Parenting Sibling Rejection

“But I want to play with you!” “No! Only Esther and Tess are allowed to play!”

Some wounds from childhood cut deep enough to stay with us for decades. Rejection is leaves scars and warps identity and relationships.

If it’s not fun for one, the game is done.

When I see our children playing at the expense of sibling, I immediately remind them of their identity. “We are Crouses. We work together. Play together. Love each other. When we fight, we forgive each other. And no matter where we are, or who we are with, our brothers and sisters will always be our best friends and welcome to join in.” It requires frequent reminders. But, I have seen it play out heartachingly beautifully. 

Train them up in God’s love. In school, playground can often be hurtful battlegrounds. But if a sibling is in view, there should be a sense of refuge there. A safe place to run an be accepted. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

Rejection and rivalry wrecks havoc in our homes. As parents, we often pick our battles. I believe, this should be one of them that we as parents should fight tirelessly. The wounds of rejection grow to beliefs about personal value and love. It changes the way we see ourselves. For a child it becomes a part of the fabric of his or her identity and can warp their relationships far into the future, leaking from the home into our churches and our society as well.

God’s family is full of people from different backgrounds, languages, cultures and values and he bonds them together in the unity of love. When it comes to the blended and diverse families, there is none larger than the family of God. We find in His word the key to bringing our family into unity. He even made it into a family creed:

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:4

What is your family creed that binds you together? When divisions arise and the spirit of Rejection steals into your home, do you have a truth you speak over your children to keep them rooted and grounded in love? If you need a few ideas, here are several great places to look: Read Ephesians 4:1-16, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and pray Ephesians 3:14-19.

Ephesians 3:17-19

Father, give my family a spirit of unity and love. Lead us to be “rooted and grounded in love” that we may all  know “with strength to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Let your love permeate and define our family so that rejection and division have no place in our home.

Book Review: Labyrinth of Lies

Labyrinth of Lies is the latest book of award winning author Irene Hannon. With over sixty novels, Hannon has put her skill into weaving another modern, romance thriller. Second book in the Triple Threat series, Labyrinth of Lies follows the story of undercover agents Cate Reilly and Zeke Sloan.

When the daughter of a wealthy businessman goes missing, there is more going on than meets the eye on the posh Ivy Hill Academy campus. When traces of a cartel ring are made known, Cate suspects the girl did not runaway with her boyfriend as initially believed. When the different angles of this case forces Cate and Zeke to work together, the sparks begin to fly. Again. Regret, anger, distrust and attraction all crash together to fuel a raging fire.

Labyrinth of Lies has a decent plot. Cartel activity on an elite, private all-girls school campus? Who is behind it? And what happened to the girl? This novel was very much the book version of every average action movie in my opinion. Suspense, physical encounters and fights, danger, love interest. It was okay. As a reader, I did not identify with either character, so it felt like being outside the story a bit. For me, this was not a book I read deep into the night, but I did finish it. So there is that.

Three stars.

Leslie

An Angry Father

Joseph’s Decision

by Leslie Crouse

Joseph planted his feet and stared him down. “Balaam, I will not tolerate your stubborn antics.” He hated this donkey. The typical, rebellious gleam was in Balaam’s eyes. Every time Joseph needed him, the creature would dig his back hooves into the ground making a stubborn last stand. Or sit, if he were being realistic. And if Joseph did not keep one eye upon him, Balaam would take a bite out of his back side.

The sound of banging on the stable door interrupted the battle of wills. Hezekiah, Mary’s father, stormed in. The peaceful man was like a second father to him and had never worn such a murderous look. Stepping out of the reach of Balaam’s teeth, Joseph turned his full attention to Hezekiah.

Face mottled with red, Hezekiah marched up to Joseph jabbing his finger into Joseph’s chest. Nose to nose Hezekiah screamed, “How DARE you! How dare you touch my daughter before the wedding! Do you know what you have done?! You worthless son of a carpenter! You have defiled her!”

Joseph stepped back, brow furrowing as he took in Hezekiah’s words. His first thought was that this had to be a joke, but his soon to be father-in-law was shaking with barely constrained rage. Facts. I need the facts.

“Mary is with child? How long?” Joseph asked. “HOW LONG?!” Hezekiah waved his arms. “YOU should know! Her belly will be showing soon!” Hezekiah’s finger jabbed again, “You will fix this Joseph son of Jacob! NOW. Before anyone knows. Because if you do not do your duty by her, the village will stone her.” Hezekiah’s voice lowered to barely a whisper, “And then I will kill you.”  

Joseph was stunned. Mary? His Mary? Who had done this to her? Joseph had loved Mary since they were children. Her fiery spirit and flawless integrity had always drawn him to her. He knew she would never betray the LORD. Someone has hurt her! Who dared touch my Mary?

White hot rage consumed him. He clenched his fists and looked Hezekiah in the eye, “I will not take responsibility for that which I did not do. Your daughter is a woman of integrity,” now pointing his finger at Hezekiah, “as you well know, and if she is with child it is because someone has done a grievous thing to her.” Joseph crossed his arms and turned his back. Through gritted teeth he said, “I must think on this. It changes everything.” Joseph turned back around as Hezekiah stared hard at him. Joseph did not know if Hezekiah believed him or not, but one thing was for certain. There was murder in his eyes.

Joseph put down his tools and climbed to the rooftop of his house to pray. He wept for what had been done to Mary. He wept for dreams lost. None of it was to be. If he married her to save her reputation, he would lose his.

All his life he had walked in integrity. Earned his place of respect among the men of Nazareth. If he married her, he would be taking her disgrace and making it his own. No. He would not do that to his family. His father, Jacob, would be turned out from the city gate. There were more people involved in this than just himself.

If he publicly broke the betrothal Mary would be disgraced in front of all. They might not stone her, since she had been violated, but they would use her as a public spectacle, teaching other young women the dangers awaiting them. He gritted his teeth. It was not just. To take a victim and use their pain as a teaching for others. He hated injustice. He would not publicly break the betrothal.

Could he raise another’s child? He loved her enough to. But the thought of another with her churned his stomach with acid.

For hours Joseph’s mind circled the options. For hours he prayed and wept and raged. For hours he heard nothing from the LORD but silence. Physically and emotionally spent, Joseph decided he would not expose her to the public. He would quietly break the betrothal and allow her to be free to make her own choices. She deserved to have some say in what would befall her future. Mulling over the decision, Joseph fell into a troubled sleep and dreamed.

In his dream, he saw Mary walking down a dusty, lonely road as silent tears rolled down her cheeks. He reached out to comfort her but then pulled his hand back, knowing his decision would separate them forever. She was no longer his to comfort or protect.

Suddenly, in his dream, Mary looked straight into his eyes. Though her cheeks were tear-stained, her eyes were full of fire and his heart skipped a beat. Then, he saw a massive heavenly host armed for war, escorting her down the road.

A huge angel appeared and began speaking to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph’s eyes popped open and he bolted upright. Joy battled with astonishment. WHAT?

A plan formed as Joseph sat down and began writing. He would send the letter to Ein Karem with his next load of furniture bound for Jerusalem.

~~~~

To continue reading the Christmas Mini-Series, look for my next story The Wise Men.

Why We Don’t Celebrate Halloween

Last week my kindergartner was asked what she will be for Halloween. She said, “We don’t celebrate Halloween.” Her sweet friend then exclaimed, “WHAT? You don’t love Jesus?!” 

Friends, the American church has major problems if our children think Halloween is about Jesus. It never was and it never will be.

Light and Darkness

Every Fall I find myself sitting around a table discussing a shared love: God’s Word. And as October 31 approaches, new Christians and long time believers inevitably discuss Halloween. My heart sinks as the new believer sits in shock as someone speaks about their Halloween plans.

“You celebrate Halloween? I thought Christians didn’t do that?”

I watch as the new believer scrambles to reconcile Halloween’s evil, death, fear, murder, mutilation, and sexual perversion with their new life in Jesus: God’s love, truth, redemption, gentleness, peace and light, set free from sin and death by choosing Jesus and leaving the old behind. Can the two coexist?

Nervous looks pass around the table as people feel called out by the crystal clear perspective of a newbie. It’s a viable question as old as the city of Corinth.

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Satan? – 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

Parenting Discernment

Discerning truth is becoming harder in today’s world. We live in a culture that celebrates the many shades of grey. As Christian parents we need to teach our children how to discern light from darkness, truth from lie, good from evil and how to be the arrow that points people to God. By participating in Halloween we build a friendship with the unholy that hinders our discernment and befuddles our purpose.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9 … “[Priests] are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” – Ezekiel 44:23

If we want to raise our children to hear the voice of the Lord, we must teach them how to keep their hearts pure and untainted by the world.

Satan is ruthless and he is after our children. Fear is a high ranking spirit in the kingdom of darkness and the devastation is more widespread than most suspect. We must guard our hearts and minds and train up our children in the ways of the Lord. Why would I willingly hand them over to the demonic spirit of Fear? Are we willing to compromise our inheritance, our new life in Jesus, our children’s inheritance in Jesus, for a bag of candy? God forbid. At least Esau was starving when he tossed his inheritance aside for a legit bowl of soup.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23

FOMO

Speaking of fear, many participate in Halloween because they fear their kids will rebel later if they miss out. Don’t make decisions out of a spirit of fear. Some of the worst decisions sprout from FOMO or the fear of missing out. It is our aim to teach our children how to overcome this weakness of human nature and not be a slave to fear – of any kind. We are creative, independent thinkers. Not governed by FOMO. And when they are old enough to make these choices for themselves, each child will have a spirit that is honed with the sensitivity they need to discern the holy from the profane.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ – Philippians 1:9-10

A Witness for Christ

I have more honest conversations with people about why we do not celebrate Halloween than at any other time of year. It is the mark of Christ that separates us from the world. Frankly speaking, I find nothing in Halloween worthy of my time, honor, worship, attention, money or recognition. We believe in life, truth, hope, forgiveness, healing, deliverance and all things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and noble. We do things that ignite God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Teaching children how to stand apart from the crowd is a powerful lesson all children need.

Choosing Christ will be their own decision, but our children need never be a victim of group think. Give your children the powerful gift of knowing what it looks like to stand firm in convictions and make sacrifices for them. If you seek an opportunity to be a witness to the love of God, I urge you to separate your family from the Halloween world. Be ready with an answer when they ask why.

Praying Scripture

Father, help us to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [our hearts]; yet [help us] do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when [we] are slandered, those who revile [our] good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. – 1 Peter 3:15-17

12 Weeks of Christmas: #10 Mary’s Visitor

…continued from Mary’s Hiding Place.

~ SIX MONTHS LATER ~

For the last several months the only prayer in Mary’s heart had been for Elizabeth and the new thing the LORD was doing. That night, while in the stable deep in her prayers, she heard a voice. Looking up to see a bright shining angel, she began to shake with fear.

“Greetings, O favored one, the LORD is with you!” FavoredGod is not a respecter of men. Is this an angel of light? Mary attempted to discern the greeting. She knew Darkness often masqueraded as angels of light.

The angel spoke again more gently this time, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Ah. An angel of light. Darkness would use my fear against me. Giving her time to discern his greeting, the angel continued, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Oh! A grin split her face in a marvelous smile. Would the LORD allow her a part in His plan!? Wait – what? Wide-eyed, Mary stammered, “H-how will this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel smiled, clearly enjoying his role in this birth announcement. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Mind whirling, Mary could not take it all in. But the angel did not pause this time.

“And behold,” Mary looked up from her thoughts and saw a scene playing out in front of her. Her barren cousin Elizabeth waddled around her house with –thanks to midwife training – what appeared to be six months of baby in her belly!

The angel continued, “…your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing is impossible with God.” The angel’s joy made him beam with light. What was his name? Gabriel. Mary looked him in the eye, then bowed her head and said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” The angel nodded and disappeared.

Gabriel liked the common folk. They were not arrogant like those tedious priests. He thought again of Zechariah and grimaced. Truly, silence was the only solution for a priest who questioned Yahweh. Yet, Yahweh in His mercy had restrained Gabriel’s hand and limited Zechariah’s silence to nine months. Yahweh remembered Zechariah and Elizabeth’s pain and granted His mercy freely.



Mary bolted from the hay loft to the house. Nearly tripping, she paused before the threshold and took a deep breath. First, she must brave her parents and tell them all the angel had said. She could not do any of this alone. Confident in the LORD, Mary squared her shoulders and waited for a quiet moment alone with her parents.

Their “discussions” had woken everyone in the house. Mother believed her. Father had struck her for the first time. When she denied any wrong doing, he had yelled, “I will not abide your falsehoods! I know men! How could you be so stupid daughter?! Unless Joseph marries you NOW, they will kill you! Before our very eyes!” Ready to call Joseph to account, her father stormed to the door intent upon the carpenter’s home. Mary stood in stunned silence, her cheek stinging from her father’s hand. Then, her mother intervened and suggested a new plan.

“Send Mary to Ein Karem to stay with Elizabeth until the woman gives birth. Perhaps Mary’s midwife training may be useful to her. Mary’s absence would buy us time to address this issue with Joseph and find a way forward. And, if Mary suffers from pregnancy in those first three months, no one will be wise to it.”

Father glared angrily at Mary. “Pack your bags young lady. You are no longer a daughter of mine. You will not return to my house. I wash my hands of you.” Heartbroken, a river of tears was her only companion as she prepared for Ein Karem. Surely God would mend this? She looked South toward Ein Karem and prayed she would find sanctuary among this little town in the Judean hills.

Mary left before dawn. Her father would not see her off. Her mother had asked a friend who had business in Jerusalem to escort Mary. “Tell no one,” mother had said. Mary walked in silence preparing her heart for the coming storm of more unbelief, accusations, anger and discipline.

Father was right. An unwed mother would not be tolerated in the village. Unless Joseph acknowledged an act that was not his, she would be stoned to death. Joseph. She knew him to be a righteous man who cherished the law. What would he do?

Fear circled about her, like a carrion bird over its prey, telling her all the ways an unwed mother could die. It’s menacing laugh echoed in the her recesses of her mind as more tears formed in her eyes. No! I will hold unswervingly to the vow I have made to the LORD. She would be faithful. But she was terrified.

As Mary walked and prayed she sensed the evil straining to be unleashed. It was in these hours, on a lonely, dusty road that Gabriel’s words became entrenched in her heart; a lifelong mantra she would end up clinging to in all her darkest hours.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Look for Joseph’s story next in the 12 Weeks of Christmas: #9 An Angry Father. If you love these stories, share them with your friends on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

12 Weeks of Christmas: #11 Mary’s Hiding Place

Mary’s Hiding Place

BY LESLIE CROUSE

~ FIFTEEN MONTHS BEFORE THE BIRTH OF CHRIST ~

Mary fell back into the fresh hay finding comfort in the clean, grassy scent of her father’s stable. Every morning before dawn she came to the stable to pray. Few understood it. But her mother, Sarah, allowed her this time of solitude. When the sun shone upon the roof Joseph would arrive to escort her to the midwife for another day of tedious house calls.  

She could see her mother watching from the window. The moment Mary had begun signs of womanhood, Sarah had insisted she train with Nazareth’s midwife. “You are to assist and learn all you can about the female body and birthing process,” she had instructed Mary. “One never knows the turns life can take.” Mother believed in equipping her daughters.

Mary did not like midwifery, but she had already learned much. Her family lacked money for a midwife’s expertise, so her sisters took turns assisting the local midwife in an exchange for services when needed. But those worries belonged to the daylight hours. The pre-dawn hours were hers alone.

In the stable Mary could set it all aside and bask in the presence of the LORD. Every morning Mary came to the stable to find privacy and freedom for prayer. Her father called it intercession. Mary was no spiritual giant. All she knew is that she burned with the need to cry out for others. So she prayed until peace replaced the urgency. Today, her cousin Elizabeth was heavy upon her heart.

Something was shifting in the spiritual realm. She could sense it. There was an eagerness inside of her. An excitement she could hardly contain. The LORD was doing a new thing! An urgency to pray harder gripped her. Whatever the LORD’s plans, she wanted to be a part of it. For her, the LORD was a pearl of great value, worth any price.

Mary had no idea what was going on, but she knew Herod to be Judea’s arrogant, unpredictable king and Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, a priest in the temple. An explosive combination. What forces were at play?

A knock on the post below interrupted her thoughts. No! Has an hour gone by already? She peeked down into the breezeway. She covered her face with her hands and cringed. Joseph. As children he had played in the neighbor’s pond, caught frogs from local streams, and had helped her with her lambs. Her best friend. But he had gone and changed everything when he asked her father’s permission to marry her. Which means he knew. Mary stifled a groan.

How humiliating! Jonas, her wretched brother, had told Joseph she had begun her monthlies and was of marriageable age now. Her face burned with embarrassment. Joseph was not her idea of a husband! Regardless, one discussion led to another and now they were legally betrothed.

In celebration of the betrothal, Joseph had built her a handcrafted manger for the lambs she raised. Everyone thought it odd. Mary, however, had been begrudgingly moved by it. Together they had saved that struggling lamb. When he gave her the manger he whispered, “May we never forget our unblemished lamb.” Joseph is a good man. And as my husband, he understands my need to pray. At that last thought, her eyes lit up.



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12 Weeks of Christmas

#12: The Innkeeper

by Leslie Crouse

Hananiah sat amidst the noisy dinner guests watching them fight over the last of Evie’s famous challah bread. His wife was the best cook in Bethlehem and he was big enough to prove it. Evie’s heart was even bigger. He watched her serve their guests with that soft smile and sparkling eyes. After twenty years together, he loved her deeper than he could have imagined.

Over the din he heard, “Where are your children? I do not believe I have seen them running around here with my own.” He cringed and glanced at his wife Evie. Silence fell in the room as Hananiah watched a flood of sorrow overtake Evie’s eyes before she nodded at him and ducked into the kitchen.

He cleared the lump forming in his throat at the sight of his wife’s pain and answered, “The LORD will bless us in His time.” This was no new question. Small talk always led this direction and over the years Evie had learned to let him answer while she avoided the knowing looks.

That quick flash of pain in her eyes was the only indication of their deep sorrow. Does not God hear their cry? Does he not see what a wonderful mother she would make? Anger fought to fill his heart but he pushed it back down. God knew best. Over the years Evie had not hardened her heart and he would honor her by doing the same.

God had blessed them in so many ways and he was not ungrateful. Having been born here, they did not need to travel during this ridiculous census. Hananiah and Evie had been able to stay put and collect the income brought on by Caesar’s decree. Pompous man. If he were God fearing he would know strength is not found in numbers but in the name of El Shaddai. Ah! He must shake this dismal mood or his guests would suffer for it.

At the sound of a knock or, rather a bang on the door, Hananiah began the task of standing up. Difficult after another of Evie’s fine meals. He kissed her cheek as he walked by and whispered something in her ear that made her smile and swat his arm.

Outside stood a young man wringing his hands. “Shalom! Sir, I beg of you, I must find a place to stay tonight. My wife’s pains have begun and I fear we do not have long. I have asked everywhere. Please say there is a place for us.” Hananiah looked at the woman and took a double take. Wife? This was a mere girl! Something did not seem right here. Why can Evie and he not find joy in children while this undeserving couple did? LORD! It is not right! Well, whatever she was, clearly she was in labor.

Hananiah gritted his teeth. He wanted help, but the inn had been full for days and there was no way he would ask a family to leave. Refunds were impossible. They had already spent the rental income on linens, supplies and fresh grain for the animals. With town as busy as it was, food and supplies were scarce and greedy men had raised prices. Again.

The city square was no place for a woman to give birth. Where could they go? He must think.



“Shalom my friend. I see you are in need of… much.” He began leading them to the stable but the young woman paused to brace herself – one hand against the wall and another wrapped around her large belly – suppressing a low groan. She was embarrassed and obviously this was her first or she would have been better prepared.

Where was her mother? Maid? He set them up in the stable with fresh water for them as well as their animals and told them he would return shortly with blankets and food. It was the least he could do. Wasn’t it?

As he walked back toward the inn he heard another of her cries and the sound launched him back in time to when his baby sister was born. He was the second son of nine and had listened to births before.

He supposed he could let them have Evie and his room. It was in the back, separate from the others. But what a noisy business! Messy too. No. I will not do that to Evie. I will not make Evie watch a girl give birth in her own bed and then clean up after her too. Besides, if the other guests are disturbed our inn will always be remembered as such and destroy any future business. It is decided then. The barn it is. Evie would not approve but he would do what he must. His wife and his business needed to be priority.

Another cry pierced the night pulling him from his searing conscience and justifications.  The more he thought about it the more urgent the girl’s need became. This girl needs a midwife now! Where is that servant boy?

“Jacob, go get the midwife and bring her to the stable as fast as you can!” Hananiah yelled.

“But Sir! Grandmother Anna left for her hometown day before last. She isn’t – ” Jacob said.

“Then knock on every door and find one! We have no time!” Hananiah interrupted. At the rate she was going that baby may be here before the boy made it back. He watched Jacob, race down the dusty street. Truly, at this point any midwife would do. Any experienced mother.

Bitterness welled up again. Evie would not hesitate to help but she did not have the knowledge needed. He must tell her about the situation though. Maybe he could put it off until after the baby was born. She had her hands full with their guests. And if the guests caught wind that couple would never get any privacy.

“HANANIAH BEN JOHN! What do you think you are DOING? You told that poor girl to give birth in a barn? A BARN!” Fists planted on her hips, Eve skewered him with that fiery look of hers that withers every argument. She was on a war path now and was coming straight for him.

He had known she would not approve, but he had done the only thing he could. Right? That Jacob and his big mouth! What was done was done and right now they did not have time to argue.

“Eve, you must know given everything going on this was the best option. I will not argue with you about it. There is too much to do.” Eve whirled away in a fury. She began slamming open cupboards and ripping out all the brand new linens he had just purchased for their guests. He turned to get fresh water when he heard a ripping sound and his eyes grew round.

“Evie!” Hananiah’s face blanched as Eve ruthlessly tore their new linens to shreds. Never had he seen her so angry. It gave him pause. He turned his back and took a deep breath searching his heart one more time. Why had the barn seemed like such a good idea again? It is much too dirty for a woman giving birth. He knew that!

Before he could remember his arguments, His shame was punctuated by a loud smack as Eve stormed out the kitchen door arms full of the most expensive rags he had ever seen.



Beyond the Tides: Book Review

Liz Johnson pens Beyond the Tides, a novel set on the shores of beautiful Prince Edward Island. It is a story of Meg Whitaker, a brilliant scientist who gives up her education and career to come home to care for her sick mother only to find her high school nemesis, Oliver Ross taking over their family business. With themes of sacrifice, grief, and forgiveness, Johnson reminds us that people are redeemable and to be brave enough to cherish what you have before it is too late.

This novel mirrored, too closely, one of my favorites series of all time: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne, the heroine, is strong and brilliant, destined for higher education and career who gives it all up to come home and be a local teacher when a beloved parent falls sick. Anne abandons her opportunity to make it big opting instead to come home to support her parents and help run the family farm. She is then shocked to find her childhood nenemis, Gilbert Blythe, helping her from a distance. Agreeing to lay the old feud aside, the two develop a begrudging friendship that grows into love, which is only revealed through his personal sacrifice for her. It’s an incredible series.

While in Beyond the Tides, Johnson differs from Montgomery with her focus on themes of grief and forgiveness, the basic plot structure is the same. And the parallels between the two made it feel not original. At one point I wondered if Johnson was aiming to modernize the classic but I looked and did not see any mention of it.

Which in turn makes me ask a second question: How did none of the editors catch this? Surely-no pun intended-publishers still read the classics? Or perhaps Johnson loves that story and it inspired her to this one. In which case there needs to be an obvious tribute.

Given the glowing endorsements from other successful writers, my expectations were high. But I give this book 2 stars. Not because it isn’t well written or researched, or because the characters or themes were under developed, but because it felt like Anne of Green Gables rolled up her sleeves and took charge of a lobster boat instead of her farm.

Leslie

Book Review: The Nature of Small Birds

Susie Finkbeiner’s latest novel The Nature of Small Birds tells the compelling story of Mindy. A woman on a journey of healing and self-discovery, who chooses to face her past and search for her birth mother in Vietnam. The story however is uniquely told through the eyes of her three closest family members. Beginning in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam war and the fall of Saigon, Finkbeiner captures a picture of history rarely told to today’s generation.

Four days ago my friends and I shared dinner at a local pub and as we were leaving for a school meeting, an old man stopped us. He was wearing a Vietnam hat and my friend thanked him for his service. As he lit up, I wondered what his return home must have been like in the 1970’s. A sad retreat? A divided nation? Few patrons offering discounts to war heroes? It’s a story my parents do not like to tell. “A dark time in our nation” is how my mother put it. Finkbeiner tells this story.

Whether you were on the anti-war side, the support democracy side, or the nobody has taught me anything about it side, The Nature of Small Birds will pull you in to the roller-coaster emotion families experienced in this often not spoken about decade of America.

This book is moving and pulls you into a heart-felt story. Personally, I found the 3 distinct voices bouncing back and fourth over a period of many decades a little hard to follow. But please do not let this discourage you – I have been busy and distracted. I simply recommend you read this book when you can focus. The diction is also a shift away from standard writing as it is in first-person narrative/journal style. I prefer this in non-fiction but Finkbeiner does a fantastic job with her style. This book is unique and worth the concentration.

Happy reading!

Leslie

3 Ways to Master Angry Words

3 Ways to Master Angry Words

Learn how to master your angry words because your family relationships need to be protected. Especially your relationship with your children and your spouse.

He was in tears and I was apologizing. Again. Impatience and frustration had clouded my judgement for the third time in 24 hours. I retreated to my bedroom and swung in my hanging macramé chair, twisting and twirling as I silently cried out to God asking, “How will I ever tame my tongue? Is it even possible?” Then I heard it. God in his characteristic simplicity whispered into the secret places of my heart:

Stop talking.

As I twirled and swirled in my chair, I rolled the words around in my head and I thought, “What? Like a vow of silence monks used to do in the 1500s? Impossible. I am a busy mama.” But the thought brought a lightness to my heart I could not describe and before I knew it, I had decided I would try it. What I did not know is that I would be amazed.

Raising a family is not easy. Being overstimulated and overwhelmed means you may be short-tempered too. But does that mean life has to be tainted with angry words? That it just is what it is, or is there something more? I vote for more. My God does the impossible and his word says, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength.”

When we use food for the wrong reasons, we fast. When we develop an unhealthy relationship with social media, we pause our accounts and delete our apps. And if we battle an unhealthy relationship with words, we stop talking.

I know this last one sounds bizarre. Especially as it is coming from a mama who runs with five little children all day. But this is such an incredible and simple strategy I had to pass it along to you. Here are 3 simple steps to mastering angry words:

Choose a Time

Create Hand Signals

Stop Talking

Choose a Time

Pick a time that requires interaction. I chose to begin with one hour. Choose the hour before school or before dinner. Your purpose is to interact with your family without allowing angry words to get in the way. Tell your family BEFORE you begin. Be honest by apologizing for using angry words and tell them that you are going to do something new. “Soon I will not be using words and it will be your turn to speak and my turn to listen.”

Create Hand Signals

Life is still in swing and you will need a way to communicate with your family. Luckily, they say 90% of communication is nonverbal. Before you begin, create with your family some basic hand signals to communicate things like, “time to go” or “time to eat” or “bedtime.” Keep it simple. Personally, I tend to talk with my hands so my kids already knew the motion for “hurry up.” Ha!

Stop Talking

Warn them first, then zip it friend. No talking, humming, singing, emailing, texting or journaling. You are silencing your words and that means all of them. Spoken and written. This is your time to receive input, not give create output. (I highly recommend this for prayer, too!)

What should I expect?

Here are a few things that happened while I practiced fasting my words:

  • The kids tuned into my every move. No more telling them to do something 2-3 times, ending in a screamed instruction. They had to watch me for cues and they were so responsive!
  • They handled their own squabbles. Oh, they tried to get me to be judge between them. But since I wasn’t speaking, it empowered them to solve their own disputes. Praise Jesus.
  • The kids were empowered to demonstrate all they had learned. They have been trained well. But for some reason, my kids love to be told every move to make. This was a chance for them to show me how mature and capable they have become.
  • Rest. You may not realize it, but sometimes us mamas contribute to the chaos more than we realize. Choosing to put a pause on speaking gave me a rest from the endless questions, the repeated instructions and the the mental process of always directing and responding. I demonstrated my love through hugs and kisses and saw my family with a new perspective.
  • No regrets! Best of all, God spared my family from my angry words. I distinctly remember 4 incidents I would have prematurely reacted to, but in my silence I had no regrets. My original goal had been one hour, but it was such a lovely experience I ended up doing 2.5 hours.
  • More walking. You can’t yell at your kids to come in, come down stairs, or come to dinner… so there is that. It’s a small price to pay.