BOOK FUN MAGAZINE - FREE READ

IF TOMORROW NEVER COMES by MARLO SCHALESKY

Today's author is:


and the book:

Multnomah Books (March 17, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Marlo Schalesky is the author of several books, including Beyond the Night and Empty Womb, Aching Heart. A graduate of Stanford University, Marlo also has a masters of theology with an emphasis in biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Married over twenty years, she lives with her husband, Bryan, and their five children in California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (March 17, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601420242
ISBN-13: 978-1601420244

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Only the fog is real. Only the sand. Only the crashing of the sea upon the restless shore. The rest is a dream. It has to be. I say it again and again until I believe it, because I cannot be here. Not now. Not with mist dusting my eyelashes, sand tickling my toes, salt bitter on my lips. Not when the whole world has narrowed to a strip of beach, a puff of fog, and a single gull crying in an invisible sky.

This is crazy. Impossible. And I’m too old for crazy. I won’t be some loony old woman with a house full of cats. I refuse to be. Besides, I prefer dogs. I touch my neck, and my breath stops. The chain is gone. My

locket.

My mother’s voice teases me. “Not impossible, hon. Improbable. Because with God all things are possible.” Her words, spoken in that ancient, quavering tone, hide a laugh turned wheezy with age. I hear her again. “Someday you’ll lose that locket, The a Jean. You just wait.” Her grin turns the sides of her eyes into folds of old parchment. “And that’s when the adventure will really begin.” But I don’t want any adventure. All I want is a comfortable chair, a good book, the sounds of my grandchildren playing tag under the California sun, and my boxer at my feet. I want to go home.

I glance out over the ripples of Monterey Bay. White-capped waves. Dark water. And then I know. That’s what I need to wake me up, get me home. I need a cold slap in the face. Something to shake me from this crazy-old-cat-lady delusion. I stride forward until the surf kisses my feet, the waves swirl around my ankles, knees, waist, arms. Cold. Icy. Welcome. The water engulfs me. And suddenly it doesn’t feel like a

dream.

Fog closed in around Kinna Henley as she fell to her knees and pawed in the sand. The grains bit into her hands, filled her fingernails like black soot. And still she dug. Deep into the oozing wetness. Deep enough to bury her sin. Or at least the evidence of it. No, not sin. She wouldn’t call it that. Desperation, maybe. Determination. But not sin. God wouldn’t bless that, and He had to bless today. He just had to. She was betting everything on it. Kinna glanced over her shoulder. Somewhere, a gull cried. Once. Only once. Somewhere, water broke along rocks and sand. Somewhere, the sun rose over the horizon. But not here. Here, there was nothing but the fog and the shore and the sand beneath her fingers. Alone. Barren. She hated that word.

With a deep breath, Kinna reached into the pocket of her nurse’s smock and pulled out six empty prescription vials that didn’t bear her name. She held them in her palm. Minute bits of liquid shimmered in the bottoms, reflecting only gray, all that was left of the medication that held her hope, flowed through her veins, and ended in her ovaries. Expensive medication she couldn’t afford on her own. But she needed it. She’d tried too long, prayed too long, believed too long…for nothing.

This medication, this Perganol, would change all that. It had to. She closed her fist. What’s done is done. I had to take it, God. Don’t You see? I had to. She turned her hand over, opened it, and dropped the vials into the hole. Then she covered them and pushed a fat, heavy rock over the top. Gone. Buried.

She wouldn’t think of how those vials had been accidentally sent to the hospital. Of how they were supposed to be returned. Of how she said they had been. Or how she slipped them into the pocket of her smock instead. She’d told herself it didn’t matter, no one would know, no one would care, no one would be hurt. She made herself believe this was the only way. And it was. Nothing else had worked. Not charting her temperature, not a million tests, not herbal remedies, not two failed attempts at adoption. Not even prayer. A dozen long years of it all had taught her that. God promised happily ever after, but so far, all she’d gotten was month after month of disappointment, pain, and the fear that nothing may ever change. But now, change would come. The medication was gone, the vials hidden, her ovaries full to bursting.

Finally. A sound came. A shout, maybe. Kinna leaped up and turned, but no one was there. No one walking down the beach. No one swimming in the surf. No one making sandcastles along the shore. She wouldn’t think of that now. She would not remember the first time she had knelt in this sand, dug in it, made castles at the edge of the water. She wouldn’t remember the boy who made her believe fairy tales could come true. Or what happened between them after that. That was gone. Past. All that remained was the promise that had flowed out of those stolen vials and into her blood. That was all that mattered. Today, everything would change.

Kinna picked up her bag and strode down the silent beach, her elbows bent, her arms swinging. Fast, determined. Five minutes up, five minutes back, turn and go again. Twice more, and she’d check exercise off her list for the day. Once, she exercised for fun. Now, it was a means to an end, a way to prepare her body, to convince herself that she was doing everything she could, everything she should. That’s what life had

become.

She sighed and quickened her pace. She missed the old Kinna, the one who laughed easily, who teased, who jogged along the beach just to feel the breeze in her hair and to smell the salty scent of the sea. The Kinna who still believed in fairy tales. But soon she would believe again. She would laugh, tease, but not jog. Not for nine months, anyway. Because now her dreams would come true and the pain would end. God would finally do for her what she’d asked, begged, and pleaded for so many years. Once, she’d been so sure that God would answer. So sure of her faith. God would not disappoint her, would not let her down. But the years eroded that faith, washing it away, bit by bit, as surely as the sea washed out the sand on the shore. Until today.

Now she had faith again. She would stop being that woman filled with pain and doubt. She would be filled with faith…and more. Right, God? She slowed. Doctor’s orders. Or at least, nurse’s orders. God didn’t answer.

But it didn’t matter. She’d waited long enough. Tried, prayed, hoped. And finally, she’d happened upon those vials as if they were meant for her. As though it didn’t matter if she just slipped them into her pocket. A simple act. Easy. So why did she still have to bury them in the sand?

She knew the signs of guilt. Growing up as a pastor’s daughter taught her that. She knew a lot about guilt. I did what I had to do. That’s all. I can’t live like this anymore. It’s got to change.

She’d done what she never would have believed. Kinna Henley had become a thief. She gripped her bag until it creased in her hand, pressing into the flesh of her fingers. Once, she’d wept and stormed, screamed and threatened. She’d sobbed into too many pillows, curled in too many corners, slammed too many doors. Until now.

A chill slipped under her nurse’s smock and twirled around the short hairs near her neck. It was so cold here, so lonely. Not even the call of a gull or the chatter of a sea lion kept her company. Nothing but endless waves and the eerie silence of the mist.

And God, just as silent. This time, God, don’t let me down. Please… Not again. This time she’d made plans, acted on them. This time, she’d sold her soul. No, it’s not that bad. It’s not! What if…? What if I fail again?

But it wouldn’t come to that. It couldn’t. God would listen. God would relent. Kinna didn’t want fame or fortune, shoes, clothes, or the latest Prada handbag. She didn’t want a new car, a new house, or even a new job. All she wanted was a child, a baby of her own. What she’d always wanted, as long as she could remember. A husband, a baby, and happily ever after.

Didn’t God say that to His faithful? Didn’t He say that all she had to do was pray? How could it be too much to ask for only what every other woman in the world seemed to have? Just a baby. To be a mother. Nothing more. It seemed so simple, so normal, so impossible. This was her last chance. At least that’s what the doctor said. “One more cycle, Kinna.” Cycles, not months. Everything was measured in cycles now. “And then you need to consider in vitro fertilization.” But she couldn’t afford IVF. She couldn’t even afford Perganol. The credit cards were maxed, the house mortgaged and mortgaged again. And Jimmy had said no more debt.

She closed her eyes. She’d done everything right. Perfect. She’d taken her prenatal vitamins, eaten her vegetables, not allowed a drop of caffeine to touch her lips, walked each afternoon. She’d charted her basal body temperature for a week, logged the dates, bought not one but two ovulation predictor kits with seven sticks each. She’d tested every day, twice a day, from day eleven to day fifteen. And this day, the time was finally right—the perfect time to conceive. And, of course, there were the vials.

Around her, the fog swirled and thickened. The ocean murmured words of doubt. She wouldn’t listen to that. Not anymore. She kicked a bit of sand at her feet. A string of dried kelp slid between her toes and sandals. She flicked it away, then reached into her bag and took out the ovulation predictor stick she’d put there. Two lines, both thick, equal. She squeezed it in her hand and then pulled a picture from her bag, a funny photo of a laughing baby with tulips scattered around her. The perfect baby.

Her thumb brushed the baby’s face. She blinked. Stop it, Kinna. God wouldn’t let you f ind that picture if He didn’t intend to answer your prayers. She glanced up. Don’t forget, God. I have faith.

Kinna reached the end of the beach and turned. Then she saw a glimmer in the sand. Silver buried in the tan-and-white blanket of a million tiny grains. She stooped and picked up the long chain, the dull necklace. She turned it over. An oval locket, old and worn. She grimaced. She had one just like it, except hers was new. A gift from Jimmy, who claimed it was an original. How like him to get a cheap knockoff and pretend it was something more. She ran her finger over the intricate double-tulip design on the locket’s surface. She opened it, and a bit of sand fell onto her fingers. She brushed it away.

Inside were two photos—an old man and an old woman, their faces wrinkled but still unfaded by time, clear enough that she could see their smiles, could tell they were happy. Happy faces, content faces, his half hidden behind thick glasses, hers yellowed by the years. Faces that made her ache. Once, she thought she would look happy like that when she grew old. She and Jimmy. And they would. Just as soon as God answered her prayers. Kinna closed the locket, dropped it into her bag, and listened as the chain rattled against the ovulation stick. And then someone screamed.

Someone get me a cat, because I think I really have lost my mind. What was I thinking? This isn’t a dream. The water is real. Too real. God is making fun of me, sending me here like this.

But it’s not His fault I’m in these waves. I shouldn’t blame Him. I’ve done this stupid thing. Batty old lady. That much, at least, seems true. I’d laugh, except my mouth would fill with salt water. It claws at me with freezing fingers. Reaches, grabs, forces my head under its black surface. And then I feel the first tendrils of fear. Of real, honest-to-goodness terror. What have I done?

I fight and scream. My arms flail, my hands wave in air too gray, too heavy. The waves pull at me, drag me farther from the shore. My eyes go blind in the salty surf.

One wave. Another. I shout again. My throat burns and I can no longer scream. Stupid. Crazy. Nuts.

The water grows colder. Arms of ice, embracing, drawing me down. Pulling me to the land of many cats. Maybe I should have known. Should have seen the truth the moment I knew the locket was gone.

Maybe...

But this is crazy.

This is real.

This...

What happens if you die in your dreams?

Kinna whirled toward the sound of the scream. It came again, a shriek like a blade across her nerves. She faced the water. The sound echoed off the waves.

A cry. A shout. A scream for help. She heard frantic splashing, a final, desperate cry. She threw her bag onto the sand and raced to the edge of the sea. There! She could see the figure now, a black shadow on the water’s surface.

A wave crested and the figure vanished. No other sound came. Kinna kicked off her shoes and dove into the water. Cold surrounded her. Waves plunged against her, stinging her eyes, lifting her higher, crashing her down. For an instant she glimpsed the figure in the water. A woman, older than Kinna, her arms thrashing, her head dipping beneath the waves. Sounds came again. Words and shouts that she could no longer distinguish.The woman went under.

Kinna put her head down and swam. Hard. Fast. Fighting against the surf and current. Water silenced any further sounds, filled her ears with only the roar of the tide. Stroke, stroke, breathe. Water in her mouth. Salt and bitterness. She paused, glanced up. She couldn’t see the woman. Oh no. God, help… A flash. An arm. Was that…? Then, nothing.

She swam toward the spot. Hoping, praying. Though God had never answered her before, still she prayed, believing, driving herself into the undulating waves. And then she was there. A froth of white on the surface of the sea. Floundering limbs. Gulping mouth. A final stroke and she was beside the woman, then behind her. “It’s okay. I’ve got—” A wave silenced her words, drowning them in a salty onslaught.

The woman thrashed. Her arm slammed against Kinna’s temple. The world turned black, then gray and green again. Kinna blinked, gasped for air.

The woman twisted and reached out, shouting words Kinna couldn’t hear, couldn’t understand. She started to climb, thin feet kicking into Kinna’s legs. Weak hands, suddenly strong, shoved Kinna’s shoulders deeper into the roiling waves. Water closed over Kinna’s head. She shoved the woman away, fought back to the surface. Air stung her lungs, water blinded her eyes. The woman grabbed for her, but this time, Kinna was ready. She grasped the woman beneath the arms, turning her by force. A foot impacted her stomach. A hand scratched her face. She shouted in the woman’s ear. “Relax! I’ve got you.” The woman shuddered.

“Don’t fight me.” Stiff arms stopped clawing. Kicking legs slowed. “That’s it. Stay loose now.”

Kinna secured her grip, turned on her side, and swam one-armed toward the shore. After six strokes the woman grew limp. “Stay with me.”

The woman’s breath rasped in Kinna’s ear. She would be all right. They would make it safely to the shore. A wave broke over them and still she swam, the woman pliable but breathing. A gasp. A cough. The waves came quicker, pushing them. Short, choppy, breaking in rolls of froth. Then Kinna’s toes found the bottom. She fought against the last of the surf, the final stretch of the sea. Her feet pressed into soggy sand,

her body rose from the water. And then they were free. Kinna dragged the woman onto the beach and fell to her knees beside her. She spat out a mouthful of water, then leaned, trembling, over the woman’s pale face.

The woman’s eyes fluttered open and fixed on Kinna. “You?” A single word, barely spoken. Then her eyes fell closed. “No!” Kinna grabbed the woman’s shoulders, pulling her upright and shaking her.

The woman’s eyes opened again, staring. Her mouth moved, muttering words Kinna could not hear. She leaned closer.

“The faces. Not crazy. Not.” The words were slurred. “Not a dream.” The woman’s head tilted, her breath ragged and unsure. “Shhh. We’ll get you to a doctor. You’ll be all right.” A hand gripped Kinna’s arm. The woman’s fingers tightened and pulled her closer. Her mouth moved again, and this time, the words were clear.

“You’re Kinna Henley.”

Kinna shivered. “How do you know me?”

The woman gave another shuddering breath, then fell back.

And breathed no more.

THE REAL ENEMY by KATHY HERMAN


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Real Enemy

David C. Cook (March 2009)

by

Kathy Herman



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Suspense novelist Kathy Herman is very much at home in the Christian book industry, having worked five years on staff at the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and eleven years at Better Books Christian Center in Tyler, Texas, as product buyer/manager for the children’s department, and eventually as director of human resources.

She has conducted numerous educational seminars on children’s books at CBA Conventions in the U.S. and Canada, served a preliminary judge for the Gold Medallion Book Awards of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association , and worked as an independent product/marketing consultant to the CBA market.

Since her first novel, Tested by Fire, debuted in 2001 as a CBA national bestseller, she's added thirteen more titles to her credit, including another bestseller, All Things Hidden.

Kathy's husband Paul is her best friend and most ardent supporter and manages the LifeWay Christian Store in Tyler, Texas. They have three grown children, five adorable grandkids, a cat named Samantha—and an ongoing fascination with hummingbirds. They also enjoy world travel, deep sea fishing, stargazing, and bird watching and sometimes incorporate all these hobbies into one big adventure.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Brill Jessup just became the first female police chief in Sophie Trace, Tennessee, and is riding on the credentials of a stellar eighteen-year career on the Memphis police force. She may be a pro at finding clues, but she tends to ignore the obvious in her personal life. And she would rather work than deal with the bitterness she feels about her husband Kurt's infidelity. Kurt, is weighed down by her unrelenting anger as he struggles to let God redeem the stupidest mistake he ever made. He is genuinely contrite and making every effort to show his commitment to Brill. But she hides behind her badge and her bitterness, deciding that moving her family away from Memphis is the only change she needs to make. So why can't Brill get over this anger?

Before she ever has time to unpack her boxes, people start disappearing. Lots of them. Seven people in seven days To complicate matters, a local legend has many residents believing that the cause is unearthly─tied to the “red shadows,” or spirits of the departed Cherokee who once inhabited the land.

While Brill draws on all of her experience and instinct to solve the case, she must confront an enemy that threatens everything she holds dear─one that cannot be stopped with a badge and a gun. She is forced to confront the real enemy.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Real Enemy, go HERE

THRIVE, DON'T SIMPLY SURVIVE by KAROL LADD

Today's author is:


and the book:


Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive

Howard Books (March 3, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Karol Ladd is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Power of a Positive series. She is also the founder of Positive Life Principles, Inc., providing strategies for success both at home and work. A frequent guest on radio and television program, she lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and daughters.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (March 3, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416580492
ISBN-13: 978-1416580492

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Part One

When Dreams Disappoint


Let nothing disturb thee,

Let nothing affright thee,

All things are passing,

God changeth never.

Saint Teresa of Avila


Don’t let your hearts be troubled.

Trust in God, and trust also in me.

Jesus




1

Seven Common Disappointments in a Woman’s Life

Identifying Your Struggles and Realizing You Are Not Alone


There is no pit so deep

that God’s love is not deeper still.

Corrie Ten Boom


No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 msg


You are not alone.

Somehow that statement brings comfort, doesn’t it? Knowing someone else is journeying with you offers encouragement and hope. Right now you may be thinking, I feel so all alone. No one understands my frustration and pain. Certainly there is no other person who knows exactly how you feel or has experienced the specific grief of your personal disappointment or loss—yet, my friend, I want you to know you are not alone.

You are not alone because there beside you, although you may not see him or feel him, is the God who cares for you. He is the God who sees all, and he invites you to cast your cares on him.1 Throughout the ages, God has been lovingly reassuring his people, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”2 In Psalms, we read David’s affirmation of God’s presence: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!”3 Try as we might, we can’t hide from God. His loving arms extend wherever we go. God will meet us where we are with arms open wide, saying, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”4

I cannot tell you why you are in the seat of disappointment, nor can I answer the question “Why did God allow this?” The answers aren’t always easy or evident. Although we may not understand why God allows the not-so-happy scenarios in our life, we can still trust his love and care for us. When we call to him, he is there. You may have been ignoring him for many years, but, my friend, it is never too late to cry out to him. The Bible assures us that if we seek him, we will find him.5 The God of all comfort loves you and desires a relationship with you.

The Bible describes God as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.”6 Isn’t that an inviting description? What a wonderful heavenly Father we have! He is with us in the joyful times of our life, as well as in the difficult ones.

Picture with me just for a moment a loving parent who takes her child to the park and the zoo and the ice cream shop. Can you imagine the same parent dropping off her injured child at the hospital and saying, “I know you’re in a lot of pain, but I’m busy right now. I’ll come back and pick you up later when everything is okay.” No, a good parent will lovingly hold her child through the difficult and painful experiences. Now, if a human parent cares for a child in this manner, how much more does our perfect heavenly Father hold us with his gentle loving embrace through the trials we face? Our gracious God will never leave us.


Comforting Bonds

Although your pain is personal, you are not the only one who has experienced pain. We share a common bond with women throughout the ages who have experienced disappointments and loss, both great and small. From Eve in the Garden of Eden, all the way to you and me, no one is exempt from experiencing failed dreams and dashed expectations. Not only do we find camaraderie in the common experience of disillusionment, but we can also find hope from the strength, peace, and blessing other women have experienced through their struggles. Within each story of disenchantment is a nugget of possibility. Of course no one’s story is exactly like yours or mine; however, there still exists in every woman’s story an element of hope that can inspire and encourage us.

[[[DESIGNER: PLEASE INSERT CALL OUT: Although your pain is personal, you are not the only one who has experienced pain.]]]

Personally, I gain strength from knowing other women faced similar disappointments and not only survived, but thrived. If you are like me, you are inspired by the stories of women who passionately lived the life they didn’t plan.Whether we are reading about women in history or present-day accounts, we are heartened to know that we are not the only ones who have faced insurmountable odds or a change in our life direction. Consider my friend Jan’s story.


Jan always pictured herself as the mother of girls. In fact, she still has her childhood Barbie collection, which she had planned to someday pass down to her daughters. But Jan wouldn’t trade her four sons for the world. She says the one word that describes her life is adaptation. Of course, adapting to four sons instead of having daughters has been a relatively easy adaptation to God’s plan, compared to adapting to the fact that one of her sons is severely disabled.

When Connor, her third son, was born, Jan and her mother, Dede, recognized that something wasn’t quite right. Although the hospital sent him home saying he was perfectly healthy, they noticed a few red flags. He didn’t cry, and although that may seem nice, Jan and Dede knew it wasn’t a good sign. Every feeding was a struggle, and Connor’s eyes didn’t track movement. Jan and her husband, Patrick, took Connor to doctor after doctor trying to find answers.

As Connor grew, he couldn’t walk or talk or feed himself. His full list of disorders includes cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, cortical visual impairment (brain blindness), microcephaly (small head), severe developmental delay, mental retardation, difficulty swallowing, low muscle tone, and immobility. Even now at twelve years old, Connor functions like a newborn, totally dependent on others. He cannot sit up, roll over, feed himself, or talk.

When Connor was two years old, the Wrights’ fourth son was born. With a special-needs toddler and a newborn who both needed full-time care, in addition to their other two sons, Jan soon became physically and emotionally overwhelmed. Each day she seemed to simply survive, trying to get the two older boys off to school and then care for the younger ones with little or no sleep. Jan had wonderful family and friends who helped, but she still felt like she was in the pit of despair with no answers and no hope.

Jan remembers one day when she walked into the restroom and looked at herself in the mirror. When she saw her haggard face, she thought, Who is that woman? Then in the quietness of the moment, she heard God’s voice saying to her, Are you going to let this kill you, or are you going to rise to the occasion and get on with your life? You have a husband who loves you, and your kids need a functional mommy. You have a lot to keep you going! She realized that her self-pity, anger, and grief were getting her nowhere.

Jan knew then that it was a moment of decision. Although she didn’t have all the answers, it was time to accept her situation and do the best she could do for Connor and the rest of her family. She began to open her eyes to God’s provision and to take positive steps forward. Jan recalls that she and Patrick decided they were not just going to survive this, but they chose to thrive in it. (In fact, Jan’s words became the inspiration for the title of this book.) They knew they were called to be more than conquerors through Christ.

Jan is honest about her emotional journey through her challenges. She says, “I definitely did not feel adequate. I still don’t. But here I am!” By relying on God’s strength day by day, she has learned to passionately live the life she didn’t plan.

They have endured hardships, but Jan and Patrick wouldn’t trade them for all the blessings they have received from having Connor in their family. The Wright family is fun-loving and joyful. They continually reach out to help other people, and their home is always filled with friends. The family bond is strong, and their trust in the Lord has grown deep.

Connor will never walk or talk this side of heaven, but his life is a blessing. He has brought joy to each member of his family. Their journey has been long and challenging, but they are thankful for the life lessons Connor has taught them. Jan readily admits, “I have always felt very ordinary. But I know the Bible is full of ordinary people God called and equipped to do something special.”

Jan didn’t sign up for the challenges she has faced, yet she has learned to lean on God through her journey. Day by day, God gives Jan what she needs to step up and passionately live the life she didn’t plan.


Jan learned not only to adapt, but to live victoriously through her unexpected life challenges. In this chapter, we will explore seven common disappointments women typically face in life. Now, I’m not saying that every woman has experienced all seven of these disappointments. Goodness, how depressing would that be? But these seven are the most common ones women experience in life. Most likely you will be nodding your head as you read, saying, “Yes, I can relate to that one, and to that one, and boy am I glad I haven’t gone through that one!” My purpose here is not to open up your eyes to how miserable you really are, but to help you identify your struggles and recognize you are not alone.

So let’s jump in and identify the big seven. Keep in mind, we are not going to deal with how to overcome the disappointments in this chapter (that’s what the rest of the book is about); we are simply identifying them.


1. Disappointment with Marriage

Whether you are single, married, or single again, you have probably discovered “living happily ever after” occurs in our favorite fairy tales but not in reality. If you have been married at least a year, you undoubtedly have learned that your husband is not quite the “knight in shining armor” you thought he would be. If you are not married, you may be longing for that special man to come into your life.

Disappointments in marriage include issues regarding finances, personal frustrations, indiscretions, and incompatibility. Maybe the good-looking guy you married in college turned out to be a lazy bum or a flagrant spender and ran you into serious debt. Or your Mr. Faithful turned out to be Mr. Flirt. Or your attentive boyfriend turned out to have the sensitivity of a barn door once you were married.

People surprise us. Sometimes they change, and sometimes they are just plain different than who we thought they were when we married them. Let’s face it, marriage is not as easy as we thought it would be. Through our disappointments in marriage, we can still see God’s hand at work. Ultimately, we want to continually enrich our marriage, so it can be the best that it can be beyond these disappointments.

Perhaps you are single, though you had hoped and planned to be married by now. Or maybe you planned to live the rest of your life with your husband, only to have weathered divorce or widowhood. Possibly you never thought of yourself as being a single parent, but there you are. Please don’t get me wrong; being single is not a bad thing; it just may not be the place you had planned to be right now.


2. Disappointment with Kids

When it comes to our kids, many of us experience frustration, surprise, or concern. Possibly you have a child who doesn’t fit into the delightful box society calls the “perfect child.” A disability or disease or defiant attitude may have changed the picture of what you always thought your family would look like. Whether it is a young, uncontrollable screamer or a teen running around with the wrong crowd, our kids, more than likely, are not going to be exactly what we envisioned.

When they are grown, our children may not marry who we thought they should, or they may not go into the type of profession we thought they would. You may feel the pain of their poor or sinful choices even when you taught them so carefully to do what is right. They may have distanced themselves from you or from your faith, and you never thought they would be so far away. Take comfort in the fact that God has a plan for your child’s life, just as he does for your own. I’m glad God loves us even though we do not fit in the “perfect people” box, aren’t you?

There is also deep pain in not being able to have children of your own. This, too, is an area of great disappointment and grief that many couples face today, and it is easy to lose hope. Waiting on God’s timing and watching others with their kids can be a terribly painful road. You may feel as though God doesn’t hear your cry for a child. This is a very difficult journey of faith: trusting God even when you don’t understand why.


3. Disappointment with Self

Have you ever met a woman who was perfectly satisfied with the way she looks? Me neither! Even the most beautiful of friends complain about their weight or complexion or hair or veins. You name it, there’s a lot to whine about when it comes to appearance. But our disappointment with self is not just limited to our bodies; it extends to many different areas of life. We can be disappointed with our emotional weaknesses or our lack of abilities, talents, or strengths. There are times we may become discouraged in the way we handle relationships or our inability to get the right job or our lack of discipline.

A woman is never at a loss on ways to be down on herself. In fact, we are champs at beating ourselves up mentally over past choices or mistakes. Let me assure you, if you struggle in this area, you are definitely not alone. Unfortunately, most women don’t reveal their self-disappointment in a typical conversation, and this tends to make us feel as though we are the only one who is unhappy with the way we turned out. We feel alone when it comes to how we view ourselves; yet if we were to expose every woman’s inner communication with self, we would find most of us have an internal struggle with confidence—some of us are just better at hiding it than others.

[[[DESIGNER; PLEASE INSERT CALL OUT. A woman is never at a loss on ways to be down on herself.]]]



4. Disappointment with Others

It is probably safe to say that someone has let you down at some point in your life. The fact is even the noblest of people will disappoint us because we are all human, and we are all sinners. Friends will frustrate us, in-laws will annoy us, coworkers will anger us, and neighbors will be unkind to us. It’s the painful truth about humanity. If you think you are the only person in the world who has been wounded by another person, think again. People have been causing pain to others since the beginning of time (remember Cain and Abel?).7 The question is not whether we will be disappointed by others, but how will we handle it when they do? Will we allow this disappointment to grow into bitterness and resentment, or will we live in the realm of grace, forbearance, and forgiveness?

Loneliness can be a byproduct of our disappointment with people. It can develop as a result of our own choice to distance ourselves from a hurtful person, or it could be a result of someone distancing themselves from us. You may have trouble connecting with people because you have been hurt in the past, or perhaps you have a tendency to be critical of others. Loneliness can be excruciating at times, yet God can comfort us in our loneliness through his presence and through his people. He can also use our loneliness as a catalyst to help us reach out to others and draw closer to God.


5. Disappointment with Circumstances

Do you feel like life is not exactly blowing you kisses? Circumstances beyond your control may have turned your seemingly happy life into a completely different scenario. I’m not sure any of us will ever be comfortable with the fact that situations can dramatically change, sometimes altering our dreams forever. A debilitating injury, a devastating hurricane, an unexpected layoff, an unplanned pregnancy, a cancer diagnosis, bankruptcy, cancer, addiction, divorce—all can lead us into a life we did not plan.

Financial disappointments can be a constant source of frustration and pain. Whether it’s a downturn in the economy, job loss, or personal mishandling of finances, challenges can arise for people at any income level. You may feel as though you will never get back on your feet again, or you may feel frustrated because you are not living at the level you always thought you would. Although life seems unfair and unpredictable, I want to reassure you it is also full of potential and possibilities. The path you are on right now may not be fun or glamorous, but God can give you strength day by day as you move toward the hope ahead of you.


6. Disappointment with Religion

If you are disillusioned by established religion, you are a part of an increasing number of individuals, both Christian and non-Christian alike. Many young people today don’t see the church as a place where Christ’s love is exemplified; rather, they view the Christian community as hateful and condemning. Sadly, in many churches, Christ’s message of loving others as Christ loves us has faded into haughty attitudes and hateful disputes.

As believers, we need to be a community that shows the world what Christ’s love looks like, beginning with the gospel and moving out to touch lives with compassion. The authentic church based on the foundation of Jesus Christ is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, many have been hurt by religiosity, whether it was a bad experience in a church, a not-so-faithful minister, or cruel students at a Christian school. Gossip, cliques, or judgmental spirits can also cause disillusionment with religion in general. You may have some scars that need God’s loving salve. As we take our focus off religion and put it back on Jesus, we begin to see the glory and goodness of his sincere love.


7. Disappointment with God

You prayed and prayed, and no clear answer came. Or worse, you prayed fervently, passionately, ceaselessly . . . only to have the situation turn out exactly the opposite of what you asked. You thought God loved you and would take care of you, but your life fell apart.

When disappointments like these come into our lives, we find ourselves asking, “Where is God?” Maybe you have shaken your fist at God in anger or given up on him completely. Perhaps you just decided to slowly distance yourself in your relationship with him, because you haven’t seen him show up. Disappointment with God comes in many different forms. Usually it brings with it a fair amount of guilt as the enemy whispers in your ear, How could you give up on God? What kind of person are you anyway?

Believe it or not, some of our greatest Christian leaders have had moments of doubts or disillusionment. Even in the Bible we see Job’s questioning and David’s hopeless feelings. John the Baptist sent a message to Jesus from his dark prison cell asking, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”8 Often disappointment with God results from not being able to understand God. We can’t comprehend that a loving, sovereign God would allow bad things to happen in our lives, so we question whether he is really there or whether he is who he says he is.

As we walk through this book together, I hope you will experience God in a new and fresh way. He loves you and has not left you. Understanding why he allowed something in your life will not change the reality of who he is and what he can do through your circumstances. Whether we understand why God allowed something or not, we do know his comfort and care is available to us in the middle of our pain, for Scripture tells us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”9


A Beautiful Weaving of Hope

I’m sure you could relate to at least a few of the disappointments listed above (okay, maybe more than just a few). The good news is that although our lives haven’t turn out like we thought they would, all is not lost. Situations that seem frustrating or difficult could actually turn out to be an opportunity to see God’s mighty and redeeming hand at work. Although we may not be able to envision the end result, God has a plan that goes far beyond what we can see.

Throughout this book, you will read stories about women just like you and me who have weathered the storms of change in their lives. In every story I hope you will see the hand of God carrying her along through her difficulties and leading her to new possibilities. Yes, God can use the twists and turns in our lives to lead us on a new journey. He may have a greater, eternal purpose that we cannot understand right now, and we may not fully comprehend it until we see Jesus face to face. The question is, are we willing to trust God and believe that he will bring blessings out of our pain? Will we trust him to deign a new life that may be more beautiful than we ever imagined? Or will we settle for mere survival—or maybe even less than survival—will we fall into discouragement, bitterness, and frustration?

Hope in God can turn disappointments into appointments to trust God. As the psalmist said in the midst of his sadness, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”10

Personally, I have found great encouragement from reading the words of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, who is known as the “weeping prophet.” Can you believe that? Encouragement from the weeping prophet! But I think you will be encouraged too. As Jeremiah grieved over the destruction of Jerusalem, he turned his eyes toward the day-to-day faithfulness of the Lord. Notice how Jeremiah’s discouragement turns into words of hope:


The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.

I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.

Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:


The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”


The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.

So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.”11


Will you dare to hope as Jeremiah did? As he grieved his loss, he also declared, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends!” Yes, his mercy is new and fresh each morning. My friend, as you walk this new and different road, seek God’s goodness and mercy along the way. Cry out to him for help, and trust his faithfulness to get you through one day at a time. Not one of us has been guaranteed a perfectly happy life. The Bible reminds us, “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”12

We will experience challenges in our life, but God will not leave us. We may be called to persevere through trials and be patient in tribulation, but God can still bring hope. Perhaps you have wondered, Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Surely he doesn’t want me to be miserable. The truth is our hearts long for a lovely and happy life. We long for heaven. The Bible doesn’t promise us perfect circumstances here on earth, but it does offer us the opportunity to experience peace and joy through Christ.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in the book of Nehemiah. God’s people had just returned to Jerusalem and had gathered together to hear the reading of the book of the law of God. As they stood there listening to God’s words, they began weeping. Their hearts moved toward repentance as they opened their hearts to God. Nehemiah encouraged them, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”13

As we turn our hearts toward the Lord, his joy can be our strength as well. It is not a joy brought on by our circumstances or by people; it is a deeper joy that comes from the Lord. Jesus said, “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”14 Certainly God wants us to experience an overflowing joy; a joy that comes from abiding in him and walking in his ways. Life may not always be happy, but the joy of the Lord can always be our strength.

[[[DESIGNER: PLEASE INSERT CALL OUT: Life may not always be happy, but the joy of the Lord can always be our strength.]]]


Hope and joy are two words that seem to be woven into the life of Corrie Ten Boom. Although she spent ten months in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and suffered the loss of four of her family members as a result of hiding the Jewish people from the Gestapo, she had a strength that could only come from the Lord. Here is a poem she wrote as she experienced God’s hand at work in her life.


Life Is But a Weaving

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ‘til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.


Corrie added, “We see the back of the embroidery, God sees the front! He knows how beautiful it will be.”15 The circumstances of your life may not look pretty right now. There are times you will feel afraid or as though there is no hope. But God has not left you. He has a plan he is weaving together in his faithfulness and love. Wait and watch, my friend. Continue to seek God’s help and ask him for his hope to fill your heart. The Weaver of your life is not finished his work in you. The life you didn’t plan may lead you to a new purpose and passion in which you will joyfully thrive.


Stepping Forward

Points

You are not alone. God is with you in the midst of your discouraging circumstances.
Every woman has experienced disappointments to some degree in her life.
The following are the seven most common disappointments in women’s lives.
Disappointment with marriage
Disappointment with kids
Disappointment with self
Disappointment with others
Disappointment with circumstances
Disappointment with religion
Disappointment with god


Every disappointment can be turned into an appointment to trust God’s plan.
We are not entitled to a happy or misery-free life here on earth.
Great is God’s faithfulness! Day by day we can experience hope and joy as we turn our eyes toward him.
God is a redeeming God who is weaving a greater, more eternal picture than what we can see right now.


Passage: Psalm 139:7–18


I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.


You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.


How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!


Prayer: Gracious and kind heavenly Father, I praise you for your loving presence. Although I cannot understand why disappointments happen in my life, I can trust that you will love me and be with me to see me through. I know you will redeem my disappointment and use you for using the difficulties and challenges in my life to help me grow stronger. Thank you for the strength you give me through the process. I believe you have a bigger plan I cannot see. Help me to walk by faith and not by sight. I love you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Plan: Consider the disappointments you are currently experiencing in life. Take a moment to write them down in a notebook or even in the back of this book. Now prayerfully go over each disappointment, asking God to comfort you and give you strength. Write down the following verse, Zephaniah 3:17 (niv), on an index card and memorize it as you journey through this unexpected path.


The Lord your God is with you,

he is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you,

he will quiet you with his love,

he will rejoice over you with singing.



DEADLY CHARM by CLAUDIA MAIR BURNEY

Today's author is:


and the book:


Deadly Charm (Amanda Bell Brown Mystery Series, Book 3)

Howard Books (March 24, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Claudia Mair Burney is the author of numerous novels and the popular Ragamuffin Diva blog. She lives with her husband and their seven children in Michigan.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (March 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416551956
ISBN-13: 978-1416551959

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Rocky showed up at my apartment door with an offer that, in his words, I “no coulda refuse.” Or maybe those were Marlon Brando’s words. I couldn’t be sure. My blond, dreadlocked former pastor slash ex-boyfriend locked me into a stare with those big, brown puppy eyes. He’d puffed out his jowls to utter the Godfather’s most famous line, while grazing his cheek with the back of his fingers—an excruciatingly amiss imitation. I’ve seen newborn babies’ smiles more intimidating.

“You look more like a hamster than a mobster, Rock.”

“Hamsters are cool.”

“But less compelling, you must admit.”

Rocky grinned and wagged his finger at me, “Never underestimate the power of a furry little creature.” He twitched his nose and started making hamster noises.

“Amen!” I said.

I thought of my vicious, former pet sugar glider, Amos. Although he’d become my friend and hero, I had to give him away to another nocturnal creature—otherwise, I’d never sleep again. My husband’s best friend, Souldier, had taken the murderous marsupial. Now Amos happily shreds his drapes.

“Come on in, my not-so-furry friend,” I told Rocky, mostly so he would stop making weird rodent sounds.

I moved aside so he could enter my little slice of paradise: shabby chic meets Africa is what Jazz, my husband called it. Rocky loved my funky, eclectically furnished place, too. He just didn’t describe it as aptly as Jazz did.

Who was I kidding? Rocky didn’t do anything as aptly as Jazz did. I had lost them both six weeks ago, and now here was Rocky, surprising me by showing up at my door like unexpected grace.

“Welcome back, Rocky,” I said. I know how lame I sounded, but I wanted him to know I was glad he’d come no matter what the reason.

He muttered a shy, “Thanks.”

We stood in my foyer exchanging reticent glances until I got bold enough to take a long look at him. I’d missed him so. He wore a typical Rockyesque uniform underneath his white down jacket—khaki pants and a long-sleeved Batman T-shirt. A cupid earring dangled in his right ear. Every year about this time he wore it to remind me to come to the Saint Valentine’s Day feast.

Without thinking I blurted out. “I see you and Cupid are still advertising our—” I bit my tongue. There’d be no “our” Saint Valentine’s Day feast this year for prodigal Bell. “Sorry,” I muttered.

“No problem,” he rushed to say, and then an awful silence descended on us like a cold, grey fog.

When I was still a member of his church, aptly named the Rock House, I never missed the event. Rocky would tell stories of the historical Saint Valentine; we’d eat candy conversation hearts, listen to live music, and share abundant amounts of food and laughter. It was Rocky’s way of making sure the lonely hearts wouldn’t spend the evening alone. There with my church family, not only did I get heaps of love, I could give out some from my meager supply.

That and we always had a chocolate fountain.

What was I going to do now?

I tried not to think about the sting of Rocky kicking me out of his church. I didn’t want to think about anything that had happened six weeks ago. Still, I figured whatever brought him to my door had an olive branch attached to it, and whatever he asked, short of sin, I’d be willing to do to reconcile with him.

Rocky hung up his jacket, kicked out of his Birkenstocks, and headed over to my rose-colored velvet sofa and sat. I followed, plopping down beside him.

“So, what’s the offer, Godfather?”

He stared at me. “Did you gain weight?”

Because I know it’s rude to kill your loved ones, I let that one slide and gave him a polite smile, but I did grab a mudcloth throw pillow and cover my expanding waistline.

“So, what’s the offer, Rocky?”

He gushed in a most un-Godfatherly like way. “I want you to go to a meeting with me. It’s only going to be the way-coolest event you’ve been to in forever.”

I cuddled the pillow and eyed him cautiously. He didn’t mean the Valentine’s Day feast. I braced myself. Rocky’s idea of way cool could get scary. “Can you be a little more specific?”

He didn’t answer. Just reached out and touched my hand, rubbing his thumb across my knuckles. “I really missed you.”

Oh, man. That small gesture—him touching the hand nobody held anymore—that tiny movement had the effect of a pebble in a pond, creating ripples of unexpected sadness that circled out of my soul. Lord, have mercy. I didn’t fling myself at him, begging like a rhythm-and-blues singer for him to keep loving me, to not give up on me, but something in me wished I could.

I didn’t want to marry Rocky, or even date him. He had never been the love of my life. In that moment I simply wanted to banish the nearly incarnate loneliness that had been dogging my heels as a solemn, maddening companion, shuffling me through all those days with no best-friend Rocky.

And with no husband Jazz.

I gazed up at him with my own version of puppy eyes. “I missed you too, Rocky.”

We let a bit of silence sit between us on the sofa like a third and very quiet presence. Our heads hung low. Apparently we both still smarted over our mutual pain of separation.

Minutes passed, our hands still clasped together, but Rocky’s merciful presence soothed my dry soul patches like olive oil.

Thank God. Thank God for every kind soul I don’t deserve in my life who loves me anyway.

“Rocky.” I made my voice as soft and small as a baby’s blankie.

He turned to me, his face as open and vulnerable as that blankie’s little owner.

I squeezed his hand. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

Those puppy eyes shone with the compassion I knew like the backs of my freckled hands.

“I’m sorry for the things I did, too, babe. For the things I said that night.”

“Don’t call me babe.”

He chuckled. “Some things never change.” Again, those gentle peepers bore into me. “Why didn’t you tell me you married Jazz?”

“At the time I didn’t seem too clear on it myself. Things happened pretty fast, and the next thing I knew, I was a wife.” I paused, the weight of that statement shifting just a bit since Rocky had shown up to help bear my burden. “He’s mad at me.”

“Duh-uh. You were kissing your blond boy toy.” He nudged me with his tattooed arm. “What’s going on with the two of you now?”

“I’ve seen corpses on Carly’s autopsy tables more involved than our marriage.”

I wondered if I’d ever get over what I’d lost with Jazz.

“I can only imagine what his parents think of me. I guess they’d say I’m the nightmare that took his ex Kate’s place.”

He regarded me with the care and concern I’ve seen him lavish on the fortunate souls he counseled as a pastor. Rocky may be only twenty-seven years old, but he’d been a pastor for two years. Two good years. He didn’t have the life experience an older pastor would, but God had given him an extraordinary shepherd’s heart.

“You’re not a nightmare,” he said. “You jumped into a marriage with no spiritual or emotional preparation.”

Like I, the clinician, needed him to tell me that.

I sighed. “Yet another psychologist heal thyself thing.” I looked away from him, guilt gnawing at me. “Maybe Jazz and I just aren’t meant to be, Rocky.”

“Have you talked to him?”

I shrugged. “Just once. He came over for a few minutes on Christmas Eve. I let him know I wanted him in a way I knew he’d understand. And then I waited. He never came back.”

“Why didn’t you go to him?”

“The same reason I didn’t come to you. I wanted to give him some space to feel whatever he felt and then to decide on his own.”

“But, maybe he’s not like me, babe.”

“Ya, think? And don’t call me babe.”

“Maybe he needs you to help him decide. Like, some extra reassurance or something.”

“That’s crazy, Rock.”

“It’s not so crazy, babe.”

I took back every nice thing I’d just thought about him. What did he know? Yes, he pastors a church of more than two-hundred members. He did missions work. He had a shepherd’s heart. He took pastoral counseling classes in seminary, but, honestly! His voice sounded just like Patrick’s on Sponge Bob.

Rocky glared at me. “Babe. . . .”

“Don’t call me babe.”

“Babe! You gotta go to him.”

“But he yells. Sometimes he cusses like a fish wife.”

“What’s a fish wife?”

“I don’t know, but my great-grandmother used to say that and it stuck with me. Maybe only females cuss like fish wives. Maybe he cusses like the fish.” Now I sounded like Patrick!

“Fish don’t cuss.”

“Okay, I know I should have reassured him.”

He sighed. Looked at me with those eyes. Squeezed my hand. “Will you ever let anyone love you?”

“People love me, Rocky. My sister. My secretary. Sasha.”

“I have doubts about Sasha.”

I thought about that and chuckled with him. “You may be right. My mother has done a few things that make me wonder. Now I’m really depressed.”

“I want to see you happy.”

“I want to see you happy, too. Speaking of which, how are you and Elisa?”

He grinned, reddened, looked away.

“What? Did you marry her in six weeks? My goodness!” For the first time, I didn’t feel jealous that someone was interested in Rocky. Well, not much.

“No. I’m not married. I’m . . . .”

“You’re what?”

“She’s really special, but it hasn’t been that long since she left creepy cult dude. I’m not sure I should be involved.”

“How involved are you?”

“I’m involved, babe.”

“You’re in love?”

He wouldn’t say anything, but his goofy grin spoke for him.

“Rocky?”

He nudged me, “Cut it out, babe.”

So, Rocky was really in love. Wow. I always knew it would happen, but I didn’t realize I’d still have the teensiest bit of pain knowing he’d moved on from me for good. I could see a flower of astonishing beauty blossoming between them when I saw them together, even though it nearly killed me at the moment. But God knows Rocky deserved the biggest, juiciest love he could find. He needed to look beyond the non-existent us. And he still calls me babe.

“Just take it slow, Rock. Trust me. The cost of moving too fast is astronomical, even if you are in love.”

I could tell he didn’t feel comfortable talking to me about Elisa. I decided to let their love blossom without my tending, pruning, or pulling up weeds. I got back to the business at hand. “Are you ever going to tell me what your offer is?” I eased into the lush upholstery of my sofa.

Rocky’s face lit up. Honestly, if that guy had a tail to go with those puppy eyes, it’d be thumping my sofa with joy.

“It’s gonna be awesome, ba— I mean, Bell.”

Apparently our little chat about Elisa made him correct himself.

“You think everything is awesome, Rocky.”

“I don’t think everything is awesome.”

“You said my Love Bug is awesome. You said Switchfoot’s new CD is awesome. You said my new zillions braids are awesome, and you said the ice-cream at Cold Stone Creamery is awesome.” Okay, the ice-cream at Cold Stone happened to be awesome for real. Lately I’d craved it like the blind crave sight.

“But, babe . . . ”

There he goes again. Honestly! A holy war couldn’t make that man stop calling me babe.

He went on. “Those things are awesome.”

“God is awesome, Rock. Awesome meaning the subject inspires awe, as in reverence, respect, dread.”

“You reverence your tricked-out VW Beetle,” he said, “And I respect Switchfoot, especially Jon Foreman, and your way-cool, African-goddess hair inspired me to get dreads.”

I stared at him. Comments like these coming from Rocky tended to render me temporarily speechless.

He filled the silence with his proposal. “I want you to go see Ezekiel Thunder with me.”

My eyes widened. Electroshock therapy wouldn’t have given me such a jolt. “Ezekiel Thunder?” I screeched. I jerked up from my slouch. I’d heard the un-right reverend wanted to hit the comeback trail, taking his miracle crusade with him.

Rocky gave me a wicked grin and settled himself smugly into the soft folds of my sofa. He knew I’d left Thunder’s particular brand of Pentecostal fire many years ago and had no desire to go back.

Rocky bobble-head nodded, as if his physical movement would affect a change in my attitude.

“Stop all that nodding!”

“I’m just trying to encourage you.”

I did not feel encouraged.

“It’ll be fun,” he said, blasting me with the full puppy-eyes arsenal. Oh, those eyes. Powerful! Mesmerizing! Like a basket full of cocker spaniel puppies wearing red ribbons. I could feel myself weakening.

“Rocky, that meeting will torture me. It will torture you!”

“No, it won’t. Ezekiel is my friend.”

“Your friend?”

“He led me to Christ.”

“Ezekiel Thunder led you to Christ?”

“I told you I came to Christ at a Bible camp.”

“Yes? And?”

“It was a Sons of Thunder Bible camp. I’m a Thunder Kid!” He beamed with what I hoped wasn’t pride.

“You never told me that!”

Honestly! You think you know somebody! He was my ex-boyfriend for goodness’ sake. We’d talked about marriage. I couldn’t believe I had no idea he was close friends with the infamous Ezekiel Thunder!

“You can be kinda judgmental about guys like Ezekiel.” He went on. “I didn’t mean to upset you or trigger bad memories of your tongues-talking days.”

“Then don’t ask me to go see him.”

“He’s a different man. He and his family want to buy a house in Ann Arbor. He’s living at the Rock House house until one comes through for him. ”

“God forbid!”

“He needs support. People to show up and cheer him on.”

“Cheer him on? We should stop him!” Had Rocky forgotten that Ezekiel Thunder had fallen as hard as many of his televangelist contemporaries in the eighties—and for a tawdry little tryst with a young intern? May it never be!

“How hard would it be for you to sit there and listen? Maybe say a few prayers for him.”

“God bless you as you do that for him.”

“I was there for you, supporting Great Lakes Seminary when they were struggling and going to lose their building. I did it because of how much you love Mason May.”

“Rocky! That’s not even comparable. Mason is a fine theologian training good men and women for powerful, effective ministries. He’s not a snake-oil peddler.”

“It’s not snake oil. It’s miracle prosperity oil.”

I stared at him. He’d stunned me to silence once again. I waited for Rocky to fill the silence with testimonies about the healing properties of miracle prosperity oil. Thankfully, he refrained. But he didn’t look like he’d let me off the hook.

I tried to reason with him. “You shouldn’t ask me to do this. You’re Emergent, Rocky, not a dyed-in-the-wool charismatic.”

“You don’t like post-modern, post-denominational, Emergent folks either.”

“I like them more than Ezekiel Thunders.”

“What’s that thing you say about the Emergent Church?”

“This is not about the Emergent Church. I’d go to an Emergent meeting with you anytime. You name the place: Mars Hill, Ann Arbor Vineyard. How ‘bout Frontline Church? ”

He didn’t budge. “Come on, babe. He’s like a dad to me.”

“A dad?”

“You always say Mason is like a dad to you.”

“But Mason has a PhD. He doesn’t sell ‘miracle prosperity oil’.”

“Ezekiel doesn’t sell it, either. He gives it away for a love offering.”

“A considerable love offering, if I remember! It’s plain olive oil he’s pushing to gullible babes in the faith who don’t know any better. How can I support his money-lusting schemes?”

“Ummm. By going with me?” Hope burgeoned in his voice as if I hadn’t just accused his mentor of being a hustler.

“Did you hear what I said, Rock? Ezekiel Thunder is everything I walked away from.”

“You walked away from a lot more than that, babe. And you’ve been known to hang out with people with worse theology than his. People way more dangerous.”

He had a point.

“Rocky . . . .” I didn’t want to go. Please, God, don’t make me go.

“He’s changed, babe. Give him a chance. For me.”

The eyes again, and a smile with an invisible tail wag.

I grumbled.

He grinned.

I gave him a dramatic sigh. “What time are we leaving?”

“If you’re not busy, and you’re not, we can leave in a few hours. I’ll pick you up at six.”

“How do you know I don’t have plans?”

“Because you have antisocial tendencies.”

“Don’t hold back, Rock. What do you really think about me?”

“Don’t worry,” he said, ignoring my insolence. “You’re gonna fall in love with Ezekiel.”

I rolled my eyes. “Not likely.”

He put his face right in front of mine until we were eye to eye. “You are feeling veeeeeery tired. You’re getting sleepy. You’re going to enjoy yourself at the crusade.”

“No fair,” I said, “Those eyes of yours are potent hypnotizers.”

“You are going to love Ezekiel Thunder.”

“I am going to love Ezekiel Thunder.”

Rocky got out of my face. “You’ve gotta admit, babe. This will be safer than sleuthing.”

No, it won’t, a disembodied voice--also known as the still, small voice of God--informed me.

I tried to ignore it. Maybe this Spirit prompting was speaking figuratively.

Couldn’t ignore it.

What, Lord, am I some kind of trouble magnet?

Don’t answer that, God.

I started rationalizing immediately to take the edge off what I truly hoped was not a prophetic warning. Maybe I could fall in love with the guy and respect him. Maybe he could even heal the egg-sized growth on my lower abdomen that scared me to death each time I ran my index finger across it. Maybe I could even find the keys to unlock the little room inside my heart where all the Ezekiel Thunders I’ve ever known were locked. I’d stored them there to keep me safe from the particular brand of harm only they could inflict.

I could feel my defenses shoot up as if a rocket propelled them.

Fall in love with Ezekiel Thunder?

I wished.

I shouldn’t have wished. My great-grandmother and namesake Amanda Bell Brown use to say, “Be careful what you wish for, baby. You just might get it.”

She ain’t never lied.


BOOK CLUB'S SPECIAL SHADOW OF THE LIONS DINNER MARCH 09



GINGER GARRETT RECENTLY CAME TO SPEAK TO OUR BOOK CLUB WE TOLD HER ABOUT OUR DINNER.
Below is the Dinner we ate at Ginger's Suggestion. We were hoping to experience the time period of King Henry VII and bring the book to life for us through the dinner.














THANK YOU ANGELAfor coordinating this event and having it at your house. Wow! You have an eye for setting a lovely table. Angela even surprised all of us with tiarra's to wear for the event. It made the night very special. Thank you.


Trisha and Jean contented after we had finished our feast.

Angela and Cindy are concentrating on table talk

Bless you Sharen - We all were thankful you ventured out to meet our Monday and Tuesday night crowd for the first time. Of course everyone couldn't make it to this event. Sharen has just started with book club and I'm so glad she can make it to this event.


Marlene and Gail are involved in table talk as well. THANK YOU GAIL for taking all these pictures so that we could remember this Medival Feast and think about King Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn. Which we aread about in the book Ginger wrote called The Shadow of Lions.


We have other field trips planned for the year. Hope some others can come out to them. It's going to be fun.

2009 CHRISTY AWARD NOMINEES



CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE


Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group




Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren • Tyndale House Publishers


Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White by Claudia Mair Burney • David C. Cook


CONTEMPORARY SERIES, SEQUELS, AND NOVELLAS


Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group


Summer Snow by Nicole Baart • Tyndale House Publishers


You Had Me at Good-bye by Tracey Bateman • FaithWords


CONTEMPORARY STANDALONE



Dogwood by Chris Fabry • Tyndale House Publishers



Embrace Me by Lisa Samson • Thomas Nelson


Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon by Debbie Fuller Thomas • Moody Publishers


FIRST NOVEL



Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan-Lake • David C. Cook



Rain Song by Alice J. Wisler • Bethany House Publishers



Safe at Home by Richard Doster • David C. Cook


HISTORICAL



Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley • B&H Publishing Group



Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin • Bethany House Publishers



Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser • Bethany House Publishers


HISTORICAL ROMANCE


Calico Canyon by Mary Connealy • Barbour Publishers


From a Distance by Tamera Alexander • Bethany House Publishers



The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen • B&H Publishing Group


SUSPENSE



By Reason of Insanity by Randy Singer • Tyndale House Publishers



The Rook by Steven James • Revell



Winter Haven by Athol Dickson • Bethany House Publishers


VISIONARY



The Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka • Harvest House Publishers



Shade by John B. Olson • B&H Publishing Group



Vanish by Tom Pawlik • Tyndale House Publishers


YOUNG ADULT



The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina • FaithWords



I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Gohlke • Moody Publishers



On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson • WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group