Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: A Sound Among the Trees

A Novel Set in Civil War Times

A Sound Among the Trees keeps you turning pages from beginning to end. Susan Meissner does her homework and, in this novel, shines a spotlight on family relationships complicated by the Civil War. Susanna was rumored to be a spy for the north whose presence lived on at Holly Oak, a stately southern mansion with a cannonball embedded in its walls. Generations later, Marielle married into this family, which could not seem to break free from shadows of the past.

The novel captures the complexities of love and loss, grudges and forgiveness. Are the tragedies within the family the result of ghostly activity or what causes townspeople to believe the house is cursed? What is the secret that supposedly lies “beneath their feet”? How have the inhabitants of Holly Oak, especially the matriarch Adelaide, been scarred by the past? Such are the questions you want answered as you enjoy this fictional account of southern living.

This book opened my eyes to the kinds of turmoil within families caused by the Civil War, especially for those who had moved from one region of the country to another. We think of the war as north against south, good guys against bad guys. But what about families with mixed loyalties? A reader’s guide offers questions for discussion, and authors’ notes offer recommended resources. All in all a wonderful read for a cold winter’s night.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: I, Saul

A Novel
I, Saul weaves an interesting story of the childhood and experiences that may have shaped the man who became Paul the Apostle. Author Jerry B. Jenkins with James S. MacDonald alternate Saul’s story with chapters about a young seminary professor caught in an intrigue relating to valuable parchments. Of course, there’s a bit of romance thrown in and lots of relationships that develop through the story.

With the alternating chapters, I occasionally had to check back to keep characters straight—who was good, who was bad. And of course, sometimes you weren’t sure who was what. All in all I found it an insightful and entertaining read.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Crossroads of Life

Dear Friends,

I am at a crossroads--the intersection of Aging and Productivity. One road leads uphill, the other down. After seven plus decades of life, what does God expect of me? What can I expect of myself?

I love productivity--projects. Nothing makes me happier than to have articles to write, a new retreat theme to work on. But my productivity has decreased. It’s hard to find writing assignments that appeal to me. If I write, I want to write something inspirational, something that will encourage others. But what shall I write about and who will want to read it?

The aspects of aging now take so much of my time: exercise sessions, doctor’s appointments, cooking meals. Everything takes longer. There is little time left over to “produce” anything. How do I find balance? What is realistic, at my age, at this stage?

Although I don’t climb stairs as fast as I used to, I want to keep my mind nimble. The professional aspects of my life enrich me and provide that mental stimulation I seek, so I don’t want to give up writing or speaking. To that end I also watch DVD’s of college courses on writing, speaking, nutrition, the mind. Right now I’m watching one on communications. I love

Maybe it’s because I was a business education teacher, but I like to have something to show for my efforts at the end of the day—pages typed, chores checked off, things accomplished. I don’t like puttering around my house. Right now I need to put away pictures that my husband took down to paint a hallway. Ugh. I hate the thought of packing them up.

So what brings satisfaction at this stage of life? Maybe instead of becoming frustrated with aging and my lack of productivity, I need to re-establish a workable schedule. I think the most satisfying life for me would be to set the alarm for 7 a.m., have devotions, eat breakfast and work in my office before going to exercise sessions. After lunch I could write, actually put words on paper, for two hours, then do the laundry, cook supper, etc. That would make me happy. I’ll try to stick to that schedule this month.

What intersection are you facing? Leave a comment so we may encourage each other as we drive along on this journey called life.

Here’s a special offer: Since both Sisterhood of Faith and Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides make great gifts for women and Valentine’s Day is coming up fast, I would be happy to give you both for $30. In bookstores, you would pay $24.99 for Sisterhood and $17.99 for Guilt Trips, which totals $42.98! To take advantage of this February offer, just e-mail your name and address to me at If you want the books personalized, include the first name of the person to whom the book should be autographed. Be sure to indicate which title for which name. I’ll send out the books and include an invoice. I’ll even pay the shipping. Sisterhood tells the story of 365 inspirational women, and Guilt Trips tells personal stories written by Janine Boyer, Kim Messinger and me. Both are meant to be read a page a day for inspiration. Who do you know who might be blessed by one or both of these books? Looking forward to hearing from you.