She’s twenty-two years old, raising fourteen little girls in a dot on a map called Uganda. How did Katie Davis, high school student from Nashville, Tennessee, end up mothering children in East Africa? In her own words . . .
“Jesus wrecked my life.
For as long as I could remember, I had everything this world says is important. In high school, I was class president, homecoming queen, top of my class. I dated cute boys and wore cute shoes and drove a cute sports car. I had wonderful, supportive parents who so desired my success that they would have paid for me to go to college anywhere my heart desired. But I loved Jesus.
Slowly but surely I began to realize the truth: I had loved and admired and worshiped Jesus without doing what He said . . . I wanted to actually do what Jesus said to do.
So I quit my life.
Lots of helpers
Originally, my quitting was to be temporary, lasting just one year before I went to college and returned to normal, American teenager life. But after the year, which I spent in Uganda, returning to ‘normal’ wasn’t possible.
I quit college; I quit cute designer clothes and my little yellow convertible; I quit my boyfriend. I no longer have all the things the world says are important. I do not have a retirement fund; I do not even have electricity some days.
But I have everything I know is important. I have a joy and a peace that are unimaginable and can come only from a place better than this earth. I cannot fathom being happier.
Jesus wrecked my life, shattered it to pieces, and put it back together more beautifully.”
Katie’s boldness and compassion truly inspired me. I was amazed to find such wisdom in one so young. The lessons she has learned touched my heart. And she also loves one of my favorite verses!
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” ~Psalm 37:4~
Katie’s commentary: “It is not about God making my dreams come true but about God changing my dreams into His dreams for my life. As I go with Him to the hard places, He changes them to the most joyful places I could imagine.”
“The truth is I saw myself in those little faces . . . He blinds Himself to my sin and
my filth so that He can forge a relationship with me. And this is what He did for me with these precious children. He blinded me to the filth and disease, and I saw only children hungry for love that I was eager to share with them.”
Soak in her story and let it change you. Then pass it on to every young person you know.
***Thanks to Howard Books for providing a copy for me to review. I’m planning to share this book with my students. I pray that my copy becomes tattered and worn from passing through many hands.
Giveaway: This is the first October giveaway post!
At the end of the month, I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card. All you have to do is comment on a giveaway post to be included in the drawing! So share your thoughts on this remarkable young woman below!
I have favorite books for every mood or season of life I’ve experienced. When I rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 (on Good Reads or Amazon), I give 4’s to the novels that are well-written, suspenseful, and engaging. I save the 5’s for those books that mean something more to me.
A 5 is for a novel that has helped me grow as a person, comforted me, filled up a crack or two in my heart, or bolstered my faith in God. I think Martha by Diana Wallis Taylor earned a 5 because it did all of these things. This lovely story brought to life a woman I’ve long admired. Martha was specifically mentioned in Scripture as a friend of Jesus. He felt at home in her house, visited frequently, and trusted her to make his followers comfortable as well. I loved how the author depicted Jesus speaking to Martha’s heart and making Himself a part of her life, as in this excerpt . . .
“The disciples, enjoying a respite after long hours on the road, were in a mood to celebrate. Thomas pulled a kinnor, a small harp, from his sash and began to plunk its strings, sending a simple melody through the courtyard. Mary picked up her lyre and joined in the music. Jesus seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself, his eyes dancing with the music. Martha suddenly felt like celebrating with them.
As the hour grew late, Jesus rose from the table and his disciples, ever aware of his movements, rose with him. Martha hated to see them leave. ‘Master, you are welcome to sleep here.’
Jesus at Martha’s hous
‘You are kind, Martha, and a generous hostess, but we will retire to the Mount of Olives for the night.’
‘Will you come again?’
He smiled and she was lost in the depths of his eyes. ‘I must travel a long way, but whenever we are in this area again, we will come.’
Jesus glanced to where Thomas and Mary were talking quietly. ‘I believe at least one of my disciples has good reason to return also.’ His eyes danced and Martha was filled with love for him—not the love she’d known with Thaddeus, but a holy love, deep and abiding. It didn’t matter what others said about him. She knew who he was.”
The author created a beautiful inner voice for Martha. I found myself hurting with her as she bids farewell to loved ones, struggles to release cherished dreams, and prepares to embrace a solitary life. The peace that Jesus gives Martha felt real to me. Both those who have experienced that peace—as well as those who are seeking it—will enjoy this novel.
Also, I thoroughly enjoyed the happy ending Diana Wallis Taylor imagined for her sweet main character. Did it happen that way for Martha in real life? Someday I’ll ask her!
***Available June 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Revell for providing my review copy of this book. Don’t miss this uplifting story! Follow this link to purchase your copy.
July Giveaway Contest: At the end of July, I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one fortunate commenter. All you need to do to be entered is comment on any eligible post up until July 31st. (I will label the contest posts.) I will then submit all names to the Random Number Generator to determine a winner. I will submit your name as many times as you comment, but you also have a great chance of winning by commenting on just one post! Today’s post is the First Contest Post.
***So feel free to comment and also tell me if you’d like to be included in the drawing. Or you could just leave a comment to say hello. (We bloggers love that!)
About the author: Diana Wallis Taylor lives with her husband Frank in San Diego, California. Between them they have six grown children and ten grandchildren. She serves on the board of the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild and is active in Christian Women’s Fellowship. Follow this link to visit Diana’s website.
Maybe all of us have asked the question at one time or another, “Is there more to life than this?” One of my favorite country songs says it this way, “You know I’m more and more convinced the longer that I live that this can’t be–No, this can’t be. No, this can’t be all there is!” (from Believe)
A book I read recently brought this strongly to mind. It put me through an emotional wringer (for reasons I might share in a future post) and sent me to my Bible to soak in some of God’s familiar promises. The novel is this month’s book club selection, Crossings Oceans by Gina Holmes.
Since some of you may have the same question in your heart, I’d like to focus on one aspect this significant story brought out: What happens when life on earth is through?
First, a story summary:Crossing Oceans,by Gina Holmes, is the poignant and lovely story of Jenny Lucas, who must “navigate the rough and unknown waters of the new reality in her life when she returns home with her young daughter to her stoic, distant father and her oxygen-toting grandmother.” The story speaks to some of the universal themes we all deal with—moving on from unrequited love, learning to forgive, letting go of the past, becoming a better person for those we cherish, and adjusting to whatever ‘new normal’ life throws our way.
One of the key relationships in the book is between Jenny and her dad. These two can’t even discuss the weather without throwing in digs and accusations.
The main source of misunderstanding between them stems from the fact that they’ve both been marked by watching beloved wife and mother, Audra, suffer the ravages of cancer. Since Jenny was a teen when her mother died, she sorely needed the comfort of her surviving parent, but her dad closed himself off behind a wall of bitterness. Only after many heartaches and wasted years, are they able to bridge the gap between them.
Look at how the following lines from the novel describe one of Jenny’s visits to her mother’s grave:
I knelt on the grass, ignoring the lumpy ground pressing into my bare knees. Though some found it sacrilegious to set foot on a grave, let alone sit atop it, to me it was as close to my mother’s lap as I’d get on this side of heaven.
Even as an adult, Jenny longs for her mother. Audra’s death has shadowed her life. We’ve probably all read about the process of grieving and the steps involved, even if we’ve never experienced them. Yet, like Jenny and her father, we’re reticent to speak of it, deal with it, or prepare for it. But we don’t need to be if we’ll simply educate ourselves from a trustworthy source. The Bible says that we were created to live forever.
I believe deep down inside, we all know this to be true because God has placed eternity in our hearts. We find ourselves longing for permanence. We try to build things that will last forever: pyramids filled with mementos, towers that reach the sky, unsinkable ships. Yet eternity may only be found in Christ. Through Him, we’re promised a new heaven and a new earth.
Just think of it: all that we love and none of what we detest. No more crying, sickness, death, disease, abuse, power-struggles, tsunamis, earthquakes, unemployment, poverty—you name it!
And I also believe that the more firmly convinced we are of our salvation, of Christ holding our lives in His hands, the more confident we’ll feel that there’s more to life than this. Not that we’re eager to see our happy lives on earth end any time soon! But don’t we all want to know that there’s more to come? That this life is just prologue to an incredible future?
Jenny believes it. After witnessing her mother’s experience with death, she becomes convinced that there is life everlasting for the child of God. While at the grave, she thinks of this:
I looked back down to her headstone. “Here lie the remains of Audra Ann Lucas, beloved wife, daughter, friend. Do not mourn her, for she lives.” As if I hadn’t see these words a thousand times, I stared, amazed at the profoundness of them.
Jenny’s new perspective also gives her an appreciation for the beauty of life here on earth:
I closed my eyes, letting the sun rays soak into my anemic flesh. They felt as nourishing to my soul as Isabella’s kisses or Mama Peg’s touch. The simple joy of breathing fresh air, feeling the sun and being among the green God created filled me with amazement. I scanned the trees with their heavy limbs, the grass cushion under me, and the wisps of white sailing on a sea of blue above. The simple grandeur of it all took my breath away. Placing a hand over my heart, I marveled at such beauty—so familiar and yet it felt new. I’d had all this at my disposal my entire life, but I’d never really appreciated it.
Jenny learns much from her mother’s death and comes to truly believe that she’ll see her again. Her epiphany reminded me of an old story told by Bible teacher and preacher J. Vernon McGee:
There is a story of sweetness and beauty which enlightens the heart of every person who has lost a loved one to death. It concerns a custom among the shepherd folk of the Alps. In the summertime when the grass in the lower valleys withers and dries up, the shepherds seek to lead their sheep up a winding, thorny, and stony pathway to the high grazing lands. The sheep, reluctant to take the difficult pathway infested with dangers and hardships, turn back and will not follow. The shepherds make repeated attempts, but the timid sheep will not follow.
Finally a shepherd reaches into the flock and takes a lamb and places it under his arm, then reaches again and takes another lamb, placing it under the other arm. Then he starts up the precipitous pathway. Soon the mother sheep start to follow and afterward the entire flock. At last they ascend the torturous trail to green pastures.
The Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, has reached into the flock and He has picked up a lamb. He did not do it to rob you but to lead you out and upward. He has richer and greener pastures for you, and He wants you to follow. For as He promised:
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I [Christ] go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” ~John 14:2,3
Now that’s a promise you can build your life upon!
January’s book club selection has been compared to A Walk to Remember and The Notebook, and the author has been compared to both Charles Martin and Karen Kingsbury, as well as Nicholas Sparks. The book has also been described as similar in tone to Hope Floats, Steel Magnolias, and Terms of Endearment. That’s a lot of acclaim for one debut novel!
This month’s Christian Fiction Book Club choice is Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes. Here’s what Gina’s website says about the book:
Nothing deepens a stream like a good rain . . . or makes it harder to cross. Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But life has a way of upending even the best-laid plans. Now, years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank-toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad. Who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter.
As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love to change everything—to heal old hurts, to bring new beginnings. Even to overcome the impossible.
So what’s been holding you back from joining in the Christian Fiction Book Club fun? I know time is at a premium for most of us. Perhaps spending money on extras–like a book you don’t even know you’ll like–is an issue. Or maybe you’re too shy to share your opinion in the comments section of the blog.
This might be the time, the first month of the new year, to change all that!
“And Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.” (Matthew 1:5-6)
Why would God choose to give Rahab, a former Canaanite Harlot, the honor of bearing a son whose lineage could be traced to King David and then Christ? Because He is a God of forgiveness, grace, and second chances. And Pearl in the Sand, Tessa Afshar’s version of an Old Testament story, beautifully depicts this aspect of Rahab’s life.
In the first pages of the book, the author presents Rahab as a tender young girl who becomes scarred by the customs and practices of her native Canaan. She recoils in revulsion when she witnesses her baby nephew’s sacrifice. Then Rahab’s desperate father betrays her by giving her away to a rich man for enough gold to keep his family for a year. These two events drive Rahab to despair, but they also eventually drive her to seek shelter in the arms of Israel’s God.
I read this book as part of an online Christian Fiction Book Club, and I’d love for you to join us for the next one! I’ll post more details about the November club soon. If you just want to trust me that this is a must-read, skip this section and sign up for the giveaway below! Those of us in the book club had a chance to think through the discussion questions included in the back of the book. I’ll answer a few of these here. If you’ve read this book, please add your thoughts in the comment section at the end of the post. I’d love to hear your take on the story!
1. In chapter 3, we see Rahab being drawn to the Lord. What qualities does she perceive in God that draw her to Him? I loved how the author portrayed Rahab being drawn to the Lord. First, she hears a tale of a Hebrew spy who cried at the sight of children being sacrificed in the Canaanite temple. The following lines relate her astonished thoughts:
“Rahab turned toward Debir holding her breath. A god who cherished life? A god who cared for unnamed babies? A god who could see Canaan’s iniquity and declare them beyond redemption? Again she felt that longing, stronger than before. The irony of it didn’t escape her, the pitiful irony of a prostitute of Jericho longing for the God of the Hebrews.”
Rahab views Canaanite society through new eyes as she contrasts the cruelty of her people with the compassion of the Jewish God. When she looks at her city, she says to the God of the Hebrews, “Am I seeing what You see when you look at Canaan?” Rahab then goes on to ask God’s pardon and experiences an inexplicable peace. This whole scene came alive to me as vivid picture of repentance. For I have learned that repentance is not real in me until I see my sin the way God sees it.
2. In chapter 21, Salmone calls Rachel his Jericho. What does he mean? I also thoroughly enjoyed the scenes between Rahab and Salmone. For me, the author’s spiritual insights heightened the romance and added depth to the budding relationship. Salmone refers to Rahab as his little Jericho, because he feels God has given him the job of loving Rahab enough that she will pull down her defenses and allow him into her heart.
3. In chapter 23, Salmone tries to explain the difference between shame and true guilt. Explain this in your own words: When Rahab can’t quite understand how God (or Salmone) can pour out mercy when she expects judgment, Salmone explains:
“I suppose our sins warp our expectations. I mean that the reason God seems to act in ways that make no sense to us is that our perceptions are wrong. Our expectations are subtly twisted. We long for things that harm us and run from the things that grow and heal us. We think good is bad and bad is good. God acts rightly, but to us, it seems confusing. Or sometimes plain wrong.”
His words brought to mind some of my favorite verses, II Corinthians 7:10-11: “Godly sorrow [true guilt] brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow [shame] brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”
True guilt is produced in our hearts by the Holy Spirit for one purpose: to bring us to repentance. I John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
So once we confess something and God forgives, it’s over—no matter what our feelings tell us.
Shame or false guilt plagues us when we doubt God’s love or fail to trust His forgiveness. We needlessly beat ourselves up again and again over the things we’ve brought to God. It’s a major victory in the story when Rahab is finally able to realize this truth.
Here are some of the remaining thought questions. Even if you haven’t read the book, think about how you would answer these questions. Would your answers match what God’s Word has to say? As always, feel free to share your answers in the comment section below.
In your own life, were there ways your family failed to love and protect you?
How do you feel these circumstances have affected you?
Use three words to describe God as you understand Him.
What gives you your sense of worth?
How do you think your life shows this?
How do you think God feels about you?
What are some qualities of God discussed in this story that touched your heart?
I appreciated so many things about this story and encourage you to grab a copy of your own or sign up here to try to win mine! I’ll hold a giveaway of my copy of Pearl in the Sand from today until Wednesday, November 3rd.
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I teach literature in a Christian high school by day and write inspirational fiction by night. I love to share heart-touching quotes and stories on my blog, Doorkeeper. I'm so glad you stopped by to visit me. Blessings! ~Renee Ann Smith~