honor Book.  For more detailed review of these books visit The Christian Scribbler.

How Madeleine L’Engle Tilted My Planet – Books That Inspire

For a wonderful book review on this and many other books, please visit my friend’s blog The Warden’s Walk.  He also makes some very pertinent objections to some of the theology in the book.

Perhaps my favorite of the original three Time Quintet, A Swiftly Tilting Planet plays with the idea of time travel and the importance of the choices each person makes.

This book skips ahead nine years. Charles Wallace is the main character, although Meg and the rest of the family play a fringe part.  His journey on a time traveling unicorn causes the future to alter, by influencing people of the past to make different decisions in order to change the future.

Naturally, one of the most important things I learned from this book as a young adult is the importance of my decisions and how they may affect the future.  I found it very thought provoking when Charles and Gaudior would find themselves in a “projection”  which is a picture of what could be or a “Might-Have-Been” to see what could have been if different choices were made.  I also learned a lot about history in this book; not facts and dates as much as how history has taken us from where it once was, to where we are now.

Another thought I found interesting, and it has literally shaped my philosophy to the point that I have based much of my writing on it, is the thought that, “It’s not where, but when.”  It is more natural for Guadior (the time traveling unicorn), to travel in time, but it is easier for Charles Wallace to travel in places. If you are reading my series about New Glarus, you can see how this book affected me.  In this series, I write about the same place, but in different times of my life.  I have Madeleine to thank for that.  I wish she were still here.  I think we would have very passionate discussions, in which we agreed, and agreed to disagree.  One of the things I love most about her is I think she would allow me the freedom to do that – to disagree that is…

There’s An Elephant In My Room – My First Giveaway

Homelessness, incest, alcoholism, prescription drug addiction, foot fungus…these are just a few things people would rather ignore than confront. But the smallest your problem will ever be is right now. Think about it. If you’re over weight, out of shape or generally unhealthy, then your situation is only bound to worsen unless you take steps to correct it. If you’re in debt, haven’t planned for retirement, or have no savings, every day that you put off the change in your behavior only gets you more deeply in debt, closer to retirement without money, and less savings.

When we ignore elephants in the room they go from being little baby elephants to huge full-grown elephants. Recently, my wonderful pastor, Dr. Robb Thompson, published a book entitled, Elephant In The Room. This book is very important because it speaks of ethics being the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. People may wish that others used ethics when dealing with them, but they are unwilling to deal with or talk about ethics when it comes to their own behavior.

So, for the giveaway. Tell me what elephants you have observed in the vast experience of your life. My all-time 1,020th comment will receive a copy of Elephant In The Room! As a special gift, you’ll receive a bonus chapter of the book.  Yay! Or if you’re interested in purchasing this book, you can here. I will be announcing the winner by 9AM Central Standard Time Thursday, June 30th.