Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

Northwest award winning writer Kate Breslin has another outstanding novel with the recent release of her second book, Not by Sight. Set in Britain during WWI, it is the story of Grace Mabry, a beautiful young woman with a fierce sense of patriotism and a passion for life. We get a glimpse of both these qualities as the book opens. Grace and her ladies' maid, Agnes, sneak into a masquerade ball to give out white feathers to the cowardly men who refused to enlist in the war.

When she spies a handsome Casanova among the costumed party guests, she recognizes him as Jack Benningham, the Viscount of Walenford and the future Earl of Stonebrooke, and her heart rate quickens. Her knowledge of him as a playboy and a gambler is based on newspaper photos and town gossip, and here he is, living up to his reputation rather than serving on the frontline, as her brother Colin is. Stepping toward him, Grace, dressed as Pandora, takes a white feather from her box and hands it to Jack. In so doing, she unleashes on both their lives all manner of trouble far beyond their control. The extent of the problems and how their lives intertwine are revealed through the masterful unfolding of this absorbing story.

After her father learns of Grace's disgraceful actions he sends her to the countryside of Kent, where she and Agnes become volunteers for the Women's Forage Corps, working in the fields to provide food for the horses in the war. It is here that she meets other young women, each with a secret of her own, and discovers that Jack Benningham is lord of the manor on which she works.

Kate Breslin's writing is tight. Whether she is describing a scene, sharing a conversation, or providing narrative, the author chooses just the right words to move the story along.  "I like to paint the scene but not put the reader to sleep," she told me in a recent interview.

Neither does she waste details. More than once I caught the slightest whiff of something brewing by reading a carefully placed detail, a subtle foreshadowing of future events. Kate never disappointed me by leaving me hanging. By the end of the story each of the details had found its place in the larger narrative.

Is the book a mystery? No, but it is filled with intrigue. She likes to read gritty novels about real life, and that is how she likes to write. She told me, "It is very much a Beauty and the Beast story, [portraying] a beautiful, smart woman who is sensitive to the needs of others and a man who is a wounded hero."

But the story is much more than fine use of language, intrigue, and romance. Sprinkled throughout are issues of suffering, consequences, and truth. And always, Grace and her comrades struggle with what it means to live by faith, not by sight.

You can read my review of Kate Breslin's first book, For Such a Time, here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Spiced Apples and Raisins in a Pumpkin Pot

My husband stopped for a medical appointment after work one day recently. The woman at the front desk seemed overwhelmed with her work and, in my husband's opinion, in need of a little cheering up.

Noticing the little pumpkin on her desk, he said, "I wonder how it would work to scoop out the guts of a sugar pumpkin like the one there and fill it with chopped apples and raisins, maybe some sugar and cinnamon. If you baked it, I'll bet it would be really good." She looked up with a smile on her face. "I'll try that! I think my husband and I would really like it!"

We decided to try it ourselves. It was delicious. We'll do it again this Fall, probably more than once.

(Sugar pumpkins are sometimes called "pie pumpkins" and are very small, usually six to eight inches around.)

Spiced Apples and Raisins in a Pumpkin Pot

1 sugar pumpkin
4-5 baking apples, peeled and chopped
1/2 c raisins
1/4 c chopped walnuts
1/3 c brown sugar
spices to taste -- suggest cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
2 T butter

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the guts, as if you were preparing a Jack-o-lantern.  Mix together the apples, raisins, and walnuts with the sugar and spices. Stuff the pumpkin with the apple mixture. (Any stuffing that doesn't fit into the pumpkin can be saved for making applesauce or filling for apple pie, fritters, or other apple dessert.) Replace the pumpkin top.

Place in a baking dish and bake for 60 to 90 minutes, until the inside of the pumpkin is fork tender. Scoop the contents into a bowl, including the pumpkin flesh. Fold the pumpkin into the apple mixture. Dot with butter. After it's melted, fold the mixture together one more time. Serves 4.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Give a Child a Chance, Three Stories

Story One—You're a Granny!

I spent a few days on a mission trip to the Philippines in 1984. We worked closely with a church that was doing outreach in an impoverished part of the city of Manila. We fell in love with the kids we served and the church folks with whom we ministered. When I got home I contacted International Child Care Ministries (ICCM, the child sponsorship program of the Free Methodist Church) so that I could become a sponsor. My first child ever was the toddler son of my new friends from Manila—the  pastor and his wife. That little toddler has, of course, grown up. Recently I got a Facebook message from his mom. Along with the beautiful photo above she told me that their son's wife had given birth to Caleb. "You're a granny!" she told me. This is one of the sponsorship perks that nobody mentioned to me those long years ago!

Story Two—A Heart of Compassion

For our son's birthday a couple of years ago, Tom and I took him to hear a popular Christian musician in concert. The music was great, but it didn't capture our boy's heart nearly as much as did the pitch for Compassion, a ministry that provides sponsors for children around the world. When a representative of Compassion came to the mic and shared stories of kids who had been sponsored through their organization, telling how the kids' basic necessities were being met through the compassion of supporters, he invited people to sign on. "If you would like to become a sponsor, please raise your hand." Before the gentleman could finish his appeal our son's hand was waving in the air.

Through Compassion this young man, whose discretionary funds amount to about $100 a month, sponsors a young girl in Dominican Republic. He's looking for additional work beyond his few hours a week at a pizza shop, so that he can sponsor others as well.

Story Three—God's Treasures

photo credit

The Guatemala City Dump, the largest dump in Latin America, is home to more than 11,000 people, of whom nearly 6,500 are children. The people at Potter's House call these folks Treasures, and share the love of Christ with them through a number of transformational ministries, including child sponsorship. Their outreach at the dump over the past twenty-nine years has had a powerful impact on lives. During the past twenty years our friends Jim and Ruth Youngsman have sponsored many children through Potter's House. Two of their sponsor kids are now studying at universities in the United States, both having been awarded full ride scholarships! Through the love and support of the Potter's House and the their sponsors, these young women have  excelled even in the face of great difficulties. One of them will be visiting the Youngmans over Thanksgiving and will share her story with Soulcrafters, our adult Sunday School class. I'm looking forward to the celebration.

In Conclusion
There are millions of children around the world who don't have the advantages of most North American kids. At the moment, there are 3,000 children who are awaiting sponsorship through ICCM. An article in today's publication called Tuesday's Child focuses on those kids, and this is just one agency among the many child sponsorship programs. You may not be rich, but you likely can find a way to make a difference in the life of one child, or even more. Consider what you might do to give a child a chance.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hymn of the Month -- Lead, Kindly Light

This is a re-post from one year ago. It's a new edition of an old hymn.

It is my guess that you'd have to be quite into church music to be very familiar with the hymn Lead, Kindly Light. At least it's not one that I have known well. In my head I hear it played on a big pipe organ and sung as a kind of dirge. You may have a different experience with it than I, but this is what comes to mind when I retrieve it from my memory bank.

Lead, Kindly Light was written as a poem in 1833 by John H Newman and set to a tune by John B Dykes in 1865. In 2007 The Telegraph published a short but interesting story of the origin of the hymn.

I recently came across a re-write of the song by musician Audrey Assad. She's updated the words but kept to the intent of the original lyrics, and she's given it a new tune. It is one of the loveliest songs I've heard in a long time.

Lead, kindly light, amidst the grey and gloom
The night is long and I am far from home
Here in the dark, I do not ask to see
The path ahead -- one step enough for me
Lead on, lead on, kindly light.

I was not ever willing to be led
I could have stayed, but I ran instead
In spite of fear, I followed my pride
My eyes could see, but my heart was blind
Lead on, lead on, kindly light.

And in the night, when I was afraid
Your feet beside my own on the way
Each stumbling step where other men have trod
shortened the road leading home to my God
Lead on, lead on,
my God, my God,
Lead on, lead on, kindly light

© Audrey Assad Inc (BMI) / Heavily inspired by Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman's poem of the same name>

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How My Blog Got Its Name

Tom's dad walking to the upper field at our home in New York

I remember the intensity of my feelings the morning of September 17, 2009, six years ago today. One boy had left for high school, his brother's classes hadn't yet begun at the community college. He sat at the computer, I sat at the dining room table.

"Please get off the computer. I am going to start blogging today!"

I couldn't have been more surprised by my request. Blogging? I'm going to blog? I certainly hadn't known that when I'd gotten up that morning, but it was very clear to me now.

I sat down at the computer and opened Blogger. It was a snap to get the blog up. Things like deciding on the template, making decisions about style and format, and inserting the wonderful photo above  were a breeze. But I had some other fundamental decisions to make. An inner dialog ensued.
So, how often do you plan to blog? 
Every day. 
Every day, huh? 
That's right.
What time?
Nine o'clock.
Nine o'clock every day. Rather ambitious of you.
I can do this!
And what do you plan to call this blog?
Maybe Crysanthemum? Hmm... I don't even know how to spell that. How will anyone find me?
No, you can't use that. Try again.
I spent the next thirty minutes considering possible names, but I kept coming up empty. Everything I thought of was already taken.
Here's a thought. Since being on time is a problem for you (ahem!), why don't you surprise everyone and publish your blog earlier, like at three minutes to nine?
Bingo! I'll do it!
And that's how my blog got its name.

You can read my first blog post here.

That first post included these lines:
Although I don't have any deep well of knowledge about any particular topic, I do have lots to say! Sometimes I amaze myself -- I'm sure to amaze you too!! 
I've always written what I wanted to say, and shared whatever came to my head or my heart that I thought was worthy of sharing. You might find a tale from my childhood one day, a book review the next, a hymn the day after that, and Snoopy on his dog house the day after that. But I have really struggled over my approach to blogging. There is a part of me that yearns for order and I simply haven't been able to see any order at all to what I chose to blog about.  Until last week.

Asked to post a link to our blogs on our Northwest Christian Writers Facebook page and tell what we write about I said, "I tell stories, share resources, and offer encouragement." Bingo again! That is what I do and everything I post—well, maybe not the Snoopy posters—fits into one of those categories. Perhaps this is way more information than you require, but I must say I was thrilled to realize that's what I do.

I don't post every day anymore (this week being an exception) and I seldom have it ready to go at 8:57 AM. But I plan to keep writing. Thanks for being here with me. See you again soon.

Grace and peace,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Morning Song

This poem was first posted on September 16, 2011.

The day is fresh and new.
Rose scent fills the air,
The house ticks like an old clock shop.

I sit by the window,
Sipping tea,
Absorbing the quietness,
Listening to robins hunting worms
In the yard.

When was my heart last still?
When was my mind last able to see the world?
When was my body last rested?

I release the breath I’ve been holding for days,
I drop my hands to my sides.
I hear the words,
“Come to me, weary one,”
Ready now, I come.

Ginger Kauffman

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Purple Sunrise

This is my post from September 16 a year ago. I'm reposting as a part of my sixth blogiversary week.

My friend Colleen took this picture of the sunrise over the Cascades this morning
Today's pre-dawn sky was the color of eggplant against mountains the shade of a nearly black plum, finally ready to eat. At 5:50, it was still an hour until sunrise, but the hint of color brought with it a hint of the day's promise.

We've been a one-car family for the past three months and occasionally I commute with Tom the 33 miles to his office so that I can have the car for the day, then return to pick him up in the afternoon. It's not a great longterm solution, but it works for now. I've witnessed a lot of sunrises with my husband this summer, and that has been worth the inconvenience.

When we began our treks together it was just after the first day of summer and the sun was rising about 5:15. The sky was already bright enough to read in the car without a light, but who could read? Colors streaked the sky, horsetail clouds formed whispy patterns around us, and fog often lay just above the ground over the farmland and along the slough in Everett. Some days were so glorious that I forgot to breathe. Each trip found the sun rising a few minutes later than the previous trip, providing us a tangible reminder of nature's clock.

Sunrise was 6:49 today. I couldn't get enough of it. How often we've remarked that we should have had a camera on our morning trips to work, but even if we had it, you can't exactly stop along the freeway to snap a shot.

After dropping Tom off I was determined to find a spot where I could pull off and get a good, long look.

If you know Everett, perhaps you remember the overpass by the Evergreen Cemetery which will take you from South Broadway (overlooking Lowell), across the freeway, then down on to Broadway. It has not been kept up -- that is, there are lots of weeds along the sides of the road -- but it is still in use and still offers a great view of the Cascades and the Snohomish River valley. It's not wide enough to pull over but there was no other traffic on the bridge so I did stop momentarily and drink in the view. The sun had still not risen but the sky was turning orange and the clouds, light grey puffs that scattered across the sky, were lit from underneath. Fog settled in the low places, faint enough to see forms -- trees and buildings -- in the distance.

Even the sewage treatment plant just north of Everett was radiant in the moments before the sun appeared above the mountains. Reflections in the pond were filled with pinks and yellows and oranges and purples, and the details in the mountains above were beginning to be washed out by the brightening sky.

The sun had fully risen by the time I turned off I-5 onto Hwy 532. I was too far north by now to see it until, heading west, it glared in both my rearview mirror and my side mirror, temporarily blinding me. By the time I pulled into our driveway the day looked like any other. It might be, too, except that I had seen the sun rise this morning and had known the secret of its splendor. It had whispered its beauty to me and filled me with its wonder.

It just wouldn't be right to waste a sunrise.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Case of Mistaken Identity

This week marks the anniversary of six years of blogging. In celebration I am reposting blogs from years past. All the posts will be from a September day some time over the past six years.Today's is from September 12, 2011. I present it with thanks to Google Maps. I hope you enjoy it!

* * * * *

As we were making plans to go to Eastern Washington last week, Tom was looking for details about the roads from Stanwood to Yakima.  He opened Google Maps and typed in his information.  He was baffled when the following map and directions appeared.  Seems he added an extra a to the middle of the word Yakima, (Yakiama), so Google Maps directed him to Yokohama Japan!  Check out the directions; apparently we'll have to take some sea kayaking lessons before we venture out on this trip!

Stanwood, WA, USA

6,796 mi - about 34 days 9 hours

1.Head south on 102nd Ave NW towardWA-532 W
62 ft
2.Take the 1st left onto WA-532 E
5.9 mi
3.Slight right to merge onto I-5 S
42.6 mi
4.Take exit 169 toward NE 45th St
0.6 mi
5.Merge onto 5th Ave NE
233 ft
6.Turn right onto NE 45th St
0.6 mi
7.Turn left onto Wallingford Ave N
0.9 mi
8.Turn right onto N 34th St
292 ft
9.Take the 1st left onto Densmore Ave N
436 ft
10.Turn right onto N Northlake Way
282 ft
11.Kayak across the Pacific Ocean
Entering Hawaii
2,756 mi
12.Continue straight
0.1 mi
13.Turn left onto Kuilima Dr
0.5 mi
14.Take the 3rd right onto HI-83 W
12.4 mi
15.Continue straight onto HI-99 S/Kamehameha Hwy
6.5 mi
16.Slight left onto HI-80 S/Kamehameha Hwy
Continue to follow Kamehameha Hwy
2.1 mi
17.Take the Interstate H-2 S ramp toHonolulu
0.2 mi
18.Merge onto I-H-2 S
7.9 mi
19.Merge onto I-H-1 E
4.7 mi
20.Take exit 13B toward Halawa Hts. Stadium
0.3 mi
21.Merge onto I-H-201 E
4.1 mi
22.Merge onto I-H-1 E
4.1 mi
23.Take exit 23 for Punahou St towardWaikiki/Manoa
0.2 mi
24.Turn right onto Punahou St
0.1 mi
25.Take the 1st right onto S Beretania St
0.1 mi
26.Take the 1st left onto Kalakaua Ave
1.9 mi
27.Kayak across the Pacific Ocean
Entering Japan
3,879 mi
28.Turn left toward 県道275号線
0.4 mi
29.Turn left toward 県道275号線
358 ft
30.Turn left toward 県道275号線
0.2 mi
31.Turn right onto 県道275号線
0.1 mi
32.Turn left onto 国道125号線
499 ft
33.Turn right onto 県道24号線
0.6 mi
34.Turn left at 千束町(交差点) onto 国道354号線
2.0 mi
35.Turn right at 中村陸橋下(交差点) to stay on 国道354号線
1.0 mi
36.Take the ramp to 常磐自動車道
Toll road
0.3 mi
37.Keep left at the fork, follow signs for東京 and merge onto 常磐自動車道
Toll road
23.8 mi
38.Take exit 三郷JCT on the righttoward 首都高・銀座・湾岸線
Toll road
0.7 mi
39.Merge onto 首都高速6号三郷線
Toll road
5.8 mi
40.Take exit 小菅JCT toward 湾岸線・銀座
Toll road
0.3 mi
41.Merge onto 首都高速中央環状線
Toll road
0.4 mi
42.Take exit 堀切JCT on the righttoward 銀座
Toll road
0.3 mi
43.Merge onto 首都高速6号向島線
Toll road
5.4 mi
44.Take exit 江戸橋JCT toward 銀座・横浜
Toll road
0.4 mi
45.Merge onto 首都高速都心環状線
Toll road
2.3 mi
46.Take exit 浜崎橋JCT toward 湾岸線・横浜
Toll road
0.4 mi
47.Merge onto 首都高速1号羽田線
Toll road
7.4 mi
48.Continue onto 首都高速神奈川1号横羽線
Toll road
11.5 mi
49.Take exit 首都高横浜公園 on the right
Toll road
0.3 mi
50.Keep right at the fork, follow signs for大さん橋・中華街・県庁・市庁
Toll road
331 ft
51.Turn left at 横浜スタジアム前(交差点)
0.2 mi
52.Turn right at 関内駅南口(交差点)
Destination will be on the left
210 ft
Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

For Annie. And For You.

Today my friend Annie is going through tests to determine how widespread the cancer is that was discovered less than a week ago. Another friend is scheduled for surgery tomorrow and yet one more is going through one more round of treatments to fight off the cancer that has assaulted her for years.

Not all my friends dealing with difficulties are experiencing cancer. Some have family members with serious health issues, or kids on drugs, or they are grappling with uncertainties about the future. Babies are born prematurely, struggling to get a start on life; parents need special care as they age.

For each one of you who is in the midst of circumstances that threaten to overwhelm, take courage. God is with you. He knows where you are, and He hears your cry.

I invite you to take a few minutes to watch these videos and find rest in the arms of God. Then share them with a friend you know who needs to hear them too.

You are in my prayers today.