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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Developing A Heart for the Less Fortunate, Part I, The Plight of Foster Children

As time permits I  share snatches of my life and this one has been on my mind since yesterday.

You see, yesterday, a friend who has agreed to watch our cat and house while we are out of town, came over so we could go over the details with him. Wes brought his new teenaged foster son. It's the third time I've met this 16-year-old-boy and he has certainly found a place in my heart.

He's energetic, talkative, and bright. But his loneliness is very evident. As he looked around our ample home and told me we had a nice home, I thanked him, feeling self-conscious because I know it's a lot more than we need. I guess I was seeing it with his eyes, imagining the home he might have come from. 

I don't know what his circumstances are that landed him in foster care. I can only imagine. As we chatted, bits and pieces about his mom and dad came out in snatches. He puts on a brave front, but to me his chattiness and outgoing nature mask deep hurts. He's a kid trying to make the best of it, trying his darndest to fit in.

I understand more now what is involved in being a foster child since having volunteered with Foster a Dream when we lived in California. The non-profit provided extras for foster children--things they wouldn't have had that the average American child has and takes for granted. It was during my volunteer stint with Foster a Dream that I learned that the average number of foster homes a foster child lives in in their lifetime is 15. They are often taken away from their homes without a moment's notice and may not even have a pillow to call their own. Imagine being shifted from home to home, school to school. You lose your family and friends. You are a misfit. Most of the times these kids don't even have money for a high school yearbook or a band uniform. Many don't learn to drive because their foster parents won't pay for insurance. And for a large portion of them, once they reach the age of 18, they are dumped by the foster parents and left to fend for themselves because the foster parents no longer receive payment for caring for them.

So, my heart is tender for this boy. As he watched me work in my garden while his foster dad talked with me and my husband, he asked questions about the plants. I explained what some were, and I offered to re-pot a small lemon balm plant and give it to him, provided his foster dad approved. He did, so I handed the young man the plant for which he seemed very grateful and he promised to keep it on his windowsill. It was such a little gesture. I wanted to do so much more. I only hope he felt loved through this small act of kindness.

I am not sure how I will interface with this young man in the future and meeting him has stirred up compassion again for kids who are less fortunate. Will he be taken from his tranquil and safe foster home now (rarely are they safe and tranquil) and placed in some other person's care?  Will he be with Wes for a while? Is there anything more I can do to make his life better or the life of some other foster child?

I am not sure if I have a future role to play but I know that I should be distressed and disturbed by his plight. Jesus taught us that we should care for the less fortunate, for the hurting, broken and poor. Their hurts should break our hearts. Lately I have been assaulted by this "charge" and it has a grip on me. In some of my future posts I will share other ways where God is smacking me in the face with the world's brokenness. I welcome you to share your stories with me. How is God using it to transform you.


Teena Stewart is a published author and artist. Her book The Treasure Seeker: Finding Love and Value in the Arms of Your Loving Heavenly Father looks at the precious relationship we can have with God and the transformation he can bring about.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Review – Doing Max Vinyl by Frederick Lee Brooke

When I started reading this book I had a hard time knowing who the main characters were. We’re introduced to a group of them in just about every chapter. Too many characters, introduced too quickly is a no-no in writing, unless you can break the rules and get away with it. Brooke does break the rules and it works in this case. The situations we find them in and their personalities intrigued me, even the thugs (and there are several) kept me going.

At the center of it all is Max Vinyl who has the perfect name for a slick, successful businessman. Max loves sexy women, fast cars, and making money. He’s a millionaire whose fortune came from feigning to be an environmentally conscious CEO of a successful computer recycling business. All the while he’s dumping computers into Lake Michigan and using underhanded means to extort money from others. Just about everybody thinks he’s pulled a fast one on them. He’s guilty of much of what he is accused of but not all.  You know he’s going down in a big way and that’s another thing that kept me turning pages.

Annie Ogden is the heroine and she’s a tough, spunky Army vet who’s out for justice. Look out Max…You are in deep doo-doo. A fun read. Some language and racy in parts.  I give it four and half stars.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Blast: Every Hill and Mountain by Deborah Heal 5/21/13 -$50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

Title:Every Hill and Mountain (Time and Again) (Volume 3) By Deborah Heal

About the Book:

Every Hill and Mountain Visiting another century,not the summer vacation she had planned. Those who have read Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy know that Abby Thomas is a college student on a summer service project with 11-year-old Merri. And they know that the summer is not going the way Abby had expected,but in a good way. For one thing, she meets a very nice guy named John Roberts. And for another, she discovers a strange computer program called Beautiful House that lets her fast-forward and rewind life. Not her own, of course, but those of the people who lived in Merri's old house. And the Old Dears old house, and, well, any old house. And since the program worked so well for the Old Dears' family tree project, Abby's college roommate Kate hopes it will help her find out more about her ancestor Ned Greenfield. And Kate's fiance Ryan thinks the program has lucrative commercial potential. Abby and John reluctantly agree to help Kate, but only on the condition that she and Ryan promise to keep the program a secret, because if it fell into the wrong hands,well, no one wants Big Brother invading their privacy. The two couples take a trip to the tiny town of Equality, set in the hills of southern Illinois and the breath-taking Shawnee National Forest. According to Kate's research, Ned Greenfield was born there at a place called Hickory Hill. The mayor, police chief, and townspeople are hospitable and helpful,until the topic of Hickory Hill comes up. They seem determined to keep them away, telling them, There's nothing there for you to see. Eventually they find Hickory Hill on their own, both the mansion and the lonely hill it sits upon. Built in 1834, Hickory Hill stands sentinel over Half Moon Salt Mine where the original owner John Granger accumulated his blood-tainted fortune. Abby and her friends meet Miss Granger, Hickory Hill's current eccentric owner, and they eventually get the chance to time-surf there. Their shocking discovery on the third floor concerning Kate's ancestor Ned Greenfield is almost too much to bear. What they learn sends them racing to the opposite end of the state to find the missing link in Kate's family tree. And there they are reminded that God is in the business of redemption that one day he'll make all things new.

sticker pictureDeborah Heal Deborah Heal, the author of the Time and Again time travel mystery series, was born not far from the setting of her book Every Hill and Mountain and grew up just down the road from the setting of Time and Again. Today she lives with her husband in Waterloo, Illinois, where she enjoys reading, gardening, and learning about regional history. She has three grown children, three grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout (a.k.a. Dr. Bob). She loves to interact with her readers, who may learn more about the history behind the books at her website and her Facebook author page
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review: The Girl with the Haunting Smile by Richard Louden

Greg Harris lives in Scotland and has lived a miserable and isolated existence because he is different and his teachers and parents think he’s just and odd ball who is a troublemaker.  But as various ticks develop, readers soon learn that he had no control of his acting out. As his mom, who has some odd idiosyncrasies herself, tries to find a medical cure, he is eventually diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome.

The one solace in Greg’s lonely existence is the friendship he has developed through correspondence with 10-year-old Ellen Fromm after falling in love with  her picture and getting her address from his grandfather. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina. Though he has never met her or spoken to her, they strike up a pen pal relationship. Eventually correspondence stops, and he loses touch with her but has built such a fantasy about his love for her that he can think of nothing else but finding her and declaring his love for her.

This is a coming of age story that will tenderize your heart toward children who are different and bullied because of it. Louden has created a sympathetic character in Greg but also one, whose very syndrome (especially the obsessive compulsive part) can truly grate on your nerves. It’s and up and down roller coaster ride as we are Greg’s emotional captives. I won’t spoil the ending.

This one gets four out of five stars. There is language and some sexually suggestive scenes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review – Catherin Coulter’s Split Second

This is my first introduction to Catherine Coulter. Apparently her characters Savich and Sherlock have appeared in previous books. The main good guys are four FBI agents including married agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock. They are joined by agents Lucy Carlyle and Cooper McKnight.

The book has three plotlines.  The main crime involves a serial killer on the loose. I was pleasantly surprised at who the serial killer turned out to be. I love surprises like that.  Nice twist.

Subplots include a dark family secret that comes out following Lucy’s father’s sudden death and a mystery around her grandfather who disappeared. I won’t tell you what Lucy finds in the attic, but it kept me on the edge of my seat, though I wasn’t really surprised. The surprise was more that what I thought had happened did happen. Coulter adds a supernatural element involving a mysterious ring. I was annoyed by this. Perhaps because the paranormal stuff just seemed tacked on and there was no real explanation of the true origin of a ring of power (which has elements of rip off from The Lord of the Ring) especially since the ring can be misused and all consuming for those who carry it.  I basically had a “give me a break” reaction to the supernatural element because this plot line was the only place we saw anything supernatural.  It just didn’t fit.

The third plotline surrounds a robbery victim and it’s this convenience store robbery the book opens with and it’s a great hook.

I was impressed that Coulter had three good plots going. I was unimpressed with the multiple lead characters. The romance element between Lucy and Copper was there but I wanted more of it. For any newcomer to Coulter’s characters, it was hard to know who we were supposed to root for with four leads. I give this 3 ½ out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Guest Author & Columnist Carol Round

After retiring from a 30-year teaching career, author Carol Round followed her dream. Her stories and essays have appeared in local, national and state publications and anthologies including Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, A Cup of Comfort, American Profile Hometown Heroes, Raging Gracefully, Remembering Our Parents and Body Image Lies Women Believe.
Without God’s continual nudging, however, she would not have begun her writing ministry. With His guidance, she has written one 500-word column each week since November 2005.  Her column, A Matter of Faith, runs in 12 Oklahoma newspapers and two online Christian publications. Three of her books are collections of her weekly column.
She is the author of five books, all available at A Matter of Faith, Faith Matters, by FAITH alone, Journaling with Jesus: How to Draw Closer to God, and the companion workbook, The 40-Day Challenge.

Are You Lost?
By Carol Round
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save
 what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

In my late 40s, I began to keep a prayer journal because I was lost. I began to ask myself, “Who am I?”  My nest was empty. I no longer felt needed by my sons, one of whom had married. The other had just started college. I also went through a divorce after my 28-year marriage ended. I no longer could identify myself as a wife or a mother. Through journaling, I rediscovered the most important part of myself. I was a daughter of the most High God—a God who cares about me, a God who hears my prayers and a God who wants a relationship with me.

Since that time, more than 10 years ago, my life’s journey has become intentional. Instead of allowing my peers and the whims of passing fancies to lead me, my goal has been a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father, who longs to meet each of us at the heart of who we are and all that we hope to become.
I had no idea the trials I would face after rededicating my life to Him in the fall of 2001. My journal has become a place to record my cries for help as well as the outcome of many of those times of despair. The pages of my journal have helped me to find the beauty of God’s activity in my life and the lives of those I love. When my ink pen flows across the page with words inspired by the Holy Spirit, I find clarity in my life.
Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is peace I find after spending time with my Heavenly Father each morning, pouring out my heart to Him in praise and supplication on the written page.
If I could choose the most important differences in my life since I began keeping a journal each morning, it would be the following:
  • A peace like no other. When my world and the world around me is in turmoil, I know where my peace comes from.
  • The knowledge of who I am and whose I am. I spent most of my life living up to other people’s expectations. Now, I live for Him.
  • Contentment with who I am and what I have. Many of us live our lives in discontent and seek things outside of God to satisfy that longing that can only be filled in a relationship with Him. Material possessions will never satisfy.
James 4:8 reads, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Do you want to draw closer to God? By expressing your thoughts, your feelings and your insights in a journal, you will be surprised when you discover God in the process. In turn, He will use your journal as an instrument to transform you. Your journal will also become a way of holding yourself accountable to spiritual maturity.