Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review of Exposed

Exposed, by Ashley Weis, is unlike any Christian novel you’ve ever read.

First, there’s the subject matter—pornography and the effect it has on women whose husbands become involved in viewing the material, as well as the women who “star” in the projects. The novel changes point-of-view with each chapter, alternating between a Christian wife and a young woman involved in the industry.

Then there’s the language used in the book. Don’t get me wrong—there’s no cursing or use of profanity, but there are words that are nitty-gritty and don’t usually make an appearance in a Christian novel. However, they are necessary to the plot, and are not used in a vulgar manner. It’s realistic writing.

Exposed exposes the secrets that some people try to hide for their whole life. It shows how easy it is for vulnerable young women to become enslaved to this lifestyle. The tension and deep hurt that pornography brings to a marriage is shown. This is something many women can identify with.

The chapters are short, which means one always has the time to read at least one more! The writing is tight and descriptive. Ms. Weis has tackled an extremely difficult subject with much realism, grace, and hope. I highly recommend this novel, and hope she continues to write many others.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Series of "It Could Have Been Worse" Events

Late Sunday afternoon I looked forward to fixing dinner for some good friends who were coming over for dinner and games. No matter what we eat, and whether we play Hand and Foot, Five Crowns, or Rummikub, the four of us always have a fun time together.

I poured a bit of oil in the frying pan and set it on the stove to heat before browning the chicken breasts. Then it struck me--it was time for a new profile picture for my Facebook. So back to the other end of the house I went to find John and ask him to be my photographer. He gladly obliged and spent probably five minutes snapping away.

Suddenly, the blaring belch of the smoke alarm roared through the house. I ran down the hall toward the kitchen.

Black smoke churned in the corners of the living room. I yelled, "I've got a fire!" and heard John running behind me as I entered the kitchen. Flames danced against the blackened backdrop of the frying pan. I used a towel to pull it from the element, and the flame burned out.

We threw open every window in the house and I ran around like a mad woman, flailing a towel and trying to push the smoke out the windows. John got fans started.

We surveyed the damage to the stove.

What a stupid thing I did, right? Turning the stove on and forgetting about it a minute later is not something I want to start doing!

But let me tell you about my husband's reaction. He is such a sweet man of God. He didn't yell at me or even raise his voice, nor did he call me any names. No anger at all, at least that I could see. I, of course, was apologizing all over the place as I tried to drive the smoke out of the house. He graciously helped clean up the immediate mess. We got the blackened wall above the stove cleaned up, and evaluated the damage. John got on line and figured it would be over $200 to replace the melted knobs,bubbled display, etc.

We managed to get things aired out enough to not poison our guests when they arrived. I served a delicious dinner, in spite of the accident and adrenalin of an hour earlier.

Then I went to make coffee to accompany dessert. The first pot started burbbling part way through its cycle, and we ended up with grounds in the finished product. Threw it out. Made a second pot. It not only burbbled, but overflowed, running down the cabinets, which appropriately had a coffee stain applied at the factory!

It seemed that everything I touched fell apart that evening. No one wanted to take a chance of being on my team for games that night!

The next day I went to Walmart to pick up the $138 monthly prescription that I have to pay for out of pocket. When I unpacked the bags at home I couldn't find the medicine. John and I searched all over, including my car. I called the store, but no one had turned it in.

I was heartsick. Not only had my mistake the day before cost us around $200, but now I was adding a $138 mistake to it. I didn't know how we were going to cover these unexpected costs, as at my age, I'm much too old to make money standing on a street corner!

An hour later the pharmacy called to inform me my bag of medicine had just been turned in to them. Praise the Lord! And John checked things out on the computer and found he could get replacement parts for the stove for just under $100. What an answer to prayer it was to have God take care of situations I'd created for myself.

(Just last week I had lost my Blue Tooth and had no idea where it could be. I did the usual search of my car, purses, and jacket pockets. Between my mom and John, they decided he should check the car again, and sure enough, he found it between the seats.)

I've tried to figure out why I'm suddenly "losing it." Is it just from getting a bit older? (No, I'm too young to get older!) Not enough sleep? (No, I'm sleeping well.)

Then I realized that for the past thirteen months I've been under a lot of stress due to various family situations. I've never felt the need to cry about the pain caused by these bad decisions made by others. It's not like I'm stuffing it inside, as I talk freely to friends about what's going on. But for some reason the tears won't come. I've decided the stress is coming out in my brain cells--that I'm losing them!

So I'll try to cope by paying extra attention to the things I'm doing, knowing that my mind can easily wander. I know the Lord will take me through even this, though I certainly look forward to the time when things settle down, perhaps by the end of summer.

Meanwhile, Christina told me I should go see a therapist. "It would be a lot cheaper in the long run, Mom!"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag

Don't I wish that it only cost a tuppence for bird food as it did when Mary Poppins was around! Where is that gal when you need her?

Spring has definitely taken up residence here in Western Oregon. We always have birds that stay over the winter and don't head south to Arizona with the other wimps, but it's so nice to see the return of those that have been gone.

Only problem? They're eating me out of house and nest! I have four different types of feeders hanging along the eaves of my porch, and it's almost a full-time job to keep them filled. A beautiful pair of doves spends hours a day browsing along the patio edge, nibbling on leftovers the finches, nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, pine siskins, and others are scattering from the feeders.

Today I reached a new level. I'm not sure if it's a high or a low--you'll have to tell me. The "sock" that the finches love to eat from was spilling seed. When I checked it, I saw that some little finch, badly in need of a manicure, had torn holes in the netting of the sock. So, as the Bird Woman of Ashberry Lane I felt called upon to take my needle and thread out there and do a little sock darning. (Like I asked, high or low?!) Yes, I know the easy solution is to simply buy a new sock, but I'm not going to town until tomorrow and I didn't want the bird buffet to be lacking anything today.

Reminds me of the wonderful verse in Matthew 6:26 where Jesus says, "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

Or as The Message puts it, "Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds."

Careless in the care of God--what a great way to live!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feelin' Groovy

Several decades ago, when I was a teen, one of the cool sayings was “groovy.” If I remember right, it originated with the surfing community. But even we landlubbers used it. “Look at that cute guy over there—he’s so groovy.” (Nowadays the term would be applied to me, but only when talking about the deeply etched lines on my face!) Groovy connoted fun and youth, a carefree time of life.

I’ve recently reconnected with feelin’ groovy. I attended a recent writers conference and the key-note speaker, Robin Jones Gunn, talked of the necessity of a schedule. Since I don’t work outside the home, it’s easy for me to think I have all the time in the world. Yes, I have a writing project I need to work on, but first Iread the newspaper. Answer e-mails. Check Facebook. Get a cup of coffee. Look through a magazine. Wander over to Facebook again. Before I realize it, I’ve frittered the day away and have little to show for it. I needed to find my groove.

I contrasted two words in the dictionary—groove and rut. I tend to think of them as being very similar, and it’s true. Some of their definitions could be interchangeable. But in reading through the possible meanings of both words, I believe groove carries a more positive connotation.

Groove is defined by Webster as “a situation suited to one’s abilities or interests; top form.” (I find it interesting that groove is squeezed between groomsman and grope!) Rut, on the other hand, is “a monotonous routine.”

We talk about cars driven on a rutted road, trapped and unable to go anywhere but in the predetermined tracks. We get in a rut when it comes to cooking, making only the simple meals we always turn to, afraid of trying new recipes. Our relationships can get in a rut when we only hang out with the same people all the time, or do the same ol’ activities with our families. Let’s try something new. Jump out of the rut and into a groove!

How much better to live in a situation designed for our unique abilities and interests, where we can work in top form. Where there is a purpose to what we do, rather than just existence and going through the motions, frustrated with the emptiness of life.

Jesus (if He spoke in the words of The Message) says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

He’s telling us to get out of the rut and into the groove—the unforced rhythms of grace. So next time you see me, feel free to ask if I’m bogged down in a rut or feelin’ groovy. (And while you’re at it, get me some of that expensive wrinkle cream!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oregon Sunshine

These past four days have felt and looked like spring. Birds jostle one another for the best spot on the bird feeder, kind of like when you show up at Olive Garden without being able to make a reservation. Bird songs from the surrounding fir trees are a beautiful accompaniment to the blue sky and sunshine. (Yes, I said sunshine!) Bulbs are poking their joyous heads up to take a look at their surroundings.

And people feel the difference too. Yesterday the grandkids were outside on their bikes and skateboards, with "Angel" learning how to go down our steep driveway from the upstairs house to our downstairs house on her tricycle. Then the three of them headed down to the lower meadow to play Hide-n-Seek with the cat. Christina even got away from her computer and mowed the lawn.

Enjoy these glimpses of happy faces in the Oregon sunshine. We'll savor it while we have it, as we're aware we usually get one last snowstorm in March.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Review of The Pastor's Wife, by Jennifer AlLee

This friendly, smiling face belongs to Jennifer AlLee,
author of The Pastor's Wife, which was published by
Abingdon Press this month. I first met her on line, then in person at an ACFW conference. I remember her excitement when she was able to post what her book cover would look like. And no wonder--it's a beautiful cover! I love the way the "i" in "Wife" was supplanted by a church steeple, foretelling the feelings of Maura, the pastor's wife in the story. I'm a former pastor's wife, so was immediately drawn to the title.

Jennifer, can you give us a little preview of The Pastor’s Wife?

Maura Sullivan never thought she’d see Granger, Ohio, again. But when circumstances force her to return, she must face all the disappointments she tried so hard to leave behind; a husband that ignored her, a congregation she couldn’t please, and a God who took away everything she ever loved.Nick Shepherd had put the past behind him. At least he thought he had, until the day his estranged wife walked back into town. Intending only to help Maura through her crisis of faith, Nick discovers his feeling for her never died. Now, he must face the mistakes he made and find a way to give and receive forgiveness.

As God works in both their lives, Nick and Maura start to believe they can repair their broken relationship and reunite as man and wife. But Maura has one more thing to tell Nick before they can move forward. It’s the thing that finally drove her to leave six years earlier, and the one thing that can destroy the fragile trust they’ve managed to rebuild.

What made you want to write this book?

I served as a church secretary for many years which definitely gave me a unique perspective on the lives of a pastoral family. I worked at two different churches. One was a large denominational church, the other much smaller and non-denominational. But the lives of the pastors were quite similar. There’s always another meeting to go to, or one more person that needs counseling. People feel very possessive about their pastors. This usually manifests itself in positive ways, but sometimes it crosses a line. You have to watch out for that. And the pastoral family faces challenges no one really thinks about. They basically live in a glass house and are expected to be active members of every church activity, whether they’re interested in it or not.

When I was working on the original concept for this novel, I thought about the pastors’ wives I’ve known over the years. They’ve handled themselves with amazing grace under pressure. But what if another woman couldn’t? What if a young woman thinks she knows what she’s getting into, but the reality of losing who she is and becoming a “pastor’s wife” is more than she can handle? What if some other tragedy pushes her over the edge? Would she run? And what would happen if she had to return to the scene of her heartbreak years later? All those questions eventually became The Pastor’s Wife.

You grew up in Hollywood. How did that happen?

My grandparents met on the vaudeville circuit. Grandma was a dancer and my grandfather was a concert violinist from Hungary: Duci deKerekjarto (how’s that for a last name?) Duci immigrated to make his mark in Hollywood, which is how our family ended up there. He remained friends with another Hungarian performer, a Shakespearean actor named Bela Lugosi. (Yes, the original Dracula.) Bela died before I was born, but my mom remembers sitting on his lap and calling him Uncle Bela.

My own minor brush with fame came on the day I was born. Michael Landon Jr. and I were in the same hospital nursery in neighboring bassinets. My Aunt Karen nearly passed out when she realized proud father Michael Sr. was standing at the window next to her!

Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! The Pastor's Wife is an entertaining read, full of clean romance and restoration. It might even give you a new appreciation for what your pastor and his wife face!

Jennifer's next scheduled blog tours can be found at:

Christine Cain - http://liztolsma.blogspot.comFebruary 17 - D'Ann Mateer/Five Bazillion and One - http://fivebazillionandone.blogspot.comFebruary 19 - Miralee Ferrell - www.miraleeferrell.comFebruary 20 - Edwina Cowgill/Musings of Edwina - http://musingsofedwina.blogspot.comFebruary 22 - Pam Meyers/A Writer’s Journey - http://www.pammeyerswrites.blogspot.comFebruary 23 - Debra Vogts/Country at Heart - http://deborahvogts.blogspot.comFebruary 24 - Ane Mulligan/Novel Journey - http://www.noveljourney.blogspot.comFebruary 25 - Christa Allan - 26 - Peg Phifer/Sips 'n' Cups Cafe - http://www.sipsncupscafe.comFebruary 27 - Jeannie Campbell/The Character Therapist -

Contact Jennifer in cyberspace:
website -
personal blog -
group blog -
Facebook -
Twitter -

You can purchase The Pastor's Wife online at: - -

Monday, February 8, 2010

Review of Thin Places, by Mary DeMuth

I'd like to give a warm welcome to Mary DeMuth, author of a new book entitled Thin Places, published by Zondervan. Reading the title you might think this was a diet book, but believe me, it's a book rich in experiences, language, lessons, and forgiveness. No diet for the soul in this book!

Mary is a successful novelist and has written many articles for various publications. But I believe her true depth has come out in this brilliant rendition of her experiences from early in life.

I was excited to receive a copy to review, as I just had a feeling this memoir would be different from the few others I've read. That's not a genre that usually captivates my interest, even if written by a movie star or political figure. Could a true story by a "regular" person grip me?

The answer to that question turned out to be very simple--yes! I crawled into bed with Thin Places the night I got the book, and read 3/4 of it before forcing myself to go to sleep. I finished it the next night, and hated to turn the last page.

I am a huge believer in honesty and transparency, and that's what Ms. DeMuth brings to her book. With gut-wrenching reality she shares the life-path she has walked. It's not an easy read,or a feel-good book, due to the various subjects she deals with. But it's a healthy look at how God can use even the horrible times of life to bring about a beautiful product. Ms. DeMuth doesn't sugar-coat things, but shares what she has learned about God and herself as she's worked through the process of not being a victim, but a victor. She doesn't leave one with the false hope that her life is perfect now, but she can look back over the years and appreciate all the changes.

My life has been nothing like that of Ms. DeMuth, so one may think I wouldn't find anything meaningful in the book. Though the causes may not be the same, emotions resonate within each of us. Truths she has learned through her experiences can still be applied to different situations I'm dealing with.

As I read, I thought of the life-stories of several of my friends and of how they can benefit from reading Thin Places. I was reminded of women in my Bible study who have experienced similar things to Ms. DeMuth. I know of a ranch for abused women not far from my home. I'm going to take copies of this book to place in their library.

I heartily recommend reading this book and benefiting from the wisdom within. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If You Loved Me Enough

A couple of years ago my granddaughter, Andrea, was traumatized. No, she wasn’t kidnapped. She didn’t witness a brutal event. She didn’t even get hurt—physically. But she cried, with all the angst of a drama queen, when her parents left for a concert without taking her. “I want to go! I’ll be really good! It’s not fair!”

I was in the kitchen fixing dinner for those of us who were left behind when Andrea came in and asked to use the sidewalk chalk. Her eyes were swollen, her skin blotchy.

When I went outside to call her for dinner, she asked me to come see what she’d done with the chalk. In the middle of the driveway, where they were bound to see it when they returned, Andrea had left a message for her parents. Under a large pink heart she had written: “Dear Mom and Dad, if you loved me enough you would come back and get me. Love, Andrea.”

Are there times when you say that to your Heavenly Father? “Lord, if You loved me enough You would get me a job. Sell my house. End the chaos in my life.” Is that how love is shown—by making everything perfect? That’s what we tend to think, isn’t it? If things are going well and there’s no major problem confronting us, the Lord must really love us.

But when real life happens and those unexpected events blow in like a winter storm on the Pacific coast, we run for cover. “Help,” we yell to our friends. “My teenagers have become mutants and I have no idea what to do with them.” Or “What can I do about my crumbling marriage?” we ask as we turn on the TV to take advantage of Dr. Phil’s insights. “Dear Lord, if you loved me enough You would come back and get me out of here. Love, _____(fill in the blank with your name.)

I John 3:1 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” We don’t have to wonder if God loves us enough—He’s already proved it. “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son …” (John 3:16a) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The next time you’re tempted to question God’s love for you, take a few moments to write down all the things He’s done for you. You’ll have writer’s cramp long before you exhaust His riches and care. He loves you more than enough!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review of Thicker than Blood, By C.J. Darlington

If you're looking for a good read that deals with relationships between sisters, Thicker than Blood, the debut novel of C. J. Darlington is what you want to pick up. I was sent a copy to review by Tyndale House Pulishers and am happy to report I loved the book!

Christy Williams has been estranged from her younger sister, May, whom she walked away from fifteen years previously, when a terrible family situation brought a rift between the sisters. Christy's life tumbles in a downhill spirial, as she becomes involved with a sinister, controlling boyfriend. She has lost herself in the process of trying to build her life in her own way. Christy has an interesting job in a bookstore that deals in antiquarian (old) books, often bought from estate sales, but her boyfriend interferes with her life there, causing her to be charged with a crime she didn't do. (I really enjoyed learning about the antiquarian book business, what to look for to know they are first editions, etc. Especially for me as a reader and writer, the book store was a great setting.)

May has spent the last years constructing a fulfilling life on a ranch, working with her hands and building a "family" with the other people on the ranch. But she often prays for her sister Christy, wondering what has become of her and why she simply walked out of her life.

Through an interesting and realistic series of events, the two sisters reunite, though it's not with the ease of a Hallmark movie. Their world view and religious beliefs are nowhere the same, and when danger shows up at the ranch, this becomes very apparent. These are real women who have to deal with problems in their lives that are nearly as old as the books Christy deals with! It isn't easy.

Thicker than Blood covers the issues of broken relationships, forgiveness and chances to try again, and ultimate redemption. Ms. Darlington develops her characters well, so much so that there were times I wanted to shout at Christy for making such bad decisions! This book held my attention and didn't to slow down. It was one situation after another that eventually brought these sisters back in contact, with a chance to build a deep family bond.

I'm thrilled for Ms. Darlington that her book is now available. I give it four stars for an entertaining yet thought-provoking look at the possibility of broken relationships being restored.

About the Author:
C. J. began writing the story that would become Thicker than Blood (her first novel) when she was a fifteen-year-old homeschool student. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over a decade, scouting for stores similar to the one described in the novel before cofounding her own online bookstore. Thicker than Blood was the winner of the 2008 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel.

C. J. co-founded the Christian entertainment Web site with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Visit her website for more info.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Inefficient Thoughts

It’s January, the time when we think of a lot of things we’d like to accomplish during this brand new year. We’re all too familiar with the usual thoughts of losing weight, exercising more, keeping our house cleaner, or always having a smile lighting up our face. Or we may go the spiritual route and decide to fast weekly, read our Bibles daily, and pray every hour. While these may all be good ideas, that’s usually as far as they go. They simply ricochet from one side of our brain to the other, zinging around looking for a place to land but not having much luck.

Unfortunately, other kinds of thoughts find a couple brain cells jutting over a vast crevasse and manage to hang a hammock and rest a while, swinging back and forth in the breeze. Thoughts of our inadequacies or weaknesses. The never-ending list of our responsibilities and obligations. The "shoulds" and "oughts" of our lives.

And then there’s the unseen presence that is out to paralyze us. It fills our minds in the quiet of the night when everyone else in the house is asleep, their bodies relaxed, their breathing slow and easy. It’s the giant monster of worry that hides in our bedroom closet or under the bed, waiting to grab us as soon as we relax.

You’ve been there, I know. You’re about asleep in your slippers when you finally hit the mattress, and just as you’re ready to become a citizen of La-la Land you think of something that makes your heart pound harder than a rock musician on the drums, and your skin vibrate more lively than Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame on the bass.

WORRY. A five-letter word that can wreak havoc on our lives. A word that can start as a legitimate prayer concern before butting trust out of the way. Worry steals joy and peace, replacing them with endless churnings of concern and anxiety.

Corrie Ten Boom said, "Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear."
That reminds me of when I was a kid and would open the top of the washing machine to watch the agitator in the center whirl the dirty clothes around. There was something nearly hypnotic about the action—clothes and soap bubbles spinning back and forth.

That’s what worry looks like—fear in the midst of agitated chaos. Our mind spins as we try to work out solutions to our concerns, but we’re really visiting the same territory over and over. We somehow believe it’s our responsibility to come up with the right answer; to work our way out of whatever situation we’re facing.

Inefficient thoughts can’t exist in the same space as trust in God’s involvement in our lives. Psalm 46 says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear." Later in the chapter we are told to "be still, and know that I am God."
Stillness refers not necessarily to the lack of movement of our body, but I believe, even more, to the state of our mind, heart, and emotions. We can learn to be so focused on Christ and His promises to us, that nothing moves us from His peace. We are still. We are centered on Him instead of fear and worry.

May this year be one of much growth for each of us. May we follow Paul’s directive in II Corinthians 10:5 and "bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."