By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Tag: family

Heirlooms of Faith

I have a favorite cookie recipe passed down from my grandma. I have a handkerchief collection in an old candy box passed down from my great-granny along with all the stories she told me about the origins of each one. I also have several pieces of her costume jewelry, though the jewelry box I played with as a child was destroyed when a basement where I had it stored flooded.  I have my mother’s class ring and a charm bracelet she had growing up. I have things from each of the women in my family, but none have been passed from generation to generation. As far as I’m aware we have no family heirlooms.

I love the idea of a family heirloom. An item so treasured that it passes from generation to generation like a baton in a race. I can imagine the stories and secrets the item would share with each owner. I love the idea that the one possessing the item adds their personal chapter in the tale before passing it on to a new owner.

It’s this continuing story that weaves together the lives of several women across several generations in The Christmas Heirloom, a book of four holiday novellas written by Karen Witemeyer, Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, and Becky Wade. Each author’s novella is a story of love that takes place during the Christmas season. Each story is from a different time period but they all focus on the women of one family and a treasured gift, an amethyst brooch, passed down from mother to daughter after its first gifting from an elderly woman to her caretaker.

The stories of loss, hope, and love are enough on their own to bring both laughter and tears. Each novella is worthy to stand on its own. Each is enjoyable. I loved watching each woman’s life and love develop on the pages.

But it adds depth to each woman’s story to see how the brooch plays its part in their lives and makes them a single chapter in a story that is bigger than their individual part in it. The history the individual stories give to the ones that come after bring depth to their themes. True, an author can use well-placed back story to fill in the blanks, but it falls short. It’s like reading the Cliff’s Notes instead of the whole book. You don’t get a chance to connect with the characters that way, and the whole point of The Christmas Heirloom is connection. The brooch comes when each woman is ready to connect with the love of their life, and it connects them to their family’s past like a treasured heirloom should.

I may not have a family heirloom rich with stories to pass on to my children, but the idea of the heirloom brings to mind a scripture my mother shared with me tonight in our nightly prayer time. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

It’s not a physical treasured item passed down from believer to believer. But just as the brooch in the story reminded the women they were part of something bigger, this verse reminds me there were others before me and there will be others after me. We are part of the same family as adopted sons and daughters of God. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we gain more than forgiveness for our sins and reconciliation with God, though that is more than enough. We also become part of a story that is much larger than ourselves, and the Creator of the universe is its author. Each believer’s story is unique but intricately woven together with the story of every other believer. It’s a connection we too often fail to realize can bring understanding and depth to our own chapter of the story.

 

Main Character Monday #4

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Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

 

Today’s Guest is Rachel Miller from Don’t Ask Me to Leave by Micki Clark. Thank you for joining me Rachel.

Could you please share with us your favorite Bible verse?

Well, naturally, I love the book of Ruth, but especially Ruth 1:16: “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

Is there a person from the Bible that you most relate to?

Oh, man. Definitely Job, there for awhile. I mean, I know he had it worse than me. He did. But you know, it felt like my whole life was just one big cycle of death and destruction. I lost my parents, I lost my husband. Really, I lost my way. What embarrasses me a little is that unlike Job, I kind of lost my faith too. Thank goodness for Nadine, who pulled me back in. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Is there one of these characteristics you find easier to show than the others? Hmm. Well, I guess gentleness describes me the most, but I do try to be kind to others. You just never know when someone else needs that. I know I certainly did.

Which one is the most challenging for you?

Patience. Ha! No, seriously. Patience for sure. I guess I’ll always struggle with that one. I mean, I’m patient for some things, like waiting on pizza to come out of the oven. But I tend to be impatient with people when they aren’t like me. I wasn’t patient with my sister-in-law Olivia. I’m still trying to make up for that.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

You never know how much time you’ll have with anyone. Anyone. Cherish every moment. Dance in the rain. Eat the extra slice of pizza. Laugh like no one hears you braying like a mule.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Oh, dark, definitely. It’s so decadent.

Beach or Mountains? Never been to the beach. But, I totally love hiking the mountains. One of these days I’d like to give the Appalachian Trail a run for its money.

Sweet Tea or Lemonade? Oh, gag. What is this nation’s obsession with sweet tea? Uh-uh. Nope. Can’t take it. Lemonade, although if it could be strawberry lemonade, with chunks of strawberries stirred in. . .

If you could describe Micki Clark in three words, what would those words be?

Hardworking, loyal, and determined. She gives 110% to everything. She really needs to learn to back off of some stuff, because she has a big tendency to overextend herself.

Thank you, Rachel Miller for allowing me to interview you and to Micki Clark for sharing Rachel with us.

Don’t Ask Me to Leave is available in e-book and paperback from Amazon. And don’t forget, book reviews are a great way to help your favorite authors get the word out about their books. After you’ve checked out the Main Character Monday books, don’t forget to leave your Amazon review!

 

 

We Are Family

I have more families than I can count. I have a literal family. I’ve had a few church families throughout the years. When my children were toddlers, I had a mothers’ group family. One especially close to my heart is my SICC camp family. The faces in that one have changed through the years, but all of them are still family.

Looking back, I see the importance of each family group in specific times in my life. My literal family has helped shape who I am from the beginning.  My moms’ group family helped me navigate the tough toddler years. Though each church family has impacted my life, my Scottsboro church family was there when I needed a little more spiritual encouragement and love. I owe them greatly for helping me find joy in serving. My camp family, well, I can’t even begin to tell you what it means to me. I can’t imagine my life without each member. They’ve been there since I was six months old, and they play a part in many of my best memories and most of my spiritual development.

Recently, God has added to my family list. In this new writing adventure, He has gifted me with two amazing groups. One is a local Christian Writers’ group. God has used this group to motivate, challenge, and encourage me. We have fun, but we also prioritize growth in our writing. They helped me review and prepare Faith’s Journey to be sent to publishers. They were the first people to know about and celebrate with me when I got the contract for publication.

My other new writing family is made up of the Mantle Rock Publishing authors. I’ve never actually met any of the people in this family. We talk only through social media. But this amazing group has taken me in as one of their own. They’ve answered questions and given tips on everything from using social media to running a book launch party. We cheer each other on and learn from each other. Some have been in the family a long time, but others are relative new comers like me. It doesn’t matter. We all have something to add to the family.

That’s the great thing about chosen families. They each have a special place and fill a special purpose in my life. Each member adds their own unique twist to the family unit. They contribute something special that no one else could give in quite the same way. And, hopefully, I bring something of worth to each of them too. We make each other better, stronger. That’s what family is supposed to do.

That’s also what the church is supposed to do. God didn’t create us to work independently of each other. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 are two of several scriptures that compare believers to a body. Each body part is unique in what it does and how it does it. Each body part is necessary to the health of the body. It’s why we are encouraged not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). We were made to teach and encourage each other. We are meant to rejoice and cry with each other. When we show love to each other the way God intended, the world sees it and amazing things can happen. The first chapter of Acts details many times that God worked through His people and the result was an increase in believers. What starts off each of those miraculous times of ministry? Unity. The church was unified as one family of believers.

So what keeps us from working that way now? Why do so many believers choose to strike out on their own rather than being part of a body? It’s because our church families are like our literal families. If you have siblings, you know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to live without conflict in close quarters with people who are vastly different in personality and likes and dislikes. Sometimes, jealousy creates sibling rivalry. How can we admit our sibling’s idea is a good one? Won’t that mean our own idea wasn’t a good one? Why does that family member always seem to do the one thing they know bothers us worse than anything else?  Rather than holding tight to the things that unite our family, we let the differences deplete our patience, tearing us apart.

The things that creep into our literal families also threaten our chosen families, even spiritual families. What God designed to be one healthy body working in love and showing the world a different way to live, becomes a body riddled with the disease of sin. The family God gives us for our good becomes so dysfunctional that family members become estranged. As members strike out on their own, there are two losses. The person that leaves loses opportunity for the support and encouragement God meant for them to have. The ones that stay lose a little more of their ability to impact the world for God as the world judges them to be no different than everyone else. And who wants to be part of a dysfunctional family?

By the Book: Do you have a church family? If not, what keeps you from it? Ask God how to heal the hurts and find the family He has for you. If you do have a church family, is it working together as one the way God intended? Are you doing your part to help it function in love? Ask God to show you how to be the spiritual family member He designed you to be.

Family by Love

Does everyone have a favorite aunt? I do. Although living over an hour away has kept us from being as close, she has a special place in my life. She’s fun loving, with a quirky sense of humor that I relate to. She’s celebrated with me at every milestone from going to prom to getting married and having children. But it’s more than that. She’s been there in the rough times too. In high school when I faced my first real broken heart, she let me crash at her place for the weekend. She didn’t try to explain it away as kid feelings. She accepted my hurt for what it was, and she let me feel it.

That weekend we wrote a country song full of angst and drama, like great country songs should be. The resulting song was iffy, but we had a lot of great laughs and memories. It was enough to help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it reinforced the special relationship I have with my mom’s sister.

Only my mom doesn’t have a sister. Technically, she’s my mom’s best childhood friend. And she is, without question, family.

We aren’t family by blood, but by choice, by love. We come together to share good times and are there to help through the bad ones. Like blood family, we have our ups and downs, but we’re always there for each other. And couldn’t we all use more people like that in our lives?

Cindy and Erin Woodsmall understand this concept. It’s evident in the lives of the characters in The Gift of Christmas Past. Two of the main characters are products of the foster care system. Without biological family, they turn to each other, forming an unbreakable bond. Their family grows as they love the needy around them. Whether it’s a family struggling to make ends meet and care for their speech delayed toddler or an elderly woman trying to raise her troubled grandson, Hadley and Elliott aren’t afraid to care in practical ways. They never have a lot, but they give freely of themselves to make life better for those around them.

When hurts surface through renewed ties to people from their past, they don’t let it stop them. They face the prejudices and misconceptions head on. They keep loving people, and their world is made better because of it. Their family is a mismatched group, but the bond they share goes far deeper than blood.

It should be like this for believers. Several scriptures compare Christians to one body with many parts working together for everyone’s good. In Acts, the newly formed church pooled their resources and took care of each other’s needs. Philippians 2 reminds us to look out for the interests of others and not only ourselves, and Romans 12 implores us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn”. This is what Jesus meant when He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

It begins with our places of worship. God has given us a specific group of people with a variety of personalities and problems. He intends for us to teach, pray for, and encourage each other. When we love those we worship with, we become family.

As we live out love with them, it spills out our church doors. It reaches other church families around us. But it doesn’t stop there. When believers start loving like Jesus loved, lives begin to change outside the church too. Those who might never step foot in a church see God clearly through us. Some will come to embrace God for the first time, and our family will grow again. With a shared passion to live the way our Savior lived, we become a spiritual family bound by God. And I can’t imagine a better family than that.

By the Book: Take time to appreciate the family you have. Choose a biological, chosen, and spiritual family member to lift up in prayer this week. Go the extra mile and send them a card or note letting them know you’re thinking of them.

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