Write Stuff Wednesday: Max and the Prodigal

wild“’Now stop!’ Max said and sent the wild things off to bed without their supper. And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” – Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

My husband and daughter love this book. He read it to her when she was little. Surprisingly, I never read it as a child. We didn’t own it when our sons were small, and they never had the chance to read it as children. I couldn’t tell you if they’ve read it now or not. I kind of hope they have.

As I read this quote tonight, it made me think about the story in a new way. I’m sure Mr. Sendak didn’t mean it as such, but I see a lot of the prodigal in Max. Stick with me for a moment.

Max is a spirited young boy. He has a good home and a loving parent. But sometimes his strong will gets him into a little bit of trouble. He doesn’t always like his mother’s rules fails to exercise good judgement. This tendency lands him in his room without his supper.

But Max is an imaginative little boy. He’s not going to let a little thing like his parent’s rules stop him from having the life of fun and adventure he wants.  Not a chance. Max decides to run away, if only in his imagination. He leaves his parent’s home and sails for a faraway land full of creatures that should be scary to a small boy. These are creatures with wild ways that love to party. They are capable of ending Max’s life with a single swat of their giant claws. But they don’t. They make him their king. He leads them in their rumpus.

Eventually, the rumpus comes to an end. The monsters sleep, and Max is left to consider what he’s really accomplished by running away. He has the monsters. They may fear him, but they don’t have the one thing he wants more than playmates and freedom to do only what he desires. They don’t have unconditional love for Max. Knowing this leaves Max feeling completely alone. He always had love at his parent’s home. His mother always loved him, even when he was wild and rude. She loved him when he was unlovable. She loved him even when she had to give him consequences for his choices.

Realizing this, Max is left with one choice. He boards his boat and heads home with the wild things begging him to stay. That isn’t the life he wants. He wants a life of love. He wants a life with his mother. But will she have him? Yes. Max knows even after all he’s done, his mother loves him still. He knows because she left his dinner for him.

What an awesome picture of the biblical story of the prodigal son. What a great reminder for each of us. Sometimes we are Max. Sometimes we are the prodigal. We fight to go our own way.  We tire of God’s expectations and grow frustrated with situations that don’t work out the way we believe they should. We fool ourselves into thinking we can do better on our own. We storm off in our boats and join the wild things. But soon, reality hits and we realize we are alone. The things that we gained by joining the rumpus are empty. We are alone in our tent while the wild things sleep around us. Or if you prefer, we are in the pen with the pigs.

The joys we experienced with God come back to us. We’re reminded of the peace, strength, and direction He provided. Most of all, we remember His love. It draws us into the boat and across the waves. It brings us with a repentant heart back to Him. And we find He has already prepared for our return. His arms are open wide to receive us, and our supper is waiting.

By the Book: If you aren’t familiar with it (and even if you are) take a moment to read the story of the prodigal son. You can find it in Luke 15.

Be Like . . .

We’ve all seen them. They flash across our Facebook and Instagram feeds trying to lure us in with their cleverness. Their goal is making a sale based on our nostalgia for a particular television series. Love like this character. Be brave like that character. Remember to laugh like this character. On through the cast the list goes until each of the show’s characters is given a trait we remember them for most. It’s a way to announce our show loyalty to the rest of the television viewing world. Tonight I’m taking a page from their playbook.

While I could easily make a list of favorite movies or television characters, I’m a reader. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of the characters I love from my favorite author. Why? Because more than any television show or movie I’ve ever watched, these characters impacted me. They showed me parts of myself or things I wish were part of myself. I learned lessons beside them. I grew in my understanding of faith right with them. They have challenged me and encouraged me through the years, and I want to thank them (and Kristen Heitzmann, the author who created them) in this small way.

I want to . . .

be RESILIENT like Abbie Ferrel (Rocky Mountain Legacy series)

be PASSIONATE like Carina Maria DiGratia (Diamond of the Rockies series)

learn to “WANT THE WAY (THINGS) WORK OUT” even when it hurts like Morgan Spencer (A Rush of Wings series)

be a completely WILLING vessel God can use like Lance Michelli (Michelli Family series)

and finally,

be REAL like Grace Evangeline who messed up big time but owned it, repented, and kept letting God use her despite the fall-out. (Told You series)

What about you? Is there a character who has touched you in a major way? How do they inspire you?

 

What I’m Reading – A Bound Heart

Ever read a book that’s so well written you come away from it thinking it was a simply beautiful story to read? That’s what I experienced reading A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz.

The cover caught my attention first. It has a very Scottish or Irish look to it. If that wasn’t enough to tempt me into buying the book, (and really why wouldn’t it be? I’m fascinated with anything Irish or Scottish) I realized the author was Laura Frantz. I’ve only read one other book by this author, but A Moonbow Night was a wonderful book.  The author’s style was impressive. I hoped it would be the same with A Bound Heart.

I was not disappointed. The story, which takes place in Scotland in the 1700s, drew me in immediately. Lark’s life on the Isle of Kerrera is simple and sweet. Raised with Magnus, the laird of Kerrera, Lark has known privileges others of her station did not. Her friendship with him changed when he married, but Lark still serves faithfully raising and preparing the herbs for the castles medicinal and culinary needs.

Rory is a ship’s captain, smuggler, and friend. Though questioning how it fits with her Christian beliefs, Lark helps him avoid capture when he brings his ship to the island. Can it be all bad when he’s taking from those who have much in order to feed those who would otherwise have little? This struggle is one issue holding Lark back from giving him her heart, though she believes it would be easy to do so.

When circumstances land all three in legal troubles, they find themselves indentured and sailing for the colonies and Jamaica. Each struggle to adapt to new surroundings and ways of life while fighting homesickness for the land and people they love.  It’s especially hard for Lark as one of the men she cares about seems bent on choices that could lead to his end and the other is in an unknown land with a reputation for putting the indentured servants in an early grave due to illness.

Lark’s faith remains throughout these trials. She turns to God for answers and strength. She trusts He has a plan for her future, but what will that future look like?

Write Stuff Wednesday with Hope Toler Dougherty

Today’s Write Stuff Wednesday guest is Hope Toler Dougherty. I ask each guest to share a favorite writing quote. I love Hope’s response and the quotes she shares. I hope you do too!

I’m sorry, Heather. I couldn’t choose just one quotation about writing, so I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites along with some reading ones, too.

“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” Chinese proverb

I think this is a beautiful quotation. It always makes me smile.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Sir Richard Steele

If this quotation is true, then my mind is much more toned than my body is!

“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?” Henry Ward Beecher

Isn’t it interesting that Beecher, a prominent clergyman in the nineteenth century, felt so strongly about books? Here’s a true story: I love bookstores. I was in my favorite bookstore in Pittsburgh last summer. One of the beautiful displays was a whole table devoted to bees. I come from a long line of bee keepers and love bees. I bought two books from that display without even reading the back. If I had, I may not have bought one of them which turned out to be part science fiction/part dystopian novel—not my favorite genres! But it’s a gorgeous book, and I was in my happy place…

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” Mark Twain

I have a t-shirt with this in-your-face quotation on it. I’ve had people want to debate the thought when I wore the shirt.

“To me, nothing is more important than giving children books.” Fran Lebowitz

I can think of a few things that are more important, but I get the spirit of this quotation. Children need to be read to. Children need books around them, on the floor, in their beds, sticky and chewed on and used. Just this week, xxx said no screen time for under two-year-olds. I couldn’t believe this made news. I couldn’t believe people needed to be told.

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach

This quotation is a great reminder to all of us writers. Keep going. Keep writing. Keep trying.

I’ll close out this post with a thought from someone who always makes me laugh out loud.

“I think I did pretty well considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” Steve Martin

Now I’d like to give you the opportunity to get to know Hope a little better. Keep reading for her bio and information on her books.

irishIrish Encounter: After almost three years of living under a fog of grief, Ellen Shepherd is ready for the next chapter in her life. Perhaps she’ll find adventure during a visit to Galway. Her idea of excitement consists of exploring Ireland for yarn to feature in her shop back home, but the adventure awaiting her includes an edgy stranger who disrupts her tea time, challenges her belief system, and stirs up feelings she thought she’d buried with her husband. 

 

After years of ignoring God, nursing anger, and stifling his grief, Payne Anderson isn’t ready for the feelings a chance encounter with an enchanting stranger evokes. Though avoiding women and small talk has been his pattern, something about Ellen makes him want to seek her—and God again. 

 

Can Ellen accept a new life different than the one she planned? Can Payne release his guilt and accept the peace he’s longed for? Can they surrender their past pain and embrace healing together, or will fear and doubt ruin their second chance at happiness?

 

Hope’s Bio:

10479746_918926531455910_6824469307174309015_nHope holds a Master’s degree and taught at East Carolina University and York Technical College. Her novels include Irish Encounter and Mars…With Venus Rising. A member of ACFW, RWA, SinC, she writes for SeriousWriter.com. Residing in North Carolina, she and her husband enjoy visits with their daughters and twin sons.

Here are Hope’s social media links:

http://hopetolerdougherty.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AUTHORHOPETOLERDOUGHERTY/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941031.Hope_Dougherty

https://www.pinterest.com/hopetdougherty/

https://twitter.com/HopeTDougherty

https://www.instagram.com/hopetolerdougherty/

Pick and Choose

I’ll admit it. I only bought Thorn in My Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs because of the setting. Ireland and Scotland have always been areas of interest to me. So, I bought the book. I bought the rest in the series because of the story in the first.

I bought The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson because someone at the book store recommended it. I bought more of her books because I enjoyed the stories.

It was the cover of Carolina Dream by Regina Rudd Merrick that first drew my attention. It’s beautiful and inviting. The images on the front made me want to visit the world within. I’ve visited twice more since then as the next two books in the series were published.

I’ll buy anything with Kristen Heitzmann’s name on it. I’ve yet to find something she’s written that I don’t enjoy. In fact, she is re-doing one of her earliest sets, and I will get those when they become available. It doesn’t matter that I have the originals. Her skill has earned her books a place on my shelves every time.

Whether it’s the setting, a recommendation, a cover, or a name there is always something that draws a reader to a particular book. Occasionally we stumble onto a new writer by accident. I found Morgan Busse when I won a copy of Tainted. The book is not in my preferred genre, and I would not have purchased it for myself. It would have been my loss. I couldn’t put the book down, and I bought book two immediately. But happy accidents like this aside, most of the time some element lures us in and inspires us to choose a particular book.

In a similar way, we tend to gravitate toward certain scriptures or books of the Bible. I love a good story. Genesis, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles overflow with stories. The four gospels in the New Testament all tell the story of Jesus’ life.

I don’t like cliff-hangers. That’s why Jonah tends to frustrate me. It just sort of ends. I’m also not a fan of having to decipher between literal and figurative. I like it when things are clear and easy to follow. Though I have read it, Revelation isn’t usually my first choice because of this.

I will always have my favorites and the reasons I love them. I think most people do. But I don’t want that to stop me from seeking out God’s truth and wisdom from the entirety of scripture. The Bible, while separated into individual books, is meant to be taken as a whole as well. Each part backs up and enhances the message in the rest. It’s when the parts are put together that we get the clearest picture of who God is and what His plan for us is.

Besides, sometimes the most impactful lessons come from the place we least expect them.  Much like I was surprised by Tainted when I read it, I’ve been surprised by scripture. Doing an inductive Bible study of Romans was not something I looked forward to. Our group finished Kings and Chronicles which I loved. There was story after story to learn from and enjoy in those books. The idea of going to Romans was not as appealing. But I joined the study and gave it my best, and I came out with a new appreciation of the book. The lessons I took from that Romans study have had a big impact on my faith. Years later, truths I learned come flooding back with clarity when I need them most. I would have missed these if I’d decided not to take part.

How do you choose the books you read? Have any surprised you?

Which books of the Bible are your favorite and why? Have you ever been surprised by scripture?

What I’m Reading – A Carol for Kent

Today as I scrolled through one of my social media accounts a post for A Carol for Kent by Hallee Bridgeman came up. On sale for less than a dollar, I couldn’t pass up the chance to get it. I read and reviewed A Melody for James, the first in her Song of Suspense series, a year ago. I’d enjoyed that one, and I was sure I’d like this one as well.

A Carol for Kent is the third in the series. I didn’t pay attention to that fact when I started the book. However, while there were events alluded to that I believe would have been made clear by reading books in the correct order, my lack of knowledge of the second book’s happenings in no way diminished this story. It left me, like every good story will, wanting to know what comes next and in this instance what came before. I don’t doubt books two and four will be added to my kindle account soon.

This story focuses on Carol Mabry, single mother and attorney. She is an expert at separating her home life and her work life which often takes her into gruesome crime scenes. It’s her job to help make sure those criminals end up behind bars for their crimes, but she knows taking home the residue of the cases she works would be detrimental to her daughter, Lisa. And considering Carol was told eight years ago Lisa’s father wanted nothing to do with her, she knows she can’t let her guard down for a minute. A mother’s love is all her daughter has.

That is until country music star Bobby Kent returns home unexpectedly to find he has a child he’s known nothing about. Lies have stolen the last eight years of parenthood from Bobby, and he’s ready to make things right for his little girl.

Carol and Bobby have a lot to overcome in their relationship. The lies that kept them apart, the lies that left Carol alone, ignite anger that runs deep. Distrust based on years of feeling abandoned are not easily overcome either. There is a lot to forgive, and both feel justified in a refusal to do so.  While they both want the best for their daughter, they don’t know if there can be a joined future for themselves.

If that isn’t enough drama for two lives, Carol’s current case is a race against a serial killer. It’s hard to leave this one at the office. The killer seems to obsess about one particular type and doesn’t make mistakes that could mean a break in the case. It’s a fascination that brings the danger right up to Carol’s front door.

I found the mystery element of the story intriguing. I honestly thought the perpetrator was a different character. The real killer surprised me. I’m happy for that. To me, good suspense will surprise  you in the end. Of course, it can’t be such a surprise that the reader feels it came completely out of left field.  Looking back there are subtle clues that gave hints into the killer’s identity, but my mind definitely went a different direction. And the reason for this particular killer’s actions is one that got my attention. I’ve always found the psychological aspects of life interesting, and this story tapped into that.

Just as important as the suspense of the story is the idea of anger and forgiveness. I may not know what it is to deal with serial killers in my life, and believe me, I’m more than grateful for that. But I can relate to anger and the struggle to forgive. When someone hurts you in a way that changes your life forever, letting go of that hurt and not giving in to the anger their actions bring is difficult. When their actions come from pure selfishness and sinfulness, forgiveness is even harder to achieve. It’s easy for the unchecked anger to spill over into other areas of life. And an unforgiving heart becomes bitter in a relatively short amount of time. Carol and Bobby’s story tap into those themes which I believe many of us can understand personally. It allows us to find ourselves in the story and gives us the desire to cheer them on in their growth if we’ve already been there. If we’re still there, it may serve as an encouragement to go through that growth with them.  Either way, these themes work together with the suspense element to create a story that will capture your attention and keep it until the last page.

Here’s where you can find A Carol for Kent.