I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shoe Boxes Full of Blessing

Guess what I've been up to -- Christmas shopping! But before you groan and remind me it's too early and there's still 39 days left to go, let me clarify: I've been busy with an especially satisfying type of Christmas shopping...shopping for a stranger!

And not just any stranger, but a child who lives in another country, a child who may not otherwise receive much for Christmas this year. Thanks to the ministry of Samaritan's Purse, anyone who's interested can fill a wrapped shoe box full of small gifts. The box will then be sent to a child in need through Operation Christmas Child (click the link to learn more).

I love Operation Christmas Child; it's a wonderful way to engage my children in mission. It's an opportunity to talk about kids who lives in utterly different circumstances than we do, and we pray for the kids who will receive our boxes. We love to go out together and pick out appropriate toys, school supplies, socks, and hygeine items to go into our boxes, too. We always try to select a variety of items, with practical items as well as frivolous ones.

Sometimes, we even hear back from the kids who've received our boxes. Those letters are treasures.

Boxes are being collected now, so if you're interested, it's time to get busy. If your church isn't offering an Operation Christmas Child drive, visit the website to learn if a church in your community or another local organization is involved, and they'd be happy to receive a shoe box from you! Who knows...your act of love could bless a child in a unique way, perhaps even serving as a step toward a relationship with Jesus.
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Jody Hedlund's Delightful Debut Novel, The Preacher’s Bride

“Puritanical” takes on a whole new meaning in Jody Hedlund’s debut release, The Preacher’s Bride. A sweet and satisfying love story, this historical romance celebrates faith, hope, and family, set during the religious persecution of Puritans during 1650’s England.

Under the rule of Cromwell, Puritans like John Costin and Elizabeth Whitbread enjoyed the freedom to worship as they pleased, and unlicensed preachers like John spread the Gospel throughout England. When Charles II came to power and returned England to a monarchy, however, being a Puritan preacher like John was a dangerous thing.

Hedlund’s novel tells the story of Elizabeth Whitbread, a young woman who yearns to save the starving newborn son of newly-widowed John Costin, a fiery local preacher, even if it means earning his scorn. Tending the baby and John’s three other children, Elizabeth's work as his housekeeper jeopardizes her reputation among the leading Puritans, strains her relationship with the man she's promised to marry, and endangers her life when a nasty Royalist threatens her in order to silence John. But when love for the children - and for John - blooms in her heart, Elizabeth won't sit idly by and let the family, or John's ministry, be torn apart.

John is a rich character. His humor and conviction make him easy to like, but at times, I also found him as frustrating as Elizabeth does. His flaws are painful ones: he’s already lost his wife, and fearing his newborn’s death, he protects himself from further pain by ignoring the child. When his heart opens to baby Thomas – and later, to Elizabeth – the joy is all the sweeter due to the spiritual and emotional obstacles John has had to overcome to get to this point. John’s difficulties, whether they spring from the politics of the day or from his own broken heart, aren’t shallow ones, and the fixes aren’t quick and easy.

Likewise, Elizabeth is a well-rounded character. She’s sharp enough to argue her way out of trouble, courageous enough to testify before the authorities, and strong enough to obey God’s call no matter how difficult the circumstances. If anything, she’s a model of virtue, and her major flaw is that she falls into the trap of works-based righteousness, which seems both appropriate and expected for a Puritan maiden. Her story is a reminder that we love God not for what He gives us, but who He is.

Well-researched, the story gracefully placed me in the time period with its rich descriptions. The writing is strong, the plot solid. The story is made all the more compelling when the reader learns that the characters are based on the lives of John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, and his second wife, Elizabeth. Reading this story has inspired me to pick up a copy and get to know Bunyan a bit better.

This book is one of my favorite novels of the year and I look forward to more inspirational fiction from Hedlund.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher for the purposes of review.