Friday, December 26, 2014

The Brickmaker's Bride by Judith Miller, © 2014

Cover Art
"... I do wish the buyers weren't Irish, but we've had no other offers."
   --Winston Hawkins, The Brickmaker's Bride, 11
Now, Mr. Hawkins' speculation may make this reviewer a little doubtful of his expertise.... Hopefully, Miss Laura Woodfield will not hold this regard!

Ewan McKay has traveled from Ireland with his uncle, Hugh Crothers, to America, hearing of opportunities for immigrants and the desire to do better for his sisters.

In the clay-rich hills of the newly founded state of West Virginia, two families tentatively come together to rebuild a war-torn brickmaking business.
   Ewan McKay has immigrated to West Virginia with his aunt and uncle, promising to trade his skills in the clay business for financial help. Uncle Hugh purchases a brickmaking operation from a Civil War widow and her daughter, and it's Ewan's job to get the company up and running again.
   Ewan seeks help from Laura, the former owner's daughter, and he quickly feels a connection with her, but she's being courted by another man--a lawyer with far more social clout and money than Ewan. Resolving that he'll make the brickworks enough of a success that he can become a partner in the business and be able to afford to bring his sisters over from Ireland, Ewan pours all his energy into the new job.
   But when Hugh signs a bad business deal, all Ewan's hard work is put in jeopardy. As his hopes for the future crumble, Laura reveals something surprising. Can she help him save the brickworks, and will Ewan finally get a shot at winning her heart?
Deceiving humans is not difficult, but deceiving God is impossible. Only He knows the true heart.
   --The Brickmaker's Bride, 194
So sad to see a dissatisfied wife and a man who pries on the weaknesses of others, turning his own to dust. Ewan's aunt and uncle are not pleased with any assessment he might give them; neither in business nor in social life. He makes it clear to his aunt that she is not to meddle in affairs of the heart as far as he is concerned.

As his uncle prowls around during the day, Ewan is busy securing the brickmaking occupations from previous workers and those newly arriving. Laura has come to help him get assimilated to the daily operations from the records of her father and assisting with the timekeeping. Mrs. Woodfield has introduced Ewan to previous contractors, and it is up to him to show the work C&M Brickyard is capable of producing for them and their new building projects.

Always feeling he has the upper hand, Hugh doesn't bother to thoroughly read the contracts he signs. First his wife feels she has been demeaned to live in a hovel instead of the main house, and he leaves the brickyard in the lurch compromising the assets.

A delight in the story is the arrival of Ewan's sweet sisters; oldest, Rose, and twins, Adaira and Ainslee. They are full of life and a lovely addition to the gloom Ewan must wade through with the antics of his "benefactors." I am eager for him to get out from under their control and influence.

My favorite of all is Laura. She is demure and reflects power under control. Through trial and adversity strength is revealed. Trusting God, Laura and Ewan find unwavering faith brings them clear direction. I liked reading of Laura's volunteer classes at the orphanage. In the community, their right standing reveals the character of others around them. Mrs. Woodfield's training example is well followed. Truth and integrity play a big part in developing relationships from generations before them. It is uplifting to see and experience a return on investments of heart measures from long ago. As those who had been helped before offer a hand, expressions of hope and continuance blossom.

I have read several of Judith Miller's novels, especially the Postcard from Pullman series, I really enjoyed. I like the history and research bringing their day to the forefront. We truly can learn from those before us and carry it on into the future.

Judith MillerJudith Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her bestselling novels. When time permits, Judy enjoys traveling, visiting historical settings, and scrapbooking the photographs from her travel expeditions. She makes her home in Topeka, Kansas. Visit her website.

***Thank you to Bethany House Book Reviewers for sending me a copy of Judith Miller's novel, The Brickmaker's Bride. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Enjoy this excerpt of Judith Miller's The Brickmaker's Bride, Chapter 1 ~

And they said one to another, Go to,
let us make brick, and burn them
thoroughly. And they had brick for stone,
and slime had they for morter.
                                   Genesis 11:3 KJV

Chapter 1

Along the banks of the Tygart Valley River, West Virginia
September 1868

An unexpected rush of sentiment caught Laura Woodfield by surprise. She tightened her grip on Winston Hawkins’s arm as she stepped down from the carriage. Why did entering the brickyard, even the one established by her father, provoke such an awkward show of emotion?
   Winston patted her gloved hand. “You have more strength in that small hand than I would have ever imagined. Don’t falter now.”
   “I’m sorry.” Laura loosened her grasp and forced a smile. “This place holds many memories, and I haven’t been down here since . . .” The final words caught in her throat.
   Her father hadn’t returned from the war. Still, the Tygart River continued to flow, and the seasons still changed without fail. Fall had arrived and the ancient trees that surrounded the Tygart River Valley were already bursting with color. Her father had often declared that God had given him the most beautiful place in the world to perform his labor, and Laura agreed.
   While her friends had longed to move to Wheeling, Allegheny City, or Pittsburgh, Laura remained content, feeling more at home in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. Though she enjoyed occasional visits to the city, she was always happy to return home. Over the past week, she had wondered if her feelings about this place would change once they sold the brickyard. Surely not. Surely she would never want to leave the valley.
   She removed a lace-edged handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed her eyes.
   “This isn’t a time for sadness. You and your mother should be delighted that someone has finally shown interest in purchasing this place.” Winston’s words were firm yet kind. He gestured toward the huge kilns in the distance. “It’s been more than three years since the war ended. Your father would want you to ease your burdens and sell the business.”
   A brown curl escaped Laura’s bonnet as she tipped her head to one side. “I don’t know how you can speak with such authority when even I don’t know what my father would have preferred. He always spoke of this business as something that would sustain our family for the rest of our lives.”
   “I’m not attempting to speak for your father, Laura, but when he told you of his dreams for the future, he had no idea the country would go to war.” Winston removed his black felt bowler and traced his fingers through his thick sandy-brown hair. “Where are those two Irishmen?” The corners of his lips drooped into a frown as he settled his hat back atop his ruffled hair. “I dislike tardiness. If a man can’t keep on schedule, how can he expect to succeed? I’ve been told the Irish are prone to drinking. I do hope they’re not sitting in a saloon somewhere.”
   “Only yesterday you told me they were excellent prospects, industrious and financially stable. Today you believe they are sitting in a saloon rather than coming here to discuss a contract?” Laura arched her eyebrows. “I wouldn’t want to deal with men of ill repute, and I certainly do not wish to sell my father’s business to men who won’t be good employers. Father prided himself on treating his employees with respect and paying them a fair wage.”
   Winston straightened his shoulders and appeared to immediately grow several inches taller, his lanky frame towering over Laura’s mere five foot two inches. “Forgive me. My words were spoken out of frustration, but I detest tardiness almost as much as I dislike surprises. I suppose it’s the lawyer in me.”
   There was a strained note in his voice that deepened Laura’s confusion. She wasn’t sure what to expect from these prospective buyers. Were they good, industrious men who could be trusted, or were they drunken immigrants to be avoided at all costs? Surely Winston wouldn’t have presented the o{er to her mother if he didn’t have confidence in the men.
   Unable to remain still for even a moment, Winston pressed his spectacles onto the bridge of his nose. If the men didn’t appear, he likely feared her mother would consider him a lackluster representative.
   Moments later he turned his head and gazed toward the road. “Ah, I believe I hear hoofbeats.” He pointed toward the path leading down to the brickyard. “Here they come.” Heaving a relieved sigh, Winston folded his arms across his chest. “You would think they’d urge their horses to move with a little more speed. I’m certain they can see us waiting on them.”
   Turning aside, Laura surveyed the vast expanse that had been her father’s pride before he’d marched off to war. He’d worked so hard to create this business, determined to make it a success. And he had. Their home and financial security were a testimony to his resolve.
   Even his departure had been filled with optimism. The day he and many of the local men had headed off to war, he’d spoken of the future. And his subsequent letters had revealed no fear. Instead, he wrote about the new machinery he would purchase when he returned and how he planned to expand the brickyard. Of course, none of that would happen now.
   Winston placed a steadying hand on her arm. “If this is too difficult for you, please tell me. It’s my intention to achieve the highest financial gain for you and your mother, but if you appear weak in front of the prospective buyers, it could hurt our chances.”
   She inhaled a deep breath. “I’ll be fine as long as I can rely upon you to take the lead.”
   “Of course, my dear. That’s what your mother hired me to do. I wouldn’t consider anything less, but please try to appear strong—don’t let them see any hint of tears.”
   She’d momentarily forgotten Winston was performing a duty for his client. Fortunately, he possessed no personal attachment to the brickyard and could remain firm and detached as he conducted the business at hand.
   “I plan to put all of my negotiation skills to good use so that you and your mother will receive the highest possible price for the brickyard.”
   Laura didn’t doubt his word. Winston was considered one of the finest lawyers in the area, and though there’d been no mention of fees, her mother would expect to pay Winston. The fact that he’d been courting Laura would not deter her mother. She would insist upon compensating him for his time and services.
   Laura appraised the two riders as they approached. Winston had revealed the men were related, an uncle and nephew from Ireland who were in search of a fully operational brickyard— one that would turn a generous profit in a reasonable amount of time. They claimed to have had years of experience making bricks back in Ireland and believed a brickworks best suited their capabilities and would provide a sound return on their investment. Winston seemed certain the Woodfield Brickworks would meet their requirements. Laura wasn’t as sure. Much depended upon what these men considered a generous profit and a reasonable amount of time.
   The younger of the two men cut a fine figure, with broad shoulders and a muscular build. Laura leaned a bit closer. “The younger one looks like he’s worked in a brickyard all his life.”
   “Either that or digging potatoes.” Winston grinned and tugged on his jacket sleeves. “His physique would put most any man to shame, but I suppose he has manual labor to thank for his muscles. I do wish the buyers weren’t Irish, but we’ve had no other offers.”
   The men had dismounted and were walking toward them, but Laura silently reminded herself to inquire later about Winston’s dislike of the Irish. Many people still held Irish immigrants in low esteem, but she didn’t realize Winston’s negative feelings ran so deep.
   The older man extended his hand to Winston as he neared. “Mr. Hawkins. ’Tis a fine day we have for our meeting. A wee bit of sunshine with the smell of autumn in the air.” He dropped his hold on Winston’s hand and nodded at Laura. “’Tis a surprise to see a woman in the brickyard.”
   “Miss Woodfield is more knowledgeable about her father’s brickmaking operation than I am, and it was her wish to be here.” Winston turned toward Laura. “Miss Laura Woodfield, let me introduce you to Mr. Hugh Crothers and his nephew, Mr. Ewan McKay.”
   Laura dipped her head. “Women and children were never an unusual sight in this brickyard, Mr. Crothers. They often brought lunch to their husbands and fathers. During the summer months of my childhood, I spent as much time at my father’s side as he would permit. Once I was older, I tallied the hours and pay for the workers. Of course, that was before the war.”
   “I might add that her mother wasn’t particularly pleased,” Winston put in.
   Before Winston could speak any further about her mother’s protestations, Laura motioned the men forward. “Shall we begin?”
   Both men praised the clay deposits in the hills that surrounded the site and expressed their approval of the eight domed brick kilns, their chimneys rising to the skies. Laura escorted them past the long storage sheds constructed around the periphery of the complex, and they offered favorable smiles when Laura added that the Tygart River gave them easy access to water for the soaking pits.
   “We have access to both the railroad and the river for transporting the bricks.” Laura inhaled a deep breath. “I think you’ll agree it is a sound operation. The Woodfield Brickworks is well known for producing quality bricks.”
   “Aye, I do not doubt what you tell us, Miss Woodfield. You do have a fine brickyard. But I must be truthful with you. Ewan and I struck an agreement that we would not purchase a yard that did not have at least two VerValen machines. You have only one machine in your yard. If we’re to secure the kind of contracts we want, I think we need to have the ability to produce in larger quantities.”
   Ewan studied the yard and then looked back at Laura. “Though I think one VerValen would be enough, my uncle is firm about having two.”
   Laura sucked in a breath. “My father managed very well with this equipment. He paid his men a fair wage, and our family never wanted for anything. Perhaps our brickworks isn’t a good fit for you gentlemen.”
   Winston shot her a warning look. “Please forgive Miss Woodfield. Since her father’s death, she has been particularly sensitive to criticism of his business.” His lips curved in a sympathetic smile. “I’m sure you gentlemen understand.”
   “Aye.” Mr. Crothers nodded, then reached into his pocket and removed a pipe. “True it is that womenfolk are better suited to tending the home fires than the kilns of a brickyard.”
   Angered by the condescending comment, she attempted to pull free of Winston’s arm. With a quick movement, he held her hand in place and gave a slight shake of his head. She understood Winston’s concern: He didn’t want her to ruin the possible sale, but given the price these men had been quoted for the brickyard, they expected far too much. And they needed to be told.
   She’d abide by Winston’s warning and remain calm, but she didn’t intend to remain silent. “If you have visited other brickyards in the area, I’m sure you’ve discovered there are few that have even one of the VerValen machines. I cannot imagine any brickyard owning two. It simply isn’t necessary.”
   After a long draw on his pipe, Mr. Crothers blew several smoke rings into the air. “Fine it is this brickyard of yours, Miss Woodfield, but our Scots-Irish dreams are much larger than you can imagine.”
   The man must be daft. Either that or he had no idea how many bricks could be molded in one day using the machine. “That one machine can mold at least fifty thousand bricks a day, Mr. Crothers. Do you believe you’ll have orders that require you to surpass that quantity?”
   “Is it unskilled at securing customers you think us, Miss Woodfield?” There was a lilt to his voice and a twinkle in his eye.
   “Of course Miss Woodfield doesn’t believe you are unskilled as brickmakers or as businessmen, do you, Laura?” There was a hint of panic in Winston’s voice. He wanted to close this deal for her mother.
   “No. I don’t believe either of those things, but I do think their expectations are unreasonable. If they want two VerValen machines, then they’ll need to purchase one themselves or look for another brickyard. They’ll not secure a better yard or a better price than what we’ve offered.”
   Mr. McKay chuckled and nudged his uncle’s arm. “You may have met your match, Uncle Hugh.”
   “’Tis true you are as determined as any woman I have met, Miss Woodfield. But we need a contract that is a good arrangement for everyone, not just for you. Purchasing an additional machine would be a huge expense.”
   “That’s true enough, but you need not purchase a second one immediately. And certainly not until you’ve secured contracts that prove you have need of the additional machinery.”
   Mr. Crothers glanced toward the sky as a bank of gray clouds gathered. “There are some other sites we yet need to visit.” He extended his hand to Winston. “We will contact you once we have made a final decision.” He turned toward Laura. “If you and your mother should decide to lower your price, have your lawyer send word. My wife and her sister will be staying at the hotel in Bartlett while we continue our search.”
   When the two men started toward their horses, Winston stepped forward. “If it’s the money to purchase machines that’s holding you back from making a decision to purchase this brickyard, I believe I can be of some assistance.”
   The older man glanced over his shoulder. “How is that, Mr. Hawkins?”
   “I’m on the board of directors at Bartlett National Bank. I think we could offer you a loan at very low interest should you wish to purchase additional equipment.” Winston gestured toward the yard. “You would have more than enough collateral to secure a loan for a VerValen molding machine—even two or three, if you’d like.”
   Mr. McKay stopped short. “That is most kind of you, Mr. Hawkins. I believe—”
   “Ewan!” Mr. Crothers glared at his nephew before tipping his hat to Laura and Winston. “Thank you for showing us the yard. When we make a decision, I will let you know.”
   Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Winston clasped Laura’s arm as they stepped toward the carriage. “We should hurry. I don’t want you to be stuck out here in a downpour.”
   He didn’t wait for her response before grasping her elbow and urging her toward the carriage.
   Once they were on their way, Laura folded her hands in her lap. “I have a feeling you’re unhappy with me, but I felt compelled to speak my piece. Besides, there are no brickyards in the area that are anywhere near the size of this one. I think Mr. Crothers is bluffing to see if we’ll give in to his demands.”
   “There’s nothing to say they’re not looking elsewhere, is there? There are brickyards in many other parts of the country. They could take a train up to New York and discover many a brickyard along the Hudson River up near Haverstraw. I still hold strong hope that they’ll return with an offer your mother can accept.”
   Laura had heard tales of the huge brickyards on the Hudson River from her father. He had kept every news clipping and article he’d ever read about various yards and the production of bricks. She surmised Winston had learned of Haverstraw while going through her father’s papers.
   “They were in Pennsylvania, up near the New York border, before coming here, so I would assume they’ve already surveyed all of the brickyards farther north.”
   “You never fail to surprise me with what goes on in that head of yours.” The horses, undeterred by the continuing rumbles of thunder, plodded onward.
   Laura arched her brows. “I hope that doesn’t mean you think women can’t so much as deduce the obvious.”
   “Of course not. I give credit where credit is due. You’re more intelligent than many of the men with whom I conduct business.”
   His tone was flattering, but she doubted Winston’s words were entirely genuine. Few men thought women their equal when it came to business. Still, she was pleased by his compliment.
   The skies continued to darken. Changing winds labored through the densely wooded hillsides, and leaves scattered to the ground in a profusion of autumn-colored confetti.
   Winston’s face tightened as a bolt of lightning split the sky. “We’ll talk more when we get back to the house.” He flicked the reins. “Come on, boys. Let’s get the lady home before the rain begins.”
   She wondered if he hoped to convince her mother the sale was in their best interest. Would her mother agree with Winston? In any event, Laura was determined to make certain Winston understood her position. “I do hope you’ll remember that the brickyard has been an important part of my life.”
   Winston pulled back on the reins as they came to a halt in front of the Woodfields’ grand brick mansion. “I do understand, Laura, but your mother believes it’s time to move forward, and I agree. This sale will give you both the freedom to do so.” A groomsman scurried from the carriage house and held the reins while Winston circled the buggy to assist Laura. He tilted his head to the side and met her gaze. “I hope you don’t think me unsympathetic, but I believe your mother will know what’s best in this circumstance.”
   “We’ll see. I do hope you don’t plan to use all of your courtroom skills in an attempt to convince her to sell.” Laura extended her gloved hand and stepped down. “There are very few things I believe are worth an argument, but the brickyard is one of them. I would be extremely unhappy if the brickyard sold for less than its value.”
   “I think you might want to give further consideration to the burden the brickyard places on your mother and consider bowing to her wishes.” Together they continued up the front steps. “The final decision belongs to your mother, so I hope you won’t hold it against me when I advise her to sell to these men.” Winston gave her a sideways glance. “After all, there have been no other offers.”
   Laura stepped into the foyer and met his gaze. “True enough, but Mother values my opinion, and I hope that after you plead your case, she’ll take my advice.”
Judith Miller, The Brickmaker's Bride Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2014. Used by permission.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Where God Finds You: 40 Devotions Bringing Bible Characters to Life by Anita Higman, © 2012

   Through reflection on Scripture and prayer, my hope is that you'll discover a place in each of these lives of vulnerability, tenderness, truth, and love––a place where you can find God ... and where God finds you.
   --Anita Higman

For the word of God is alive and active.
   Hebrews 4:12

Join Anita as she brings these Biblical characters to life, entering them in our every day lives with their foibles, choices, and yearnings for something more. Beyond stories, they were real, as real as we are in our day and generations. Glean from them, plans and ideas that are expanded when given to God to lead and direct. So much simpler than having no path!

You will smile at some and cheer for others ~ wishing they would make a choice to what is open to them, the decision that will bring them so close they can feel His breath, His very presence. Awe and awareness, lovingly given. God is with us; He has promised to never leave us, nor forsake us. This is for all of us, in our every day lives, to bring us to the very heart of God.

Even Zacchaeus, my very favorite ~ he wanted to see who Jesus was... (Luke 19:3) and to have ~ a pure heart. His name means "pure." You will visit many ~ Leah, Paul, Hagar, Martha, Eve, Thomas, Elizabeth, Hosea, Steven, Simeon ~ and desire to seek God speaking to your own heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Excerpt ~ Chapter 11, Ruth

R u t h

Your people will be my people
and your God my God.
Ruth 1:16

I know the weight of death—the way its serpentine burden coils around one’s being. My husband’s fever had overtaken him so quickly, so dreadfully. Once we laid his body in the dusty ground, I became a part of the desert with him, dried up with no spring to feed it, thirsty and without hope. The remains of my beloved family mark the land but for a short time, but the grief will stain my spirit forever.
   Life begins at birth, and the years meander like a stream. But at times, it dries up too soon—before the water can flow down the hillsides and wander through the valleys, to water the land and bring new life to the earth. So it was with my husband. He was the stream that vanished.
   I touched my body and grieved the loss of children—my babies—who would never be born, or run in the barley fields, or grow and have children of their own. I would never know the joy of my womb.
   I looked up at Naomi, grieving mother of my husband, and of another son who also had succumbed to the fever. She was already weary in the sun and yet we had only begun our journey toward Bethlehem. I surveyed the load on our donkey and then spoke to Naomi. “There is room for you on our beast. I will carry some of the load. Please. You must rest.”
   Naomi stared down the road toward Orpah, her other son’s wife. “Your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her, Ruth. There is still time to join her.”
   I would never go back.
   There on the dusty road, I knelt on the ground in front of my husband’s mother and clung to her robes. “Please do not press me to go, to leave 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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
   I looked up at Naomi. Her eyes appeared as dark as twilight, but the lines drawn on her face by worry and sorrow softened for a moment. She looked down the long road leading to her home and sighed. Was I a burden to her?
   For a long moment, I waited for an answer and prayed for favor. I looked up again, and Naomi gave me a slow nod. “So be it, my daughter.” She laid her hand softly on my head.
   You will be my mother, Naomi. You will be my home.
   “We have little food,” she said. “Some barley bread, dried olives, and figs . . . When I went away, my hands were full; now they are empty.” She stared down at her weathered and callused palms, and sighed again.

I would never go back.

   I put my own hand in one of hers. “Not empty now. We will face the perils on the road together . . . be it hunger, robbers, wild animals, or weariness.” I rose from the ground and brushed the dust from my tunic and mantle.
   The sun had now toiled its way across the sky to the place where it met the earth. The light was no longer oppressive, no longer a threat. I took the donkey’s tether into my hand, and we set off again, side by side, toward Naomi’s homeland.
   Awe creased my face, and a timid joy settled in my heart. I remembered that Naomi had spoken of a relative—a man named Boaz—and I wondered what hope he might offer us . . .

The Story from God’s Word
Ruth 1:14-19
   Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
    “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
   But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to 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. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
   So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem.

The Story—from Then to Now
   Loyalty—it’s a word that’s gone out of vogue in recent years. As our society embraces a more transitory, short-attention, throwaway lifestyle, relationships don’t seem to be as deeply cherished as in earlier years. Concepts such as steadfastness and devotion and fidelity don’t seem to make it into everyday conversation anymore, let alone our lives. In fact, those values seem as old-fashioned as sitting out on the porch to watch the fireflies.
   I have a close friend named Brenda—that’s her real name, by the way—who has clung to me for almost twenty years. She has been what Anne of Green Gables called her friend Diana Barry—a bosom friend and kindred spirit. In spite of my occasional lapses in calling Brenda, my failing to have her over for coffee, and my forgetting to pray for her, she remains steadfast.
   Brenda has seen me at my worst. Yes, she’s seen the dark side of Anita Higman, and incredibly, she still loves me. Brenda is a dedicated friend like Ruth was to Naomi. She is like the Proverbs 18:24 friend—“one who sticks closer than a brother.” There are rewards for this kind of commitment—it pleases God.
   The biblical account of Ruth and Naomi paints a picture of the falling away of the Israelites and their homecoming back into God’s favor. But I especially love the literal story here. Boaz told Ruth how impressed he was with her faithfulness toward Naomi. He even referred to her as noble. Boaz must have thought, if Ruth could be that committed to her mother-in-law, then she would surely be a devoted wife and mother. In the end, Ruth did marry Boaz. And Naomi went from being empty and bitter to having renewed life, and arms filled with her sweet grandson.
   I absolutely love this happily-ever-after story.
   In fact, Ruth the Moabite is rewarded in another way, since she becomes not only the great-grandmother to Israel’s King David, but she is placed in the lineage of Jesus! This miraculous story all began with a humble concept, but a very powerful and honorable one—loyalty.

~*The Story*~
Questions to Think About

1. One of the themes of the book of Ruth is the deep loyalty and friendship that can form between women. Who are some of the women in your life who have been like beloved sisters to you? What makes these women so special to you?

2. What does it take to make a friendship last a lifetime?

3. What were some of the bonds that held Ruth and Naomi together?

4. How might life have been harder for either one of them if they had gone their separate ways?

5. Do you think these kinds of long-term friendships please God? Why?

6. How do you think people in general view loyalty today?

7. What benefits come from living a life of faithfulness to family and friends?
From Where God Finds You: 40 Devotions Bringing Bible Characters to Life, Anita Higman ~ Standard Publishing Company

***Thank you to author Anita Higman for sending me a copy of Where God Finds You: 40 Devotions Bringing Bible Characters to Life. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

How God Grows a Woman of Wisdom: A Devotional by Anita Higman & Marian Leslie, © 2014

  The price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
                       Job 28:18

Anita Higman and Marian Leslie have joined their writings to bring a devotional with this defining Introduction:
It’s easy to dismiss wisdom as an antiquated biblical term.
It sounds so foreign to the modern mind-set, maybe a little
lofty, and almost unattainable. But to God it’s a spiritually
discerning way of living that never goes out of style.
It’s as vital as air is to our lungs.
   Wisdom isn’t about someone’s IQ or how many degrees
one has. Wisdom is the perceptive and godly judgment that
keeps a woman on track. Keeps her moving forward in grace,
beauty, and love. A woman of wisdom is a woman of prayer,
faith, and strength—a woman everyone admires.
   Where can we get such a beauty treatment for the heart?
Since God is the Father who loves to give good gifts to His
children, all you have to do is ask. . . .
A beauty treatment for the heart.

How God Grows a Woman of Wisdom is the first release in a brand-new devotional series designed to enhance your spiritual journey. Featuring two hundred–plus devotional readings complemented by scripture selections and prayers, this lovely collection offers a powerful blend of inspiration, encouragement, and motivation for every area of your life. Touching on topics like beauty, blessings, conversation, joy, patience, prayer, relationships, work, and more, you will find yourself drawn ever closer to your heavenly Father as you meditate on each reading and open your heart and mind to God’s Word.

A Scripture, devotional, and prayer ~*sweetness for the soul*~.  The last three, entitled "God Does Not Reside in a Box, Psalm 47:2; The Wear and Tear of Daily Life, Proverbs 3:5-6; and Stuck in the Past, John 8:31-32, are descriptive of our need to allow Him to change our hearts. There is a Scripture Index in the back, and to read where you are studying in the Bible.

Write in it; make it yours. Highlight and make notes in the margin, dating it. When you re-read the devotions you will be amazed to see how God has changed your perspective as you make a comment this time, and... bring a smile of remembrance.

I like the clarity and introspection these devotions bring, woman-to-woman. How dear are our experiences together as we read and reflect on all God is and has already done for us. Pearls of wisdom at just the right moment!

Excerpt ~ God Is Doing Something New

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
                                                 Isaiah 43:19

So much of life depends on the flow of thirst-quenching water. Creeks,
streams, and rivers draw people to congregate and build towns around
them and to plant crops that grow into fields of harvest. On the other hand,
to experience a dearth of water across the land can be devastating. It can
make a verdant valley inhospitable. It can make what seems like a promise
     Imagine that desert, dry and barren—with no hope of even a cactus
flower to bloom—suddenly coming to life with bubbling pools of pure
water. That is what God promises us. He is doing something new in our
lives. He is making a path through what feels impassable, and He will
command a stream to flow through the wilderness of our pasts, places
where we had only known the wasteland of sin and a landscape of despair.
     So, believe in what God can do. Have faith, and bring your empty
buckets to the stream. Lift the dipper to your parched lips, and taste the
water that is sweet and new and refreshing.

       Father, thank You for Your provision, hope, and joy. Without You,
           life is dry and hostile. Come into my life and quench my thirst.
                 You are the only one who can fulfill me. Amen. —AH
From How God Grows a Woman of Wisdom, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

***Thank you to author Anita Higman for sending me a copy of the devotional How God Grows a Woman of Wisdom, co-written with Marian Leslie. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

headshot: anita higman, right-click to download the high-res 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pearls: A Collection of Inspiration and Wisdom by Anita Higman and Ruth Vaughn, © 2002
A sweet book to put in with your Christmas goodies ~ Pearls of Wisdom and longings for nearness.

On days when you think your spiritual
growth is hopelessly slow in flourishing,
Remember that the gargantuan oak tree
   and the majestic redwood grew silently,
They grew and stretched magnificently––
   even when no one seemed to
Except for the caring and watchful eye of
   the Master Caretaker.
Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
Happy are those who hold her tightly.
    Proverbs 3:18

A beautiful little book with enormous heart-filled longings relinquished to the One who cares and carries us! Each page illustrated with Truth to remind us we are not alone nor forgotten. His Love shines off every page.

You will want a copy of Pearls too ~ stop and rest awhile ~ you will be abundantly filled.

***Thank you author Anita Higman for sending me a copy of Pearls: A Collection of Inspiration and Wisdom. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Daily Grace for Daily Life: Encouragement for Women by Anita Higman & Hillary McMullen, © 2013

A little book of Daily Grace expands to a full heart as you receive and reflect, offering an uplifting cup of mercy in your day to yourself and those around you. Anita and her daughter, Hillary, share these devotions that will boost you to explore further and allow God to fill you with joy and thanksgiving at His bountifulness in any season of life. Just the right size to take with you, I like how there are topic sections with 9-10 devotions within them ~ Embracing God's Passion; Practicing the Art of Praise; Finding Victory in the Midst of Sorrow; Decluttering our Spirits; Cultivating a Servant's Heart; Viewing Life from Heaven's Porch; Reflecting the Beauty of Mercy; Discovering Who I Was Meant to Be; and Hearing the Voice of God.
Joyful Abandon
"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn
and become like children, you will
never enter the kingdom of heaven."
          Matthew 18:3 ESV
Imagine a child on Christmas morning. Her delight at the bright, colorful packages under the tree and the promise of hours of enjoyment hidden beneath the wrapping. Most likely, the little girl has done nothing to deserve the gifts. Yet she accepts them all without question and with great joy and gratitude. Unfortunately, people may find Christ's grace a little harder to accept than a Christmas present. The concept of complete forgiveness for all their sins can be a difficult thing to grasp. And even harder to fathom is the fact that His grace is a free gift––it can't possibly be earned by their own merit.

   When Jesus' disciples asked Him who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, He responded by calling a small child to Him and telling them that if they became humble like a little child, they would be the greatest in heaven. Contrary to the world's definition of greatness, Jesus was asking them to become lowly and meek, with a deep realization of their inability to achieve forgiveness through any effort of their own. Just as a child will throw herself at the foot of the Christmas tree to tear open her gifts, so should we approach Christ's grace with joyful abandon. ––HM

God, thank You for the free gift of grace.
Help me to accept it without inhibitions or fear.
--Daily Grace for Daily Life, 146-147

***Thank you to author Anita Higman for this copy of Daily Grace for Daily Life. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***