Tuesday, October 25, 2011

His Steadfast Love by Golden Keyes Parsons

Texan beauty, Amanda Belle, never really had to pay much attention to politics until the Civil War hits close to home for her. Prior to the outbreak of the war, she's been entertaining the company of Kent Littlefield, an officer in the Union Army. When Texas joins the Confederacy, her brother Daniel signs up with the men in gray. As the years of the war pass, Amanda's loyalty is divided between the man she loves and the family she holds dear. She questions her very faith when circumstances arise that shake her to her core. But through the course of the brutal war, will she rediscover her faith and who will be hurt by whatever decision she makes?

I love to read about the Civil War. It's really my favorite time period in history. To be perfectly honest, I felt that the book dragged a little at first. But once I got into it, I enjoyed it.

Most books that I've read about the Civil War, don't focus on Texas. As a Texan, I was happy to read one that focuses on my state. Amanda's in a hard position. She loves her brother. And she's in love with Kent. But her biggest fear is that they will face each other on the field of battle and one of the men she loves will be lost forever. She questions where is God in the midst of the conflict and whose side is He on? At one point she even goes so far to inform her pastor father that she wants nothing to do with a God who evidently doesn't care. Of course her mind changes when she must cling to her faith.

When her brother returns home injured, Amanda must come face to face with where her feelings really lie. War's changed her brother from the boy he was before heading off into a man full of bitterness. She realizes that it's not a good thing to keep so much bitterness bottled up inside and makes the decision that should Kent ask her, she will marry him and try to help heal both families.

Amanda's character develops and changes the most in the book. She goes from the naive young girl to a mature woman. War and death will do that. She also realizes that she's not the pampered girl that she once was. She's learned the benefit of hard work.

While I did enjoy the book, there were parts I didn't care for. At times, it felt that the writing was very stilted and that the author expected the reader to have an understanding of what makes the characters tick. I could never make up my mind completely where Amanda stood on the issue of slavery despite being a slave owner.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson's Blogging for Books program for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Legacy - What Kind Do I want to leave?

I saw this quote on a friend's facebook status this afternoon. "What will your legacy be? Smile or frown? Give or take? Love or hate? Compliment or complain? Help or hurt?" And it made me think. What do I want my legacy to be? I look at my family members who have passed on. Daddy - his legacy is the AWANA program at the church I grew up in. Grandma B. - her legacy is probably her quilts and cooking. Grandma J. - definitely her love of her family and her husband. Grandpa - his is a legacy of faith. And I really mean that. He has always lived his life for Jesus. And he instilled that into his four children and all of his grandchildren. I want a legacy like that. But I also want to be know for who I am. I am a woman who loves God. I am a woman who loves to do little things (or make them) for others. I am a woman that still hasn't really figured out how to say no. But I love people. I love to share what I have, even when I don't feel that I have a lot.

I want people to remember me for the legacy I leave behind. For my faith. More than anything else, I want them to know that I am who I am because of the One who made me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund - A Book Review

Priscilla White yearns to be a missionary. Dr Eli Ernest also longs to serve God as a missionary. Both fully expect to be able to serve as single people, but when the Mission Board declares that they only send out married couples, the two agree to a marriage of convenience so that both can become missionaries. Priscilla leaves her comfortable life in New York behind and travels the treacherous Oregon Trail with her husband and another couple. Through all the hardships they face, she and Eil find both find themselves wishing and longing for the other. Will they admit to having fallen in love or will they keep their marriage as an in-name only business arrangement?

When I first saw this book featured in one of the Christian fiction newsletters I receive via email, I wanted to read it. So I was very excited to be able to obtain a copy to review.

I found the book to be very good. There were a couple of nights I looked at the clock and saw that it was already midnight and I knew I had to put the book down so that I could get up for work the next morning. The characters are real. They have faults and they work hard to overcome them. But they also have great strengths that show how deeply developed they are.

Priscilla struggles with infertility and jealousy around any woman with a baby, or pregnant. She also struggles on her journey West to prove to both herself and her husband that she isn't some society maiden that will run away at the first sign of hardship. Eli struggles with his pride. He's too proud to seek the assistance of others and even accept their advice at times. He's also trying to do God's job quite a lot. The trip West is a huge lesson for both of them. Together they learn that God made them to compliment the other one and each one must come to the realization that they need to be who they were created to be.

I've never had to face issues like Priscilla faces. I've never had to move across the country far from friends and family and all that is held dear. I pray I never have to. Because I seriously don't think I'd have the strength to do it. But she did. And she fell in love with not only her husband, but the Indians to whom they were going to minister to. When I think about how easy we, as women, have things today and don't have the worries like Priscilla had, I realize how strong she was. She faced things like cholera, marriage to a total stranger, leaving all that is familiar without the modern conveniences of things like cell phones and computers. Her faith was strong. She did what she had to do without question.

Having read Jody Hedlund's other book before reading this one, I knew I'd enjoy this. And I wasn't wrong. I will definitely be keeping an eye out any additional books that she writes.

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Christmas traditions

You know it's funny. Traditions. Sometimes they make a lot of sense. Sometimes they don't. I was talking to a friend of mine last night about some random traditions my family has. One of our Christmas traditions was to watch the original Star Wars trilogy on Christmas Eve. I'm not sure exactly how that started, but we did that for several years. Also growing up, we'd go out to one of the Christmas tree farms and cut down a tree. We still do that if we can arrange everyone's schedules.

A tradition I've recently started is what I make for Christmas. I put together a bundle of cookies and treats and give them out to my friends. I've recently started doing edible gifts in a jar. You know things like soup mixes, cookie mixes, etc. I'm finding I'm liking that a whole lot more. This year, I've found several websites that have recipes for these gifts in a jar. One of the ones I'm going to do the cornbread mix. It'll go great with one of the soups on the list too.

So I start thinking. Who will make it on my list? I've got some friends that are obviously on the list. And I've got others that I may surprise this year. I also want to add a batch of cookies to each little gift basket. Like for one set of friends, my snickerdoodles and chocolate chip meltaways. For another friend, my gingerbread. The others, I think I'll do sugar cookies with their jars. I don't know yet. It depends on how many jars I have and how many I'd need to buy.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Review of Love Finds You in Sunset Beach Hawaii by Robin Jones Gunn

Adventurous, independent Sierra Jensen suddenly finds herself at a crossroads in her life. She's spent the last four years doing ministry in Brazil. When her work comes to an abrupt end, she doesn't know what to do next. Accepting the offer of a week in Hawaii with her friend, Sierra hopes to seek God and find out where life's going to take her next. Jordan Bryce is an upcoming professional photographer sent to Hawaii to capture photos of the surfing competition. He's seeking to start making a name for himself and finds himself captivated by the lovely Sierra. When a series of "God-things" keep throwing the two of them together, they both question if this is God's will. Will they be willing to take a chance on love or will they go their separate ways?

I was so thrilled to pick up this story about Sierra. I've watched her grow up through Robin's books. I've always felt that Sierra's story wasn't finished and kept hoping that one day Robin would write more to Sierra's story. I got my wish with Love Finds You in Sunset Beach. Please be aware that spoilers will follow.

It was such a delight to come back into Sierra's world. Like most fans who grew up with Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen, I wanted to know answers to some very important questions. Did Sierra ever end up with Paul? Is she still the free-spirit that she was as a teenager? And is her heart for God as big as it was in her teens? Yes my questions were answered. There was finally a chance for closure with her relationship with Paul. I admit that I loved Jordan. He's not like most heroes. He's quirky and funny and has his faults. Yet he's a man that seeks God with all of his heart. And I loved him with Sierra.

I think that what really helped Sierra to make a decision about coming back to the States as opposed to staying in Brazil was her friend Mariana. When Mariana calls on Sierra to pick her up from a wild night, Sierra goes. But it's while the girls are together that Mariana admits that she's needing what Sierra, Jordan, and Derek all have - a personal relationship with God. I think that Mariana's salvation was God's way of closing the door on the Brazil chapter of Sierra's life. One of the thoughts that really stood out to me though was when Mariana told Sierra to stop trying to make God proud of her. I had to stop reading for a minute and think about that. So often in own life, I've felt that I was trying to make my Daddy God proud of me. I wanted Him to be able to be proud to call me His daughter. I realized, like Sierra, that God's already proud of me and that all I have to do is to just keep loving Him. With that thought in mind, I'm looking forward to my retreat this weekend where I'll spend some time with some of my sisters and be able to escape for a few days.

Robin, thank you so much for writing more of Sierra's story. I'm eagerly awaiting the book mentioned in your author's note, Cottage By the Sea. I know that when I read it, not only will I fall in love with additional characters, I'll get to meet up with one of my favorite friends again.

My thoughts and my opinions are my own.