Eyes to See

Eyes to See

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

~ Matthew 6:19-24 (ESV)

Have you ever read that passage above and wondered what the bit about the eye was doing in between the two parts about material things and greed? I’m not sure I ever really understood it … until I read it last week. And I can take no credit for this insight, LOL–it was in the notes. But oh, how clear it suddenly made it!

In Jewish tradition, the eye is considered the “lamp of the body.” The eyes are how we (normally) behold the world and recognize the situations around us. For most of us, our eyes give us our first impressions of people; we train ourselves to look more closely to notice details, to see beyond that first impression, but still, it’s a key part. It’s why words like vision encompass not only physical sight but also dreams and missions.

But the tradition is even richer than that. Eyes are also how we see our neighbors’ needs–they are how we recognize where to enact compassion. In this passage of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus isn’t talking about whether we need eyeglasses or not. No, He’s talking about that kind of sight, how well or poorly we truly see those around us. A common understanding of “bad eyes” and “good eyes” at the time was whether seeing those around you stirred you to compassion and almsgiving. If seeing the needs of others stirs you to do something to help them, then your eye was good. If not, it was bad.

Now suddenly this passage makes sense sandwiched between those two others, right? If you’re so concerned about the earthly treasures you’re trying to save up for yourself that you refuse to help someone in need, your eye is bad. Your eyes, which should be shedding light on your soul and shining it from your soul, is instead filling you up with darkness. You’re only seeing your wants instead of others’ needs. You’re blinded by greed.

And then what Jesus says next really hits home. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

If the very thing that should be light is not, then it’s just a matter of a lack we can shrug off. It’s not just that we’re “not doing a good enough job.” It’s that we’re actually spreading darkness–in ourselves and then from that broken lamp into the world. It’s not just that we’re not doing good–it’s that we’re doing harm.

If we are not serving God by loving others, then we are serving someone else. Mammon was the name of a pagan god of money. So if we’re more concerned with storing up wealth and doing what we want, then we are in fact worshiping this other god. You cannot both love money and love God.

We are called to love God and love others. And we’re called to demonstrate it in our actions, so that we are known by our fruits. This particular demonstration is for many of us, especially in the Western consumer culture, so difficult! Because yes, we need money. We need it to live and support our families and do the things He calls us to do.

So how do we strike that balance?

By never holding our treasures so close that we hesitate to give when our eyes see a need. By not evaluating that need based on what it will cost us, but on whether it will glorify Him to meet it.

Let’s never let anxiety for the future, for what we’ll eat or drink or wear tomorrow, keep us from helping someone today. We’re called to radical trust in God. Trust that He will care for us tomorrow–perhaps through someone else choosing to obediently meet our need. Can we get to the point where that is a joy–to receive help as surely as to give help? Can we walk in both humility and generosity?

Can we do it together? You shine that light for me…and I’ll shine it for you. And together, with our good eyes and our lamps shedding light onto our path, we can make our Way along the road He walked before us. The road that leads straight to the Kingdom of God.

Giveaway – To Treasure an Heiress Release Day!

Giveaway – To Treasure an Heiress Release Day!

Happy New Year! To Treasure an Heiress is NOW AVAILABLE! I’m thrilled to be kicking off the new year with this book, the second in the Secrets of the Isles Series! This story picks up chronologically right where book 1 ends, but the focus is now on the “other Elizabeth,” Beth Tremayne…and the hilarious houseguest who inadvertently started the whole series of adventures, Lord Sheridan.

Working together, Beth and Sheridan start to piece together a story of tragic love and piratical adventure. But the true surprise is the treasure they discover in one another.

The Treasure Hunt Is On!!

I had so many people tell me that they enjoyed the Hunt through the Pages of The Nature of a Lady, that of course I had to create a second one for To Treasure an Heiress!

It works like this:

  1. Visit the Hunt through the Pages page
  2. Download the Hunt clues to keep on hand as you read
  3. Answer the questions as you go!
  4. Return to the page once you’ve finished and input your answers into the form
  5. Get entries to the GIVEAWAY!! Any entry (even if it’s totally blank) will get you ONE entry into the giveaway, and each CORRECT answer will get you another.
  6. Submit the form for access to the SECRET PAGE too!

What’s in the giveaway? And on the secret page?? Well, the giveaway is going to be a true treasure-hunt-style surprise…I’m not revealing WHAT will be included, but I can promise you there’s something shiny, something related to the book, something tasty, and that FIVE of you are going to win! The drawing will be on March 1, which means you have all of January and February to read, hunt up the answers, and get those entries in!

The Secret Page will remain live forever, even after the giveaway draws to a close, and you’ll gain access to it as soon as you submit your answers! (It’ll direct you to a page with both the link and the password for the page.) This time around, the Secret Page has a travel journal for both places you’d like to visit in life and in literature that I’ve dubbed “The Wanderlist,” a new recipe and tour booklet, the prologue and first two chapters of book 3, Worthy of Legend, and even a place to chat about the places you’d love to visit someday!

Are you a non-US reader? If so, you can certainly play along with the Hunt and gain access to the secret page! But instead of the secret treasure giveaway, you’re instead eligible for a book giveaway that will run from today until 1/18. The book will be shipped via the Book Depository. Entry form is at the bottom of this post.

Live Event

Join me for a LIVE chat TONIGHT, Tuesday, January 4th at 7pm EDT! I’ll be telling you all the fun behind-the-scenes tidbits, reading an excerpt, answering your questions, and telling you about the new Patrons & Peers system I’ll be launching later this week! Join the event HERE.

Missed it live? Don’t worry, you can still watch it at the link above!

Tea Party

Join me on Friday, March 4th to discuss To Treasure an Heiress!
Reserve your seat now!

International Giveaway

Please ONLY enter this giveaway if you have a non-US mailing address! US addressees are eligible for the main Hunt through the Pages giveaway, which you can enter via the link above.

What We’ve Been Reading – October 2021

What We’ve Been Reading – October 2021

I think C.S. Lewis had it right when he said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” Fall is the perfect time to cozy up with a warm blanket, a steaming cup of tea, and a good book. What have you been reading this fall?

Roseanna’s Reads

For the Edit(Cover Coming Soon)

Abbie’s Woods: Defending the Nest by Susan Thogerson Maas
This middle grade novel is about a girl whose home life seems to be falling apart…and she’s afraid her special place in the forest is in danger too when new boys to the neighborhood start threatening the robin nest she’s been watching for weeks. I absolutely loved joining this precocious girl on her quest to put her worlds to rights, especially when she realizes that sometimes our attempts to “fix” everything backfire–but God can take our mess and make it beautiful. This book will resonate with tween readers and inspire them to look for the beauty in nature around them!

For Fun

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
I finally finished the Harry Potter series! Highly enjoyed this last installment, though the whole series is so intricately woven that now I’m like “I need to go reread this one and that one!” LOL. I think what surprised me most was how hard-hitting the books became round about book 5–people die, people betray each other unto death, people surprise us at the deepest levels. Makes me wonder if that, not the (Disney-style, light vs. dark) magic is what made this series resonate with so many people, kids and adults alike. The world is fun–but the stories and characters are deep and real.

For Bookclub

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner
I’ve been wanting to read Susie’s recent books and finally made sure I would by adding them to the book club lineup, LOL. Wise decision! I know she’s an amazing writer, and I was not disappointed by this beautiful story surrounding an adoption of a Vietnamese child by an American family, viewed through the mother’s eyes at the time, the sister’s eyes as they were teenagers, and the father’s eyes in 2013, when his precious daughter is trying to reconnect with her birth family. Such a beautiful saga of what it really means to be family!

In My Devotions

Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Father Jacques Philippe
One thing I decided on vacation last month was that I needed to expand my morning devotions again to include some “extra” stuff. I started with a slender little book that a friend of mine sent last year. It was kinda weird timing, honestly; she’d popped it in the mail to me in mid-September just because she was reading it and thought of me…and it arrived when we were in the hospital with Rowyn. Even so, I hadn’t actually picked it up until a year later, LOL. Anyway, this little book (a “treatise,” it calls itself) carries some gems of wisdom, for sure!

Rachel’s Reads

Even though I haven’t been reading nearly as many books of my own as I would like, I’ve been reading loads of books with the kids, and that makes me happy! I’m looking forward to adding some extra “fun” books into our curriculum this year.

From my Backlogged TBR

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
After seeing the show advertised everywhere last Fall, I decided I needed to read the books first. I am so glad I did! I’m really enjoying this series and can’t wait to catch up on the TV show now. This is an Adult General Market book.

With the Kids

The Perilous Road by William O. Steele

Learning about the American Civil War in History right now, my 4th grader is reading a bunch of books set during the war. Mostly with families having differing views on the war. Families with sons in both armies. Families torn apart because of hate. This book in particular shows how the hate this boy has against the Union Army eats away at your soul. After his brother joins the Union Army, Chris’s heart is burning with hatred. Yet when he found himself in trouble and needed help and rest, it was the Union soldiers who took care of him. He came to see that the hate he carried against these men was only damaging himself. There is a lot to learn from children’s books.

Classic on Audio

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

I LOVE Agatha Christie stories! I binged the Miss Marple TV show over the summer and am now on a kick of listening to the Poirot audiobooks. Seeing as Death on the Nile will be coming out as a movie next year, I wanted to start here. No matter how hard I try…I’m never right in guessing who the culprit is.

With the Kids

Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore

It’s fun rereading these stories with my 2nd kiddo. He gets so invested in the stories, it’s so much fun to watch his reactions. When Little Pear falls in the river, or goes off to the next town by himself, my son always has a comment and exclamation to make.

What We’ve Been Reading – October 2021

What We’ve Been Reading – September 2021

Happy Fall! Whether you are settling into a new school year like we are, or simply enjoying the changes taking place outside, I hope this Autumn you can curl up with a good book and a cozy blanket. Here are a few of our reads.

Roseanna’s Reads

Between the Wild Branches by Connilyn Cossette
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the second book in this biblical fiction duology, and it was even better than I hoped! This was my first vacation read, and it keep me good company at the beach indeed! The story of Lukio had absolutely everything–excitement, danger, intrigue…and of course a heart-moving romance. Another fantastic book from Conni!
A Lady Unrivaled by Yours Truly
Yes, I’m rereading my own book. I have to! Tea Party Book Club, you know–and it’s been waaaay too long for me to remember all the little details. But I’m happy to report that I still adore Ella and Cayton. 😉
Isaac & Izzy’s Magical Maples by Angela Henderson
This final book in the Isaac’s Ice Cream Tree trilogy is just as enchanting and sweet as the other two! Angela Henderson has written a whimsical tale of friendship and giving, and Rachael Koppendrayer’s illustrations are so beautiful and fun! If you have a little one in your life, you need to check out all three of these! This one is especially great for autumn.
Leviathan Wakes by James S. E. Corey
I’ve been waiting quite a while for time to sit down with this first book in The Expanse series. First my best friend read them and raved, then we watched the show, then my husband read the first three books…I was behind! Though definitely different than my usual (and definitely NOT Christian books, so beware, if you’re bothered by foul language, violence, and very male humor, LOL), I have to say I was completely enthralled with this complex and amazing science fiction. I don’t know how quickly I’ll be able to read them, but I’m looking forward to the rest! The world building is just ASTOUNDING!
Grace & Gravity by S.E. Clancy
This is actually a film-to-book adaptation just released from WhiteFire, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read! Based on the film and then deepened, this story takes place mostly over the course of a couple hours and follows two men–an English atheist trying to end it all by jumping off a bridge, and an American Christian who hopes to save him with a tract and some pat phrases. They end up changing each other’s lives forever. Don’t miss it!

Rachel’s Reads

Autumn is here and I’m full steam ahead with my “creepy” reads TBR. We’ve also kicked off our school year strong with several good books with the kids!

Creepy Fall Book

Capturing the Devil by Keri Maniscalco

After sitting on my TBR shelf/cart for almost TWO years…I’m finally finishing off this series! I’ve enjoyed this series a lot! Please be warned, the series IS about serial killers and can be quite graphic. It is general market Young Adult Fiction.

With the Kids

By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman

We kicked off the school year with this fabulous book! My 4th grader really enjoyed it and we loved the adventure and twists thrown in. We stumbled upon the movie adaption on Disney+ (it’s titled The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin) and plan on watching it for our family movie night this week.

Classic on Audio

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

This is one of my best friend’s absolute favorite book. And as I had never read it, I figured I’d better. While the writing IS beautiful…Heathcliff is frightful. I truly enjoyed Nelly Dean’s narrative though and look forward to watching the movie again now.

With the Kids

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

I’ve read this one, several times now, and each time, I just love it. This year it’s my 1st grader’s turn to read it for school. He is fascinated by animals and just loves hearing about the adventures of Wilbur and Charlotte.

Fruit

Fruit

Not going too far back for today’s throwback post…Revisiting FRUIT. Original Post Published February 27, 2020.

We love fruit in our family. Fresh fruit, canned fruit, dried fruit, jammed fruit, fruit from our own garden, or fruit from the other side of the world. We love citrus fruit, stone fruit, berries… Fruit can be a taste of the familiar or the tang of the exotic. We love to eat it raw, to bake it into recipes, to puree it into smoothies. Last week, I even learned to make homemade fruit roll-ups. With a kiddo who despises vegetables, fruit is often the way I get much-needed nutrients into all of us. And a much-appreciated taste of yumminess too.

Fruit is a pretty amazing thing. As a homeschool mom, I’ve had the opportunity to study it with my kids in our science classes. And as a Christian, I of course read about it a lot in the scriptures. For instance, take this passage from Colossians 1:3-6

3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth… (NKJV, emphasis mine)

Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

To take out some of the phrases there for focusing purposes, that says “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, which you heard in the gospel, which is bringing forth fruit.”

Now, anyone who knows me even a little knows that hope and I are good friends. I’m not only an optimist, I’m a see-the-good-in-everyone sort of person, a cling-to-hope-at-all-costs sort of girl. So any time the word is mentioned in the Bible, my spiritual ears perk right up. As we were discussing this passage in our Bible study last week, my mind kept circling around those particular words. Hope comes from the Gospel…the Gospel brings forth fruit.
As we talked about what this fruit is, it’s easy to come up with the usual answer: spreading that same Good News to others so that they can believe too. Yes, absolutely.
But, with memories of strawberries and blueberries and mango and peaches still fresh in my mind from my fruit roll-up making adventure a couple days before, I had to look at this a little more closely.
In other passages, we hear of the Gospel message as a seed. It’s planted, watered, fed. As it sprouts, the seed itself passes away and becomes a plant. It’s no longer a seed at all–it’s changed. Transformed. Why? So that it can become something more.
I love that it’s likened to a fruit-bearing plant though. Because part of the very nature of a plant is to spread its seeds. WHY do we bear fruit? Love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control? For OTHERS.
One of the things I learned in our science class is that the plant itself doesn’t benefit at all from the fruit it bears. The sole purpose of it is to be delicious. Alluring. To appeal to animals so that they come, eat it, and thereby transport the seeds elsewhere, so that they’re deposited far and wide and the plant can find new life somewhere else.
Photo by Brian Jimenez on Unsplash

So what is the purpose of us learning to produce those fruits of the Spirit? Not for our own sake–for His. So that others come, smell the fragrance of His peace, see the beauty of His love, taste the perfection of His Joy. Our job as Christ followers is to share those things with anyone who walks by hungry. So that they eat of it, and the seed nestles deep inside. So that He can water it and it can grow. And so that then that person too can experience the transformative power of God and turn from fallow ground with a dried up seed inside to a life-giving, thriving tree spreading out their limbs and offering His love to others.

I’d always considered the Fruits of the Spirit to be things we should want for our own sakes; or for their own sakes. Because they’re, well, good. Because they’ll make us better people. Holier. More worthy of Him. And that’s certainly true…
But that’s only half the story, isn’t it? The other half isn’t about us at all. It’s about THEM. The other people in our world. Our spouses and children, our parents and grandparents, and our aunts, uncles, and cousins. Our friends, our neighbors, the strangers in the grocery store. The drivers who cut us off and the customer service rep who won’t listen. The homeless man begging for money on the street corner. The mother desperate for clean water in Africa.
Each and every one of them needs the fruit–because that fruit carried the seeds of the Gospel, and that’s where our hope is found.
I don’t know about you, but that changes my perspective a bit on why I should be working hard to be the person He wants me to be.
And it makes me look at my beloved fruit differently too. My daughter and I joke that the orange marmalade we made is “sunshine in a jar” (because seriously!)–but it’s not only that. In a way, it’s hope in a jar too. A reminder that the goodness of others is our nourishment…and that our own ought to be theirs in return.