THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS TREE

While living in the country, several years back, our family had a Christmas custom. Each year we would search our pastures and cut down a scrub pine for our Christmas tree. After cutting down our find, and hauling it home, the real work began…at least for Jerry. Wrestling the prickly branches, he would valiantly struggle to set the tree straight in the stand under the direction of 4 women, each with a different opinion! Once secure, we proceeded to clear out the spider webs, stray grass, an occasional bird’s nest and give it a good spraying with Raid in case any” critters” were still in residence! Next Jerry would turn it like a slow top as we determined the best side to face the room.
One particular Christmas, the girls decided this would be the year of the PERFECT TREE. They became a self-appointed committee of three, and thus was born The O.C.T.S.C. (Official Christmas Tree Selection Committee.) It just so happened that a friend with a great deal of land (I’m talking miles) gave us permission to search for a tree. The big day arrived, and as we loaded up to leave, the girls INSISTED and PLEADED to bring two of our new puppies, and rather porky puppies at that! All three made death promises to carry the pups and take care of them. Against my better judgement I caved in. So off we went, Jerry, the Kindly Woodsman; me, the soon to be Keeper of the Puppies; the O.C.T.S.C., and 2 fat black, 6 week old, tons of lard with their whines on continuous play.
Upon arrival, we all tumbled out of the truck, to find just a few feet away, a darling little tree. Jerry told the girls, There is the perfect tree. It is the right size, shape and everything! The O.C.T.S.C. met for a quick consultation, and assuming this was a ploy to shorten the adventure, quickly declared the tree: Imperfect.
You see, we were dealing with a logistics problem here also. Our house was built by a man around 5 ft. tall with a family all under 5ft. Therefore, with them in mind, the house only had 7 ft. ceilings! A tree stand would add another 8”-10” to the tree height! Add to this problem, a 12’ x 12’ livingroom, with a couch, chairs, end tables, coffee table, an old upright piano (amazing isn’t it?), and a dangerous O.C.T.S.C. with BIG ideas.
The Kindly Woodsman tried to discuss it with the Committee, but to no avail. Venturing off through the woods, we found the trees were thick. Quickly, the girls asked me to hold the puppies, just until we got through the brush. Foolishly, I took them. Shrill yelps soon rang out because they were cold, so I tucked them into my coat. Trudging along through thick brush with my grunting load, I felt like I was 8 months pregnant! Shortly, came the unmistakable little howl and wiggle, time for a potty stop. Once on the ground their full bladders forgotten, they scattered in several directions at once! Following a fast skirmish, pups securely in my coat again, I looked up to see the O.C.T.S.C. and the Kindly Woodsman far ahead!. In a loud voice I threatened them to wait for me! Though peeved at my interference of such important affairs, they tramped back. Heated discussion ensued. The solution was proposed that the puppies be put in the truck, but the decision was unanimous that poopy puppy was a name truly earned. (Not to mention it was Pappaw’s truck!) Laying down the law, I gave each girl a puppy and a stern reprimand to care for them.
Off we ventured again. The girls were having a time. The pups were so fat they didn’t fit in the in their small coats; if they their coats were zipped, the pups howled in pain; if their coats were unzipped the pups popped out, and the girls couldn’t keep warm. Grudgingly, I took on my pregnancy once again. After 2 potty stops for the puppies, the brush began to clear, I thought things were looking up. . . that was until I looked down! Before us was a ravine with a nearly straight 15 ft. drop down and 15 ft. straight up the other side. To make matters worse, there was no way around it! A pathetic whine arose; I don’t know if it was the pups, me, or both! The O.C.T.S.C. gave a gleeful shout. My legs were already so scratched and bleeding from the brush, they resembled two scratching posts that had serviced a dozen cats! Sympathetically, the Kindly Woodsman took the pups and he and the girls plunged into the adventure ahead, sliding down, holding on to roots, rocks or whatever they could grab, with their laughter echoing through the woods. Down one side and up the other they went with great ease. Impatiently they waited on the other side as I struggled, giving more blood donations along the way. Clawing the dirt with my fingernails, I finally drug myself over the edge, and was promptly handed 2 pudgy, squealing puppies. Faithfully depositing them in my coat, I heard no protests.
A new clearing revealed few trees, but was covered in coarse brush with hills perfect for a roller coaster site. The further I went, the heavier the pups grew. Viewing tree after tree, the O.C.T.S.C. smugly reassured us. – No that’s not the perfect tree. We’ll know it when I see it,
One and a half hours later of this intense, grueling expedition, we came upon . . . . . the same ravine. Mastering it a second time we walked a little further and a small clearing opened up. Suddenly awe struck gasps and cries rang out from the O.C.T.S.C.!! Before us, in all its glory, towering 15 feet above our heads was the PERFECT TREE!!
“THAT’S IT! THAT’S IT!” they hollered, jumping up and down. Valiantly the Kindly Woodsman tried to reason with them. They stubbornly stuck with their decision, and after a long discussion agreed to let him cut the top out. Heading back to the truck for a bigger ax, we all turned and saw the truck sitting only 30 ft. from us; we had made a complete very large circle!!
Tree cut and loaded, we jumped into the truck, frozen and bleeding. Immediately the girls wanted to hold the pups!! (Wouldn’t you know it?!)
In the livingroom, we found the perfect tree, had to have about 1 ft. cut off 3 different times! Each time Jerry drug it in and out of our tiny living room, up and down the porch steps. Anchored in its stand, it looked somewhat less than perfect. The lower branches still reached out to the sofa and chairs grappling toward us like octopus tentacles. One by one, these branches were shortened. Huge gaping holes appeared in the tree. You can imagine what it looked like!! What looked great in the forest in the top of a tree looked pathetic in a little farmhouse livingroom with midget ceilings! The O.C.T.S.C. was in tears and angrily accused, “What have you done to our perfect tree!? You ruined it! “
We comforted the girls and tried to explain what happened. The usual decorating frenzy followed and we filled in the holes with lots of tinsel, garland, and ornaments. We were thankful that one side of it HAD to sit next to the wall! Sitting around the tree, admiring the lights and ornaments, with the branches tickling at our knees, I heard one of the girls say, You know, we should have picked the very first tree Daddy showed us, it was perfect. Two other distant sounding, sad voices echoed in agreement. Of course, we had a very Merry Christmas, but the girls learned a great lesson.
Isn’t that how it is in the lives of so many? What are you searching for – the perfect spouse, the perfect church, the perfect pastor, the perfect job…? How many of you are putting yourself and others through pain, sorrow, frustration, disappointment, and failure in pursuit of your object of perfection? The quest for perfection has left a trail of devastation in lives everywhere. After the supposed perfect person/situation is found, and after all reality trims away the infatuation, we see our find is far less than ideal. Tragically we realize that which we rejected as flawed was better than what we have now and far more valuable than we had known. In the coming year let’s limit our quest for perfection to ourselves and becoming more like the perfect Bethlehem Babe whose birth we celebrate this month. Merry Christmas and God Bless Each of You!
This was published in the Oklahoma Missionary Baptist Paper in 2000.

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Lady of a Thousand Treasures By Sandra Byrd

I was delighted with this book!! While there was suspense and mystery, it flowed
so gently. I love historical fiction, and was thrilled that I learned something new
about the Victorian era. The internet is filled with one of kind priceless treasures
and collector’s items most of us would never dream of owning. These opulent
possessions and wealthy buyers also existed during the 1800’s, as did the fakes
and frauds.
The fine art of procuring and evaluating takes great training and skill. Even more so for those of this time who only had a magnifying glass to work with! Eleanor Sheffield had excellent training, growing up in her father and uncle’s business. Her father has died and her aged uncle is unable to run the business. It falls on her shoulders to not only support him and their household but run the Sheffield Brothers. Not only is that a huge undertaking for her as a young woman but was not acceptable in high society, and they were customers!
The man she loves, a childhood friend and son to a wealthy client has not proven to be reliable as a beau. Her heart is distrustful and broken from their past. His father passes away and leaves her and the family firm in charge of making the decision concerning who will inherit his massive costly collection of a thousand treasures. Her choices are his son Harry or the South Kensington Museum.
A woman of integrity she determines to look at every facet to determine who the rightful heir should be, not allowing her heart to get in the way. To choose the museum would assure the firm and her of an elite position and guaranteed financial success in the future. This is much needed as the bill collectors are at the door and they lose everything, but she did not waver in her duty.
I enjoyed the descriptiveness of the items and how their worth was determined. I could see them in my mind’s eye. Eleanor earned my respect and admiration for her loyalty to her family, and to care for them not matter what the sacrifices. She derived her courage and strength through scriptures and prayer. I felt I was a part of her mind as she carefully sought out the truth, comparing the positive and the negative and struggling through her doubts. I appreciated the author’s pure and clean way she included romance in the story.
I promise you the story is exciting! I was sad when I read the last page. I gobbled up detailed historical notes and the end of the book!
I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Courage for the Unknown Season Jan Silvious

The title speaks volumes! Oh how I do want courage for the unknown, for the difficult times I am not expecting. I need that courage before it happens, not grapple for it in the midst of the chaos! I am sure we could all write a book about the painful trials we have faced or are facing. The ones that cause us to feel weak and falter. I know I could. This book was a blessing and a soothing balm. I love the way Ms. Silvious writes, so gently and compassionately. I appreciated the biblical wisdom, comfort and encouragement she gave me. The target audience is toward those are aging. I certainly fit this having passed the big 65 this year.
When I was young the world was my oyster, and with youth we just always assume life will follow our script. As I have grown older I am finding life has a whole new learning curve. The future looks very different than I saw it in my 20’s to my 50’s and my experiences make me wonder about dealing with what is to come.
She gave me guidance in the area of staying healthy, giving me direction I needed. I have always lived a fit lifestyle but lately it has been challenging. Over and over I related to what a read and how it applied to my circumstances and feelings. She also provided the tools for me to apply these things in my life. I felt like I was not alone as few of us discuss this with our friends. I have had many amazing Christian people in my life from their 70’s to over 90 that were and are incredible examples. Yet I had no clue how they did it. To be honest I was so overwhelmed and confused about facing my old age and especially as a widow I had begun to think, “What’s left?” Sad I know.
Let’s just say she covered the “whole ball of wax” for me! I loved the chapter “Heading Toward Ninety”! Thank you Ms. Silvious! Your book is what I exactly what I needed for this season and the coming seasons of my life! God bless you!
I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

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Forever with Jesus By Lee Ann Mancini

Finally finally finally! A book for children that explains death to them in a
scriptural view and a way they can understand. It also includes Jesus’s death on
the cross for us! I had never seen a book with the Sea Kids, but I love them! They
are so cute and precious! If they touched my heart I know they will a child’s.
Grandparents are a treasure to grandchildren and it is usually one of the first
deaths a child experiences of someone close to them. As a minister’s wife for over
2 decades I have searched far and wide for a book like this. It explains a painful
loss of a loved one with the only comforting way there is: scripture. How beautiful
the author also gives the only hope we have: accepting Christ as our Savior. They
are shown peace and security that those they love are not suffering but happy and
whole. I cannot praise this book enough! It is a MUST for every Christian
teacher, parent and grandparent to share with the kids in their life. I plan to use it
in my Sunday school class. This will be one of my #1 children’s books from now on!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Switch On Your Brain Every Day By Dr. Caroline Leaf

God created our brains to be amazing and powerful. I think this fact is ignored and often neglected in our daily walk. Our minds influence every aspect of our lives; mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally. I believe we often forget this and accept whatever thoughts come into our minds as … well okay. Scripture is filled with examples and the importance of our thoughts. Science has even verified this, but I love it that Dr. Leaf shows the scriptural truths behind what man has learned about our marvelous brains.
This is a full year of devotionals. It can even be a study if you would like. Everyday has a verse and a “brainy tip” as the author calls it. It is scientific information about our brains. These really had an impact along with the scripture on seeing the enormity of this and how it affects me. The author suggests you keep a journal. Each day write down questions you find yourself asking. Next answer them by applying them to your life. Lastly write down your personal thoughts and plans to implement what you have learned. This is far more than just a positive thinking book. It is tool to see and control your thoughts, changing your life and Christian walk. Pardon the pun but this is a “mind altering” book! I do wish the verses had been in the King James Version, but I easily looked them up.
I received this book from Baker Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Untouchable By Brittany Rust

First and foremost I want to praise the author for her courage and humility in sharing her story. She faced the embarrassment and shame to help others not fall into the same trap. For many, premarital sex is no big deal in our day and age. How wonderful Ms. Rust felt convicted and saw it as God does: sin. That was her transgression but the book can apply to ANY sin one might find themselves a part of.
Being a pastor’s wife for over 2 decades, I never quit cringing when I heard a Christian say, “I’ll never …..” because I knew they were in danger of doing that very thing. I must add the majority of the time that the people uttering those words did exactly what they believed they never could. Whether it is pride or feeling one has reached a level of supreme Christian that prompts these declarations I do not know but I believe it puts a target on our backs for Satan.
Ms. Rust not only warns us that anyone can fall but if they do, it is not a “death sentence” to our Christian walk. The same God that saved us and forgave our sins can heal and restore. She gives sound scriptural advice on how to protect ourselves from this flawed thinking and actually falling into sin. Ms. Rust doesn’t leave the reader there. She guides them with encouragement and God’s Word on how to move forward. I liked the chapter on the Amour of God, a very important gift from the Lord that is often overlooked as a means of protection. I felt it was outstanding that she told about the practice of true church discipline; holding the person accountable in love with the purpose of restoring them. That is something that is rarely seen today. It is very scriptural and much needed in churches today but rarely applied. This was a book written from the author’s heart.
I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I stated are my own.

Lady of Tarpon Springs By Judith Miller

I love it when I love learning something new about history. Not just facts and dates but unusual subjects I would not have dreamed of. This novel truly did that! I never thought of the sponge business and the divers or how they risked their lives.
I felt as if Ms. Miller took be back in time and dropped me into the early 1900’s in the town of Tarpon Springs. Zanna Krykos and her friend Lucy Penrose are challenging the norms of the day. Zanna is a lawyer and Lucy is the town’s doctor. They are very close friends. When Lucy’s father suddenly dies she finds herself inheriting a sponge diving business he had arranged and she knew nothing of! She wants zero to do with it and asks Zanna to help. There is no way out and on top of that, 50 sponge divers are coming from Greece to be housed and fed! Lucy hands it ALL over to Zanna to manage. Heading the crew is Nicos Sevdalis. He and his men are unaccustomed to women filling any management capacity or giving them directions. Nicos and Zanna are forced to work together. He knows no English and depends on Zanna (Greek also) for translating. Their beginning is pretty rocky, but they become a team.
I am absolutely fascinated by the details about diving during that era. Having seen the big heavy diving suits I never thought of how difficult and dangerous it was. Not to mention the medical problems should something go wrong. My knowledge of sponges was zero. It impressed me how incredibly hard the work was for something I am sure people during that time took for granted.
The Greek customs, food and family dynamics was wonderful. There were times I felt I was hiding behind chair listening. I would love to try some of the food mentioned. When I pick up books by Judith Miller I know without a doubt I will enjoy them! She checks all my boxes for a good read: Christian, historical, suspense, and a dash of romance!
I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay By Sheila Walsh

The title says it all! We go through life fretting because we are not okay in so many areas; like something is badly wrong with us. Instead of turning to the Lord, we try to stuff our perceived failures and limitations under the rug, which only stresses us more. Media, magazines, books everything around us shouts that we can and should reach some sort of perfection. This lie has become so ingrained in us we are blinded and view it as “truth”. Ms. Walsh’s book blasts fib to pieces with the real truth.
I found the book to be comforting, inspirational, and helpful. The author’s openness and honesty were a blessing. I could relate to her frustrations, depression and struggles. I wasn’t happy she had them but it was nice to know I wasn’t the only one. Someone else was facing the same thing plus sharing their insights to overcome. Also it was a reality check that even the most successful and spiritual people face the same conflicts.
We can’t be perfect in any area because we aren’t; only Christ is, and we live in an imperfect world. No wonder it all seems so impossible! God is always there to help, heal, love, pick us up…everything. Trying to fix ourselves is doing it in our own strength and we don’t have that kind of power, only God does. She reminded my past doesn’t irreparably break me nor does my present defeat me! The 8 steps she shares to move forward so simple and clear! We have to get our focus off of circumstances and self, plus trying to make our world “just” right and focus on the One that can! An outstanding book!
I received this book from Baker Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.