Tag: sisters

A Preview of A Laboring Hand

November is halfway over. My Reflections series has been introduced, and I’m thankful for those of you who have purchased, read and reviewed the book. But it is only the first in a series, and I’m going to give you a peek inside the second book in the series today.

Today’s excerpt comes from A Laboring Hand, Reflections Book Two, which releases to the public in January 2020.

If you’re familiar with Mary and Martha of Bethany, you’ll recognize this scene. It’s based on Luke 10:38-42. I’m intentionally starting in the middle of the scene so you can’t see what leads up to Martha’s frustration.

I hope you glimpse the overwhelmed, responsible big sister whose trying to make sure her guests are content and satisfied. Not only is she serious about being the “hostess with the mostest,” Martha wants her siblings to help.

How often have you been frustrated with the lack of help from your family during a hosted event? Or maybe I’m the only person who can imagine this actually happening.

Excerpted from A Laboring Hand, chapter four:

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two who dried their hands.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion which my parents had often shared. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the Master. He was only a couple years older than Mary and the youngest of all the Master’s followers.

The crowd of dirty disciples filled the room, folded onto other cushions. Some chose to lean against the wall on rugs Laz had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen with so many men sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers, filling every cup we owned and still two men shared each one of the battered pottery pieces. Once we finished, I began to distribute bowls of spiced beans and cloth-wrapped packages of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d seated herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to teach.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way that she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued bustling around taking care of our guests, but my frustration grew. Yeshua’s authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the Master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill the cup John shared with Yeshua.

They had promised to help. When I’d first mentioned inviting the group to stay over for more than a day, both Laz and Mary agreed to help with the work. Now they sat there, enjoying Yeshua’s teaching while I served everyone.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. Levi raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

The mud-caked toes never even flinched, and my bubble of anger swelled. I swallowed it, and turned to top off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible, but I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home. In the past, Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

Unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. After refilling my pitcher from the jar stored beneath the eaves, I counted the loaves in the linen clothes on the counter. Only three dozen were left. Soon, I would need to bake more.

And that’s when it became too much. I strode toward Yeshua holding the jug of watered wine aloft and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked, staring at me for a moment as if I’d woken her from a deep sleep.

As I filled the Lord’s cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work needed to be done? And Mary was just sitting there like a useless lump.

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. I knew he would help me because he cared about me.

“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort oozing through me turned sharp and became a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink, and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed—working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his lap. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed food and drink. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

With one long glance, he turned to scan the room. “A certain man…”

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories—they always carried so much spiritual significance. Tonight, I couldn’t listen because the words he’d spoken to me stung my heart.

Mary hath chosen that good part.

I filled cups with lowered eyes. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes and jerked my shawl up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. Mary hath chosen that good part. The words kept echoing all evening, drowning out the Master’s stories and the disciples’ questions.

Even now, as I’m writing about it, his gentle admonition stings somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

One thing is needful. What one thing?

Mary stirred on our shared bed. Her forehead wrinkled and then smoothed. As I’d helped her prepare for bed, I’d wanted to ask about the lessons, but I felt foolish. If I asked, she would know that I hadn’t paid attention while Yeshua taught.

Why did that make me feel guilty? Yeshua wasn’t angry with me. He even thanked me for the food and drink as I passed him to go to bed.

Yahweh help me understand what this means. What is the one needful thing for me to do? Sit and listen like my sister?

I sighed and my heart weighed more heavily in my chest. But if I do that, who will do the work?

**This is copyrighted material.

Are you ready to read MORE of Martha’s story? If you will commit to posting a review of the book on Amazon (and perhaps Goodreads and Book Bub), you can sign up for an advance copy. They will be going out to my Advance Review Team in December. Sign up here.

Summer with THE SUNSHINE SISTERS

Have I mentioned how much I love using Overdrive to checkout eBooks without ever leaving my house? It is the perfect library. And THE SUNSHINE SISTERS by Jane Green is a title you should check out (by any checkout method).


This isn’t my typical read. I say that half the time I write a review, I know. Maybe you’re wondering, “What IS your typical read?”
Glad you asked. I typically read:

  1. Fantasy – YA and series as opposed to epic. This is the genre that helps me escape and fully engages my imagination
  2. Christian Romance – I’m writing in this genre fairly regularly, so I need to read it in order to write it better. I also prefer things like Susan May Warren’s adventure romances over a straight “boy and girl fall in love” romance.
  3. Sweet Romance that’s more than just romance – I mean that there’s a mystery or an adventure or something. The romances I write tend to lean toward this, as well. The story is about the character’s struggle to change and the romance is a catalyst in that process.
  4. Women’s fiction – usually this is for a book club (as is the case with Ms. Green’s book reviewed below), but I’m also branching out into this genre because it’s where I hope to write in the future.

The Story

This is the story of a mother and her daughters.

The mother is a “B movie” actress who is always hoping for her big break. This motivation informs every decision she makes and impacts her children.

The oldest daughter, Nell, closes herself off to emotion. It’s the way she learned to cope with her mother’s rants and rages. When she becomes a single mother, she makes different choices for herself and her son, fully loving him as she doesn’t anyone else.

The middle daughter, Meridith, becomes a people-pleaser. She runs to London and her grandparents when she’s eighteen, but she can’t make independent decisions. Every time she does, it turns out badly which reinforces the lie that she’s meant to make others happy while ignoring her own unhappiness.

And then there’s the spoiled youngest girl, Lizzy. She roars through life mowing down all who try to stand in her way. This doesn’t make her successful or larger than life, but it does make her more like her mother than she’s willing to admit.

The story problem: can this family overcome the differences that divide them to unite and become a true family?

My Review

This story starts at the end. I don’t like that. It steals the tension from the story for me.
I think, “Oh, so she’s going to..blank.” Why do I care about what leads to that decision?

Green won me over by sharing only vignettes from the forty years of the characters’ lives that mattered to understand 1) why each daughter responded to her mother in that way and 2) where their personal lie came from. She proved she knew how to craft a great story.

Often if there are more than a couple narrating characters, I disengage from the story of many of them and gravitate to those chapters narrated by the ones I connected with. Even with four (and more) narrators, that didn’t happen with this book.

This doesn’t mean I LIKED all the narrators, but their stories intersected in a way that kept me engaged. Each scene moved the characters closer to the big reveal readers glimpsed in the opening chapter (a prologue).

There were several aspects that felt contrived to me and even came out of the blue rather than being hinted at naturally. And I predicted every outcome of the story (but I usually do, that’s a curse of being a fiction writer).

The end satisfied me in every way and gave a glimpse into what the future might hold for THE SUNSHINE SISTERS.

This is a 4.6 out of five star read, and well worth the time investment (and I devoured it in two days).

My Recommendation

This is a book for anyone with sisters or a mother. Yeah, that is most of you. Doesn’t everyone have a mother at least?

Even though I didn’t especially like the main mother character in this story, I could still relate to her struggles and failures. This is what makes the most meaningful story, and authors who are able to draw characters that our so real we “know” them deserve respect and praise.

Thanks for your wonderful snapshot of the Sunshine family, Ms. Green. You entertained, engaged and even enlightened me.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it? What are your favorite genres to read?

Happy Birthday to my biggest fan

Every author wants to have someone who believes in their writing so much they’ll buy it without blinking at the price. Some writers have fans like this who they’ve never met in real life. I have my sister.

And today is her birthday.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to let everyone know what a fantastic person she is. Not just because she believes in me and buys my books. (You really think I’m that shallow?)

My sister and I share a common history. Not only does this involve our shared genetic ancestry, but it also includes experiencing the nature and nurture of environment for sixteen-plus years.

Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Anyone who knows us understands our shared experience doesn’t mean we’re similar. Although she does like to claim we’re twins (mostly so she can deduct two years from her age).

We understand where the other one is coming from. A lot of things remain unsaid in our conversations (and this totally baffles my husband) because they’re understood.

In the book that is our lives, we don’t need to go on about back story. We lived it together. Do we know every emotion and every heartache? No. But we understand the context for all of those things.

Top Five things I Love about Her

  • She loves to read the same kinds of books I do (and she lends me her books all the time)
  • She listens well and her responses show both how well she heard and how smart she is
  • We can do outdoorsy things together because we both love to walk and hike
  • I feel accepted and appreciated by her even when I’m being a huge jerk (are you surprised that I’m a jerk? Or just that I would admit it in such a public forum?)
  • We can talk about anything and everything (can you tell I like to talk?)

Five things I bet she would Change about Me

Since my big sister is such a nice person, you’d really have to twist her arm to get her to admit she’d like to change anything about me. So this list should probably be renamed.

What my sister makes me want to change about myself. 

Sounds better right?

  • My sarcastic humor which goes too far sometimes and pops out at inappropriate moments
  • My sweet tooth. Back in the day, it would have been so there’d be more Russian Teacakes for her, but now it’s because she wants me to be healthy
  • The knack I have for putting myself down
  • Confidence in my writing ability (because she believes I am so much better at writing than I really am, so it makes me work hard to improve)
  • All my excuses – because I should have been where I am now two decades ago, but I had so many justifiable causes to hold me back

So – no more excuses. Why are you still writing this blog, Sharon? Get back to the writing that will be published and read. Words that will change the world.

Happy birthday, Sister. Hope you have a wonderful day. You deserve it!

Dare NOT to compare yourself to others

 

In February, I discovered a fantastic author. I’ve read two of her nonfiction books and recommend them highly for anyone struggling to find their calling or purpose in life.

First of all, I read You’re already Amazing by Holley Gerth after my pastor’s wife read only a few paragraphs from the book aloud. It sounded like this woman was speaking with me directly. Her voice was honest and authentic.

After finishing that book, and it’s a process that takes several weeks because you don’t read – you journal and soul-search, I opened one that seemed even more appropriate. This one was called You’re made for a God-Sized Dream. Yep, perfect for someone who quit their day job to pursue the old goal of becoming a published writer.

I wasn’t disappointed in either book.

Since that time, I’ve followed Holley’s blog. Every Wednesday, she writes a post of Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150encouragement. On her site, she encourages her readers to link up their own encouraging posts. It’s an excellent idea that she call’s “Coffee for your Heart.”

Today’s post spoke to the heart of an issue I know many of us struggle with: comparison. We look around us and see people who look better, drive a nicer car, make more money, have designer clothes or seem to have their act together while we’re struggling to keep our head above water. Read the encouragement here.

What do you think? Do you struggle with comparing yourself to other people? If you do, have you noticed that it never helps you attain what they have? Instead, it demoralizes you and makes you want to throw your hands up and quit.

Let’s brainstorm ways we can change this destructive tendency to compare. In fact, I DARE you not to compare yourself to anyone for the rest of this week. Can you do it?