Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Three Books Look at Life as a Mormon

Judy Robertson's autobiographical account of her time as a Mormon, Out of Mormonism, opens the reader's eyes to what goes on behind the scenes in their community.

Judy and her husband were members of a Christian church, but had not attended for a long time and had gotten away from their beliefs. They were living in a new community, looking for new things when the Mormons came to their door and introduced them to what the Robertsons thought to be a life of family devotion and close relations with people in their group. People were very friendly and open until the Robertsons began to question some of the rituals and ceremonies that were a part of the Mormon belief.

Judy tells it like it was, what it felt like to become a Mormon wife. She tells of her frustration with her new family life as she tried to adapt to Mormon beliefs, and with her husband as he struggled to make a name for himself in the Mormon religion. He was a furniture maker, and tried very hard to become a noted one, but seemed to find frustration at every turn. She told about trying to please the Mormon elders and how controlling they were upon her own family.

Since I have no point of reference and knew nothing about the Mormons before I read this book, I can only rely on what I have read as others reported on the book. Some reviewers said that she gave a good description of Mormonism. The book is divided into four parts: 1. Mormonism Looks Good; 2. My Life as a Mormon Woman; 3. Light to Blinded Eyes; 4. My Life After Mormonism.

Robertson includes a glossary of terms at the end to help the reader understand this group and what they believe. The author told how she and her husband were attracted to Mormonism, the things they did while they were members, and how they were treated when they chose to leave the group because they discovered their own beliefs were very different from those espoused by the congregation.

You will probably notice that I never referred to the Mormons as a "church," but as a "group" or "community." That is because I believe a church is a group of people who profess faith in Jesus. In my opinion, Mormonism is a cult because it does not preach salvation through faith in Jesus, and only Jesus.

I downloaded this book for free on my Kindle, but it is no longer free. I checked Amazon today and the Kindle version can be purchased for just under $10.

Another book about Mormonism is a novel by Allison Pittman titled For Time and Eternity, Sister Wife. This book is the journey of Camilla Fox, a woman who lived in Iowa in the mid-1850s. She was attracted to the Mormons when she fell in love with a young man traveling through her part of country who belonged to that group. She left her family, who had taught her to love and trust in Jesus, and went with the Mormons to Utah.

This book is a novel, written much differently than the first book I reviewed. The sequel, Forsaking All Others, completes the life of Camilla Fox, a real person. This book drew me in as many novels do and I read the two books in a short time. I borrowed them from the public library in our town.

Both of these books tell us much about the Mormons. Camilla has to share her beloved husband with another wife about midway through the book, and she begins to remember the Bible as her mother taught her. She realizes that she is receiving the wrong instruction and decides to leave Mormonism. Above all, however, she does not want to leave her two daughters. She had to struggle with this for a long time before making her decision to get out of Mormonism.

The sequel, Forsaking All Others, continues Camilla's life after she broke from Mormonism. It deals with the difficulties she had in leaving, and then in rescuing her chidren. It is full of adventure and is a compelling read, showing how God led Camilla to remember Him, then to separate herself from evil. She had to work hard and depend upon God to get her children back. Her faith was made stronger as the problems came and were overcome.

If you would like to know more about Mormonism, all three of these books would give you a good start. The sequel, Forsaking All Others, can be purchased for your Kindle for $2.68, but read For Time and Eternity first. I don't think you would enjoy the second book unless you read the other one first. There is a lot of background that you need to know before you start the second one.

Allison Pittman is a well-known novelist. I have read several of her books, but I think these two about Camilla Fox might be the best ones she has written, in my opinion.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sometimes the Doctor is Wrong

        (This is a story of a family in a church where my husband was pastor from 1960 to1965. The last name of the family is changed, but all other facts are true.) 
       Kathryn and Earl Foster loved God and desperately wanted to have a family. However, they had been married three years and had had three miscarriages. Each time it happened, both of them cried at the loss of a baby that might have been theirs. They wondered what God was up to in their lives, because it was beginning to look as if that might not become a reality. The last time Kathryn miscarried, the doctor said, “You two had better begin to think about adoption.”
            Earl disagreed with that. He said, “I thought God was in charge of babies. We’re going to pray harder.” Kathryn, too, began to pray. She promised God that if he would let her become a mother, she would have as many children as God gave her.
            It was not too long until Kathryn was pregnant again and this time she carried the baby to term, hoping for a boy. They planned to name him Earl, Jr., but it turned out to be a girl, so they named her Earline. Then came another girl. Again, they hoped for a boy, and their plans were to name him Charles, so they gave her the name Charlene. The third child was a boy and he was named Darrel Roy. Earl and Charles had already been taken for the two girls, with slight variations, so they had to come up with another boy's name for their first son.
          In subsequent years, they had three more girls, another boy, another girl, and a boy. Nine children, after the doctor had made his comment about having a family through adoption!
            Kathryn loved being the mother of all those children, and Earl doted on them. He held them on his lap, loved them, and told them stories. Both Kathryn and Earl taught the children to work hard and to be proud of what they did.
            The family, with their nine children, moved into a little farming community in Northern Missouri, in mid-1960. Members of the German Baptist church, they attended the Methodist church where they had previously lived. Since neither of these churches were in their new location, they began attending the Southern Baptist church where my husband was pastor. The attendance went way up when the Foster family came! A family of eleven members, ranging in age from teen-age to toddler, boosted the attendance in our little church by a long shot.
           But becoming Baptists with all the organizations—G.A.s for the girls, R.A.s for the boys, Sunbeams for the pre-schoolers, Sunday School, and Training Union (each with its own literature for every family member) required the Fosters to go to the nearby county seat town and buy a bookshelf to keep everybody’s Bible and literature where they could easily find it. That caused less confusion as all the kids were trooping out of the house to go to church several times a week.
            The local Catholic priest heard about the Foster family with all their children. He was sure they must be Catholics who had not yet visited his church, so he went to welcome them to his parish. Earl and Kathryn invited the priest in, and then laughed as they explained, “We are not Catholic, we are just passionate Baptists!” 

            My husband and I became close friends with Earl and Kathryn. We were at their house a lot and of course, we all were at church for dinners and meetings. I learned a lot about cooking from Kathryn; she frequently shared recipes with me. When an emergency came in our lives and I had to go back to work, she kept our youngest child, who was the same age as their youngest for awhile. Kathryn was the calmest person I had ever met. Nothing seemed to faze her. Both of the Foster parents were quiet and soft-spoken, and they taught me a lot as I watched them relate to their children and to others. They were wonderful Christians, always faithful in attendance at church and always presenting a witness for Christ in their daily lives.
             The Foster kids were all hard-workers. They all graduated from high school and most were able to finish college. Earl and Kathryn are now in Heaven, but their faith and teachings live on in each of the kids. The greatest tribute to this family is that the children have remained faithful to God. One of the girls, along with her husband, has served for more than twenty years as a Baptist missionary in a foreign land. Six of the nine siblings are grandparents. They continue as their parents did, teaching the little ones to love God, to pray, to be faithful in church attendance, and to live in a manner pleasing to God.
          When families put God first and teach their children to love him and to call upon him often in prayer, great things can happen. The greatest of all is the influence a family can have on a community when they stand up for God. Everyone in that little town in Northern Missouri knew the Fosters, and they knew of their faithfulness to God. The doctor was wrong when he told them to think about adoption, but they continued to trust their heavenly Father. They wanted a family. God gave them one, and they were faithful to raise their kids to love and honor God.

Picture from the internet; not an actual picture of this family, but indicative of what this family did.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Dark Period in our Nation's History

As well as Christian fiction, I enjoy historical fiction. Last week, I read a book in this genre. Because of its subject, it was realistically presented and very well-written. It was Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim, a woman who has worked in multiracial, development psychology and has experience loving children not her own.

The story she tells is of Mattie and Lisbeth. Mattie is the Negro slave who is called away from her own 3-month old son to be wetnurse to the newborn baby in the big house.

The reader can see the bond developing between Mattie and Lisbeth while Lisbeth's mother, Anne, goes about her business socializing and leaves the care of the child to Mattie. Lisbeth learns clapping games like the little black girls play, and she comes to love the yearly custom of a picnic in early spring, when the yellow crocuses bloom. Mattie's mother taught her, and now she teaches Lisbeth. Though Mattie's heart is breaking for her own child, she shows love and care to the white child that she comes to love as her own. Mattie saves Lisbeth's life more than once.

Some of the cruelty the slaves experienced is shown in this book. The ever elusive "freedom" is sought by many. When Mattie's son is sold away, she runs to freedom. She finds her husband and son and for several years she lives in Ohio, a free state, but she is always looking over her shoulder, afraid she will be sent back to her owners.

As Lisbeth grows up, she is expected to make a good marriage and live as her mother did. But the things Mattie taught her cause her to change. The reader will be very surprised at the ending, after Lisbeth has made her choice to be an abolitionist, when she and her new husband move to Ohio.

The class structure of the antibellum period was ingrained and people had a hard time overcoming it. I am thankful that today we no longer have those restrictions, and people of every color can live free and that people of every color can enjoy friendships together.

I downloaded this book on my Kindle and it was another of those "you can't put it down" books. I think if you decide to read it, you will be as fond of it as I was.

Author Laila Ibrahim. Yellow Crocus is her first novel.
This book can be downloaded free on Kindle.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Traveling Again

I wonder how many times we have driven from our home (wherever it happened to be) back to Texas, where both of us were born. If I had kept records of all our trips, I would have fodder for several books. Most of the time we drove down Highway 69 through Oklahoma, or I-30 through Arkansas to Texarkana, then across to Dallas, but sometimes we took Highway 44 to 69 to head south. How many miles? Tens of thousands, probably. We've been doing this since 1957 when we went to Kansas City for my husband to attend seminary. At least twice a year, we went back to visit relatives in Fort Worth and Dallas. Sometimes we had very little money in our pockets, relying on a credit card to pay for gas. We stopped at parks beside the road to eat food we had brought from home and to let our children run off some energy. We drove at night a lot of the time so the kids would sleep and we could travel without any bickering or whining or begging to stop here or there.

Now that we are older and can afford it, we can stay at a hotel when we need to, like tonight at a Best Western in Joplin. We'll be home tomorrow, hopefully before Storm Q hits our area with ice and possibly snow. That makes me remember one of our long trips, when our children were in elementary school.

It was February, just as it is now, and we were traveling from Sedalia, our home at that time, to the funeral of my paternal grandfather in Dallas. It was late at night, and my husband was driving. We had driven from  Sedalia to Springfield, MO, then we took Hwy 44 to Hwy 69 where we entered Oklahoma, and turned south. The snow which had begun earlier that evening was falling heavy and thick. Charlie pulled to a stop at the side of the highway below an underpass and said, "I just need to rest awhile, then I'll drive some more." The kids were asleep, and I leaned my head back to rest, too.

Suddenly, something woke me with a start. I said to my husband, "Move over, I'll drive."

"Just a little while, honey, I'm so sleepy," he said.

"No, you don't understand," I said. "The Lord told me to drive this car."

I was not a proficient driver at that time, especially in snow. I drove only occasionally, and these were very bad circumstances. But I felt a positive nudge from God and I knew he would help me drive that car. I felt an imminent danger and knew we had to get out of that spot and away from the heavy snow.

Charlie looked at me and said, "Well, I don't argue with God." Then he got out and I moved into the driver's seat while he walked around the car, got in, and immediately went back to sleep. I carefully pulled out into the traffic and began to drive slowly through the heavily falling snow. After about an hour or so, Charlie woke up and he drove the rest of the way to Dallas.

A few days later, as we returned on the same route we had used heading south, we saw snow piled high on the sides of the road. The highway was still slick and snow-covered. Abandoned cars sat on the shoulder of the road where people had left them.  We learned that on that same highway where we had sat for a few minutes under that underpass, only a short while after I started driving, police had stopped all traffic because of heavy, drifting snow. If we had stayed there, we would have been stuck for hours with no blankets to keep our children warm and no way to move our car out. God got us out of that particular situation at that definite time and helped us get to our destination.

Tonight we are heading home a day early to avoid another storm, hopefully. Our son, Steve, needs to get to Chicago for the weekend and his flight to Germany on Tuesday. If we don't get home before the ice and snow hits, we may be in another situation similar to the one back in the late '60s when God helped me get that car out before we were snowed in with our little ones. I feel confident that God will lead us now, these many years later, just as He did back then.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Much More than Just Gardening

When I saw that Denise Hildreth Jones' new book, The First Gardener, was available for free download on Kindle, I quickly clicked and got it. I finished it in two days. I had read one of her other books, and remembered with pleasure her exciting writing style with quirky conversations, Southern characters, and unexpected endings. I was certainly not disappointed with this one and will be looking for her other books soon.

The First Gardener is set in Franklin, Tennessee, at the governor's mansion. The main characters are Gray and Mackenzie London, but the supporting characters added much to the story.

Mackenzie had suffered from infertility for several years before giving to birth to Maddie, who is five years old and entering kindergarten when the book begins. Infertility problems continue to plague Tennessee's first couple and treatments are ongoing to try to give them another pregnancy.

We meet Jeremiah, the old black gardener who spends his days tending the garden at the mansion, and Eugenia, Mackenzie's mother, along with her quirky senior adult friends. We learn about some of the pressures that politicians have to face and community work that the first lady does. Jeremiah narrates in between chapters with his home-spun philosophy of life, especially the lives of Mackenzie, Gray, and little Maddie.

When tragedy strikes suddenly after Maddie had attended kindergarten only a week, the blow is almost more than Gray, Mackenzie, and their friends can stand. Then, about six weeks after Maddie's death in a car accident, the Londons discover that Mackenzie is pregnant. She rebounds quickly, thinking that this is a gift from God in recompense for their loss. She rushes back into her busy life, decorates and furnishes the new nursery, and pushes grief far from her mind until diaster strikes again in the form of a miscarriage, the 5th one she had experienced. Six pregnancies, one baby, and that one was gone.

I wondered, because the book was only half finished, what else the author would have to say. But she said plenty. She dealt with deep depression, heavy grief, and the temptation and isolation that comes when people have such deep problems. Since one of our daughters experienced infertility, I knew something of the heartache described in the book. I could feel her grief and loss as I read with tears in my eyes.

The old gardener tells us much about flowers as he presents Mackenzie with a flower every day--one that he said God told him to give her. Each flower had a special meaning. There is humor, too, as Eugenia, Mackinzie's mother, tries to tell Jeremiah how to garden, since she, too, was a gardener in earlier years. Her three friends also lend plenty of humor.

This book would appeal to anyone. The experiences of infertility speak to the those who have been through this. The characterization of the mother-in-law and her friends would appeal to senior citizens. The stresses and temptations that come to Gray London are like those that come to many young and middle age people as they struggle with life. The deep devotion that sustains Jeremiah are helpful to anyone, as he depends on God to help him. And the surprise ending leaves the reader with a punch, one that was totally unexpected.

Don't miss this wonderful book by Denise Hildreth Jones, pictured here.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Sweet Love Story from World War II

I love to read novels about things that really happened. I like stories from all eras, but I particularly like to read books that took place during World War II, a time I can remember vaguely. I was a little girl then and I remember the ration books, the factories, the movies about the war, and the victory gardens. Of course, it was not something I thought about much, because I was nine years old when the war ended--too young to care much about those things. But I really enjoy the stories now.

In Nancy Cavin Pitts' book, When You Come Home, we read a real love story about a real couple--Daphne Abston and Raymond Kelley, who lived in Indiana. The story was written by Daphne's daughter, after she found an old scrapbook and learned about her mother's first love during the war years. Originally, it was written by an Indiana newspaperman, then was picked up by Tom Brokaw to be included in his book, The Greatest Generation, published in the late 1990s.

Pitts did a wonderful job of making this book a period piece. She included snippets of life as it was then and she "showed" instead of "told" the story with her imagery and language. A lot of history was included, history that can be documented with dates and places.

This couple fell in love in 1941, married in 1942, and their love story ended in 1944 with Raymond was killed in France at the age of twenty-two. Pitts introduced the couple's many friends, some of whom were mentioned at the end, since these friends were so close. The book does not tell about Daphne's second marriage, only that her last name became Pitts and that her daughter from that marriage wrote the book. It focuses on the war days and the couple's desperate struggle to spend as much time as possible together.

The book emphasizes the couple's love for God and Raymond's desire to become a preacher when his duty for the government was over. But this was not to be. It shows Daphne's emotions as she blamed God and then realized that she had to praise Him for their time together.

I found only a few typos--for example, the "wringing" of the hands was written with the homonym "ringing", and there was the occasional left out punctuation mark or misplaced paragraph, which is common for Kindle books. But it is a book I had to stay with. The plot was compelling, even as it described day-to-day life in a midwest town.

I recommend this book. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, you will like it. If you enjoy romance, you will like it. If you are an avid reader like me, you will have a hard time putting it down. You can buy it from Amazon or download it on your Kindle.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quilting Again

This is just a quick post to showcase the quilts I made since the first of January. I wrote about them the other day, but did not have a picture of the last one I did.

Scrap quilt--various left-over fabrics

scrap quilt--Christmas fabric scraps from a bag I found in the basement

Made with purchased and scrap fabric and embroidered blocks on a blue and yellow theme

Be sure to go the next blog. This is only to show what the quilt-tops look like.
I have more ideas and will be starting on another one soon.

A Day for Memories

Our home was never in one place. We lived in twelve different places, serving Baptist churches in Texas, Missouri, and Florida during our almost fifty-year ministry. Our children do not have a "home" where they all grew up. Our homes were parsonages in many different towns where we served.

Our son, Steve, is here for a visit from his home in Cologne, Germany, and he wanted to go back to a couple of those places and see where he grew up. So Monday morning we left early for a road trip to visit two of those places, Sedalia, and Bogard, Missouri.

We stopped first in Sedalia at the New Hope Baptist church. A man stepping out of his car immediately noticed that we were not regular church members, so he welcomed us, asking if he could help us find anything. My husband put out his hand and said, "I'm Marvin Nobles", and the man clapped him on the shoulder and yelled, "Charlie and Juanita!" as he enveloped him in a bear hug.

We found out that this 60-year-old man had been a teen-ager in that church when my husband was pastor there. His mother baby-sat our children, and both of us remembered his father's sweet smile. We went inside, visited with him and the pastor and secretary for a while, and had a great time of fellowship. Even though the church had a new building since the time we were there, we felt the sweet spirit that remained.

We drove around in Sedalia, recognizing schools and other places we remembered during our stay there: the home of the lady who taught Steve to play the piano, the State Fair grounds where we went many times during the summers, the houses of friends of our children, the local library where Steve began his love of knowledge, businesses-- just remembering.

We drove on to the First Baptist Church of Bogard. We had not called ahead; we did not even know who the pastor was, and when we got there, nobody was at the church or at the parsonage where we had lived from 1960 to 1965. So we drove around the town awhile, finally ending up talking to the postmistress, the only person we could find in this small town.

None of the stores and businesses we remembered were there, only the shells of the old buildings on Main Street, where we used to shop for groceries or do business at the bank. Even the body shop that did a lot of business when one of our church members ran it was shut down. Sometimes we saw open doors, but the old buildings were filled with trash. Not a soul could be seen anywhere. Even the school across from the church had been torn down. All that remained was the old ball field, the fence still intact around an overgrown plot of ground.

We saw vacant lots where houses used to stand, houses in which friends and church members had lived. The streets that we remembered as black-topped or paved were now dirt roads. Even the farm land around the town had eroded. It looked like Bogard had been forgotten. A loaf of bread of a jug of milk could not be purchased there. The postmistress told us the only thing you could buy would be a can of soda at the only gas station left in town, and you would have to stand outside to buy it.
 We did not get to go into the church, since nobody was around, but we hope some people remain to worship there. We noticed the outside of the building had been recently refurbished, though, and it looked like people still cared about it.

We sadly drove away. Seeing that place reminded us of what years of neglect will do. The population of the town had decreased to only 164, according to the roadside sign. The people left to get better jobs and better opportunities, and those who remained were left with nothing. Any kids living there were bussed to school in Carrollton, the county seat town about ten or fifteen miles away.

Bogard's opportunity seems to be gone. Where there was once a thriving community, now there is only desolation. A church that used to have 100 or more in attendance now seems to have a dwindling congregation. People who live there have to go somewhere else to earn a living or to get things they need.

We passed an old, long-forgotten place where I used to buy gasoline. The Phillips sign was still on the side of the building, but the door was locked. The broken window showed years of neglect. The gas pumps were long gone, and the driveway was broken up and filled in with grass. I remember that station because it was there, during our stay back in the 1960s, when I first recognized that age was creeping up on me, just as age has crept up on that little town through the years.

Site of the old service station at Bogard
People always called me "Miss" in my younger days, but that day, with four little ones in the car, I drove in to get gasoline, and the attendant said, "What can I do for you, Ma'am?" I remember the shock when I heard that word. Only older women were called "Ma'am." I used that term in respect when talking to older women. Now I was the older woman, even though at that time I was still in my 30's. I thought, "This is the end of my youth. I'm a matron now!"

It is sad and shocking to see what time and change bring to a town or a person. But that day has come for the little town of Bogard, Missouri. What a difference fifty years has made.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dan Walsh is an amazing writer. I just finished reading my second book that he authored, and found myself just as deeply intriguied as I was with the first one, Remembering Christmas, which I reviewed on my blog during the month of December.

This one opened slower than the first one, with a shipwreck and a newly married couple who were separated. The women on the ocean liner were rescued, but there was not room for the men, so John and Laura shared subsequent chapters as we learned about them and their love for each other.

As Laura grieved on the rescue boat, John and two friends clung to a piece of a table he salvaged from the liner. Walsh wove together many characters as he told a story of exciting rescues, deep friendship, and even a plot for murder. The time period for this book was only a matter of days, but crammed into the pages was more adventure than you would read in a book much longer.

You will learn about the treatment of slaves, the lives of high society people (the family of John, the man clinging to a table top in the middle of the ocean), and faith in God. One of the workers on the rescue ship was Micah, who showed his trust in God no matter what kind of treatment he received.

It would be a spoiler if I revealed the ending, so just pick up a copy and read it for yourself. I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Dan Walsh, an author who can be compared to Nicholas Sparks and Richard Evans, is a former pastor who now spends his time writing books. I hope I have time to read every one of them.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Oops! Looks like I've been forgetting to write my blog. My problem is that I have too many interests.

I love to read. I've read a few books since I wrote last on here. My recent post about a book written by Janice Thompson has resulted in her agreeing to let me interview her. I sent her the questions, and that interview will hopefully be on my blog in a couple of weeks, or maybe sooner. Watch for it, and then grab one of her books to read. I know you will enjoy it. The book I read and reported on, Fill These Empty Arms, is only available as an e-book. But you can get an app for your computer and read it there if you don't have a Kindle.

I love to quilt. I have made three quilts since January 1. Here's a picture of the first one I did. I had about a dozen squares made from some time ago, but it took 120 of these little squares, so I began putting pieces of scraps together until I completed this one. My daughter-in-law has a long-arm quilting machine and she will do the quilting for me at her home in Midland, Texas.

Then I found a bag of Christmas fabric scraps in the basement, so I began making a quilt with them. I felt like I had found a treasure when I found this large bag of Christmas scraps. In the last year or so, we have been downsizing and getting rid of stuff in our house, so I was thrilled to discover that these precious pieces had not been discarded or given away.

My third quilt was made with both my regular machine and my embroidery machine, using embroidered pictures of spring flowers and soft shades of yellow and blue. I'll post the picture when I get it complete, but it, too, is turning out nice.

I also love to paint, but haven't been into that for awhile. I hope to get back to it soon.

I have been a person of multi-interests all my life. Too bad one of them is not cooking and another is not cleaning. My sister is a wonderful cook--but I didn't get that talent. I was the first child and she was the last. Mother had time to teach her to cook, but she didn't have time to teach me. So I read, quilt, and paint, and do the housecleaning and cooking when I can work it into my schedule.

Watch for my post interview with Janice Thompson. In a month or so, I will post an interview with author Miralee Ferrell, who wrote The Other Daughter, among other titles.