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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Think No Evil: Inside the Story of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting...and Beyond by Jonas Beiler

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Think No Evil: Inside the Story of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting...and Beyond

Howard Books (September 22, 2009)


Jonas Beiler grew up in a strict and traditional Old Order Amish family during the 1950s. Now he is the cofounder and chairman of the Angela Foundation. He is also a licensed family counselor and founder of the Family Resource and Counseling Center in Gap, Pennsylvania.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $23.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (September 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416562982
ISBN-13: 978-1416562986


Chapter One: Gates Wide Open

It has become numbingly familiar. A man walks into a church, a store, a dormitory, a nursing home, or a school and begins shooting. Sometimes there is panic, sometimes an eerie quietness. But always bodies fall, almost in unison with the shell casings dropping from the gun. And always there is death. Senseless, inexplicable loss of innocent life. Within seconds, we begin hearing reports on our Blackberries or iPhones. Within minutes it is “Breaking News” on CNN, and by the end of the day it has seared a name in our memories. Columbine. Virginia Tech.

Or for me, The Amish Schoolhouse Shooting.

As I write this, it has been nearly three years since our community watched as ten little girls were carried out of their one-room school and laid on the grass where first responders desperately tried to save their lives. As a professional counselor and the founder of a counseling center that serves this area, I saw firsthand the effects this traumatic event had on our citizens. And as someone who grew up in an Amish household and suffered through my own share of tragedies, I found myself strangely drawn back into a culture that I once chose to leave. I know these people who still travel by horse and buggy and light their homes with gas lanterns, yet as I moved among them through this tragedy I found myself asking questions that, surprisingly, led me to back to a hard look at my own heart. How were they able to cope so well with the loss of their children? What enables a father who lost two daughters in that schoolhouse to bear no malice toward the man who shot them? And what can I learn—what can we learn—from them to help us more gracefully carry our own life burdens?

That last question is what prompted me to attempt to share what I have learned from the families who lost so much that day. The Amish will be the first to tell you they’re not perfect. But they do a lot of things right. Forgiveness is one of them. In my counseling, I have seen how lesser tragedies destroy relationships, ruin marriages, and turn people’s hearts to stone. Life throws so much at us that seems unfair and undeserved, and certainly the shootings at the Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania were both. And yet, not a word of anger or retribution from the Amish. Somehow they have learned that blame and vengeance are toxic while forgiveness and reconciliation disarm their grief. Even in the valley of the shadow of death they know how to live well, and that is really the story that I want to share—how ordinary human beings ease their own pain by forgiving those who have hurt them.

It is a story that began decades ago when I knew it was time to choose.


Little has changed in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania from the time I was a young boy to that fateful October day when shots pierced the stillness of our countryside. Towns like Cedar Lane and New Holland and Gap and Iva might have grown slightly, but as you drive through the hills and valleys along White Oak Road or Buck Hill Road, you’ll see the same quaint farms and patchwork fields that the Amish have worked for generations. Like most Amish boys, I learned to read in a little one-room schoolhouse and could hitch up a team of horses by the time I was twelve years old. I didn’t feel deprived because we didn’t have electricity or phones and it didn’t really bother me to wear the plain clothes that set us apart from my non-Amish friends. As far as I was concerned, being Amish was fine with me, except for one thing. I loved cars. I mean I really loved them. I couldn’t imagine never being able to drive one, but knew that’s what was at stake if I remained Amish.

In Amish culture, you may be born into an Amish family, but you must choose for yourself if you want to be Amish and that usually happens somewhere between the ages of sixteen and twenty one. You may have seen documentaries about Amish teenagers sowing their wild oats for a year or so before deciding to leave or stay within the Amish faith. While it’s true that Amish young people are given their freedom, in reality few teenagers stray very far from the Amish way of life. But all eventually must choose, and once you decide to stay and become baptized as Amish, you can never leave without serious consequences including being shunned by other Amish, even your own parents and relatives. I couldn’t imagine never being a part of my loving family, but I also felt a tug to explore life beyond my Amish roots, and I worried that it would hurt my father if I chose to leave. I remember once asking my dad why we did the things we did and he told me it was all about choice. We choose to live the way we do. It is not forced on us. So when I finally told him at age fifteen that I did not want to stay Amish, I know he was disappointed, but he was not harsh with me, nor did he try to talk me out of it. He respected my choice, which has profoundly shaped my thinking about the Amish. You can always trust them. They live up to their word. If they say they will do something, they will do it. You may have heard the expression, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Well, you would never hear that from an Amish parent. Whatever they teach their children, they back it up with their actions. My dad told me we had a choice and when I made a choice that he obviously wished I wouldn’t have made, he did not turn his back on me. He taught me an important lesson the way most Amish teach their children: by example. Many years later, in the wake of the tragic shooting, I would see Amish mothers and fathers teach their children about forgiveness the same way.

I left the Amish community, but I never left my family, nor did they abandon me. Because of that, I too would learn about forgiveness from my father’s example. Most of my brothers and sisters made the same decision to leave for their own reasons. But my parents remained Amish, and much of my world view is still seen through the metaphorical front windscreen of an Amish buggy.


During those winter months after the shooting so much about our community was covered in stillness. The shortening days felt somber and subdued as we were constantly reminded of the girls that had perished. Normally the sights and sounds surrounding my home in Lancaster County filled me with a sense of nostalgia: the rhythm of horse and buggies clip-clopping their way down our back country roads or the sight of children dashing home from school through a cold afternoon had always been pleasant reminders to me of growing up as a young Amish boy. But that feeling of nostalgia had been replaced with a solemn feeling of remembrance.

Lancaster County is a unique community, the kind of which seems to rarely exist in America anymore. Many of my friends come from families that have lived in this same area for over two hundred years, some even before our country was formed—often we are still connected by friendships held long ago by our parents, or grandparents, or great-grandparents. You will find roadside stands selling produce or baked goods, and it is not unusual for them to be left unattended, the prices listed on a bucket or box where you can leave payment for the goods you take. The vast majority of the county is farmland, and in the summer various shades of green spread out to the horizon: beautiful forests line the hills and drift down to waving fields of corn and tobacco and hay.

In the fall months many of the small towns sponsor fairs or festivals, some established for seventy-five years or more. They were originally conceived for local farmers to bring and sell their harvested goods, but like much of the commerce in this area, they were also social events—an opportunity to get caught up with friends you hadn’t seen in a while. I can imagine that back in the day they were joyous times, the crops having been brought in, the community coming together to prepare for a long winter. Nowadays we still go to the fair every year and sit on the same street corner with all of our friends, some of whom we haven’t seen all year but can count on seeing there at the fair. The parade goes by, filled with local high school bands and hay wagons advertising local businesses. Our grandchildren vanish into the back streets together, another generation of friendships, riding the Ferris wheel or going through the haunted house. I like to think that in thirty years they will be sitting on that corner, with their children running off to ride the rides with my friends’ great-grandchildren.

The Amish people live easily among us: good neighbors, hard workers, a peaceful people. They attend the same fairs with their children. Their separateness goes only as far as their plain clothing, or their lack of modern conveniences like telephones and electricity, or the fact that they have their own schools. I have many good friends who are Amish. While they choose to live their lives free of cell phones and computers, they still walk alongside us. They mourn with us when we lose loved ones, and we with them. We talk to them about world events. They volunteer on our local fire brigades and ambulance crews and run businesses within our community.

When the media converged on our community on that fateful October day, I guess I was an ideal person for the media to talk to: someone who grew up in the Amish community, now a family counselor familiar with the effects of grief and tragedy on people’s lives. So I served as a contact for the media, doing countless interviews and sitting on various panels, almost all of which were directed at the Amish response of forgiveness. It immediately became the theme for the media and the millions of people who watched in their homes or listened in their cars—this unbelievable ability to forgive the murderer of innocent children. But tragedy can change a community, and I wondered how the acts of one man would change ours.

Like many individuals, I had already experience my share of personal turmoil over things I could not control. I knew that when these overwhelming experiences of hurt and loss occur, the very core of your being is altered. In fact, having experienced these tragedies in my life, and being counseled through them, led me to pursue becoming a counselor myself. Eventually I went back to school to do just that, and I studied quite a bit on my own as well. In May of 1992, just up the road from Nickel Mines, my wife and I opened the Gap Family Information Center (later it became the Family Resource and Counseling Center), a place where people from our community can come to find healing from a variety of ailments, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

As a trained counselor I spend a lot of time listening to people pour out the pain of their lives and can see with my own eyes how it has affected them. Nearly every time I speak with a couple whose marriage has been torn, or visit with a family who has lost a child, I am reminded that there are some hurts in life that never completely disappear.

But now, after the shooting, I understand even better how tragedies can affect individuals and communities. I think back to places like Columbine or the areas in the south affected by Hurricane Katrina and I can relate to the trauma they faced and continue to live with. Our community felt shattered after the shootings in that small schoolhouse. Sometimes, as I drove those back country roads or stopped to talk to Amish men, I could hardly bear to think about the pain those girls’ parents felt, or the innocence that our community had lost. But tragedies can also bring communities closer together, if forgiveness is allowed take hold, and if any good can come out of our loss it is this unique practice of forgiveness that characterize the Amish response to evil and injustice.

Word of the Amish communities’ decision to forgive the shooter and his family spread around the world through the media in a matter of days (ironically, from a culture with little or no access to the media). This in itself seems like a miracle to me—if you or I wanted to market a product or a concept to the entire world we could spend millions of dollars and take years and still probably could not accomplish it. Yet the Amish, who do not own phones or computers, captured the world’s attention with a simple, preposterous act. It was almost as if they were illustrating the lyrics of that chorus from the Seventies: “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

While the public was fascinated with the Amish take on forgiveness, they didn’t quite know what to do with it. Some people refused to believe that anyone could offer genuine forgiveness to their children’s killer. They suspected the Amish were either lying or deluding themselves. Others believed the forgiveness was genuine but thought the stoic Amish must be robotic, lacking the normal emotions experienced by you and me, in order to offer up such a graceful sentiment.

Neither is the case. Both misunderstandings find their origins in our culture’s false perception of what forgiveness truly is, and the state of mind of someone offering such unusual forgiveness. The Amish are neither liars nor zombies. They are just like you and me and offer a sincere forgiveness with no strings attached, no dependence on any reciprocating feelings or actions. But they also hurt as deeply as the rest of us over the loss of a child, or a loved one. True forgiveness is never easy, and the Amish struggle with the same emotions of anger and retribution that we all do. But they chose to forgive in spite of those feelings.


About a year after the shooting I heard a story about one of the young girls who had been in the schoolhouse when the shooter entered. She was a survivor. She, along with her family and her community, forgave the man who killed those girls. But forgiveness does not mean that all the hurt or anger or feelings associated with the event vanish. Forgiveness, in the context of life’s major disappointments and hurts, never conforms to the old Sunday-school saying: “Forgive and forget.” In reality, it’s next to impossible to forget an event like the shooting at her schoolhouse.

This young survivor was working in the local farmer’s market when she noticed a man standing quietly off to the side of her counter. As she tried to concentrate on her work she found herself growing more and more agitated over the man’s presence. He seemed to be watching all the girls behind the counter very closely, occasionally starting forward as if he were going to approach, then stopping and standing still again, always watching and fidgeting with the bag he carried with him. There was something eerie about him. Was it the way he stood, or how intently he seemed to stare at them?

All around him the farmer’s market bustled with activity. The Amish were often the center of attention for first-time visitors to the market, so the Amish girl was somewhat used to being stared at, but something about that particular guy made her want to hurry the customer she was working with and then disappear into the back of the store. The difference between a curious stare and the way that stranger looked at her seemed obvious and stirred something inside her from the past.

Meanwhile, other customers walked between the long rows of stands, eyeing up the goods, making their cash purchases. The vendors took the money from each sale and crammed it into old fashioned cash registers or old money boxes. The floor was bare cement smoothed by years of wandering customers. The exposed ceiling showed iron cross beams, pipes and electrical wires. The whole place smelled of produce, fried food, and old books.

For many people outside of Lancaster County, farmer’s markets are the only place they interact with the Amish and their conservative dress—the men wearing hats, mostly black clothing with single-colored shirts and long beards, the women with their head coverings and long hair pulled into tight buns. Amish from Pennsylvania often travel to New York City, Philadelphia or Baltimore to sell their wares: fresh fruit and vegetables, home baked pies and cookies, quilts and handmade furniture. For some of the Amish that is their main interaction with people outside of their community as well. The Amish are hardworking, provide quality products, and almost all are outgoing in that environment and give friendly customer service.

But this particular girl, only months removed from the shooting that took place in the Nickel Mines school, got more and more nervous—she found her breath coming shallow and faster, so much so that her own chest rose and fell visibly. She looked around but no one else seemed to notice the man or her reaction to his presence. Her gaze darted from here to there, first looking at him, wanting to keep an eye on him, then quickly looking away if he looked in her direction. She tried to help the customer in front of the counter but concentrating was difficult.

Then she saw him approach. He strode forward, fishing around for something in his bag, then sticking his hand down deep and drawing an object out with one fast pull.

The girl cried out and fled to the back of the stand, shaking.

The man pulled the object out of his bag and placed it on the counter. It was a Bible, a random gift to the workers at the farmer’s market stand. He disappeared among the hundreds of browsing shoppers. The gentleman had no idea the scare he had just given the girl. No one outside the stand had noticed that something intense had happened. Everything continued on as normal—the shoppers wandered and the vendors shouted out their sales to the lingering crowds.

But in the back, the traumatized girl wept.

Not too long before, her schoolhouse had been hemmed in by police cruisers and emergency vehicles while the sound of a handful of helicopters sliced through the sky. And the thunderous crack of rapid gun shots had echoed back at her from the rolling hills.

Forgiveness is never easy.


During those solemn winter months following the tragedy in our community, my wife, Anne, was running errands in the countryside close to the place where the shootings had taken place. That particular area of southern Lancaster County, about sixty miles east of Philadelphia, was an alternating blanket of farms and forest. The trees stood bare. The fields in November and December and January were rock hard, and flat. Where spring and summer bring deep green and autumn blazes with color, winter often feels quiet and stark.

Anne, my wife, also grew up Amish, and we both understood the questions blazing up within that community in the wake of the killings: Should their schools have more secure steel doors with deadbolts to keep intruders out? Should they install telephones in the one room school houses in case of emergency, a serious break from their traditional decision to shun most modern conveniences? Should the gates that guard the entrance to most of their schools’ stone driveways be kept closed and locked to prevent strangers from driving on to the premises?

Anne came to a stop sign at a “T” in the road. She could only turn right or left. The roads rolled with the gently sloping landscape or curved along the small streams. A handful of scattered homes broke up the farmland that seemed to go on almost indefinitely. But as she paused at that intersection preparing to turn, she noticed something: directly in front of her was a one room Amish schoolhouse, not the one where the shooting took place, but one of the many within that ten mile radius.

Most of those schools look the same: a narrow stone or dirt lane leading from the road and up to a painted cement block building with a shingled roof and a small, covered porch; a school bell perched on the roof’s peak; separate outhouses for the girls and the boys. In some of the schools’ large yards you can see the outline of a base path where the children play softball. Some even have a backstop. The school grounds often take up an acre or so of land in the middle of a farmer’s field, usually donated by one of the student’s parents, surrounded by a three- or four-rail horse fence.

Yet there was something about this simple school that made my wife stop her car and park there for a minute. Part of it had to do with her thoughts of the children at the Nickel Mines school and all they had been through. She was also affected by visions of the parents who had lost children and their long road ahead, knowing as she does how heart-wrenching it is to lose a child. But on that particular day, in the wake of all the questions brought up within the Amish community about how they would deal with this disaster, there was one thing that immediately stood out.

The front gate was wide open.

We have all seen what happens in a community when people allow unforgiveness to rule their hearts. Lawsuits abound, separating the perpetrator and their family from those who were wronged, and in this separation the healing process is slowed dramatically. When forgiveness is withheld walls are built within a community and division occurs, leading to isolation and further misunderstanding. Anger and bitterness take hold.

The parents of those girls who were killed, along with their family members and neighbors, decided not to allow the shooting to further separate them from their neighbors. There were no lawsuits filed by the victims’ families against the shooter’s estate or the emergency services or the government, as is so often the case. They would not permit anger or fear to drive them into installing telephones, modern conveniences that their way of life had survived so long without. They would trust God to protect them, leaving the gate open to their hearts and to their communities, and move forward with forgiving hearts.

Given what happened, could that really be possible?

Think No Evil
Inside the Story of the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting . . .
and Beyond

Jonas Beiler
with Shawn Smucker

Howard Books

West Monroe, Louisiana

[Refer to P4P regarding inclusion of purpose statement.]

Our purpose at Howard Books is to:

Increase faith in the hearts of growing Christians
Inspire holiness in the lives of believers
Instill hope in the hearts of struggling people everywhere
Because He’s coming again!

[Howard Logo] Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Think No Evil © 2009 Jonas Beiler

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address Howard Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

Published in association with Ambassador Literary Agency, Nashville, Tennessee

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data TK

ISBN 978-1-4165-6298-6

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

HOWARD and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Manufactured in the United States of America

For information regarding special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact: Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event, contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at

Edited by Cindy Lambert

Cover design by TK

Interior design by TK

Photography/illustrations by TK

[Permission information regarding Bible translations used (See "Bible Version Lines" list) TK]

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three Weddings & A Bar Mitzvah

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Three Weddings & a Bar Mitvah

David C. Cook (2009)


Melody Carlson has published more than one hundred books for adults, children, and teens, with many on best-seller lists. Several books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards, including the Gold Medallion and the RITA Award. She and her husband live in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and have two grown sons.

Visit the author's website.

Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah, by Melody Carlson from David C. Cook on Vimeo.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 1589191080
ISBN-13: 9781589191082


Megan Abernathy

“Okay, then, how does the second Saturday in June look?” Anna asked her housemates.

Megan frowned down at her date book spread open on the dining room table. She and Anna had been trying to nail a date for Lelani and Gil's wedding. Megan had already been the spoiler of the first weekend of June, but she'd already promised her mom that she'd go to a family reunion in Washington. Now it seemed she was about to mess things up again. “I'm sorry,” she said, “but I promised Marcus I'd go to his sister's wedding. It's been scheduled for almost a year now, and it's the second Saturday too. But maybe I can get out of it.”

Lelani just shook her head as she quietly rocked Emma in her arms, pacing back and forth between the living room and dining room. The baby was teething and fussy and overdue for her afternoon nap. Megan wasn't sure if Lelani's frustrated expression was a result of wedding planning or her baby's mood.

“Is it possible you could do both weddings in one day?” Anna asked Megan.

“That might work.” Megan picked up her datebook and followed Lelani into the living room, where she continued to rock Emma.

“Or we could look at the third weekend in June,” Anna called from the dining room.

“Shhh.” Megan held a forefinger over her lips to signal Anna that Emma was finally about to nod off. Megan waited and watched as Emma's eyes fluttered closed and Lelani gently eased the limp baby down into the playpen set up in a corner of the living room. Lelani pushed a dark lock of hair away from Emma's forehead, tucked a fuzzy pink blanket over her, then finally stood up straight and sighed.

“Looks like she's down for the count,” Megan whispered.

Lelani nodded. “Now, where were we with dates?”

“If you still want to go with the second Saturday,” Megan spoke quietly, “Anna just suggested that it might be possible for me to attend two weddings in one day.”

“That's a lot to ask of you,” Lelani said as they returned to the dining room, where Anna and Kendall were waiting expectantly with the calendar in the middle of the table and opened to June.

Megan shrugged as she pulled out a chair. “It's your wedding, Lelani. You should have it the way you want it. I just want to help.”

Anna pointed to the second Saturday. “Okay, this is the date in question. Is it doable or not?”

Lelani sat down and sighed. “I'm willing to schedule my wedding so that it's not a conflict with the other one. I mean, if it can even be done. Mostly I just wanted to wait until I finished spring term.”

“What time is Marcus's sister's wedding?” asked Anna.

“I'm not positive, but I think he said it was in the evening.” She reached for her phone.

“And you want a sunset wedding,” Kendall reminded Lelani.

“That's true.” Anna nodded.

“But I also want Megan to be there,” Lelani pointed out.

“That would be helpful, since she's your maid of honor,” said Anna.

Megan tried not to bristle at the tone of Anna's voice. She knew that Anna had been put a little out of sorts by Lelani's choice--especially considering that Anna was the sister of the groom--but to be fair, Megan was a lot closer to Lelani than Anna was. And at least they were all going to be in the wedding.

“Let me ask Marcus about the time,” Megan said as she pressed his speed-dial number and waited. “Hey, Marcus,” she said when he finally answered. “We're having a scheduling problem here. Do you know what time Hannah's wedding is going to be?”

“In the evening, I think,” Marcus said. “Do you need the exact time?”

“No, that's good enough.” Megan gave Lelani a disappointed look. “I'll talk to you later, okay?”

“You're not thinking of bailing on me, are you?” He sounded genuinely worried.

“No, but we're trying to pin down a time and date for Lelani.”

“It's just that I really want my family to meet you, Megan. I mean all of my family. And I want you to meet them too.”

“I know, and I plan to go with you.”

“Thanks. So, I'll see you around six thirty tonight?”

“That's right.” Megan told him good-bye, then turned to Lelani with a sigh. “I'm sorry,” she told her. “That wedding's at night too. Maybe I should blow off my family reunion so that you--”

“No.” Anna pointed to the calendar. “I just realized that the first Saturday in June is also my mother's birthday.”

“So?” Kendall shrugged. “What's wrong with that?”

Megan laughed. “Think about it, Kendall, how would you like to share your wedding anniversary with your mother-in-law's birthday?”

Kendall grinned. “Oh, yeah. Maybe not.”

“How about a Sunday wedding?” suggested Megan.

“Sunday?” Lelani's brow creased slightly as she weighed this.

“Sunday might make it easier to book the location,” Kendall said. “I mean, since most weddings are usually on Saturdays, and June is a pretty busy wedding month.”

“That's true,” agreed Megan.

“And you gotta admit that this is short notice for planning a wedding,” added Kendall. “Some people say you should start planning your wedding a whole year ahead of time.”

“Marcus's sister has been planning her wedding for more than a year,” Megan admitted. “Marcus says that Hannah is going to be a candidate for the Bridezillas show if she doesn't lighten up.”

They all laughed.

“Well, there's no way Gil and I are going to spend a year planning a wedding.” Lelani shook her head. “That's fine for some people, but we're more interested in our marriage than we are in our wedding.”

“I hear you.” Kendall laughed and patted her slightly rounded belly. She was in her fifth month of the pregnancy. They all knew that she and her Maui man, Killiki, were corresponding regularly, but despite Kendall's high hopes there'd been no proposal.

“I really don't see why it should take a year to plan a wedding,” Megan admitted. “I think that's just the wedding industry's way of lining their pockets.”

“So how much planning time do you have now anyway?” Kendall asked Lelani. “Like three months?”

“Not even.” Lelani flipped the calendar pages back. “It's barely two now.”

“Which is why we need to nail this date today,” Megan said. “Even though it's a small wedding--”

“And that remains to be seen,” Anna reminded her. “My mother's list keeps growing and growing and growing.”

“I still think it might be easier to just elope,” Lelani reminded them. “I told Gil that I wouldn't have a problem with that at all.”

“Yes, that would be brilliant.” Anna firmly shook her head. “You can just imagine how absolutely thrilled Mom would be about that little idea.”

Lelani smiled. “I actually thought she'd be relieved.”

“That might've been true a few months ago. But Mom's changing.” Anna poked Lelani in the arm. “In fact, I'm starting to feel jealous. I think she likes you better than me now.”

Lelani giggled. “In your dreams, Anna. Your mother just puts up with me so she can have access to Emma.”

They all laughed about that. Everyone knew that Mrs. Mendez was crazy about her soon-to-be granddaughter. Already she'd bought Emma all kinds of clothes and toys and seemed totally intent on spoiling the child rotten.

“Speaking of Emma”--Kendall shook her finger--“Mrs. Mendez is certain that she's supposed to have her on Monday. But I thought it was my day.”

“I'm not sure,” Lelani admitted. “But I'll call and find out.”

“And while you've got Granny on the line,” continued Kendall, “tell her that I do know how to change diapers properly. One more diaper lecture and I might just tape a Pamper over that big mouth of hers. Sheesh!”

They all laughed again. Since coming home from Maui, Kendall had been complaining about how Mrs. Mendez always seemed to find fault with Kendall's childcare abilities. In fact, Mrs. Mendez had spent the first week “teaching” Kendall the “proper” way to do almost everything.

To be fair, Megan didn't blame the older woman. Megan had been a little worried about Kendall too. But to everyone's surprise, Kendall turned out to be rather maternal. Whether it had to do with her own pregnancy or a hidden talent, Megan couldn't decide, but Kendall's skill had been a huge relief.

“Now, back to the wedding date,” said Lelani.

“Yes,” agreed Megan. “What about earlier on Saturday?”

“Oh, no,” Anna said. “I just remembered that I promised Edmond I'd go to his brother's bar mitzvah on that same day--I think it's in the morning.”

Lelani groaned.

“Edmond's brother?” Megan frowned. “I thought he was an only child. And since when is he Jewish?”

“Remember, his mom remarried,” Anna told her. “And Philip Goldstein, her new husband, is Jewish, and he has a son named Ben whose bar mitzvah is that Saturday.” She sighed. “I'm sorry, Lelani.”

“So Saturday morning is kaput,” Megan said.

“And Lelani wanted a sunset wedding anyway,” Anna repeated.

“So why can't you have a sunset wedding on Sunday?” Kendall suggested.

“That's an idea.” Megan turned back to Lelani. “What do you think?”

Lelani nodded. “I think that could work.”

“And here's another idea!” Anna exclaimed. “If the wedding was on Sunday night, you could probably have the reception in the restaurant afterward. I'm guessing it would be late by the time the wedding was over, and Sunday's not exactly a busy night.”

Lelani looked hopeful. “Do you think your parents would mind?”

“Mind? Are you kidding? That's what my mother lives for.”

“But we still don't have a place picked for the wedding,” Megan said.

“I have several outdoor locations in mind. I'll start checking on them tomorrow.”

“We'll have to pray that it doesn't rain.” Megan penned 'Lelani and Gil's Wedding' in her date book, then closed it.

“Should there be a backup plan?” asked Anna. “I'm sure my parents could have the wedding at their house.”

“Or here,” suggested Kendall. “You can use this house if you want.”

Anna frowned. “It's kind of small, don't you think?”

“I think it's sweet of Kendall to offer.” Lelani smiled at Kendall.

“I can imagine a bride coming down those stairs,” Kendall nodded toward the staircase. “I mean, if it was a small wedding.”

“I'll keep it in mind,” Lelani told her. “And your parents' house too.”

“It might be tricky getting a church reserved on a Sunday night,” Megan looked at the clock. “And speaking of that, I better get ready. Marcus is picking me up for the evening service in about fifteen minutes.” She turned back to Lelani. “Don't worry. I've got my to-do list and I'll start checking on some of this stuff tomorrow. My mom will want to help with the flowers.”

“And my aunt wants to make the cake,” Anna reminded them.

“Sounds like you're in good hands,” Kendall sad a bit wistfully. “I wonder how it would go if I was planning my wedding.”

“You'd be in good hands too,” Lelani assured her.

“Now, let's start going over that guest list,” Anna said as Megan stood up. “The sooner we get it finished, the less chance my mother will have of adding to it.” Megan was relieved that Anna had offered to handle the invitations. She could have them printed at the publishing company for a fraction of the price that a regular printer would charge, and hopefully she'd get them sent out in the next couple of weeks.

As Megan changed from her weekend sweats into something presentable, she wondered what would happen with Lelani's parents when it was time for the big event. Although her dad had promised to come and was already committed to paying Lelani's tuition to finish med school, Lelani's mom was still giving Lelani the cold shoulder. Make that the ice shoulder. For a woman who lived in the tropics, Mrs. Porter was about as chilly as they come. Still, Lelani had friends to lean on. Maybe that was better than family at times.

“Your prince is here,” Kendall called into Megan's room.

“Thanks.” Megan was looking for her other loafer and thinking it was time to organize her closet again. “Tell him I'm coming.”

When Megan came out, Marcus was in the dining room, chatting with her housemates like one of the family. He was teasing Anna for having her hair in curlers, then joking with Kendall about whether her Maui man had called her today.

“Not yet,” Kendall told him with a little frown. “But don't forget the time-zone thing. It's earlier there.”

“Speaking of time zones,” Lelani said to Marcus. “Did I hear you're actually thinking about going to Africa?”

Marcus grinned and nodded. “Yeah, Greg Mercer, this guy at our church, is trying to put together a mission trip to Zambia. I might go too.”

“Wow, that's a long ways away.” Kendall turned to Megan. “How do you feel about that?”

Megan shrugged as she pulled on her denim jacket. “I think it's cool.”

“Are you coming with us to church tonight, Kendall?” Marcus asked. “Greg is going to show a video about Zambia.”

“Sorry to miss that,” Kendall told him. “But Killiki is supposed to call.”

“Ready to roll?” Megan nodded up to the clock.

He grinned at her. “Yep.” But before they went out, he turned around. “That is, unless anyone else wants to come tonight.”

Lelani and Anna thanked him but said they had plans. Even so, Megan was glad he'd asked. It was nice when Kendall came with them occasionally. And Lelani had come once too. Really, it seemed that God was at work at 86 Bloomberg Place. Things had changed a lot since last fall.

“So are you nervous?” Marcus asked as he drove toward the city.

“Nervous?” Megan frowned. “About church?”

“No. The big interview.”

Megan slapped her forehead. “Wow, I temporarily forgot. We were so obsessed with Lelani's wedding today, trying to make lists, plan everything, and settle the date … I put the interview totally out of my mind.”

“Hopefully, it won't be out of your mind by Monday.”

“No, of course not.”

“So … are you nervous?”

Megan considered this. It would be her first interview for a teaching job. And it was a little unsettling. “The truth is, I don't think I have a chance at the job,” she admitted. “And, yes, I'm nervous. Thanks for reminding me.”

“Sorry. Why don't you think you'll get the job?”

“Because I don't have any actual teaching experience.” She wanted to add duh, but thought it sounded a little juvenile.

“Everyone has to start somewhere.”

“But starting in middle school, just a couple of months before the school year ends? Don't you think they'll want someone who knows what they're doing?”

“Unless they want someone who's enthusiastic and energetic and smart and creative and who likes kids and had lots of great new ideas and--”

“Wow, any chance you could do the interview in my place?”

“Cross-dress and pretend I'm you?”

She laughed. “Funny.”

“Just have confidence, Megan. Believe in yourself and make them believe too. You'd be great as a middle-school teacher.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Because I remember middle school.”


“And most of my teachers were old and dull and boring.”

“That's sad.”

“And I would've loved having someone like you for a teacher.”


He chuckled. “Yeah. If I was thirteen, I'd probably sit right in the front row and think about how hot you were, and then I'd start fantasizing about--”

“Marcus Barrett, you're pathetic.” Just the same, she laughed.

“What can I say? I'm just a normal, warm-blooded, American kid.”

“Give me a break!” She punched him in the arm.

“Is that your phone?” he asked as he was parking outside of the church.

“Oh, yeah, a good reminder to turn it off.” She pulled it out to see it was Kendall. Megan hoped nothing was wrong. “Hey, Kendall,” she said as Marcus set the parking brake. “What's up?”

“Guess what?” shrieked Kendall.

“I have no idea what, but it sounds like good news.” She stepped out of the car.

“Killiki just called.”

“That's nice.”

“And he asked me to marry him!”

Megan raised her eyebrows and looked at Marcus as he came around to meet her. “And you said yes?”

“Of course! Do you think I'm crazy?”

“No. Not at all. Congratulations, Kendall. I mean, I guess that's what you say.”

“So now we have two weddings to plan.”

Megan blinked. She walked with Marcus toward the church entry. “Oh, yeah, I guess we do.”

“And I'm getting married in June too!”

“That's great, Kendall. I'm really, really happy for you. And Killiki seems like a great guy.”

“He is! Anyway, we just looked at the calendar again. And we finally figured that I should just get married the same day as Lelani, only I'll get married in the morning. That way we'll all be able to go to both weddings.”

“Wow, the same day?”

“Otherwise, you'll be at your reunion or Marcus's sister's wedding. Or Anna will be at the bar mitzvah. Or Lelani and Gil will be on their honeymoon.”

“Oh, that's right.”

“And I want all of you there!”

“Yes, I suppose that makes sense.”

“It'll be busy, but fun.”

“Definitely.” Then Megan thanked Kendall for telling her, and they said good-bye. Megan closed her phone and just shook her head. “Wow.”

“Kendall's getting married?” asked Marcus as he held the church door open for her.

“Yes. Can you believe it?”

“Good for her.”

“And her wedding will be the same weekend as your sister's and the same day as Lelani's.”

Marcus held up three fingers and wore a perplexed expression. “Three weddings in one weekend? That's crazy.”

“Yep.” Megan nodded. “Three weddings and a bar mitzvah.”

“Huh?” Marcus looked confused, but they were in the sanctuary, and Megan knew she'd have to explain later.

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah by Melody Carlson. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Long Two Weeks


I am sooooooo totally happy to be back on the blog today!!!!! I feel like I haven't been around in months. That is really how fast blog time seems to fly! It has actually been about two weeks. Well...roughly two weeks. I have a lot of catching up to do! My email is over 10000, and I have massive blog posts to read! I totally miss getting to read all of my favorite blogs.

For the past two weeks I have had to devote more time than usual to my job. I work at a Christian radio station. It is a non profit radio station to boot. This means that about twice a year we have a pledge drive. Now some radio stations are part of a bigger group. They are located in one area but broadcast all over. This can make funding rough but they have a larger reach so they have a bigger bank of donors. Our station is independent and local. We broadcast over Central and Northern Arizona. This gives us a smaller pool of donors BUT we really get to know our listeners. We develop a real relationship that is by far more rewarding than just about any job I have ever had. Our listeners are like family. As much hard work as the pledge drive is, it is kind of like a family reunion.

Anyway, pledge drives keep the whole staff very busy. I have spent the past month calling up listeners and looking for volunteers, organizing gifts, contacting ministries and artists for promotional spots. It has been utter mayhem! Last week was the actually pledge drive, and from Tuesday to Friday I spent my mornings in the action room taking calls and helping our volunteers take pledges from roughly 6 am to 12 pm, this would be followed by a quick run home for a nap, a fast sandwich and then back to the studio to work on air from 2 pm to 8 pm.

And now I am just feeling chipper as can be, because I had a wonderful week (busy but wonderful) and now I can go enjoy some good blog reading! YAY!!!! Somehow it also put me in an 80s mood so I thought I'd share some 80s music too! I use to just love this song!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In the Arms of Immortals: A Novel of Darkness and Light (Chronicles of the Scribe) by Ginger Garrett

I did not get the opportunity to read this one for review, but I thoroughly have enjoyed Ginger Garrett's previous work. I am definitely picking up this one!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

In the Arms of Immortals: A Novel of Darkness and Light (Chronicles Of The Scribe)

David C. Cook (2009)


An expert in ancient women’s history, critically acclaimed author Ginger Garrett (Dark Hour, Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, and most recently In the Shadow of Lions) creates novels and nonfiction resources that explore the lives of historical women. In addition to her writing, Garrett is a frequent radio and television guest. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 304
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 0781448883
ISBN-13: 9780781448888


In the Arms of Immortals

Chapter One

Thirty thousand dollars bought her the right to avoid being scalded alive.

Mariskka Curtis did not miss the shoddy built-in shower that had been in her old apartment. Now she owned a penthouse, and one of her first decisions as a new millionaire was to have a high-end luxury shower installed.

“For thirty grand, it should make my breakfast, too,” Mariskka said to no one.

At least the bathroom was warm, making goose bumps and bad leg shaves a thing of the past. The maid had lit the fireplace in the master bath an hour ago and brought a fresh careen of coffee up. The milk still needed to be frothed, but Mariskka didn't mind that.

She pumped the handle six times and the milk bubbled up. She poured coffee into her monogrammed cup, then the foamy milk over the coffee. Mariskka inhaled, surprised that coffee could still bring her so much pleasure.

Rolling her neck to get the morning kinks out, she swung open the shower door and sat inside. The shower began as a slow warm mist around her feet, giving her a few minutes to finish her coffee before the gentle raindrops started from the overhead faucet and the dawn lights bounced pink off the shower glass.

Later this morning she was scheduled for an appearance on yet another talk show to dazzle America with her rags to riches tale. She hated the hollow feeling in her stomach that came from lying. She had stolen her best-selling manuscript from a patient's room. The patient, Bridget, had been a famous editor, and left it behind when she died. Mariskka stole it on impulse, thinking it might be valuable if sold on eBay. Only later, when packing the editor's belongings, had Mariskka seen the business cards thrown in the bottom of her bags. One was for an agent. Mariskka had contacted the agent, passing the manuscript off as her own. It couldn't hurt anyone, she had thought. Mariskka had also stolen Bridget's watch, but only because she intended to return it to the family. Only later did she realize Bridget had no family.

When the agent sold that manuscript in a seven-figure deal, it was as if God answered her prayers. Mariskka made a pile of easy money. She bought things she never dreamed of owning. She even donated some of it, paying hospice bills that threatened to bankrupt families and sent worn out care givers on vacations. Good things had happened to plenty of people because of her decision to steal.

As the mist rose she finished her coffee and waited for the overhead shower to turn on. Hard rock blared suddenly through the shower speakers, and she dropped her coffee cup in surprise. It shattered at her feet. Instinctively she yanked her feet out of the scalding puddle. Losing her balance in the wet mist, she hit her head on the imported tile and blacked out.

The smoke stung Mariskka's eyes.

She blinked, trying to clear her mind, groping in the darkness for the shower door. The shower had stopped, and the music was dead. She wondered if the building had lost electricity.

She crawled over something sharp and jagged. The lights must have shattered above. It was too dark to see anything; she wished she had windows in her bath as she pushed back the shower door.

Something was coming.

She felt the vibrations through her legs, shaking her to her stomach. Straining to hear above her thundering heart, she heard a heavy scraping against her hardwood floors, the sound of a sharp tool being dragged over the floors, catching every second or so, bumping over a seam. Heavy footfalls shook the floor, and metal screeched together with each step. She thought of the armored boots she had seen on medieval knights in museums.

Something slammed against the door, making the wood split.

It hit again.

“There is no Blood here,” someone said.

“God help me,” she whispered.

When she said the word God, the thing outside the door shrieked like an animal. A sword pierced through the door, creating a jagged seam as the intruder jerked it back and forth in the split wood. Light streamed in from her bedroom windows, but she could see nothing except a sword sawing its way through the door.

They should be testing the microphones for the television hosts right now, she thought. Amber-Marie Gates, her publicist, was going to be furious when Mariskka didn't arrive on time. Or when she didn't arrive at all.… Mariskka's mind was gone, traveling down more familiar tracks, unable to process her death.

Then the door burst apart, and she was showered with wood fragments. A figure too large to pass through the doorframe stood, stood, twisting its head in different directions, staring at her. The glowing blue dawn outlined its frame. Morning sunrays shot up from behind its head and between its flexed arms, illuminating dust particles spinning down and turning the shifting light into a kaleidoscope.

Metal wings reflected the light at their sharp ice-pick tips; below these, the shoulders of a man were layered with scales. Each finger was tipped with dozens of iron claws, all pointing backwards. Once it grabbed her, she wouldn't get free without tearing herself to shreds. It was built for death.

“There is no Blood here,” he said.

“What?” she screamed.

“You have no Christ.”

A tail with an iron tip, long and scalpel sharp, raised behind him as he pointed his sword at her. He turned his shoulder to come through the door. As he thrust his wings against the frame, cracks ran up the walls above the door.

He lifted his sword, aiming for her neck. She wondered if her lips would still be moving after death, the way Anne Boleyn's had.

He spun back around, his sword in motion.

A shower of sparks was burning her.

She remembered lights like this.

She was a child at Disney, watching the Magical Parade of Lights. A green, scaled dragon floated past her as she sat on the sidewalk, full of lemonade and ice cream. When the dragon swung its head in her direction, with its blind paper eyes and red paper streamers coming from its mouth to look like fire, Mariskka vomited right between her shoes. No one noticed, not the least her mom, who had taken the wide white pills so she could get through the day, one of their last together. Mariskka wanted her to take the pills so she wouldn't be in pain, so she wouldn't groan in the night, but the pills made her dull and distant. Either way, Mariskka lost her mother a little more each day.

She stood, grabbing her mother's hand, pulling at her to run. Her mother laughed, tipsy from the combination of opiates and Disney princesses, swinging her around in a dance, not understanding the panic in her daughter's eyes. Mariskka struggled to get free, to see where the dragon went, but it was gone. She would lie awake for years after that, wondering where it was now. The eyes had only been paper, but she knew. It had seen her. It had seen something inside her.

Mariskka was still remembering herself as a little girl when she noticed her impending death had been delayed. Another creature was here, holding a sword, blocking the iron-winged monster from killing her. He had gold-and-straw colored dreadlocks that ran down his back and the body of a linebacker. Judging from how close his head was to her ceiling, Mariskka guessed he was about eight feet tall.

The man picked up the dark iron angel by the neck and slammed it against the wall. Plaster rained down.

“She is ours,” the iron-angel said. “We can take her.”

“Not yet,” the new creature said.

A dark stain spread underneath the iron-angel on the tile floor. The stain shimmered as teeth began to appear, ringing the edges.

The new creature yelled over his shoulders. “Cover your eyes!”

Mariskka stared at the stain, which was devouring the iron-angel as it moved up it his legs.

The new one screamed again, “Mariskka! Now!”

Mariskka obeyed.

She heard the sound of an animal screaming in pain, and then all was quiet.

She looked up to see the new creature staring down at her. His nose was inches from her face, and his dreadlocks fell forward, tickling her cheeks. If he were human, she thought, he would be beautiful. But he could not be real, not with his strange eyes that were like big, gold saucers and canine teeth that peeked out from his lips. His breath smelled of meat, too. She collapsed, losing all control over limb and thought.

His arms slipped behind her knees and under her neck, lifting her without effort. He carried her to the bed and laid her down, drawing the curtains and stepping back into the shadows. He sat in a chair, resting one arm on the armrest, watching her. A thick, numbing sensation started in her toes and poured slowly into her body. She felt it filling her, working its way through her abdomen, then her arms. When it got to her eyes, they closed and she slept.

©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. In the Arms of Immortals by Ginger Garrett. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Becoming a Family that Heals: How to Resolve Past Issues and Free Your Future by Drs. Tom and Beverly Rodgers

This wasn't one of my reads, but it really does look like a book that can really help families. :)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Becoming a Family that Heals: How to Resolve Past Issues and Free Your Future

Focus (August 4, 2009)


Drs. Tom and Beverly Rodgers have been Christian counselors for over 30 years. They practice at Rodgers Christian Counseling and the Institute for Soul Healing Love in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr. Tom also has a master’s degree in human development and Dr. Bev has a master’s degree in marital and family therapy. Together they have written three books: Soul Healing Love, Adult Children of Divorced Parents, and The Singlehood Phenomenon. They have appeared on NBC, NPR, and the BBC. Together they facilitate relationship workshops for couples and singles across the globe. They have been married for over 30 years and have two grown daughters.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Focus (August 4, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1589975758
ISBN-13: 978-1589975750



Meet the Smith Family

As the sun set over the trees behind our office, it cast an amber glow over Amy Smith’s face, making her look tired and sad as she poured out her heart. In her expressive, emotional style she shared about her 15-year marriage. Her husband, Bill, sat uncomfortably stiff on the far side of the sofa, his arms crossed in a resistant, nervous posture.

Amy told us that they had two beautiful children, Chloe, age eight, and Billy, six. Amy began to cry as she revealed that she was at her wits’ end with Bill because he would not interact with her and the children.

He spent most of his evenings and weekends parked in front of the television in his room, or “dungeon,” as they called it.

“He won’t talk or relate to us. He just works and comes home and disappears into his room,” she shared through her tears. “Chloe will do anything to get his attention. She even tried to be interested in fishing so she could spend time with him. But he just won’t respond to her. This kills me because I know how she feels. I tried to get my dad’s attention when I was her age, and when I could not reach him, it caused me to rebel and become promiscuous. There’s so much to deal with here,” Amy cried, wiping her tears in embarrassment.

“Our marriage is in trouble,” she continued. “Our son is having behavior problems at school, and poor Chloe has ADHD and has trouble with her school work. She has no friends because her self-esteem is on the floor. The problems in our family seem so big that I just don’t know where to start. I finally told Bill that if he did not come to counseling I might have to leave. I still can’t believe he came today,” she said as she looked at him for some type of reaction. But Bill just stared blankly at Amy, in what appeared to be his typical shutdown response. This just made Amy cry even harder. The hopelessness and despair in the room were palpable.

As Christian marital and family therapists for the past 28 years, we have treated many families like the Smiths. These families are typically desperate and overwhelmed, and they need help on many fronts. It is our job to help them eat the proverbial elephant of healing family dysfunction, one bite at a time.

Often, when people are inundated with problems, they cannot see a way out. But there is hope for this family and many others like them. Tom and I found that same hope for our own wounded family years ago.

Yes, we too have had problems. Just because we’re marriage and family counselors does not mean that we’re immune to trouble. We too came from homes where there was a great deal of pain. My mother was mentally ill. She was abusive to our family, both mentally and physically. As you can imagine, it caused a great deal of stress on my parents’ marriage.

My father finally left my family when I was five years old. This exacerbated my mother’s illness and she became even more angry and abusive. It was difficult growing up without a dad and many times without a mother; mentally ill moms are frequently missing in action. It was not until I started college and studied psychology that I realized the full impact my wounded childhood would have on my life and my marriage.

Tom grew up in a seemingly more “normal” family—at least no one was crazy! Even so, his family had troubles of its own. They were churchgoers and were there every time the doors were open. They were considered pillars of their small community in central California. Everything ran smoothly for them until Tom’s father’s repeated adultery was exposed.

Tom’s whole world came crashing down then, and this started the slow and painful dissolution of his family. They had to move from their community in shame and nothing was the same after that. Tom entered college with a poor ability to trust because everything that he put his trust in had disintegrated. His parents finally buried their dead, dysfunctional marriage when Tom was 25 years old. Though he was an adult when his parents eventually divorced, the hurt was no less painful. Like most Christian children of divorce, he even doubted God. All of this followed him into our marriage.

We were much like Amy and Bill Smith. We had no idea that we brought wounds from our respective families into our marriage. We now believe it was because of these wounds that we became therapists. It was because of our hurt and pain that we eventually developed a model for healing relationships. We call it the Soul-Healing Love Model. You’ll be hearing a lot about how it can work in your life as we follow the Smith family in their healing process. Along with the Smiths, you will learn how your childhood wounds have affected your adult relationships, and how to apply the soul healing balm of the Great Physician to these wounds so that you can have healthy, lasting family relationships.

We never started out to develop a counseling model. If you had known us in college, you would have assumed that we were the least likely candidates to do so. We were so insecure and fearful of trusting one another. We entered our relationship with so many wounds that we spent the first year of our marriage in a counselor’s office. We studied family interaction in school, attended workshops, read as many books as we possibly could, studied Scripture, and prayed often. Still, marriage was hard.

It wasn’t easy to attend classes and seminars by great Christian leaders who seemed to have it all together. We thought our childhood wounds would disqualify us from ever being able to help ourselves, much less anyone else. In the early years of our training it seemed incongruous for us to study about creating healthy families while our own family fell miserably short. We felt hypocritical when we would help a family stop their unhealthy patterns, only to repeat our own later on. It took a while to learn that all leaders feel this struggle in some way or another as they try to live out what they teach.

The Lord was good and heard our cries, and in time gave us ways to heal our wounded marriage and pass this healing on to others. This became the Soul-Healing Love Model. It integrates psychological principles and biblical truths so that couples and families can understand each other better, gain insight into their own and each other’s woundedness, have empathy for one another, move toward forgiveness, and become healing agents to each other. The premise of the model is that God’s unconditional love heals our wounded souls and restores us to wholeness. Jeremiah 30:17 says, “‘But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord.”

As we experience God’s great soul-healing love, we can allow that love to overflow to our family, so that we can be healing agents to them as well. Because loving your family can be harder at times than loving your neighbors, the Lord gave us practical, doable ways to walk out God’s unconditional love. It is nothing short of miraculous how the Lord can take a fearful, fractured family and move it to a healing place. We now use the model in our large counseling clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, and travel the globe doing workshops and teaching other counselors and pastors how to use it.

As you can see, the Lord used our pain to help us be an example to others, so we now believe that God does not waste pain. He did not waste ours, and we knew He would use the pain of the Smith family for good as well. Now, let’s accompany the Smiths on their healing journey and see how the Soul-Healing Love concepts worked for them, and more importantly, how they can work for you and your family.

Chapter One

In the Beginning: Wounded People Marry Wounded People and Wound Children

In order to deal with Bill and Amy’s obvious pain, we wanted to let them know that they were not alone in their struggles, that many couples have difficulties like theirs, and that their family could be healed. Watching their mixture of relief and skepticism as we shared, we moved on to asking them the all-important question: “What do you two want out of counseling?”

Amy had a list and was ready, almost anxious, to share it. We could tell that she had been preparing for this session for some time. Of course, the list contained everything she wanted to change about Bill, but there was no mention of anything she needed to improve. (We would have to deal with this later.)

“I want Bill to talk to me more, to interact with the kids more, to get involved in their projects, and help around the house.” She was on a roll by now and we could see where this was going, but could not even break in to slow her down. Bill, obviously feeling put down, sat lower and lower on the sofa until the cushions enveloped him. We could tell he was clenching his teeth as he rolled his eyes in utter frustration.

Oblivious to Bill’s mood, Amy continued to lament. “I want Bill to tell me what’s going on in his brain. He shuts me out so much! I want him to be a spiritual leader and care about how our children are doing spiritually.” She finally took a breath long enough for me to get a word in.

We knew we needed to get Bill to talk before he exploded, so I asked, “What about you, Bill? What brought you here today?”

“She did, she made me come,” he said somewhat sarcastically. (We soon learned that this playful sarcasm was Bill’s communication trademark.)

“I hate this sort of thing. I can’t stand sharing feelings anyway, much less with strangers. No offense to you guys, but talking about emotions is like torture for me.”

“Most of us guys have trouble with this,” Tom replied in an effort to comfort and identify with Bill. “In fact, after thirty-two years of marriage, my wife is still teaching me new ways to share feelings, so we hope we can make this as painless as possible for you.”

“Wow, thirty-two years and you seem okay . . . well sort of,” Bill replied with that same hint of sarcastic humor. We all chuckled and it seemed to lighten up the serious mood.

Finally, Tom asked, “So, Bill, why are you really here?”

“Well, if you really want to know, my biggest complaint is about Amy’s nagging. She always tells me what I’m not doing. No matter what I do, it is never enough for her. I finally just quit trying because there is no pleasing her.”

“Bill was not always so shut down,” Amy interrupted. (We were also soon to learn that this was her trademark communication style.)

“He talked all the time when we dated. I think he tricked me into marrying him, and after he finally caught me, his sullen self appeared,” she said resentfully.

“You’d be sullen too if you lived with her constant nagging,” Bill defended himself. “She thinks she’s right about everything. It’s too bad we all can’t be perfect like her,” he added somewhat scornfully.

“I don’t want perfection, I just want someone who is more involved with the family, like I am. Why can’t Bill be more like me?” she asked.

“I have wondered the same thing,” Bill said. “How did I pick a wife who is so different from me?”

Tom and I have been asked this question by couples thousands of times in the last three decades. The problem is that people are typically not attracted to mates who are similar to themselves. As with countless couples we see in our office, Bill and Amy could hardly be more opposite.

Amy was verbal, expressive, and animated, with a great vocabulary and no problem using it. Bill was her opposite: quiet, stoic, and emotionally frozen. We have found that we may date individuals more like ourselves, but when it comes to selecting a mate, we typically pick our opposite. This is because, as the old saying goes, opposites attract. There are actually physiological, psychological, and spiritual reasons for this. So to help them see that their differences could actually be a good thing, we explained to Bill and Amy what we are about to share with you.

Opposites Attract

For years relationship researchers have known that people are attracted to partners who are their opposite, but the issue of opposites attracting really goes back to the Garden of Eden. God, the Creator of the universe, has male and female characteristics, masculine and feminine. God made man in His image (Genesis 1:26). Adam reflected the male aspect of His image. He was put on the earth to do God’s masculine tasks. He was to protect, serve, and have charge over all of God’s creatures (Genesis


In those first days, Adam was busy with his charge. He was responsible for naming all living things. As he did this, he utilized all of his, and God’s, masculine qualities. But it wasn’t long before he realized that something was missing. As God’s male image bearer, Adam permeated and interacted with the creation, but God’s feminine image was noticeably absent. The world needed His feminine characteristics.

Adam needed God’s feminine side too. When God said that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18),He wanted Adam to have this part of His likeness to complete His creation. Adam needed his opposite to feel complete and to be able to experience and utilize all of God’s aspects and characteristics, and husbands and wives have been looking for that completeness with each other ever since.

Divine Oneness

When man (God’s male likeness) craves woman (God’s female likeness), they marry and become one. In this oneness, they fulfill a divine destiny. Webster’s gives one definition of destiny as “set apart for a specific purpose.”

Since couples have both parts of God’s nature, they can do so much more together than they could alone to fulfill their special purpose. Together they form what we call the “Divine Us.” This Us is greater than the sum of the two parts.

Now, don’t misunderstand. We are not saying here that we as humans are divine. Far from it! Rather, the Divine Us is a calling that God has for only a specific couple, that man and that woman in all of their uniqueness, with the qualities that only those two people possess. Together they can learn to transcend their differences, even learn from these dissimilarities, and grow to be all that God has called them to be. God has a plan for the Divine Us that can be accomplished only when the two become one.

Tom and I have worked hard over the years to determine and develop our Divine Us. We have often said that without each other there are many things we simply would not, or could not, do. We’re certain that separately we would not have started a counseling, writing, and speaking ministry. Together we gave each other courage to do the things we would not do alone. I am gifted in administration. This is an area where Tom is lacking. Tom has a great sense of direction, both literally (I get lost in every hotel we stay in), and figuratively, in that he often knows the path that we should take in life.

These are not the only areas where Tom and I are opposites. I am very outgoing; he has a shy streak. I’m hyper and can’t sit still. He is far calmer. He’s athletic. I’m uncoordinated! Like our couple Amy and Bill,

I am a talker, and Tom is a man of few words. More than once in our marriage these opposite characteristics have caused us conflict. On more than one occasion, I have wished for a mate who was more like me. Yet, before we met I had dated guys who were more like me, and I found that there wasn’t a great deal of attraction. I even found some to be boring. We just didn’t have chemistry.

Chemistry and Love

Relationship researchers report that the more opposite the couple, the greater the chemistry. In fact, the term chemistry came from the science of alchemy, a forerunner of modern chemistry. It was a mixture of science and philosophy that developed in the Middle Ages when people were attempting to find an elixir of life. Early chemists knew that the more opposite the chemicals were, the greater the explosive reaction when they were mixed! Perhaps these early chemists saw the explosive reaction between opposite men and women as they declared undying love and devotion for each other.

There is also a biological reason for this chemistry. When you first fall in love, hormones and brain chemicals flow throughout your body. Researchers at the University of New York call this “the love cocktail.” These chemicals cause us to feel superhuman, making the “in love” feelings soar. They also alter our thinking so that we see our partner in the most positive light. So while we are dating, we not only overlook the opposite characteristics in our prospective mates, we actually like those very characteristics!

When we dated, I loved that Tom was laid-back and could take breaks when we studied. He loved it that I was driven and could accomplish a great deal in a short time. He got more done when he was with me, and I could relax more in his presence. It was not long after we married that those blessed brain chemicals began to fade, and our differences started to annoy us.

“Can’t you sit still?” he would ask.

“Are you taking another break? We have work to do,” I would bemoan.

The differences that we once celebrated and enjoyed soon became grist for the mill of marital conflict. Take a moment and think about the main thing that you were attracted to in your mate. Do you fight about this issue today? You will understand more about this as you read through the pages of this book. But first, let’s look at another way husbands and wives can be opposites.

Similar Wounds/Opposite Adaptations

Not only do opposite personalities attract, but people with opposite adaptations to similar wounds attract as well. This is the basis for dysfunctional family systems. Harville Hendrix in his book Keeping the Love You Find, says that we are attracted to people who have similar wounds from the past. It is not that we consciously know that people have similar wounds. Of course, we don’t ask about one’s childhood wounds on the first date, but we do find that there is just something about that person that feels familiar. Hendrix calls this “the phenomenon of recognition.”

This causes us to feel at home with people who have had similar experiences. In our counseling we have found that adult children of alcoholics find other adult children of alcoholics. Children of divorce find other children of divorce. Those who are abused as children may find mates who will abuse them. Though it seems crazy to outsiders, it feels familiar and comfortable to the ones inside the relationship.

This “phenomenon of recognition” was the case with us. Tom and I attended a Christian university in the 1970s. Most of the students came from wonderful Christian homes with great Christian heritages.

We were two of only a handful of students who suffered from the divorces of our parents. And yet, among thousands of students, we managed to find each other. The chemistry between us was so potent that all of our friends noticed it immediately. Indeed, people with similar wounds are attracted to one another.

The problem is that though people may have similar wounds, they may also have opposite ways of dealing with those wounds. We call those ways adaptations. Tom adapted to his parents’ painful divorce by withdrawing and isolating, becoming a loner. When my family fell apart I felt abandoned. I adapted to this wound by taking care of everyone and trying to fix things. I became a caretaker.

Here’s how that worked out in our marriage. When we had conflict, I typically fell into my caretaking adaptation. I pestered Tom to respond, often following him from room to room, trying to get him to open up to me so that I could “fix” the situation. This pursuing caused Tom to feel suffocated and pull away even more, which caused him to fall into his adaptation as a loner. The more he would withdraw, the more abandoned I felt. The more abandoned I felt, the more I pursued him and the more he would distance himself. We were in a crazy, vicious cycle and unwittingly became the classic pursuer/distancer dyad that John Gottman talks about in his book The Marriage Clinic.

In the Soul-Healing Love Model we call this phenomenon Marital Pac-Man, where one mate chases the other, and the other runs in fear of being emotionally “chomped up.” This is a common problem in marriage, and fortunately it can be repaired. To do this, though, we needed to stop our unhealthy adaptations. As a distancer, Tom needed to bite the bullet and move closer. As a pursuer, I needed to practice self-control and back off more. We learned to do this for each other by rediscovering and appreciating what we were attracted to in the beginning of our relationship. This enabled us to move toward becoming more like each other.

This was exactly what Bill and Amy Smith needed to do as well. But first we wanted to explore more about their history and how they got trapped in their unhealthy game of Marital Pac-Man.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thank You!!!!!!


I was totally blessed and stoked to receive two awards this week by two awesome bloggers who I admire VERY much.

First, thank you so much to Sheri of A Novel Menagerie who blessed me with the "B-I-N-G-O" BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD. I really am touched and thankful. :)

Now onto my choices:

The rules : This award was started by Bookin With BINGO and here are the rules: This "B-I-N-G-O" BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD means that this blog is...

B: Beautiful: Toni at Circle of Books
I: Informative: Charlene of a Virtuous Woman
N: Neighborly: Luanne of a Bookworm's World
G: Gorgeous: Lindsey of A Kindred Spirit's Thoughts
O: Outstanding : Dar at Peeking Between the Pages

And thank you to Karen of Bookin' With Bingo who somehow decided to share the Your Blog is So Swank award with me! I am again...seriously touched (not just in the head) and honored. Thank you. :)

I would like to also share this blog award with some of my swanky friends.

Sheri of A Novel Menagerie - Seriously Swanky
Joanne of Jo-Jo Loves to Read - Sunnily Swanky (okay not a word but it still fits)
Alyce of At Home With Books - Special and Swanky
Drey at Drey's Library - Simply Swanky
Kaye at Pudgy Penguin Perusals - Spunky and Swanky

Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers out there who make browsing the internet so much more fulfilling! You are all Rock Stars!