Through the Trees

A singing waiter, a girl who loves to read (and who fights for her education), and a bad girl who only wants to be a mama were three of my favorite storylines in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

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Taking place in the beginning decades of the 20th century, Smith brilliantly captures the plight of over-comers. In this case, the Nolan women. From the deepest desire of motherhood in Katie’s sister to the deepest desire to rise above, in Francie, this book allowed me a birds-eye view through the trees. I felt like I was given an inside track on the themes that run through many women’s hearts, even now in 2016.

The main character, Francie Nolan encountered something that felt relatable to me. Mostly, the idea of being a girl in a boys world. That Neely was loved more because he was a boy made me mad. And that Katie had to work extra hard to overcome her husband’s weaknesses didn’t help either. This book was, I believe, an ode to feminism.

But above all it’s all about the books. The love of All The Books. Of Francie, Smith writes,

“The world was hers for the reading.”

Indeed it was.

So, of course, this was one of my favorites characters in a story. And this book, one of my favorites.

Catch up with all of the other books in my Best Books Ever series for the Write 31 Days Challenge. Click the button below to see what others were on my list.

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Summer Lovin’

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Pretty soon…

I have a puppy named Roscoe P. Coltrain to hug.

There’s a nephew with x’s all over his face to mark the spot where my kisses will go.

There’s a Nana to shop with.

And, an Ahab to walk the beach with and talk to.

A brother to hug.

A sister-in-law to love.

Childhood friends to visit.

Sand to wiggle my toes in and sunrises to peek at.

Books are waiting to be devoured.

Oh. The. Books!

A lighthouse to ride over to.

There are snorkels calling our names.

Fins are flipping in anticipation.

Jetties are waiting to be hopped over and fished on.

Manatees are waiting to be spied.

I hear that even the Puffer fish are holding their breath for our arrival.

Summer lovin’ starts super soon around here!

What are your plans for the summer? And more importantly, what are you reading this summer?

Table For Two, Please

One of my dearest friends loves to eat at restaurants. She’ll bring her favorite book and politely ask wait staff if she can “rent the table” for a little longer, when she finishes eating.

When I get the privilege of meeting her for a meal, I can always count on two things.  The first is that she will arrive before me.  I try to get there on time – I really do; but she knows me well. The second thing that happens, without fail, is that as I round the bend in the restaurant to get to our table, I find her hunched over whatever book she is currently reading, devouring a page. It makes me smile every time.

Her enthusiasm for reading is infectious.

And I can identify. I feel a lot like that whenever I get alone time with my God to read His Words.

Carving out the time in my day to do that is no easy task.  And, I’m sure that’s true for many of us.  But, it’s also critical.  Renee Swope reminds us, in her book, “A Confident Heart”, that we can’t “find” the time to spend with our Jesus.  We have to make the time.

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And He can help us do that.  We need only ask Him to.

Even if we work outside the home and have family responsibilities. Even if we work the night shift, or struggle under the weight of unemployment, or suffer with a long-term illness. Even if we are double-dog tired by days end. Whatever your “even if” situation is, when you ask Jesus to clear the way for more time to spend with Him, I can promise you, He will! He’s just waiting to be asked.

Maybe, that’s why I love spending time with Him.  He doesn’t force me to come to Him. He invites me to.

He’s inviting you, too.

Who doesn’t want to accept an invitation like that?

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The time that I carve out to spend with God is indeed at a table; but not at a restaurant table.  No. My kitchen table serves as the place where I can lay out His Good Word and my pencil and notebook and concordance and notecards and…

It’s a production, you see.  I want to be able to look up any word I don’t understand.  I need to be able to write any thoughts that He may bring to mind about my current thinking or behaving.  His truth needs to be underlined or starred or re-read out loud. Sometimes, I feel the need to re-write some Truth to be placed in a location where I can easily see it again and again.

And I just can’t do that in a restaurant.

But I most certainly can at home. For it is in those precious quiet moments, without distractions that I am able to hear Him speak soothingly to the hurt places and joyfully to the dark places and softly to the hard places.

And that table? It is always a table for two.

Join me over at Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Online Bible Study today. We’re discussing chapter 9 of “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope.  And the topic?  #WhyWorry I don’t know about you, but I stand to learn much about that!  Go be encouraged.

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A Little Summer Reading and a Giveaway

Books…I love me some books.  And I’m talking about the real, honest to goodness, Paper And Binding kind. I love to smell those books, fan the pages of those books, and feel the heft of those books as I use them to swat the back-end of a hornet.  Can an i Pad, Kindle, or Nook do that?  I. Think. Not.

We love books so much around here, that we have five full bookcases, in the basement, housing books we’ve read and loved so long that we just can’t bear to part with them.  Oh, yes indeedy! And I’m not even counting the bookcase exploding with books from my elementary teaching days or the books my children have outgrown. I do believe I might have just nominated myself for an intervention.

Now, Sweetman counts textbooks among some of his favorites down in the Basement Library (as we affectionately call it), but he’s crazy like that.  I mean, we’re talking about a man who is reading “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach” by Michael R. Licona.  For fun.  FOR THE LOVE, people!

Below is a “small” stack of books that I hope to get through by summer’s end.  One of these books I’m rereading for inspiration and information.  The rest are all new to me. (And this doesn’t even include “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God” by Lysa TerKeurst, the next Online Bible Study I’ll be participating in  over at Proverbs 31 Ministries!)

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To celebrate the fact that summer is really and truly almost here (the kids only have school for three more days. LORD BE NEAR!), I’m doing my very first giveaway.  All you have to do is leave a comment below with the book you are most looking forward to reading over the summer.  The rest is up to the random picker thingy at random.org.  Easy peasy!  (I’ll close out the giveaway on Friday, June 21st at 6:00 p.m Eastern Standard Time.)

If you’re the lucky commenter, you’ll be sent a copy of “Sparkly Green Earrings” by Melanie Shankle and, “A Little Salty To Cut the Sweet” by Sophie Hudson.  Both of these books are delightful and poignant summer reads – or anytime reads, really. These two first-time authors are also two very funny bloggers, Big Mama and Boomama, respectively.

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So, tell me, whatcha’ reading???

Get to sharin’!

To Read or Not to Read… Ahead

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I read something in my devotional recently that left me indignant. This one, seemingly insignificant, line ignited a little firestorm of conversation inside my head. It happens often. Some of the best conversations I have, are with myself (or my conscience. But that’s another story…)
 
What riled me up so? This…
 
“Also, by knowing the end of the story, I can decide if it’s worth the time to keep reading.”
 
Oh! Mylanta! I just gotta tell ya, nothing – and I mean nothing – has ever ruined a good story for me like knowing the end from the beginning. And to read that someone would deliberately choose to read ahead so that they could know the end and decide whether they wanted to bother with the rest, the middle, the meat of the story? Ugh!
 
That was my first thought, anyway. “UGH!”
 
My next thought was quite different. I began to weave together pieces of some of my favorite stories. Stories that captured my emotions from the very first page; words that continued to pull my heart-strings or pique my intellectual curiosity or make me long for justice right on through until the very final paragraph. Thinking through these stories, I quickly came to realize that I would have continued reading them even if I knew how they would end.
 
Why?
 
It’s simple, really. All of the good stories, all of them, have a story line that is so central to the human condition that anyone can identify with them. We can identify with one or more of the characters in specific and sympathetic ways. We can see ourselves in their choices. Their angst reflects our own. The ending is one we wish we experienced ourselves, or we could have, or wonder if might have even been feasible for us. We read these words and sentences with so much emotion that it’s no wonder so many book lovers will tell you that they are exhausted at the end of a great read. They might even tell you that they felt a little like they were coming down from an incredible high.
 
Have you ever experienced a story like this?
 
I have. Many times over. And I experience the story each and every time I pick up my Bible and read. I experience afresh the awesome and inconceivable love that the God of the universe has for me. I’ve read before that the Bible is a collection of God’s love letters to you. And to me. I’ve always found that trite. After so many years of reading this one story, I now realize that it’s not trite. It’s Truth.
 
The ending was revealed to me back in 1996 when I read the Bible through, cover to cover, for the very first time.
 
Even so, I’ve decided it’s well worth it to keep reading. Because this is the best kind of story to know the ending to. A True story. The True Story. And if you haven’t read it in a while, it’s the best book recommendation I could ever make.
 
And intentionally reading the ending first? It’s actually encouraged. Oh yes indeedy!