Book Review: Murder in an English Village

EnglishIn Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott, Beryl Helliwell seeks adventure all over the world in the 1920s. Brash, impulsive, and outspoken, she’s become famous as newspapers cover her exploits. “Beryl had a great deal of experience with people in the throes of shock. It tended to happen to others at an alarming rate when she was in the vicinity.”

But she has become bored and restless. After a while “one camel caravan is very much like another.” Finding an ad for a room to rent in the small English village of Walmsley Parva, Beryl decides to take a break and rest a while.

Edwina Davenport has been a quiet pillar in Walmsley Parva for decades, but the economy after WWI has greatly reduced her resources. When she decides to rent a room, she’s delighted when her old school chum, Beryl, asks to rent it. As the two get reacquainted, Edwina admits that she’s embarrassed to go into the village and face scrutiny and gossip because of her financial constraints. Beryl takes it upon herself to help out: she tells the chief rumormonger in town that she and Edwina are secret agents, and “Ed’s” seemingly reduced circumstances are just a front.

Edwina’s dismay at Beryl’s storytelling morphs into deep concern after someone makes an attempt on Edwina’s life in her own back yard. Who in sleepy little Walmsley Parva would have a secret that they don’t want investigated?

I had not heard of this book or author until I was sorting through a 2-for-1 sale at Audible. I had found one book I wanted, but couldn’t find another among the sale items. Then I saw this title. Normally I am wary of modern fiction, because usually it contains bad language or sexual scenes. But I perused a few reviews that said this was a clean story, so I took a chance on it.

As a “cozy mystery,” it’s a lot of fun. Well, except for a murder investigation and several sad tales connected with it. But Beryl and Edwina play well off each other. The story has a cast of distinctive characters. It dragged just a bit for me in the middle as the two women interviewed several people, but as the clues unfolded, the mystery came together satisfactorily. The ending left the possibility open for more Beryl and Edwina stories, and I found that a sequel has been written. The two have good potential for a running series.

I don’t recall that there was any bad language except Beryl uses one word as an idiom which I didn’t understand. Edwina didn’t, either, but her sensibilities were “shocked.” (I wasn’t about to look it up…). Besides that one incident, and the mention of a man having “octopus hands,” the book is clean. Someone is found to have had an adulterous relationship, but nothing explicit is discussed or shown. Beryl does have a penchant for alcohol and divorce.

I saw some reviews criticizing the narrator of the audiobook, Barbara Rosenblat, for some odd hesitations. But I did not find them distracting and thought she did a great job.

Overall I thought it an enjoyable story.

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Book Review: Marilla of Green Gables

MarillaWhen I first saw mention of Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, I was intrigued but wary. So many dearly love the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery: how could anyone in our day add to the story? Would it just be fan fiction? Would the author make Marilla’s story too modern and politically correct? Somewhere, in a link I forgot to note, I read that the Montgomery family was also wary of McCoy’s book, but liked it in the end. So that gave me impetus to read it for myself.

In this interview, McCoy tells how she searched and marked the Anne books for clues about Marilla herself. This interview shares some other background information as well.

The book opens with a scene right before Marilla and Matthew decide that he needs help with the farm, and they discuss sending for an orphan boy. The next chapter takes the story back to Marilla as a thirteen-year-old girl. Her brother, Matthew, is in his twenties, still living at home and helping on the farm. Her mother is expecting her third child. Green Gables is being built but is not finished or named yet.

Marilla and Matthew work hard on the farm, and we see each of their personalities as they might have been. Matthew is quiet and shy. Marilla is sensible and practical, but she is a teenage girl and not an older spinster at this point. So she has hopes and dreams and enjoys idle time reading a magazine.

She makes friends with the chatty and opinionated Rachel White (later Lynde) and meets a young, strong John Blythe. Marilla’s first unusual opportunity to travel with Rachel’s family to another town to deliver shawls knitted by the ladies of Avonlea for orphans broadens her horizons and opens her eyes to people and needs outside their small community.

Tragedy strikes at home, which colors Marilla’s decisions for the rest of her life. Suddenly she has to work harder than ever. But she finds outlets for other causes when she’s tapped to lead the newly formed Ladies’ Aid Society.

Political issues in their region pit neighbor against neighbor and cause ripples of unrest. And Marilla finds that helping others sometimes involves risk and sacrifice.

I felt that the author did a good job with the setting and characters. The story did have a familiar Avonlea feel. Most of the main characters seemed reasonable representations (Rachel seemed the least like her LMM counterpart to me). It was bittersweet watching Marilla and John’s romance unfold, knowing it was not going to work out. But I liked that the author presented the break-up as sad but not unrecoverable. Marilla did fine as an independent single woman. I wasn’t thrilled with the political aspects of the story: I don’t remember there being much of anything political in the Anne books. On the other hand, the author researched issues that would have been important in PEI at the time, and it’s reasonable to think those issues would have impacted Avonlea. I liked the fact that each section of the contents echoed the titles of the Anne books (Marilla of Green Gables, Marilla of Avonlea, Marilla’s House of Dreams).

My one main objection centers around Marilla and John’s kiss scene. I felt that a sweet, chaste kiss would have been more in keeping with the setting and style of the books. Instead, the author has John falling in a brook, taking his wet shirt off, and Marilla’s sensation of her hands on his “naked body” (even though we was only shirtless, not naked.) The whole scene was written much more sensually than it needed to be. Sure, Marilla would have been a normal teenage girl with normal sensations and urges, and I suppose that’s what the author was trying to convey. Even still, I would venture to guess that most people’s first kiss even in our day would not border on erotic.

There was also a scene early on where someone thinks a bee is in the house, and the reaction from the other ladies was tremendously overblown, in my opinion, with ladies fleeing the house in panic, and the owner giving the house a thorough cleaning, even calling for the county inspector.

But for the most part, I enjoyed the story and the visit back to Avonlea.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Literary Musing Monday)

A tribute to my mother-in-law

My mother-in-law, Colleen, was born two months premature 90 years ago, before we had all the technology for preemies that we do today. She weighed around two pounds. Her parents made her a bed in a shoebox and kept it by the stove for warmth.

It’s a miracle that she survived. She did end up with a number of physical issues. One was severe scoliosis. I was told that she was also diagnosed with cerebral palsy: although that’s not exactly what she had, it was the closest diagnosis they could make.

She told me once that she could not take P.E. because of physical issues, so she spent that class being the girl who checked people in and out of the gym locker room.

She didn’t let physical problems stop her from living life to the fullest. She went to college for a couple of years, married, bore and raised four healthy children, canned produce from her husband’s garden. The family made regular expeditions to the hills to gather wood for the wood-burning stove that was their primary source of heat. Colleen split wood well in to her seventies, long after her husband no longer could due to his own health issues. Until the day she died, the nurse commented on how strong her heart was.

She also had a good mind and loved to use it. She was the editor of her high school newspaper. Reading was her favorite hobby, and she regularly walked to the library for a new armful of books. Reader’s Digest was her favorite magazine. Once she saw an article that seemed to fit her husband’s symptoms and convinced the doctor to investigate. Sure enough, he found that her husband had an abdominal aneurysm. The one time she didn’t want anyone to talk to her was when the news was on. A few years ago my husband was using Google Earth on his laptop to show her some of the various houses where she used to live. Fascinated, she said, “If I had one of these things, I’d never get anything done!” When she was in assisted living, often when I visited, she would ask, “What’s new?” Not much had happened since I saw her the day before, so I usually did not have a good answer. “Well…I got the laundry done…” She’d say, “Come on, you’re out there in the world. Surely you have some news.” I’m not into watching the news, but it’s one of my regrets that I didn’t look up some interesting fact or news item to share with her in those visits.

Her life was marked by quiet industriousness until her limbs no longer worked for her. She rarely did anything on a small scale. Why make one lasagna when you could make two or more and freeze the excess? One Thanksgiving when almost all of the family was there, she had almost one pie per person.

She was a child of the Depression, and so she was marked by frugality almost to a fault. Many family stories revolved around her thriftiness. Empty margarine and Cool Whip tubs were her Tupperware, causing one sister-in-law to ask, while holding open the refrigerator door, “Which one of these really has butter in it?” I remember her pulling some corn out of the refrigerator, commenting that it didn’t look very good, and, instead of throwing it out, adding more corn to the leftovers. Her husband worked in a grocery store and often brought home cans that had lost their labels, prompting many a mystery meal determined by what was in a given can. He also brought home out-of-date dairy products, prompting someone to remark once on “milk with pulp.” In her book, it was a sin to throw food away. She also tucked money away in odd places, like pockets of unused clothes hanging in the closet.

She could be feisty. One day, for some reason, she asked me if Jim and I had had any fights lately. As she asked, she had her fists doubled up like an 80 year old boxer. I explained that, no, we didn’t usually fight: we’re both more the type to get quiet when we’re angry or upset. She said, “Really? You never fight?” while swirling those fists around. She and her husband did sometimes, but they just took it as a matter of course and made back up after the argument was over.

She loved the outdoors. The family camped frequently. When she came to help with my oldest son, then nine months old, after my gall bladder surgery, she took him and the playpen outside every day for fresh air.

She did not grow up in a stable, loving home environment. Without going into all of the specifics, suffice it to say that after her mother died, Colleen said, “All my life I tried to get my mother to love me, and I never succeeded.” Colleen’s mother did not have the easiest life, either, but she chose to be bitter, and that bitterness spread to everyone her life touched. Colleen experienced her mother’s bitterness and saw how it affected all her life and relationships, and Colleen chose a different way.

I’ve heard different versions of which person in the family first became a Christian and how it all happened. Unfortunately, by the time I thought to ask about the specifics, Colleen was past the point of being able to articulate them. One story was that her parents started attending church and made a profession of faith which led to Colleen’s attending the same church. Another story had Colleen’s children invited to VBS or something at a church, which led to Colleen’s visiting. Perhaps both of those scenarios are true and involved the same church. At any rate, the pastor there remembers leading Colleen to the Lord when she was a young wife and mother.

Colleen was so enthused about her new relationship with God that she wanted her best friend, Margie, to understand and experience it, too. There were no concordances or Bible programs in that day, but Colleen spent much time poring over her Bible, noting and jotting down verses to share with her friend. Eventually Margie and her husband, Ken, became believers as well. Ken later became a Sunday School teacher and had my husband, Jim, in his class and led him to the Lord. Marge and Ken’s son-n-law led the singing at Colleen’s funeral.

Colleen’s husband made a profession around the same time, but he was not as into fully living the Christian life as she was. He lived by Christian morals, but he rarely attended church with her, and he sometimes got angry at her desire to give offerings to the church. She worried that perhaps he was not actually a Christian, that perhaps he had just followed Colleen and their friends without experiencing a real heart change himself. Late in his life, as he began experiencing health issues, she told him she had to know where he was spiritually. He assured her that he was saved, and their last few years together they had the spiritual fellowship that they’d lacked for so long. Neither of them came from good homes, and it’s amazing to me that they were married 54 years.

But if you can picture her as a mother of four children, with maddening nonsense occurring with her own parents all their lives, and being out of tune with her husband spiritually, you’ll understand that her life wasn’t easy even after becoming a Christian. She found stolen moments to pray in the shower and to read her Bible. She insisted that her children go to church as long as they were under her roof, though some of them protested. I don’t know if she knew this song – another regret is that I never asked her what her favorite hymns were – but this stanza from “Jesus Is All the World to Me” by Will Lamartine Thompson seemed to characterize her:

Jesus is all the world to me:
My life, my joy, my all.
He is my strength from day to day;
Without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go;
No other one can cheer me so.
When I am sad, He makes me glad;
He’s my Friend.

She was not an “out in front” kind of person, but she found quiet ways to serve God. She was the church treasurer for years. She served in Awanas, listening to children’s memory verses, until her hearing loss made that unfeasible. Just at her funeral, a friend told us that Colleen and her close friend, Sybil, had visited this woman’s parents in their last years. Who knows what kinds of ministries like that she participated in without any of the rest of us ever knowing.

And she prayed. As her own children grew, left home, and started their own families, prayer was her main ministry for each of them.

She was not one to complain. In fact, there were times there were underlying family issues going on that we didn’t know about until we visited. We’d ask, “Why didn’t you tell us any of this?” “Well, I didn’t want you to worry.” That’s why, when she could no longer live alone, we wanted to move her near family who could watch out for her and check on her. We knew if she stayed 2,000 miles away, we would never know if she wasn’t being treated well, because she’d never say otherwise. The only time I saw her cry after she moved here was when we told her house house in ID had sold. She knew that was coming, but the loss of that last tie with the home she had known so long was understandably sad.

Ten and a half years ago we moved her to an assisted living facility near us in SC. Two years later, my husband’s company wanted to move him to TN. Jim tried to get out of it, both because we didn’t want to uproot Jesse from the school he’d attended all his life, plus we didn’t want to move Jim’s mom again after having just had the major upheaval of moving two years before. But we ended up having to move anyway. After we were all settled in TN and Jim’s mom was in a new assisted living facility, Jim told her that he appreciated her having such a good attitude about it all. She replied, “Well, it doesn’t do any good to have the other kind.”

Our boys enjoyed finally having a Grandma close by, since we had lived away from all of our parents. For a few years we’d pick her up to attend Jesse’s basketball games and take her with us to Wendy’s or somewhere afterwards. We’d pick her up for church on Sundays and bring her home for dinner afterward. We visited almost every day and attended family dinners and special functions at her facility. We’d bring her to the house for holidays and other get-togethers.

But eventually she declined to the point of not being very mobile. She passed the level of care her assisted living facility provided, so she had to be moved to another. Neglect of the part of this facility led to a UTI going septic, which sent her to the hospital for 8 days. She was released to a nursing home, and around this time started having trouble swallowing and had to start eating pureed food. After about six months in the nursing home, she was down to 90 lbs. and not doing well. We brought her home to die among loved ones.

But instead, she thrived with one on one care and gained weight. We had not known that the doctors had her on a narcotic painkiller until we received her medication list when she was discharged. We don’t know why: they never spoke with us about what they did or why. Perhaps they thought her arthritis required painkillers, or perhaps they started them when she had a bedsore and then never stopped them. At any rate, we weaned her off of them, and she became more clear-headed. She was still bedridden, except the couple of hours a day we had her in a wheelchair. But she was aware and could talk with us.

But, of course, no one could stop the long-term decline, and many of you have followed with us as she lost the ability to speak and became less able to move over the last few years, until she passed away January 18.

On her last night, as Jim stood by her bed stroking her head and talking to her, he leaned down to kiss her on the cheek. He saw a tear streaming from her eye, which he took as her good-bye. She took her last breath at 8:18. Jim remarked that it would have been neat if it had occurred at 8:28, since Romans 8:28 speaks of all things working together for good to those who love God. The next day, I looked up Romans 8:18:

 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

In the providence of God, our church had been reading through 1 and 2 Corinthians together the last few weeks. 1 Corinthians 15, the great “resurrection chapter,” was our reading the morning of her passing. Other passages in the last two weeks have been:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens...For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Cor. 5:1,4)

Also the evening reading for Daily Light on the Daily Path for that night focused on what God is preparing for those who love Him, like “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9-10).

These truths were not new to us, but they blessed us by considering them again during this time, knowing that God knew beforehand what we’d be going through those days and had this reading planned for us. We witnessed Colleen’s “outer self wasting away.” But we know that, since she had long ago repented of her sins, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and turned from her own way to His, that He has prepared for her that eternal home in heaven, and she is with Him now.

Her funeral in ID and memorial service here in TN both emphasized those facts: that Christ had made a profound difference in her life, and that difference rippled forth to turn the direction of her family and bless whose who knew her. She would not have claimed perfection. She would not have enjoyed the spotlight and would not have wanted anyone to exalt her above measure. But we commend her for her faith, for her following her Savior, for her contentment within His will, for her example of a changed life. I think the words Jesus spoke of another woman in Scripture who demonstrated her love for Him could be spoken of Colleen as well: “She has done what she could.” And just as the perfume in that situation spread, so too Colleen’s life manifested His fragrance:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth)

Friday’s Fave Five

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It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

It’s been a full week, physically and emotionally, but a good one. Here are the best parts:

1. A great trip to Idaho for my husband’s mother’s funeral. Though the cause for our travel was sad, other aspects of the trip were fun. We had not traveled together as a family since Jason’s wedding, almost ten years ago. It was neat to be part of Timothy’s first flight. He loved it and handled everything wonderfully. Being in a hotel, visiting each other’s rooms, meeting various ones in the breakfast area were all enjoyable. My husband’s oldest brother and sister-in-law were at the same hotel, so we spent a lot of time in the breakfast room chatting. The boys liked the indoor pool and hot tub in the evenings.

2. A sightseeing tour through Jim’s home town. Mittu and Timothy had never been to ID, and the rest of us had not been in ages. The boys had only distant memories. We drove by Jim’s old house and noted the changes, various places he worked and went to school, walked a little bit around Snake River Canyon and Shoshone Falls. It was too cold and we didn’t have enough time to stay outside long, but it was fun.

3. Reconnecting and catching up with extended family and friends. Jim had gone back to ID over ten years ago to bring his mom back to our place, and much of the family met together then. But the rest of us had not seen his side of the family in maybe 18-20 years or more. Some we’ve kept in touch with on Facebook, which is nice but not quite the same. But some of the nieces and nephews aren’t on FB very much. It was almost like a family reunion. One niece remarked that the only thing wrong was that Grandma wasn’t there to enjoy it. She would have loved it. If she could see us from heaven, I’m sure she was happy to see us all together. A special treat was meeting one of her friends that I had been corresponding with for a few years and who has become a sweet reader and commenter on my blog.

4. Wonderful hotel staff. Various ones of us were in three different hotels and didn’t really have a central place to meet. In past years the gathering place would have been Grandma’s house. Our hotel served breakfast, but otherwise the breakfast room was not in use except for keeping coffee available for guests. The staff let us meet there as much as we liked and even allowed us to bring in pizzas to share after the funeral, offered bowls and tongs for ice, etc. We tried to clean up as best we could, straightening and wiping off tables, but I know we caused them more work with extra trash and vacuuming. They could not have been nicer.

5. A few days off from regular chores. It was nice not to have to cook or wash dishes and to have a maid tidy up the room for a few days.

Bonus: Praying friends and answered prayer. I had messaged a few friends with prayer requests for various aspects of the trip and funeral. Traveling with IBS was a particular concern. All that I had asked prayer for went amazingly well. I’m so thankful to God for His grace and for friends who upheld in prayer and sent encouraging notes along the way.

Jim is off (well, mostly – still having to deal with emails and a few phone calls related to work) the rest of this week, but we’re transitioning back to normal. Or a new normal, I should say, adjusting to life without Grandma’s care.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge 2019 Sign-up

It’s time for the Laura Ingalls Wilder reading Challenge for 2018! The basic idea is to read anything by, about, or relating to Laura Ingalls Wilder during February, the month of her birth and death. I have an extensive book list here if you’d like some ideas beyond the Little House series, but if course the Little House series is delightful to read or reread.

In the comments below let us know what you’re planning to read. On Feb. 28 I’ll have a wrap-up post where you can tell us how you did and what you thought, either in the comments or with a link back to your posts. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you do I’d appreciate your linking back here.

Sometimes participants have done projects or made recipes from the series as well. If you do so, please do share with us! Annette at Little House Companion has some activities and other resources.

At the end I’ll draw a name from those who participate to win their choice of a prize:

The Little House Cookbook compiled by Barbara M. Walker

OR

Laura’s Album: A Remembrance Scrapbook of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson

OR

Little House Coloring Book, which contains art and quotes from the books. It’s not designed as an “adult” coloring book, but adults could certainly use it. 🙂

If none of those suits you, I can substitute a similarly-priced Laura book of your choice. To be eligible, leave a comment on the wrap-up post at the end of the month telling us what you read for this challenge. I’ll choose a name through random.org. a week from then to give everyone time to get their last books and posts finished.

This year I am planning to read On the Way Home, written by Laura as she, Almanzo, and Rose traveled from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, and The Road Back, in which Laura and Almanzo traveled back to De Smet for a visit.

How about you? Will you be joining us this year? What will you be reading?

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

January Musings

January used to be a gloomy month for me. The landscape seemed all the more bleak and colorless after the Christmas lights and decorations had been taken down. The first warm spring breezes and colorful blooms seemed eons away. Coldness sank into my bones.

But more recently, I’ve enjoyed January as a time of rest after all the Christmas busyness and a transition to the new year. We don’t usually have any major events in January, so it’s a time to catch our breath, look ahead, plan, sort through things, enjoy hearty oven meals and soups, curl up with a good book, throw blanket, and coffee.

One adjustment this particular January involved my husband’s recent diagnosis of diabetes a couple of weeks before Christmas – not the best time (if there is a “best” time for that). It seemed to take 2-3 weeks on new medication for his blood sugar to settle into a mostly stable range. He’s lowering his carbs, and I need to look into lower-carb options for dinner. We’ve enjoyed frozen cauliflower rice for stir-fries and soups, but I haven’t attempted it as a side dish.

This January will always be marked by my mother-in-law’s home-going to heaven. We just got back late last night from her funeral in Idaho. More extended family came than we had thought would be able to, so it was almost like a family reunion. One niece remarked that the only think wrong was that Grandma wasn’t there to enjoy it. Family gatherings were the highlight of her life. She might be too caught up with eternal glories now to be concerned about what’s happening on earth. But I know that, if she was looking down and watching, she was rejoicing to see so many of us together. We had a wonderful time reconnecting with some we had not seen in decades, catching up with everyone, and sharing memories of Grandma. The eulogy and message at the funeral shared how Jesus made such a difference in Grandma’s life, which then rippled out into the lives of her family and friends. I want to share a post dedicated to my mother-in-law and her life one day next week.

It was a joy as well to see some of Jim’s mom’s long-time church friends and neighbors. I’ve communicated with a few of them about her progress over the last few years, since she could no longer write. One I had never met in person before until the funeral, so that was a highlight for me.

One morning before other family members arrived, we drove around the area to show our own family some of the sights. Mittu had never been to Idaho, and our boys had not been there is ages. We saw Jim’s old house, some of the places he worked and went to school, a park where we used to take the boys while visiting the grandparents, and some of the area’s claims to fame, like the Snake River Canyon and Shoshone Falls (though there wasn’t much water falling at the time we went)

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We all remarked on the difference in the landscapes here and there. Even though I mentioned January being colorless, we still have some evergreens. In SC and TN, we have a lot of trees and hills. In southern Idaho, it’s mostly flat except for mountains in the distance. Even though I prefer our hills, green in summer and multi-colored in autumn, there was something nice about so much visible sky in ID. Would’ve been a great place for my husband to have brought his telescopes at night, if we could have packed them!

This was Timothy’s first flight, and he did wonderfully with the travel, the different schedule, and meeting all the new-to-him family.

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In fact, on the way home from the airport, he said he wanted to take another trip – back to Idaho. 🙂 We had to explain that all the same people wouldn’t be there.

I can’t have a monthly round-up without mentioning books. 🙂 The ones I finished and reviewed this month are:

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren. Wonderful story about five people with various issues trapped in the same house by a blizzard.

Among the Fair Magnolias by Dorothy Love, Tamera Alexander, Elizabeth Musser, and Shelley Gray, four Civil-War era stories.

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa, fast-paced story about a girl hidden away in a bunker while both good guys and bad guys try to find her. Loved this!

Christians Publishing 101 by Ann Byle. A writer’s conference in book form.

Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines

The Christmas Heirloom by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade, four novellas connected by an heirloom brooch passed down each generation.

I’ve finished, but haven’t had a chance to review yet:

Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott
Read the Bible for Life by George Guthrie
If I Run and If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

I’m almost done with Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, and I’m currently making my way through Katie’s Secret by Leisha Kelly, Journaling for the Soul by Deborah Haddix, and I’d Rather By Reading by Anne Bogel.

On the blog this month, besides book reviews, Friday’s Fave Fives, and Laudable Linkage:

A Sense of Him

Heaven Is Not a Lesser Answer

Great-grandma Is Home

Looking ahead…well, today is going to involve unpacking, laundry, and hopefully a nap. 🙂 We’ll probably continue to sort through my mother-in-law’s things. When my husband goes back to work, I plan to dig back into the book I am working on. I have missed it!

And don’t forget the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge coming in February.

And that’s our January. How was yours?

(Shannan invites us to share our end-of-month round-up posts, what we’re into, what’s keeping us sane. Her link-up for January will be up Feb. 1)

 

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge 2019

With all that we’ve had going on lately, Feb. 1 is sneaking up on me. With the month of February comes the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge, which will take place February 1-18.

The idea is to read anything by or about Laura Ingalls Wilder during the month of February since her birth and death both occurred in February. I posted a Laura-related book list here, if you’re looking for something other than the Little House books.

Some have also incorporated some LIW activities during that month! It’s not required, but I love to see and hear about it.

I’ll have a sign-up post here on February 1st. You can join in any time during the month. You don’t have to have a blog to participate, but if you do, I welcome you to post about the books you read or any activities you might do, and/or post a wrap-up of your LIW reading at the end of the month and link to our wrap-up post here on Feb. 28. If you don’t have a blog, you can let us know in the comments on that post what you read.

No need to share now what you are going to read: you can save that for our sign-up post Friday. I just wanted to give you a heads-up that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge is coming!

Update: this year’s sign-up is here!

Laudable Linkage

Here are a few good reads recently discovered:

Studying the Bible Is Not Supposed to Be Easy, HT to True Woman. “We need to go into it expecting, not that it will be easy – that the Holy Spirit is just going to dump truth on us just because we were faithful to sit down and flip open the covers – but rather, that if we obey just some simple reading tools that we would use with any book, that the Bible will begin to yield up treasure to us.”

Minimalism Is Not the Gospel, HT to Out of the Ordinary. “Christian finds freedom not in lifestyle changes or donations at the local charity shop but in Christ. He finds relief not in what he has done but in the One who has done everything for him; not in needing less but in acknowledging his complete dependence on his Savior; not in the arrival of the recycling truck but in the beauty of the cross.

Why an unwanted pregnancy is about the baby and the father, too. “We also need a generation of women who will encourage men to take responsibility and show the sacrificial love and empathy that ought to mark men, not push them out of the conversation about abortion.”

When a Cussing, Drug-addicted Mom Shows Up at Your Church, HT to True Woman. I don’t like that multiple links to the author’s book makes this seem like a big commercial, but if you can look past that, this is a beautiful story of how God used a nursery worker to redeem a situation and draw this mom toward God’s grace instead of banishing her in shame from it.

Joining a Mob, HT to Challies. “We can’t let our emotion run away with our discernment. Hot takes should be anathema to people charged to be slow to anger and slow to speak.”

What Is the Role of the Christian Writer? “The Christian writer is not to write just to make others think. That is not enough. Making people think is easy—just challenge their ideas or shock them with controversy. That’s just noise, and Lord knows we don’t need more noise. No, the Christian writer is to fetch treasure to share with readers.”

The Dangers of Self-care, HT to True Woman. A little relaxation, taking a break, even hobbies are fine, but “When we sate ourselves on the things of this world—pleasures and comforts of whatever kind—we become spiritually sluggish. Our prayer life, our Scripture reading, and all the delights of belonging to God seem distant and dull when we prioritize our time and activities around gratifying our appetites.”

Cultivating Self-Control, HT to Challies.

The Demise of Book Collecting? No, not for avid book lovers. Good thoughts on the difference between collecting and hoarding.

And, finally:

Friday’s Fave Five

FFF snowflakes

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

I mentioned last week’s FFF that my mother-in-law had taken a turn for the worse. For those of you who may not have seen my post last weekend, she did pass away peacefully Friday night. We haven’t actually had the funeral yet. In order to accommodate multiple schedules, it is set for next week. Because of that, Jim had to work this week – he couldn’t take both this week and next off. We’ve been working on all that’s involved in planning a funeral – we had done some things beforehand, but didn’t realize just how much there was to do. But I think everything that the funeral home director needed is to him now.

We’re doing well. We rejoice that her suffering is over and she’s with the Lord. But we do miss her. The hardest thing this week is all the everyday changes: our schedule had been built around her care, and the first few days we kept having the feeling that it was time to make her lunch, time to change her or get her ready for bed, time for the caregiver or bath aide to come. I’m sure that will lessen as we settle into a new normal. I will probably do a post dedicated to her after the funeral, after I’ve had time to process.

In the meantime, even during difficulty, there are bright spots along the way, large and small mercies of God. Here are a few from this week:

1. Sunshine. It seems like it has been overcast for weeks, rainy many days. The bright sunshine a couple of days has been uplifting.

2. Kind thoughts and comments. Your comments on my mother-in-law’s passing, comments of Facebook friends, and cards starting to come in have all blessed us.

3. A granddad and grandson project. My husband’s brother sent him this a few weeks ago to do with Timothy, but they hadn’t had a chance til this week. They had fun putting it together and then catapulting several things. 🙂

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4. New haircut and stylist. The stylist I’ve seen for years resigned to have her fourth child. She recommended one of the other stylists to me, but I either hadn’t had a chance or hadn’t felt like going. I finally went yesterday, and the new stylist was great. She’s friends with the stylist I had been seeing, so I even got to see some baby pictures and hear how she was doing. And I didn’t realize til she punched my little card (with which, after ten visits, I can get a free haircut) that I hadn’t been there since October – no wonder I felt so scraggly! Nothing like getting one’s hair in shape to make one feel freshened up. 🙂

5. Ad blockers. My computer was having problems yesterday, and while working on it my husband turned off the ad blocker add-on for Firefox. When I started using the computer this morning, I was astounded at how many and how annoying the ads were on different programs! I don’t mind a few ads – I know free sites have to be paid for somehow. But when a page is overrun with them or especially if they are moving and changing, it’s hard to get anything done. As soon as I remembered the ad blocker was off, I turned it back on! And, I might add, having a computer working like it’s supposed to greatly brightens my day as well!

I’m not sure how much I will be posting next week, but after that I should be back to a normal schedule.

Great-Grandma Is Home

Jim’s mom passed away very peacefully last night.

Her decline til now had been very slow: she had been in hospice care for over three years (the usual course is six months). So I expected her last phase to go slowly as well, but it went very quickly. I think that was a mercy. The last couple of days were hard as she struggled for breath even with 100% oxygen. Hospice prescribed some medicine to help with congestion and calmness, and that made her last afternoon and evening much more peaceful. The chaplain came by yesterday and sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” to her. Our prayer had always been that God would take her peacefully, with no pain, trauma, or confusion, and that’s just how it happened. We were both in the room and Jim was standing beside her stroking her head, when he saw her last breath. We called Jesse in and had a little private family moment – Jason and his family had said their goodbyes the night before. Her regular caregiver for 4 years now (not with hospice) asked to be called when it happened, so she came over and helped the hospice nurse take care of Jim’s mom’s body, and then we all waited til the guys from the funeral home came.

As I said yesterday, death is called “the last enemy,” but its days are numbered. Some day  “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

But we do have them now, even as we rejoice that she is free from a crumpled, silent body and now breathing easily and reunited with her husband and sister and seeing the face of her Savior, who loved her and gave His life for her, whom she loved and faithfully served all her life. So we’d appreciate your prayers for her family, friends, and caregivers here.

Naturally I’ll be out of pocket for a few days. Thank you, dear friends.

This song came through in my playlist last Sunday, and seemed so appropriate. I wish I could find a clip or video of it online, but the CD it came from, Proclaim His Name by Mac Lynch and Tim Fisher, seems to be out of print.

All is done; the race has ended.
Weary bones are set aside.
You have now a brand new body
In a garment white, with celestial light.

Sin is gone; the pain has lifted.
Left behind are vic’tries won.
Now you see your risen Savior.
This is God’s own Son saying, “Child well done.”

Rest, rest, rest, oh, weary pilgrim.
Come and see that I’ve prepared for you.
Rest, rest, be at home with Me forever,
Free from sin and evermore I will give you rest.

~ Mac Lynch