Book Review: Bridge to Terebithia

gandalf.jpg Guest Contributor: Nate

This book is a classic, worthy of its Newberry Award and rivaled in beauty only by Where the Red Fern Grows.  The main characters of this book are a boy named Jesse Aarons and a girl named Lesslie Burkes.  Even though it didn’t look very promising at first, they became very close friends when they started to use their imaginations to create the fabulous and creative land of Terebithia, where they had many adventures.

As a warning, Leslie believes in animal rights and the Aarons think that church is very boring.  There is a strong belief in unidentified spirits and the Lord’s name is used very casually throughout the book.  Jesse’s older sisters are very nasty.  Other than that, Bridge to Terebithia  is a book fit for the affections of readers.

This ‘n That

A few scattered thoughts I wanted to share with you today… In my small effort to bring beauty and a woman’s touch to our home, I bring home cut flowers from the grocery from time to time.  My rule of thumb is to buy two bouquets to produce a nice, full flower arrangement; but with regular trimming of the cut ends and changing the water it usually lasts a couple of weeks.  Here is a picture of a beautiful arrangement of orange roses and pink tea roses to which I added a package of white tulips recently.  The effect was very pleasing.  The flowers were all on clearance for half-off which made it even better!dsc01812.JPG

Totally unrelated is how thankful I am for creature comforts and for God’s timing!  We woke up Saturday morning to a very cold house.  Our furnace was out and the part we needed couldn’t be bought until Monday.  We spent the weekend shifting the space heaters to the rooms where they were most needed.  It’s nice to have the heat back on, but the funny thing is…it wasn’t all that cold this weekend.  Not sweltering by any stretch of the imagination, but highs in the mid 30’s and not a lot of wind (which really chills the house down because we live in a wind corridor).  By contrast, now that the furnace is working again, the temps have dropped quite a bit and it’s supposed to be colder tomorrow.  Thank you Lord for keeping us warm this weekend!

As most of you already know, our family is just emerging from a week of battling the flu.  Due to a last-minute throw-up Saturday night, I stayed home with the baby Sunday from church and missed the family birthday party.  It’s been a long week, but today we went back to homeschool coop as usual.  I am so thankful for health restored!! 

Last bit of housekeeping…I made the offer to my sons that whenever they wrote a book or movie review I would post it on my blog.  They could be a guest blogger!  (Clever way for mom to get them to write more huh? ;o)

Book Review: The Invisible Woman

I recently read The Invisible Woman: When Only God Sees by Nicole Johnson. It is a very quick read (only 87 short pages), which I read in the dark, under the covers, next to my snoring, I mean sleeping husband–delightful alone time. And by the way, fellow bibliophiles, if you don’t have a lightwedge, get one. It is the best book light I’ve ever used; but I digress.

In a season where it seems that most of my efforts, not to mention who I am as a person, are unnoticed The Invisible Woman is a touching and powerful reminder that I am not invisible to the One who always sees me, the One who really matters, the One who gives my life and my efforts meaning.

The imagery of cathedrals and hidden sparrows will stay with me for a long time. I hope I never forget the message they taught me.

Amazing Grace

“You do not want me to treat you all exactly equal.  There is much grace that is given to you that is not given to your brother or sister.  We love you all equally, but we give you exactly what each one needs in order to succeed in this life”

These were the words I heard coming out of my mouth this morning to my eldest son. 

I heard them, but couldn’t quite believe that I had said them.  It was almost as if the Holy Spirit was speaking through me.  This made me wonder if there weren’t a lesson in there somewhere for me about God. 

I think of my precious pastor’s wife, who holds the home together so beautifully while our pastor teaches at a seminary in Russia or goes somewhere else related to the ministry for weeks at a time.  Weeks!  I think I would fall apart after only a few days with my husband away from home.

I think of all the precious women I know  who raise their babies and learn to run a home without the benefit of having mom and mother-in-law so near to lend a hand when necessary.  I can’t even count how many times Mavis took the kids for a few hours so I could clean house or how many times one or the other set of grandparents have babysat so John and I could go out for dinner.  (I can however count on one hand the number of times someone outside the family has watched our children…can you imagine?  What an incredible blessing!) 

I think of the women living in big beautiful houses in the city with little to no yard and few or no trees.  Are you kidding me?  I have trouble keeping my cozy, little house clean; a big beautiful (expensive) one would drive me absolutely insane!  And where would my kids run  and ride their bikes in the summer?  Where would I plant my flower beds and fruit trees and vegetable gardens?  (Not that I do so well at them but still….)

I think of these and so many other women I have measured my life against. 

(Please forgive the paraphrase, but I’ve loaned my Narnia books out so I’m doing this from memory.)  There is a part at the end of “The Horse and His Boy” where Aslan says, “That is her story.  No one is told anyone’s story but his own.”

Mmmmmm….those words bring me much comfort, but also are cause for introspection.  There is only One who I am to measure my life against.  I have been given much grace that has not been given to others (just as they have been given grace that has not been given to me.)  How have I managed this gift?  At the end of my life, what kind of steward will I be judged to have been?                                                                                                          

So Precious

I put my baby to bed last night.  As usual, she was none too happy about being “left out” of any quiet time John and I might enjoy before going to bed ourselves and was voicing her displeasure with me in a loud, but tired, cry.  I started to give her the same “good-night blessing” that I have given all my babies since my soon-to-be 13 y.o. was first put in his crib…”Mommy loves you (kiss), Daddy loves you (kiss) and Jesus loves you (kiss, kiss) Good-night.” She cried through the whole thing.

For some reason, I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to pray with her last night–for real–after the blessing and so I did.  As I prayed, she ceased her crying, and in the split second after I said “amen” I looked up to see her open her eyes, unfold her hands and resume her crying.

It took my breath away.  Like David, my heart asked, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family that you have brought me this far?”  (2 Sam. 7:18)  Budding faith in the heart of an infant…so precious.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  (Luke 18:16-17)

A Rather Delicate Subject….

Fair warning, the subject of these musings is well…hmmm…not exactly for polite company, it is more appropriate for those people in our lives we can be real around.  If you find yourself easily offended or consider yourself to belong to the former camp moreso than the latter, please direct your browser to another page, I won’t mind…in fact you’ll keep me from embarrassing myself.

For the rest of you, we are hitting several milestones in the Hilleson household that leave me with no other option than the realization that my baby is no longer a baby

Milestone #1–Emma recently hit a growth spurt and has now caught up in size to her 3 year old cousin (admittedly, said cousin is tiny for her age, but still…) 

Milestone #2–(this is where it gets a little delicate) She doesn’t really nurse anymore, when she asks to be nursed, she chews.  This is not o.k. with me.  Besides which, even though I bought these nursing bras when she was born, they’re pretty much shot…as in why do I bother wearing them anymore?  So after dropping Nathan off for Quiz Team practice I sneak off to that store in the mall to ummm….restock my drawer.

Milestone # 3–I have been receiving significant pressure to potty train Emma.  The first source is from my dear husband.  Wet/dirty diapers do not burn well in the burn barrell and she produces A LOT of them.  But the second source is from my father-in-law of all people!  I guess it makes sense, John’s parents take such joy in her…as I’ve said before that God has used her to minister joy to so many in her young life.  He says, “she’s so smart, I just know that if you put her on the potty, she’d learn in no time..” So to honor my husband (and his father) I buy a little seat to fit on the toilet (there is no room in our house for a stand alone model) and let her practice sitting on it…just to get used to it so she’s not scared.  To my dismay, she has pooped once and tinkled more times than I can count!  I still don’t think she’s physically ready for full time potty training, but STILL!  This is really too much!

I’m not ready for her to be weaned.  I’m not ready for her to be potty trained.  I was so foolish when the boys were little that I didn’t treasure the time I had with them as babies, I just kept looking forward to the next milestone.  Now that I have been given some small measure of wisdom to treasure the time that is now, it fleeting too fast!

The Room

I recently received a forwarded email entitled “The Room”.  It was not written by Brian Moore as claimed in the email, but in fact was written by Joshua Harris.  In any case, it so perfectly describes the struggle going on within my heart that I wanted to share it with you.

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order.  But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I have liked.” I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.

This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I have betrayed.” The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird “Books I Have Read,” “Lies I Have Told,” “Comfort I have Given,” “Jokes I Have Laughed at.” Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve yelled at my brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger”, “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents.” I never ceased to be surprised by the contents.

Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived.  Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth.

Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked “TV Shows I have watched”, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts,” I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content.

I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card.  I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.

And then I saw it.. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With.” The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt.  They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. Cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him.

No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own.

He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again.

He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. “No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took he card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file
and walk back to my side.

He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.