Monthly Archives: August 2011

A Young man’s guide to making right choices by Jim George

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

A Young Man’s Guide to Making Right Choices

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jim George and his wife, Elizabeth George, are Christian authors and speakers. Jim, author of A Husband After God’s Own Heart (a Gold Medallion finalist) and The Bare Bones Bible Handbook, has MDiv and ThM degrees from Talbot Theological Seminary. He has served in various pastoral roles for 25 years and on The Master’s Seminary staff for ten years. Jim and Elizabeth have two married daughters and are grandparents.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Guiding a young man toward making right choices will equip him to think carefully about his decisions, assuring a more fulfilling and successful life. Help boys to gain the skills they need for facing all life’s challenges.

In this book, Jim George focuses on all the high points of a young man’s life—the things that matter most. Teen guys will learn…

  • why prayer and Bible reading are so essential
  • what makes for the best kinds of friendships
  • how school and social skills contribute to a strong future
  • how to stand strong against temptation and peer pressure
  • what contributes to healthy and biblical perspectives on dating and purity

Young men will enjoy Jim’s balance of biblical insight, personal anecdotes, and candid forthrightness. And they’ll gain the skills they need for making right choices in response to all the challenges that come their way.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99

Reading level: Young Adult

Paperback: 192 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736930256

ISBN-13: 978-0736930253

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Making the Right Choices

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.  —  Joshua 24:15

Jason, a typical teen guy, was suddenly jolted out of a deep sleep by the clamor of trash cans being rolled to the street curb. At first he was mad, wondering,     Just who do they think they are making all that racket so early in the morning? Don’t they know a busy guy needs his sleep? Then a second wave of adrenalin hit, this time with fear, as Jason rolled over and looked out his window. Oh, no!   That’s Dad doing my chores…again!   I’m really in for it this time!

What time was it anyway?   Jason thought as he looked at his alarm clock. Oh, no, I’m late  —  way late! Did I forget to set my alarm?   He had planned to get up early to finish his English paper, which was due today! Drat and double drat! There were a lot of things he had planned to do last night — finish his English essay, work ahead on his history paper, maybe catch up on his Bible-reading schedule for his church youth group, and finally get around to writing a thank-you note to his aunt for the birthday money she sent several months ago. (That was his mom’s Number One assignment for last night, and he had thought to himself,   No worries; it’s waited this long. Maybe tonight, right?   On and on…and on…Jason’s “Things I Meant to Do” list went.

But Jason had ended up getting a little sidetracked. And why not? The money his aunt gave him had been well spent…on a new DS game. Well, one challenge level led to another, and before long Jason had battled the “forces of evil” so long on his game (a full hour past the bedtime curfew his parents had sent) that his mom had forcefully interrupted and made him end his simulated life-and-death struggles and turn out his light.

Life Is Full of Choices

Jason had begun his evening with great intentions of making right choices. But something pulled him away from those good intentions. And in the end — actually, the next morning — he began to suffer a landslide of consequences due to those bad choices.

As the section title says above, life is full of choices. And the funny thing about choices is that sometimes the same exact choice might be bad for one guy but okay for another. Take, for example, the simple choice of breakfast food. Jason’s friend Marty is trying to make the basketball team. He’s a great shot, but he has a problem keeping his weight down, so he needs to be more disciplined about what he eats. Eating several bowls of a certain cereal each morning with lots of milk and sugar would be a huge caloric problem for Marty, but it wouldn’t be a problem for Jason because he’s as thin as a rail!

Do you realize your choices for each day begin at the end of the previous day, when you decide what time you need to get up and then set your alarm? And the next big choice is actually getting up when you hear the alarm clock…which then leads to getting dressed, doing your chores, eating breakfast, and getting to school on time. Your choices continue right on through your day and include doing your homework and being a good family member when you get home, until you set the alarm again at the end of the day.

Yes, life is full of choices. Someone said it well:

My life is not made by the dreams I dream but by the choices I make.1

Choices Through the Rearview Mirror

You’ve probably been to a camp or retreat or youth meeting where there was a “guys’ sharing time,” a time when those who were brave enough recounted some of the choices they made in their past. It’s as if they’re looking at their past in a rearview mirror. (If you drive, you know all about looking into the rearview mirror to see what’s going on behind you, and if you don’t drive, you will one day!) Now, the guys who shared were no longer living back in their past, but they could still see, remember, and taste the consequences of their choices — both the good and the bad. Their sharing may have included phrases like…

I wandered off the path…

I became like the prodigal son…

I fell away from the Lord…

I got sidetracked in sin…

I lost my first love…

I strayed from the truth…

I made some wrong decisions…

I went off the deep end…

I got in with the wrong crowd…

I’ve sat in on a few of these sharing sessions myself, and I couldn’t help but wonder, What happened? How does someone wander off the path, lose their first love for Jesus, stray from the truth, fall off the deep end, or get involved with the wrong crowd?

Well, we both know what happened, don’t we? Somehow, at some time, for some reason, a wrong choice was made. Maybe it was just a little lie. Just a little shading of what’s right. Just a little bending of a rule. Eventually, as this happens again and again, there comes a day when making wrong choices became all too easy. And it’s usually not until then that a guy realizes his life has become a mess.

Checking Out God’s Word

It’s one thing to read a book written by an author about a subject, but it’s quite another to read the Book — the Bible — written by the Author of all things, God Himself. In this book, I’ll share a lot of thoughts and tips with you. Most of them are things I’ve learned over the years. I’ll pass them on to you as a young man who’s in the process of making decisions that will shape your future. But the things you should definitely make sure you take to heart and pay the most attention to are the things God Himself tells you in His Word, His Book, the Bible.

When you get to this section in each chapter — entitled “Checking Out God’s Word” — you’ll find a number of Bible verses. I’ve included the text of the verses for you so you can read them without having to grab your Bible. I also invite you to mark up the verses and make notes. You don’t have to do that if you prefer not to. But don’t hesitate to circle certain words and underline things you want to remember. Put a question mark beside anything you wonder about or want to know more about. You can even draw in the margins. I’ve tried to leave enough space for you to write out your thoughts about what God is saying. Do whatever will help you understand the verses and make them your own. (And of course, it would be a good idea at some time to look up the verses in your Bible.) Here we go, from God’s Word to you.

The Israelites made a choice — Joshua, the leader of God’s people, asked them to do exactly what we’ve been talking about — to make a choice. Listen in as Joshua speaks to the people about choosing between serving God and serving false gods. According to the verses below, what choice did Joshua give to the people? And praise God, if you read further in the book of Joshua you will discover that the people made the right choice, choosing to serve God.

Fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15).

Lot made a choice — Lot was the nephew of Abraham. Because of the large number of cattle the two men possessed, Abraham asked Lot to choose between two parts of the land. One part was green and with plenty of water — perfect for grazing cattle. The other part was dry hill country and not so perfect. In fact, it was a desert. According to the verses that follow, what was Lot’s choice?

Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered…So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east (Genesis 13:10-11).

Sadly, Lot did not choose wisely. He chose the grassy green pastures — which just happened to be near the two most wicked cities of his day, Sodom and Gomorrah. His choice was based on what looked good. Unfortunately, the consequences of that choice were devastating for Lot and his family.

Joseph made a choice — Joseph was a teenager when his jealous brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. There, in a strange land, Joseph was all alone without family. In time, his master’s wife flirted with him and wanted him to sin with her. After all, nobody was around, she explained. Who would ever know?

How should Joseph respond? Note his choice and the reason for his choice.

He refused…[and] told her…“How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9).

Joseph chose to live his life God’s way. He honored God. God then honored Joseph’s choice and made him a leader of the land of Egypt and the savior of his family.

Daniel made a choice — Can you imagine being taken prisoner and forcefully moved to a foreign land as a teenager? And once you got there, you were told to turn away from your religious beliefs and to follow instead the ways of those who lived in the pagan land? Well, that’s what happened to Daniel. In the place where he was taken, Daniel was told to eat foods that were forbidden by his Jewish background. What pressure! What did he do?

Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way (Daniel 1:8).

Daniel chose to live life God’s way — not only on this one occasion, but also numerous times during his many years in this foreign land. At every step and every day, God blessed Daniel and promoted him to high positions of leadership.

Things to Remember About Choices

 — Attractive choices sometimes lead to sin.

 — Good choices have positive long-term results.

 — Right choices are sometimes difficult.

Making the Tough Choices

I’m sure you already know your actions are a matter of choice. Sure, some choices are made for you. They are out of your control, and are made by those who are responsible for you…like your parents, your teachers, your coaches, and your youth leaders. But many choices each day — and almost each minute of the day — are yours to make. Do you yet realize that these choices are a matter of your will? You get to decide what you will or won’t do, how you will or won’t act. You make the choices, which means you can’t blame anyone else for what happens next.

As you prepare to make the tough choices, the choices that must be made, can you think of one tough choice you need to make right now? What’s holding you back? Peer pressure? Fear? Pride?

Pray young Solomon’s prayer right now. He asked God, “Give me wisdom and knowledge” and “Give your servant a discerning heart…to distinguish between right and wrong” (2 Chronicles 1:10 and 1 Kings 3:9). Then make that choice — the one that’s keeping you from living your life God’s way. Make the right choice, however tough it is to do so.

Things to Do Today to Make Right Choices

Read again the section “Choices Through the Rearview Mirror.” Do any of the comments mentioned in the guys’ sharing time fit your life today? If so, talk it over with God. Admit to God any wrong choices you’ve made. Then ask Him for the wisdom to make the right choices starting right now.

Read again Joshua 24:14-15 (see “Checking Out God’s Word”). As you look at your life today, do you think you are making the kind of choice Joshua and the people made, the choice to serve God and God alone? Why or why not? What first right choice will you make to begin choosing to serve God, to live for Him? Is there something you should be doing, but aren’t? Something you know God wants you to do, but you’re not? Be honest. The king and warrior David was brutally honest with God. He asked God to…

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

As you have already read, choices are a matter of your will. You get to decide what you will or won’t do, how you will or won’t act. Think of two or three things you can do daily that will better prepare you to make right choices. Then, of course, begin doing them.

Guy to Guy

Jot down three things Jason failed to do that started his day down the road to chaos.

What could you tell Jason to do differently tomorrow?

Of all the verses shared in this chapter, which one meant the most to you, and why?

In what ways are you like Jason, and what new choices do you need to start making?

Would You Like to Know More?

Check It Out

Read Proverbs 1:10-19. What warning is given to the young man in verse 10?

What is the advice given to this teen guy in verse 15?

What is the end result for those who make the choice to participate in evil deeds (verse 19)?

It’s your turn to read about Lot’s choice. Read Genesis 13:5-11. How is the situation described that made a decision necessary (verses 5-7)?

What did Abraham propose as a solution (verses 8-9)?

What choice did Lot make, and why (verses 10-11)?

Now quickly scan Genesis 19:12-29. What were some of the results of Lot’s choice?

What choice was made by two brothers in Matthew 4:18-20?

What choice was made in Matthew 9:9?

Have you made this choice, or do you need to? Be sure to think about it.

God’s Guidelines for Making Right Choices

Treat each day as being important. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Admit your need for wisdom…and ask for it!    “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)

Work at developing a deep respect for God.    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

Make sure you have a vital relationship with Jesus.    “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17).

Be willing to pay any price for the truth. “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).

God’s Guidelines for

Making Right Choices

Treat each day as being important. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Admit your need for wisdom…and ask for it!    “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5)

Work at developing a deep respect for God.    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

Make sure you have a vital relationship with Jesus.    “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17).

Be willing to pay any price for the truth. “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).

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Contemplating thoughts…..

Do you ever lay awake and wonder if anyone would really notice if you were gone?  I know, it is depressing and sometimes could be a little selfish depending on which way your thoughts were going, but in my thoughts I was wondering if I am doing anything to effect the future.

Are my relationships with people who it matters that I am around?  Am I one of the people that they will read the obituary and think “Oh, I knew her once.” or will they know I am gone because the irritating influence in their life is gone?

While I hope that I have a positive influence on others, I wonder if sometimes it is more the irritating influence, where everyone breathes a sigh of relief when you leave the room.

I have learned a lot about being invisible as well in the last couple years. I found that often when something happens in your life that you are ashamed of, you tend to pull back from relationships because of people’s reactions. People pull back from you as shame is contagious. If they are friends with you, it somehow rubs off on them. I started going to a church where I can be as invisible as I want. You see, I do not speak the language that the service is held in. I can sit and just focus on God in church, I journal about the sermon, I pray, I sing, I concentrate and translate the sermons in my head. I am not accepted to many others in the church as I am not the same nationality and they smile, but I am not the same as them, and it scares them a bit. I am okay with that, but it is a little lonely sometimes. I do have a couple of good friends there too, which makes it better!

But my point is, it is easy to go through life being invisible. We judge others by their shame, we pull back as it is the easier thing to do. We  think of ourselves and what will make us happy as well as safe.  It is not always safe to put ourselves out there, in the same room with someone who is that person that seems to irritate you. Sometimes though, these people can be the  ones who need you the most.

“Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” Matthew 25:45, KJV.

For me, I find this verse means the people that find themselves invisible, that are the  ones that we don’t always enjoy being around are the ones that need us. They may not appreciate it. They may even get mad at you. You may be besmirched by your association with them.

I know with my life, I have many struggles. I struggle with staying patient with my children, especially at bedtime.  I struggle with eating the way I should, and have trouble with body image. I wish that my husband did not have the mental health issues that he has. But most of all, I wish that my relationships with God and with others could be improved. I feel like such  failure sometimes when it comes to that.

I find though that honesty is the best policy, when loneliness hits strong and hard, and you wonder why it seems like you are doing, doing, doing, and yet seem to be alone all the time, have you stopped to think about who you are doing it for?

I guess I don’t care if people look at my obituary and can’t remember how they knew me. I hope they look at it and think maybe that I was an imperfect person, who tried the best I could to show the Love of God in their lives.

 

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Meal plan

Wednesday: Homemade mac and cheese, vegetables

Thursday: Broccoli soup, bread

Friday: Chicken legs, rice pilaf, Green beans (from garden)

Saturday: Crockpot chicken chili, chips

Sunday: leftovers, popcorn, cookies from freezer

Monday: Pasta with sauce, salad

Tuesday: Black beans, rice….sour cream, salsa

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Dinner with an imagination!!

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So, when you get tired from planning a wedding, go to the grocery store and buy hardly anything, but know it has to be enough for the week, it makes meal planning mean you have to use your imagination!!!

Milk was too expensive for what I wanted to pay for it. So, we went without it this week! I am not sure I even missed it! My husband drank tea instead and the boys drank water. We all survived!

There was yogurt in the fridge I discovered that was good still. It was from June. I think it was time to get used up! I made a batch of 34 muffins this morning…..my recycled muffin recipe!! = ) This time there was not any recycling going on, but peach and oatmeal muffins made from stuff in the pantry! Peaches from 2 years ago, (home canned), oats (bought in bulk) and flour of course with other baking stuff.

Last night, we had chicken enchiladas…..I used a quesadilla that got overcooked and was dry, but had a ton of cheese on it and I diced it up small and mixed it with a half of a chicken breast, a can of black beans, a couple diced banana pepper from the garden, then I diced up some more corn tortillas.  I added a bit of enchilada sauce from the pantry and mixed it up. I put it in a glass pie pan and then poured the rest of the sauce over and topped with some cheese. We ate it with leftover olives from the wedding and the last spoonfuls of sour cream in the fridge.

Tonight, I made a cheesy rice pilaf, pan fried chicken fingers with the rest of the chicken breast package, and vegetable medley. It had half a red pepper (leftover from the wedding), a zucchini (from the garden), mushrooms (leftover from the wedding) seasoned with salt, basil (from the garden), and garlic. I rolled the chicken pieces after dipped in egg in bread crumbs (leftover french rolls from the wedding). I also cut up the rest of the red pepper and a cucumber (also leftover from the wedding) and we ate those too.

So, recycling food can be fun…..using your imagination can be yummy too!!!

The chicken I bought for $3.20 last week, and it went for two meals and will probably be a late night snack for my son too.  Using your imagination, if you look around does not always have to be unhealthy, and can be tasty! I think maybe if I get some milk, bread pudding with lemon sauce is coming up!

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Ancient by K. Kimbrough

My Review:
Lose yourself in the mystical ancient world, a land where people ride dinosaurs, women are kidnapped by giant raiders and evil angels roam the earth. This tale of the ancient world through the eyes of Noah and the few faithful men who walked the earth will grasp your attention like no other book! This one is not just your typical biblical fiction. This book is atypical in it’s descriptions of the world the way it must have been then. It does not just quote scripture and leave you with the fact that people were wicked, but you can actually feel the reason why God would have had to destroy the earth. You can also feel like it was absolutely true that there was only one righteous man left on the earth.

This book is classified as the genre Fantasy, but it is much more than that. This is a biblically based thriller of sorts, that will curl your toes in anticipation of the next chapter. The skillful writing of this newer author will leave you with a taste in your mouth for more books.
This is a book that while I was reading it, I could think of a dozen people I would like to have read it! I will be highly recommending it! – Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Ancient

iUniverse (October 6, 2009)

***Special thanks to Kyle Kimbrough for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Author, artist, woodworker, and world traveler currently thrives in Austin, Texas with his beautiful wife Mandy and daughter Zoё Isabel who has recently joined us in this world. His plethora of numinous literary inspirations are often stirred by being in nature – hiking, camping, fishing, spelunking, rock climbing, and, of course, reveling in the unadulterated, wall-less freedom of riding his motorcycle through the hill country.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Every legend, good or evil, is birthed from truth.

In the ancient, mystic times before the great flood, entities from the spirit realm called Watchers were sent into the world of mortals to help and teach mankind. But falling prey to the lures of Earth’s lusts and greed, they forsook their edict. The Watcher’s half-angel offspring mature to be giants – warriors, tyrannically oppressing the free people of the epoch.

Young, free-spirited Noah ventures to save a group of women abducted during a raid on a peaceful Freeland village. What is meant to be a simple rescue cascades into a bloody incident, which in turn launches Noah into an epic adventure of peril, love, and spiritual intrigue.

Meanwhile, the turbulent paths of a rogue Watcher, young outcast, unpredictable loner, begrudged hunter, and beautiful escapee tumultuously entwine. Unified destinies clash into a perilous journey and struggle against time. Can they stop the powerful Watchers, conspiring with the aged and eccentric Lord Cain, from grasping the coveted key to eternal power?

Join one of the greatest legends in history in this epic tale – a fight for freedom against the tyranny of a seemingly unstoppable darkness in book one of the Ancient Trilogy.

Product Details:

List Price: $31.95

Hardcover: 384 pages

Publisher: iUniverse (October 6, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1440160074

ISBN-13: 978-1440160073

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

PROLOGUE

The thoughts of those who dwell on the earth shall transgress within them; and they shall be perverted in all their ways. They shall transgress, and think themselves gods; while evil shall be multiplied among them. Enoch 79: 8-9 Apocrypha

When the human race began to grow rapidly on the earth, the sons of God saw the beautiful women of the human race and took any they wanted as their wives. In those days and for some time after, giants lived on the earth; for when the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times. Gen. 6:1, 2, 4, NLT

First light would be the perfect time for any other hunt.

Soft, white mist drifted, swirling slowly past tall, lush green ferns, as two figures, mere shadows, stole silently through the forest. The early morning light, barely penetrating the thick foliage canopy high above, gave the waist-high mist an anomalous, pearlescent hue. The ground was invisible below the mist. Tips of shade grass, ferns, and mushrooms peeked out from the top of the listless fog.

The two human shadows stopped behind a huge, mossy tree trunk. The larger of the two leaned in and whispered to the other, and then slowly moved away stalking, hiding. The smaller one stayed by the tree, blending into the dark, hazy shadows of the massive trunk.

With a longbow in one hand and a leather quiver filled with arrows on his back, the stalker crouched behind a morel mushroom still in line of sight from the tree. The massive mushroom, textured like a sea sponge was conveniently just the right size to hide a full-grown man.

The hunter remained motionless: listening, watching.

He could hear the bubbling sound of a stream coming from the misty unknown, the periodic creaks and moans from lofty cypress trees … his own heartbeat. But what he could not hear told him that something was awry. No birds singing, no squirrels chirping, no animals of any kind could be heard. This was not normal, especially for these particular woods. And he could not ignore that feeling … or was it a knowing? A feeling that something was out there … that sense deep in his spirit that something ill-intentioned was watching him, possibly even stalking him, could not be ignored. Typically this would be a bad omen, but this morning it was a good one.

The crisp sound of a breaking stick echoed through the mist.

The man froze, and hoped that his son did the same. Chances were that it was just a deer or an ox just like all the other times when he had tried to hunt this particular murdering beast. But his spirit senses were screaming otherwise this time. And … what was this second sense that gripped his spirit so strongly?

He felt his heartbeat accelerate. There was another presence … a second one. There were two evils out there in the morning mist, hunting as much as they were being hunted.

Suddenly, he regretted bringing his son along. Mother did say that it was a bad idea and he should leave him at home along with the younger.

The morning light had grown brighter, piercing through the thick canopy of treetops, giving the mist a golden hue.

Crack. This time the sound was louder and closer. He tightened his grip on the bow as he scanned the forest for movement. It was as quiet as a tomb.

This is it. His spirit would not be screaming so loudly if it were not.

He made sure his arrow was in place. Remember the plan, son …

Movement caught his attention. The hunter’s eyes fixed on a thicket of ferns, bushes, and low-hanging branches. He caught a swift, passing glimpse of orange through the hazy green. The hunter watched, waited … steadied his breathing.

Then he saw it. A long, slender, orange-and-black striped tail swaying and twitching just above the mist. Four or five steps in front of the tail he saw a flash of striped, rippling, muscular shoulders. The beast’s head was still buried in the mist, heading straight for the huge, mossy tree that was hiding his son.

The hunter slowly swiveled so he could see from the other side of the morel, then raised his bow into position but did not draw. He had to wait for a closer shot. The first shot is the only one that counts and, due to this tiger’s reputation, anything but an instantly fatal first shot would just dangerously fuel his bloodthirsty wrath.

His heartbeat accelerated even more. He was tempted to think about all the people in his village this damned beast had killed … and how it didn’t eat them … just killed them … often tearing limbs from the body and leaving them there to bleed to death.

The hunter’s instincts kicked back in at the sound of another stick cracking under pressure. The beast was now so close that the man could hear the faint sound of its fur brushing against the wet ferns and dangling vines. Still heading his son’s direction, he could see it clearly now: crouching, almost slithering like a serpent through the undergrowth, nothing but evil intent in his wild, blackish-green eyes. Those eyes … those black eyes … they seemed to emit a spiritual darkness that he could almost see. Then he saw the teeth … twin entities of death. They jutted out of the huge tiger’s upper jaw: large, sharp ivory spears ready to draw blood … craving to draw blood.

Suddenly, with intensity that formed bumps on his skin, the hunter sensed that unseen mysterious second presence drawing closer. It was not the tiger … it was something unseen.

The beast was close enough. He drew the bow.

The saber-tooth tiger kept stalking toward the mossy tree, huge muscles rippling, and tail maliciously twitching.

The hunter heard a slight movement from his son’s tree a split second before releasing the arrow.

As the arrow sliced through the damp air, he heard his son release, then the whistle of his son’s arrow. Two arrows soared through the air at the same target. The timing was perfect.

Time seemed to slow down, almost pause, as the unimaginable happened … the tiger dropped below the mist with lightning speed reflexes and a large dark shadow appeared from nowhere and stood between the tiger and the mossy tree.

The moment of silence was broken by a quiet, yet chilling, growl from the tiger. The growl was not one of pain as the hunter expected, but one of malice … one of spite.

The hunter promptly reached back and slid another arrow from his quiver never taking his vigilant eyes off the tall, dark, hooded figure standing in the mist. As the mist rolled back from the quick movements, he could see the figure’s left arm stretched out, and a large fist poking out of a black, long-sleeved robe. The fist was holding his son’s arrow. The haunting figure turned its head slightly and looked directly at the hunter, though no eyes or face could be seen under the shadowed hood.

The mystifying figure then clenched his fist. With a snap that eerily echoed through the misty forest, the arrow fell in three pieces into the mist.

Instantly, the tiger reappeared from below the mist. The hunter looked a little closer. He could see the red fletching of his arrow poking out of a mushroom a few steps behind the tiger.

Unbelievable! The beast had dodged his arrow! And the mysterious dark figure caught his son’s arrow in mid-flight with his bare hand. Impossible …

Unmoving, bow drawn, he never took his focus off his two enemies.

What man can catch an arrow with his bare hands? He was still not entirely sure he saw what he thought he saw. No matter what or who this mysterious shadow was, if he so much as twitched toward his son, he would unleash all he had, sending him into the afterlife.

The tall, dark form, only a step away from the tiger, bent down slightly, and seemingly whispered in the beast’s ear. Instantly, the tiger’s crazed gaze locked onto the hunter as the hooded form lifted his long arm and pointed at him with a bony finger.

A chill of fear crawled up the hunter’s tensed spine.

The tiger lurched toward him with nothing but evil intent in his blackish-green eyes. Every muscle under that orange-and-black coat moved in unity toward murder.

The hunter released the arrow, aiming low so the beast could not duck it.

Just as anticipated, the tiger dropped down again, trying to duck the arrow.

The tiger roared.

He heard the thud of his arrow hit flesh just below the golden mist. Then the tiger jumped up with a guttural wheeze, and proceeded with his attack on the hunter.

It will take more than one arrow to bring this beast down. He saw the arrow’s red fletching sticking out of the tiger’s side. Frothy blood oozed and bubbled from the wound. The shot was too high. It hit a lung.

The hunter nocked another arrow as he called out, “Hithia!”

Another arrow flew level with the top of the mist. The tiger twisted to the side and with its huge paw, claws extended, swatted the arrow to the ground. He jerked his head to the side and let out an angry roar, then stealthily dropped down, disappearing again into the misty foliage.

Silence. The hunter turned his head side-to-side looking for the creature and its hooded master. Both had vanished.

“Hithia, are you alright?” The hunter called out.

A voice from the mist responded, “Yes … did you get him?”

He knew that his son could not see the entirety of what was happening from his position. “Stay where you are. I’m coming to you.”

With yet another arrow ready to fly, the hunter moved toward the big, mossy cedar, watching, listening, sensing. He knew the demonic tiger was close. But he no longer sensed that second evil presence. Spinning around he heard a shuffle in the mist entirely too close to him.

Fear is something he trained himself not to feel … or rather … if he did feel it, he would take charge over it. It would be in subordination to him, not the other way around. A man in his position could not afford to let it control his mind. Far too many responsibilities rest on his shoulders to be paralyzed by such a trivial thing as fear. But right now, in this not-so-typical hunt with his twelve-year-old son in danger, he was powerless to resist … fear gripped his heart in its cold, strong fist.

The hunter heard the twang of an arrow release just as he exited some bushes and saw the entire body of the crazed wounded beast leap off a mossy fallen tree toward Hithia landing a few steps in front of him as the arrow soared over the tiger’s back, disappearing into the forest.

Hithia dove to the side of the tree and fell down. The tiger, wheezing, with blood dripping from its mouth, crouched ready to pounce on his prey for the kill.

The hunter released another arrow. With a dull thud, it penetrated the beast’s side not far from the other arrow.

The hunter, in a protective violent rage, threw his bow down into the ferns, drew his long dagger from the sheath on his belt, and charged the tiger.

The raging beast spun around angrily and faced the brave hunter.

“Aahh!” the hunter attacked the tiger head on, blade swinging.

“Father!” Hithia yelled. On the ground next to the large tree trunk, he scrambled back to his feet.

No more than a stone’s throw away, another pair of eyes watched the violent scene unfold: the innocent, hazel eyes of a child. Hiding behind a large cluster of orange fungus on the side of a rotting log, which lay on the moist forest floor, a young boy was watching, not moving.

He had to do something … anything. His brother and father were in danger … the very danger he knew would happen.

He had to do something … this is why he had followed them. He already saw this happen and he had to stop it.

But, his body was solidly in place, paralyzed by fear.

Before the hunter could even get within striking distance, the saber-tooth swatted him. He took the powerful claw blow in the right shoulder, stumbled backwards, and landed in the bushes several steps back.

Dazed, he stood back up. Blood oozed from four jagged rips in his leather tunic.

“No!” Hithia charged the tiger from behind, stabbing him in the side with an arrow.

The hunter grabbed his bow from the ground not too far from where he had landed and swiftly nocked an arrow … but he was too late.

Ferociously, the beast spun around and slashed Hithia with his sharp claws three times before the boy hit the ground.

The hunter’s arrow penetrated the beast’s neck. The sharp, bloodied flint head poked out one side, and the feather fletching out the other. The tiger instantly dropped to the ground, his two spear-like teeth stabbing into the soft forest soil.

The hunter noticed movement out of the corner of his eye, but ignored it as he ran over to the twitching beast and his wounded son.

“Hithia,” the father said as he knelt beside his boy. The sight of his lethally wounded son made him cringe. He felt his very life force weaken as if he had drunk poison. Instantly, he turned the pain and grief off. It’s not time to grieve … not yet.

Hithia tried to say something but could not due to the deep tear across his bloodied, shredded neck. The hunter drew his son’s knife out of the leather sheath on his belt. Eyes hard and cold as the north mountain stone, he spun around and looked at the murdering beast lying on the ground. The malicious eyes shifted around, even now, with ill intent as if he were looking for one last victim before the end. Its tail twitched irately as a low guttural hiss escaped its bloody mouth.

Controlled by pure vengeance, the hunter grabbed the tiger’s long tooth in one hand and with the other, ended the beast’s life with a slash to its throat. Blood sprayed out, soaking the tiger’s pelt and the forest soil.

The hunter looked up toward a sound in the forest. A million feelings raced through his soul, grabbing and pulling in every direction as he saw a small ten-year-old boy standing over the other side of the dead tiger.

The innocent hazel eyes were grimly fixed on his brother.

“Noah …” The hunter turned around and saw that Hithia’s spirit had left his broken body. He then lunged for his younger son, wrapping his arms around the boy. Embracing him, he turned him away from the horror.

“Papa …” Noah muttered in a soft, trembling voice, “I … I’m sorry … I dreamed this. I came to stop it … I’m sorry …”

Still holding Noah tight, the father whispered, fighting back tears, “It’s alright. We killed the beast, my son.”

“Is Hithia …?” Noah’s voice quivered, staring at all the blood.

“His spirit has passed into the afterlife.” Noah’s father held him tightly for a few painful moments. Then he gripped his son’s head in-between his blood-stained hands and looked him in the eye. “Son, do not fear. Grieve if you must, but only for a time, then you must live, love, and fear nothing.”

A tear ran down Noah’s cheek, creating a trail through the bloody handprint his father had left. He could not know how this one foreseen event would define his future identity.

PART 1

It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children. Enoch 7:1-3, Apocrypha

1

“Where are you?”

A streak of silvery moonlight eerily beamed through a single round opening in the center of the domed ceiling. Several smaller moonbeams softly streaked in from high circular windows in the huge flora-laden room.

The silvery light washed over numerous flowering plants and short trees in stone planters, streaking past towering pillars as the main moonbeam brightly shown on the surface of the far wall.

Painted onto the massive wall was a giant map mural. The moonlight washed over it, revealing the crooked contour of coastlines, many serpentine rivers, and the rough terrain of mountain regions. Even the names of the regions were painted in beautiful characters.

In front of the map wall, paced a man’s silhouette.

“Where are you?” The old man’s mumble softly echoed off the mural, drifting into the expansive plant-filled, moon-lit room.

The shadowy form was slightly slouched, leaning on a staff. Soft, silver light shone upon the nearly bald head.

“Where are you?” He paced, never turning from the map.

The butt of the staff tapped the marble floor with every step, echoing softly through the lunar haunted room.

“Where?”

The silhouette abruptly stopped and rapped the wall map with the top of his staff.

“Are you there?”

Unknown to the old man, another shadow covertly watched from behind a large white and red passion bloom, with keen eyes that hauntingly mirrored the silver of the moonlight.

____________________________________________________________________________

The last colorful sun rays of the day warmed the lush, green valleys and rolling hills of the Freelands. An elongated hill stood in the center of a wide valley, with its grassy dome stretching just over the treetops. The elevated hill of rye grass and brightly painted wildflowers was a colorful island in a green sea of forest.

Near the highest point of the grassy ridge, a solitary, old, twisted olive tree proudly stood. It was not very tall, compared to the giant cedars of the hills and the massive cypress of the valley, but it’s beautiful branches stretched out well over three times its height, giving it a unique flattened top. It was as if it was playfully reaching out to the other trees of the valley, beckoning them to come join it in this ever-peaceful, elevated home of splendor.

The trunk forked into two main branches about two men’s height off the ground, making a perfect seat where Noah could rest and peacefully enjoy the view: a place for him to relax and meditate, away from the noise and clamor of all the lively people and the drama they spawn. Of course, Noah loved the town folk, but sometimes one just has to get away from the drama that existence creates. And this twisted old tree atop the dome of color was his sanctum.

Two chirping blue birds landed on a high branch.

Noah enjoyed sharing the tree with the birds; although the tone of their song made it clear to him that they did not share the sentiment.

A light breeze gently blew Noah’s dark brown, shoulder-length hair as he looked over the landscape with his hazel eyes.

From his high perch on the hill, Noah could see the world … at least his world, the one he knew, and a small portion of the world beyond, the one he hoped to someday explore.

To the south, down the hill and past the tree-lined creek, he could see his home village of Cypress. The reason for the name was obvious; a forest comprising primarily of giant, cypress trees shadowed the village. Some of the more adventurous men built their houses in the trees far above the forest floor, but most dwellings scattered through the forestland were made of sun-dried clay bricks and local wood.

Through the gaps in the distant trees, the people looked smaller than ants. Noah could see them milling about town, shopping in the market, children kicking a ball in the streets. Noah wondered if the people were looking up at the tiny tree on the hill as he looked down at them.

He could see the smoke of the cooking fires and the single, large billow of white smoke pluming from Uriah’s blacksmith shop. He could hear the chopping and banging of the carpenter’s shop near the western edge of town. And of course there were the two watchtowers strategically located on the south and northwest edges of town.

On the side of the ridge just east of town he could see the tall oak tree in front of the house he had lived in for years. The house could not be seen through the thick canopy of leaves but it was there. Noah would never forget what that tree looked like. Every knob, every branch was permanently seared into his mind. He and his brother used to compete to see how high they could get before they would get too scared and come back down. He wished his brother could have been around to see him beat their old record.

Noah looked north, abandoning the memory.

North, the mysterious north, the forbidden north … scanning the horizon Noah could see rocky, wind-swept mountains. They stood like a mighty dam of jagged teeth keeping out the dark water of the Black Sea, the great sauri of the wilderness of Herrer beyond, and the rumored evils of the north.

Are they more than rumors?

Noah did not know exactly how far it was, but somewhere on the other side of the rugged, mountainous wilderness, along the southeast coast of the Black Sea, was the City of Cain.

Some call it great, others call it an abomination. It has been said of the city that it houses witches, sorcerers, and the most evil men; not just men, they say, but also those infamous, cursed, mighty giants, the Offspring. Even the fathers of the Offspring, the great teachers known as the Watchers, have been lured there by the evil. They are now the lords of the great city. Some even say that the Watchers are the source of the evil power that fills the north lands.

Cain himself, the cursed son of the great father, Adam, is the lord of the great city, as well as many other cities and towns scattered throughout the northern regions.

People say that once one enters the City of Cain, they rarely come back and if they do, they are different … they carry evil in their soul. Even a purely, innocent soul would come back incubating a rotting evil hidden deep inside … as if a poison was slowly killing the essence of their being.

That’s what they say, anyway. And who’s they?

All Noah actually knows of the city is what he has heard from townspeople and his own parents. But if no one ever returns, then how does anyone know what truly exists there? Yet, if what they say is true, then the answers to Noah’s multitude of nagging questions just might be found in the City of Cain or somewhere beyond.

Noah gazed longingly at the mountain-lined horizon. The mountain range started in the far northwest, where the mountains seem to fade away into the endless pink sky; they stretched as far to the east as his mortal eyes could see. A vast ocean of trees and rocks, valleys and hills, laid in-between him and the mountains: waiting, beckoning him to explore them. He had done some exploring, hunting, and gathering in those woods over the years, but nothing that had satisfied his relentlessly adventurous free spirit.

Noah wondered what lay beyond that mountain wall. What phenomenal lands and unseen beauty hid in the wilderness beyond? What would he find if he just started walking north until he reached land’s end? The answers are out there hiding, waiting to be found … dancing alone in the forest mist.

Noah rested his right hand on his left shoulder, and with two fingers touched the off-white, carved bone handle sticking out of the long, leather sheath strapped to his back.

Things were about to change on several fronts.

It was about time to revisit that dreaded place in the north woods that he had been avoiding for over a decade. And, it was well past time for Noah to take his Journey … the traditional venture that every young man takes into the wild: a long quest along unknown trails and unexplored country to find one’s own life path.

Why have I waited so long to take it?

He could feel it deep inside … now was the time.

Noah’s father often told him that it is only on that quest when you truly find yourself.

Find yourself? What does that even mean? It sounds foolish … like a waste of time.

But he has more questions now than ever before. And the older he gets, the more he feels a need growing in his soul, a need to go. Go where? It doesn’t matter.

Just go. Just leave. Go.

Noah needed to find the answers to his questions, and those answers are hidden somewhere beyond the borders of his small world.

A bright, fluffy cloud floated lazily through the red sky, slowly drifting toward Noah.

A stiff breeze suddenly picked up, bringing an ominous dark cloud from the horizon toward the small bright cloud. As the dark cloud grew closer, Noah could feel a deep forbearing evil presence. The cloud was constantly moving; its dark vapor seemed to be caving in on itself, and then cycling around to the sides of the cloud.

When it reached the bright cloud, it surrounded it. With dark vapor swirling about, it trapped the bright cloud as if locked in shackles. Then the wind shifted from the south, blowing the two clouds back to the north, from where the darkness had come.

The evil presence was strong; it was over powering. Noah was feeling weak at the knees. He felt as if he had just lost something he treasured, something familiar. As he watched the bright cloud float away, a feeling of urgency swept over him like a wave.

Something had to be done. He had to do the impossible and get that cloud back.

He took off after the clouds running along the ground not letting them leave his sight, but he could not keep up. With every step, the dark cloud carrying the bright cloud away, gained distance. The more he chased them, the further they got.

Elohim help me.

Noah stopped to catch his breath.

Suddenly, a thick white mist came up from behind and surrounded him. It was a cloud. As it began to pick him up, he could see himself getting further and further from the ground.

He felt a sensation deep in his core that he had never felt before … total weightlessness: freedom from the shackles of gravity.

There were now clouds all around him. The black sky above was filled with stars and a blood red moon. Below him, there was nothing. He had never seen “nothing” before … but there it was. No color, no light, no darkness, just emptiness … nothing.

Most of the clouds that surrounded him were dark, forbearing … even malicious. The few white clouds that were there were being engulfed by the dark mist. He looked behind him and saw that there was a dark cloud following and gaining on him.

Suddenly there was a voice. “We must leave now.” It sounded like it came from …

Did that cloud just talk?

“Now.”

A strong gust of wind blew, sending them north.

Noah opened his eyes, instantly wide awake.

Moonlight, beaming through the window of his loft, reflected off the glistening steel of his sword that stood, leaning against the wall.

The candle he had lit hours ago had melted down into a river of wax, and streamed off his small table like a solidified waterfall, creating a lake of wax on the floor.

A gust of cool night air blew light brown hair over his eyes. He brushed it aside and looked out the window. The half-moon and its halo of greenish-blue light swirling around it sent soft beams of light into the room.

He lay there for a while and gazed at the beautiful light trying to regain his coherency after his fitful sleep.

This moon isn’t red … was his first thought. His second was the words of the bright cloud echoing in his head: We must leave now.

Did his grandfather not tell him to heed his dreams?

Noah sighed and rubbed his eyes.

Why not?

Noah closed his eyes. Is this it? Is today the day?

Yes. It is.

Noah got up and quietly got ready. He put his favorite blue tunic on. He then wrapped a leather belt, with his dagger in its sheath dangling from it, around his waist. He knelt down, reached under the little table and pulled out a brown, ox leather satchel and his leather shoes. He slipped his shoes on and then opened the satchel and put in his other shirt, a candle, a sharpening stone, a rope and his new canteen. Finally, Noah grabbed his sword off his bed and strapped it on his back.

The floor creaked as he took a step toward the ladder … as did the ladder itself when he climbed down.

He could still see glowing red embers in the fireplace from supper. The aroma of roasted venison still lingered in the air, making his stomach growl. He searched the moonlit room for the leftovers. Noah found them next to the shell sink already wrapped in a cloth. He put the whole thing in the satchel as well as a small loaf of bread.

That should last a couple of days.

Noah silently stood in the dark moonlit room looking around. He had a feeling he would not be seeing this house for a while.

Noah opened the door and took a step outside … the first step of his journey.

The first violet and red colors of the morning were just starting to appear over the misty hills. But before he could lose himself into the unknown, he had a couple stops to make.

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Wedding

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All the family together!

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My brother and sister with mom looking on…

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Getting the food ready….

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Cutting beets

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Salad bar stuff

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Wedding Weekend

This week has been a blur of working hard at cleaning, cooking, running and caring for children! Life has been busy!!!
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My sister and niece at the Rehearsal dinner

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Family

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My sister and niece – One year ago she was under 4 lbs.

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The bride to be

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Catching up…..my brother and Brother- in-law

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My mom and another sister

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My brother and cousin

Then the day of the wedding came! Saturday, I was so busy looking after the food, there are no pictures of me! It was crazy!!! I felt harried and like I did a terrible job, but everyone liked the food, so that was good!

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H. and his cousin

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After the wedding….waiting to take pictures. You can see two of my handsome sons on the one end.

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Some of the whole family!! All eleven together!

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Here is a better one….

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just the sisters!!!

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The One who waits for me by Lori Copeland

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The One Who Waits for Me

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books’ Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This new series from bestselling author Lori Copeland, set in North Carolina three months after the Civil War ends, illuminates the gift of hope even in chaos, as the lives of six engaging characters intersect and unfold with the possibility of faith, love, and God’s promise of a future.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736930183

ISBN-13: 978-0736930185

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Joanie?”

Beth’s sister stirred, coughing.

Beth gently shook Joanie’s shoulder again, and the young woman opened her eyes, confusion shining in their depths.

“Pa?”

“He passed a few minutes ago. Trella will be waiting for us.”

Joanie lifted her wrist to her mouth and smothered sudden sobbing. “I’m scared, Beth.”

“So am I. Dress quickly.”

The young woman slid out of bed, her bare feet touching the dirt-packed floor. Outside, the familiar sound of pond frogs nearly drowned out soft movements, though there was no need to be silent any more. Ma had preceded Pa in death two days ago. Beth and Joanie had been waiting, praying for the hour of Pa’s death to come swiftly. Together, they lifted their father’s silent form and gently carried him out the front door. He was a slight man, easy to carry. Beth’s heart broke as they took him to the shallow grave they had dug the day before. Ma’s fever had taken her swiftly. Pa had held on for as long as he could. Beth could still hear his voice in her ear: “Take care of your sister, little Beth.” He didn’t have to remind her that there was no protection at all now to save either of them from Uncle Walt and his son, Bear. Beth had known all of her life that one day she and Joanie would have to escape this place—a place of misery.

It was her father’s stubborn act that started the situation Beth and Joanie were immersed in. Pa had hid the plantation deed from his brother and refused to tell him where it was. Their land had belonged to a Jornigan for two hundred years, but Walt claimed that because he was the older brother and allowed Pa to live on his land the deed belonged to him. Pa was a proud man and had no respect for his brother, though his family depended on Walt for a roof over their heads and food on their table. For meager wages they worked Walt’s fields, picked his cotton, and suffered his tyranny along with the other workers. Pa took the location of the hidden deed to his grave—almost. Walt probably figured Beth knew where it was because Pa always favored her. And she did, but she would die before she shared the location with her vile uncle.

By the light of the waning moon the women made short work of placing the corpse in the grave and then filling the hole with dirt. Finished, they stood back and Joanie bowed her head in prayer. “Dear Father, thank You for taking Ma and Pa away from this world. I know they’re with You now, and I promise we won’t cry.” Hot tears streaming down both women’s cheeks belied her words.

Returning to the shanty, Joanie removed her nightshirt and put on boy’s clothes. Dressed in similar denim trousers and a dark shirt, Beth turned and picked up the oil lamp and poured the liquid carefully around the one-room shanty. Yesterday she had packed Ma’s best dishes and quilts and dragged them to the root cellar. It was useless effort. She would never be back here, but she couldn’t bear the thought of fire consuming Ma’s few pretty things. She glanced over her shoulder when the stench of fuel heightened Joanie’s cough. The struggle to breathe had been a constant companion since her younger sister’s birth.

Many nights Beth lay tense and fearful, certain that come light Joanie would be gone. Now that Ma and Pa were dead, Joanie was the one thing left on this earth that held meaning for Beth. She put down the lamp on the table. Walking over to Joanie, she buttoned the last button on her sister’s shirt and tugged her hat brim lower.

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes.”

“Then go outside and wait.”

Nodding, Joanie paused briefly beside the bed where Pa’s tall frame had been earlier. She hesitantly reached out and touched the empty spot. “May you rest in peace, Pa.”

Moonlight shone through the one glass pane facing the south. Beth shook her head. “He was a good man. It’s hard to believe Uncle Walt had the same mother and father.”

Joanie’s breath caught. “Pa was so good and Walt is so…evil.”

“If it were up to me, he would be lying in that grave outside the window, not Pa.”

Beth tried to recall one single time in her life when Walt Jornigan had ever shown an ounce of mercy to anyone. Certainly not to his wife when she was alive. Certainly not to Beth or Joanie. If Joanie was right and there was a God, what would Walt say when he faced Him? She shook the thought aside. She had no compassion for the man or reverence for the God her sister believed in and worshipped.

“We have to go now, Joanie.”

“Yes.” She picked up her Bible from the little table beside the rocking chair and then followed Beth outside the shanty, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Pausing, Joanie bent and succumbed to a coughing spasm. Beth helplessly waited, hoping her sister could make the anticipated trip through the cotton fields. The women had planned for days now to escape if Ma and Pa both passed.

Beth asked gently, “Can you do this?”

Joanie held up a restraining hand. “Just need…a minute.”

Beth wasn’t certain that they could wait long; time was short. Dawn would be breaking soon, and then Walt would discover that Pa had died and the sisters were missing. But they had to leave. Joanie’s asthma was getting worse. Each gasping breath left her drained and hopeless, and Walt refused to let her see a doctor.

When Joanie had mentioned the notice in a discarded Savannah newspaper advertising a piece of land, Beth knew she had to buy the property and provide a home for Joanie. Pa had allowed her and Joanie to keep the wage Uncle Walt paid monthly. Over the years they had saved enough to survive, and the owner was practically giving the small acreage away. They wouldn’t be able to build a permanent structure on their land until she found work, but she and Joanie would own their own place where no one could control them. Beth planned to eventually buy a cow and a few setting hens. At first they could live in a tent—Beth’s eyes roamed the small shanty. It would be better than how they lived now.

Joanie’s spasm passed and she glanced up. “Okay. You…can do it now.”

Beth struck a match.

She glanced at Joanie. The young woman nodded and clutched her Bible to her chest. Beth had found it in one of the cotton picker’s beds after he had moved on and given it to Joanie. Her sister had kept the Bible hidden from sight for fear that Walt would spot it on one of his weekly visits. Beth had known, as Joanie had, that if their uncle had found it he’d have had extra reason to hand out his daily lashing. Joanie kept the deed to their new land between its pages.

After pitching the lighted match into the cabin, Beth quickly closed the heavy door. Stepping to the window, she watched the puddles of kerosene ignite one by one. In just minutes flames were licking the walls and gobbling up the dry tinder. A peculiar sense of relief came over her when she saw tendrils of fire racing through the room, latching onto the front curtain and encompassing the bed.

“Don’t watch.” Joanie slipped her hand into Beth’s. “We have to hurry before Uncle Walt spots the flames.”

Hand in hand, the sisters stepped off the porch, and Beth turned to the mounds of fresh dirt heaped not far from the shanty. Pausing before the fresh graves, she whispered. “I love you both. Rest in peace.”

Joanie had her own goodbyes for their mother. “We don’t want to leave you and Pa here alone, but I know you understand—”

As the flames licked higher, Beth said, “We have to go, Joanie. Don’t look back.”

“I won’t.” Her small hand quivered inside Beth’s. “God has something better for us.”

Beth didn’t answer. She didn’t know whether Ma and Pa were in a good place or not. She didn’t know anything about such things. She just knew they had to run.

The two women dressed in men’s clothing struck off across the cotton fields carrying everything they owned in a small bag. It wasn’t much. A dress for each, clean underclothes, and their nightshirts. Beth had a hairbrush one of the pickers had left behind. She’d kept the treasure well hidden so Walt wouldn’t see it. He’d have taken it from her. He didn’t hold with primping—said combing tangles from one’s hair was a vain act. Finger-picking river-washed hair was all a woman needed.

Fire now raced inside the cabin. By the time Uncle Walt noticed the smoke from the plantation house across the fields, the two sisters would be long gone. No longer would they be under the tyrannical thumb of Walt or Bear Jornigan.

Freedom.

Beth sniffed the night air, thinking she could smell the precious state. Never again would she or Joanie answer to any man. She would run hard and far and find help for Joanie so that she could finally breathe free. In her pocket she fingered the remaining bills she’d taken from the fruit jar in the cabinet. It was all the ready cash Pa and Ma had. They wouldn’t be needing money where they were.

Suddenly there was a sound of a large explosion. Heavy black smoke blanketed the night air. Then another blast.

Kerosene! She’d forgotten the small barrel sitting just outside the back porch.

It was the last sound Beth heard.

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Restless in Carolina by Tamara Leigh

My Review:
Bridget Pickwick-Buchanan is a widow, but not your typical widow. She is young, only 33, and has a pet opossum, wants to save the planet, one piece of sticky gum at a time. Her heart is still hurting from the loss of her husband 4 years ago, which she still has not accepted has happened. When the job of finding a buyer for the family estate land and mansion, she decides to change her persona in order to convince a eco-friendly developer to be interested.
J.C. Dirk is a developer who is known to be eco-friendly and when Bridget ditches the dreadlocks, arms herself with a briefcase and makeup, and plans a personal visit, he is not a little pleased. The family name of Pickwick though seems to grab his attention, and it is not long before she sees him again.
This book is a light read, with deeper thoughts. Bridget is a character with lots of hidden character. You will feel her hurt at the loss of her husband, her devotion to working on saving her families estate from developers who will ruin the property forever, but will a long time family feud come back to the surface?

Tamara Leigh’s enjoyable books win out again and keep you reading. Her books are full of quirky characters, and not your typical christian fiction or characters. You will enjoy this light summer read! -Martha

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Restless in Carolina

Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)

***Special thanks to Ashley Boyer, Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tamara Leigh began her writing career in 1994 and is the best-selling author of fourteen novels, including Splitting Harriet (ACFW Book of the Year winner and RITA Award finalist), Faking Grace (RITA Award Finalist), and Leaving Carolina. A former speech and language pathologist, Tamara enjoys time with her family, faux painting, and reading. She lives with her husband and sons in Tennessee.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Tree-huggin’, animal-lovin’ Bridget Pickwick-Buchanan is on a mission. Well, two. First she has to come to terms with being a widow at thirty-three. After all, it’s been four years and even her five-year-old niece and nephew think it’s time she shed her widow’s weeds. Second, she needs to find a buyer for her family’s estate—a Biltmore-inspired mansion surrounded by hundreds of acres of unspoiled forestland. With family obligations forcing the sale, Bridget is determined to find an eco-friendly developer to buy the land, someone who won’t turn it into single-family homes or a cheesy theme park.

Enter J. C. Dirk, a high-energy developer from Atlanta whose green property developments have earned him national acclaim. When he doesn’t return her calls, Bridget decides a personal visit is in order. Unfortunately, J. C. Dirk is neither amused nor interested when she interrupts his meeting—until she mentions her family name. In short order, he finds himself in North Carolina, and Bridget has her white knight—in more ways than one. But there are things Bridget doesn’t know about J. C., and it could mean the end of everything she’s worked for…and break her heart.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (July 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601421680
ISBN-13: 978-1601421685

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Deep breath. “…and they lived…”

I can do this. It’s not as if I didn’t sense it coming. After all, I can smell an H.E.A. (Happily Ever After) a mile away—or, in this case, twenty-four pages glued between cardboard covers that feature the requisite princess surrounded by cute woodland creatures. And there are the words, right where I knew the cliché of an author would slap them, on the last page in the same font as those preceding them. Deceptively nondescript. Recklessly hopeful. Heartbreakingly false.

“Aunt Bridge,” Birdie chirps, “finish it.”

I look up from the once-upon-a-time crisp page that has been softened, creased, and stained by the obsessive readings in which hermother indulges her.

Eyes wide, cheeks flushed, my niece nods. “Say the magic words.” Magic?

More nodding, and is she quivering? Oh no, I refuse to be a party to this. I smile big, say, “The end,” and close the book. “So, how about another piece of weddin’ cake?”

“No!” She jumps off the footstool she earlier dubbed her “princess throne,” snatches the book from my hand, and opens it to the back. “Wight here!”

I almost correct her initial r-turned-w but according tomy sister, it’s developmental and the sound is coming in fine on its own, just as her other r’s did.

Birdie jabs the H, E, and A. “It’s not the end until you say the magic words.”

And I thought this the lesser of two evils—entertaining my niece and nephew as opposed to standing around at the reception as the bride and groom are toasted by all the happy couples, among them, cousin Piper, soon to be wed to my friend Axel, and cousin Maggie, maybe soon to be engaged to her sculptor man, what’s-his-name.

“Yeah,” Birdie’s twin,Miles, calls from where he’s once more hanging upside down on the rolling ladder I’ve pulled him off twice. “You gotta say the magic words.”

Outrageous! Even my dirt-between-the-toes, scab-ridden, snot-on-the-sleeve nephew is buying into the fantasy.

I spring from the armchair, cross the library, and unhook his ankles from the rung. “You keep doin’ that and you’ll bust your head wide open.” I set him on his feet. “And your mama will—

”No, Bonnie won’t.

“Well, she’ll be tempted to give you a whoopin’.”

Face bright with upside-down color, he glowers.

I’d glower back if I weren’t so grateful for the distraction he provided. “All right, then.” I slap at the ridiculously stiff skirt of the dress Maggie loaned me for my brother’s wedding. “Let’s rejoin the party—”

“You don’t wanna say it.”Miles sets his little legs wide apart. “Do ya?” So much for my distraction.

“You don’t like Birdie’s stories ’cause they have happy endings. And you don’t.”

I clench my toes in the painfully snug high heels on loan from Piper.

“Yep.”Miles punches his fists to his hips. “Even Mama says so.”

My own sister? I shake my head, causing the blond dreads Maggie pulled away from my face with a headband to sweep my back. “That’s not true.”

“Then say it wight now!” Birdie demands.

I peer over my shoulder at where she stands like an angry tin soldier, an arm outthrust, the book extended.

“Admit it,”Miles singsongs.

I snap around and catch my breath at the superior, knowing look on his five-year-old face. He’s his father’s son, all right, a miniature Professor Claude de Feuilles, child development expert.

“You’re not happy.” The professor in training, who looks anything but with his spiked hair, nods.

I know better than to bristle with two cranky, nap-deprived children, but that’s what I’m doing. Feeling as if I’m watching myself from the other side of the room, I cross my arms over my chest. “I’ll admit no such thing.”

“That’s ’cause you’re afraid. Mama said so.” Miles peers past me.

“Didn’t she, Birdie?”

Why is Bonnie discussing my personal life with her barely-out-of-diapers kids?

“Uh-huh. She said so.”

Miles’s smile is smug. “On the drive here, Mama told Daddy this day would be hard on you. That you wouldn’t be happy for Uncle Bart ’cause you’re not happy.”

Not true! Not that I’m thrilled with our brother’s choice of bride, but…come on! Trinity Templeton? Nice enough, but she isn’t operating on a full charge, which wouldn’t be so bad if Bart made up for the difference. Far from it, his past history with illegal stimulants having stripped him of a few billion brain cells.

“She said your heart is”—Miles scrunches his nose, as if assailed by a terrible odor—“constipated.”

What?!

“That you need an M&M, and I don’t think she meant the chocolate kind you eat. Probably one of those—”

“I am not constipated.” Pull back. Nice and easy. I try to heed my inner voice but find myself leaning down and saying, “I’m realistic.”

Birdie stomps the hardwood floor. “Say the magic words!”

“Nope.”Miles shakes his head. “Constipated.”

I shift my cramped jaw. “Re-al-is-tic.”

“Con-sti-pa-ted.”

Pull back, I tell you! He’s five years old. “Just because I don’t believe in fooling a naive little girl into thinkin’ a prince is waiting for her at the other end of childhood and will save her from a fate worse than death and take her to his castle and they’ll live…” I flap a hand. “…you know, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me.”

Isn’t there? “It means I know better. There may be a prince, and he may have a castle, and they may be happy, but don’t count on it lasting. Oh no. He’ll get bored or caught up in work or start cheatin’—you know, decide to put that glass slipper on some other damsel’s foot or kiss another sleeping beauty—or he’ll just up and die like Easton—” No,
nothing at all wrong with you, Bridget Pickwick Buchanan, whose ugly widow’s weeds are showing.

“See!”Miles wags a finger.

Unfortunately, I do. And as I straighten, I hear sniffles.

“Now you done it!” Miles hustles past me. “Got Birdie upset.”

Sure enough, she’s staring at me with flooded eyes. “The prince dies? He dies and leaves the princess all alone?”The book falls from her hand, its meeting with the floor echoing around the library. Then she squeaks out a sob.

“No!” I spring forward, grimacing at the raspy sound the skirt makes as I attempt to reach Birdie before Miles.

He gets there first and puts an arm around her. A meltable moment, my mother would call it. After she gave me a dressing down. And I deserve one. My niece may be on the spoiled side and she may work my nerves, but I love her—even like her when that sweet streak of hers comes through. “It’s okay, Birdie,” Miles soothes. “The prince doesn’t die.”

Yes, he does, but what possessed me to say so? And what if I’ve scarred her for life?

Miles pats her head onto his shoulder. “Aunt Bridge is just”—he gives me the evil eye—“constipated.”

“Yes, Birdie.” I drop to my knees. “I am. My heart, that is. Constipated. I’m so sorry.”

She turns her head and, upper lip shiny with the stuff running out of her nose, says in a hiccupy voice, “The prince doesn’t die?” I grab the book from the floor and turn to the back. “Look. There they are, riding off into the sunset—er, to his castle. Happy. See, it says so.” I tap the H, E, and A.

She sniffs hard, causing that stuff to whoosh up her nose and my gag reflex to go on alert. “Weally happy, Aunt Bridge?”

“Yes.”

“Nope.” Barely-there eyebrows bunching, she lifts her head from Miles’s shoulder. “Not unless you say it.”

Oh dear Go—No, He and I are not talking. Well, He may be talking, but I’m not listening.

“I think you’d better.” Miles punctuates his advice with a sharp nod.

“Okay.” I look down at the page. “…and they lived…” It’s just a fairy tale—highly inflated, overstated fiction for tykes. “…they lived happily…ever…after.”

Birdie blinks in slow motion. “Happily…ever…after. That’s a nice way to say it, like you wanna hold on to it for always.”

Or unstick it from the roof of your mouth. “The end.” I close the book, and it’s all I can do not to toss it over my shoulder. “Here you go.”

She clasps it to her chest. “Happily…ever…after.”

Peachy. But I’ll take her dreamy murmuring over tears any day. Goodness, I can’t believe I made her cry. I stand and pat the skirt back down into its stand-alone shape. “More cake?”

“Yay!” Miles charges past me.

Next time— No, there won’t be a next time. I’m done with Little Golden Books.

Excerpted from Restless in Carolina by Tamara Leigh Copyright © 2011 by Tamara Leigh. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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The crazy days of summer

People wonder why I don’t like summer, I do enjoy being out of doors, but sometimes in the summer, it seems the busy season piles up on me and everyone has things to do, places to go,which translates into things for me to do. Then being a home owner means that upkeep needs to be done, window trim needs to be painted, indoor walls repainted, cupboards cleaned out, garage cleaned out, washing windows among other things. Of course, all of that requires money and when money is tight, well, it is hard to get it all done.

Someone asked me if I ever got everything done that I needed to get done in a day, and I replied “Never.” It always seems like when I go to bed, there was more things I should have done that day. When the mail comes there is always one more bill that needs to be paid, one more paper that someone needs for medical info, another appointment to be made.

So, yesterday, I was sitting there, slightly down and depressed, realizing that I may never get all the things done or accomplished in my life that I would like to. I started to write out a short term life goal list and long term goal list and stopped part way through, discouraged, when it came to figuring out how to achieve those said goals.

I find though that sometimes it is just looking for something, happiness elsewhere that makes us unhappy. It is great to have goals and things to work towards, but sometimes our discontent now, with what we have, can make us forget to enjoy what is in front of us.

I get discouraged or depressed thinking about what I cannot have, knowing I do not have the money or time to do all the things I want to do, I don’t have the education or resources to do the jobs I wish I could do, and my children need me around now. But it will not always be that way……they are growing up faster and faster it seems. Money comes and goes, people who are wealthy complain about many of the same things I could complain about. They are not the size they want to be, they don’t enough education to do what they want to do, they don’t have the house they want exactly, something always has to change.

I see people who flit from one town to another, not setting down roots, looking for something better, something nicer, more of what they want. I am not sure that they are happier when they get there, as they seem to move on from there as well.

I realized that we as humans were created for relationships. We are created to have relationships with God, with friends and family. It is all part  of a grand scheme of things, we should be investing first  in these things!

On the ride up from  a nearby town over 2 hours away, we listened to an old story called Dr. Dolittle, the audio book.  Dr. Doolittle cared little for money, and even relationships, except investing time and energy into the relationships he had with his animals. He scorned money and hated the fact it was a need, but later, when the animals managed to convince him it was important, he made  a way to get money and converse with his animals and people. I found it fascinating how  sometimes we have to take advantage of this needed evil, but we need to make sure we are in control of it, not that it controls us.

We need to be wise stewards of our money and our time, and make sure we make time for relationships, and take care of our monetary obligations, without letting others down.

 

Anyhow, those are my thoughts, meandering all over the place tonight! The boys are playing in the other room, F. is painting the window trim outside, and I just finished baking a batch of muffins and Cherry Chocolate chunk coffee cake, and the upstairs is hot, so I am down in the basement, cooling off.

Have a good night!!!

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