“Two Scoops of Ice Cream…Wait, I Mean ‘Grace’: a Book Review

In her book, “Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top,” Jeanette Levellie wants us to know right up front that God is a gracious God. He’s perfect, but not a perfectionist. He watches over us, but not with an abacus on hand, ready to count our failures. Her stories, told in devotion style, could be read one a day (so you can savor them slowly) or as many as you like at a time.

She’s an expert storyteller so it may be hard to put this one down.One thing I will say, Jeanette has a keen wit. It’s a gentle and kind wit. And it’s most often at her own expense because she’s learned to laugh at herself. She’s a mother of two children and a pastor’s wife. She has bright red hair which she claims can be as unruly as she is. That’s another thing about Jeanette, she’s honest about her failings as much as she is about her love for God. If I was a betting kind of gal, I’d bet she has oodles of friends who love being in her company.

In addition to the delicious fact that there’s ice cream on the cover, the book is full of stories to which we can relate. Even if we’re not a pastor’s wife or have children. Even if we’re brunettes or silver-haired beauties. I’m guessing the target audience is women.

But when you know men who occasionally wonder whether God is really there for them; whether His grace can forgive the messes they make; if the dreams they dreamed will ever come true; or the future holds any promise–Two Scoops of Grace is a book you might want to recommend.

Inside are 72 story devotions ranging from Drive-by Diapers, Culture Shock, A Pitiful Piece of Pie, and From Hair to Eternity. While the author insists we be gentle with ourselves and laugh a lot more, she also uses her stories and the Word of God to help us remember the path we’re called to walk. The devotions are comedic and convicting at the same time. And that can be refreshing.

The words ‘grace’ and ‘chuckles’ had to be in the title of this delightful book. Because, in this life, we desperately need them both.

Walking the Cemetery

Here’s something I don’t do often: just write an essay and throw it out there for no good reason. I’m posting today on what would be one of my “off” days because I want to share it with people from my hometown. Most of them will be able to see the lake, the fence, the headstones. They’ll experience that breeze blowing through the trees off in the corner of the woods. Perhaps they’ll remember one particular day…

Here you go, Lakeview. I don’t come around much any more, but I think of you still.

_____________________________________________

Walking the Cemetery by Paula Geister

We weren’t creepy kids. My best friend, Sandy, and I were just curious, and we found something that ended up being a learning experience when curiosity took us to the local cemetery. For the life of me, I can’t remember what prompted that first visit, but walking the cemetery became something we did fairly often.

Lakeview Cemetery was off the beaten path, but still in the village limits of our small town. A right turn off Lincoln Avenue, the main street through Lakeview, and you eventually came to the wrought iron gate of the cemetery.

Just inside the gate stood a marker. After such a long time, I don’t remember anything of significance it might have had written on it. The gate and marker only fascinated us on the first visit. We learned to walk the length of the narrow road to Lakeview Cemetery because we knew what we’d find.

Some would say our visits did have “creepy” written all over them. But we carefully avoided stepping on graves, and took our time exploring each time we went. Whether walking under overhanging shade trees or in the summer sun, we found small headstones and large family markers. Names familiar and names only the dead knew. Carved into each marker we were discovering our heritage, strange as those people were to us.

With sadness, we rubbed our fingers along a stone’s mossy face, trying to make out a faded etching. Our little hamlet was almost 100 years old. How old was the cemetery? How long had it taken for weather and time to erode those names, just as the memory of the folks buried there had disappeared?

In the oldest section of the property, we followed a curving trail. Situated on Tamarack Lake and tucked into the corner of a woods, the cemetery could be beautiful if you had the right mind set. We considered it beautiful. It’s possible we didn’t even know we were being creepy.

The more we visited the cemetery and walked through it, the more we discovered about our town. We also discovered more about life and death. As if watching a movie for the second or third time, we’d see something significant that was missed on a previous trip.

One time it was the baby.

That headstone was old. Terribly old, and even sadder than the moss and lichen growing on other headstones. Sandy and I were only teenagers. It was difficult for us to imagine a baby in a grave. Walking the cemetery was teaching lessons we didn’t expect to learn. But we always left feeling peaceful. Even invigorated.

Time eventually takes loved ones from us. So cemeteries have a purpose. They’re a place for not only the dead to rest, but for the living. For some reason, we have a need to visit our dead and pay respect to them even when they’re gone.

I’m told that elephants respect their dead in profound ways. Film crews shooting a documentary captured a herd of elephants on their way to find water during a drought. The elephants’ lives hung in a balance; it took days for them to finally find water. Yet on the way, they came to an elephant burial site. The herd stopped. They stood at the site and were still and quiet for over an hour.

How did they know? Were elephant bones strewn on the ground? Was there a scent only they could detect? Had they traveled that way before on a trip to find water and members of the herd had perished there? Is that elephant memory? Those questions don’t really need answers. The elephants were doing what elephants do.

And as creepy as it might seem, we do what comes naturally for us. We stand quietly or kneel at the grave site. We have conversations with our friend, parent, spouse, sibling. Whomever. We leave flowers, flags, notes, and trinkets. We weep. Others show no emotion at all.

We do it for ourselves. We may not walk the cemetery to discover our heritage, but we walk a familiar path and connect once again. We know our time is coming and for some reason, the marker and that little plot give us peace.

Today I know I can visit my home town cemetery and find a few loved ones buried there. My parents. Two neighbor girls who died unexpectedly and tragically. And Sandy, my best friend, has been buried there for over thirty years.

I’d love to talk and laugh with her again. For a while after her death, someone would do or say something to make me think of her. “Sandy would have appreciated that,” I’d think. Then I’d remember that little plot by the lake where she rests. I’d be quiet and still, doing what I do. Feeling peaceful and even invigorated.

As creepy as that might sound.

 

© 2016 Paula Geister

Short Stories for Empowering Youth

“Ed’s Tohlet & Other Stories: The Teen’s Guide to Spiritual Growth; By Don Keele, Jr.; Teach Services, Inc. Publishing; 103 pages

Don Keele has spent his career pastoring teens and young adults and helping them engage in church ministry. This book, humorous and challenging even to adults, is a written vehicle for doing so.

Through the power of story, Keele examines areas of strength as well as weakness in himself. We get to know him as he was as a youngster, a teen, and an adult. He tells on himself and it’s an endearing thing to see. Too often, Christians fail to make connections with the unchurched (not to mention with one another) because of a desire to not seem vulnerable.

But the lessons we need to learn, implied in Keele’s parables, come when we admit how much we need our Savior.

In “Smells,” the first story in Ed’s Tohlet, he starts off right. Not only does he indicate how we can be unaware of our spiritual need, he offers the reader a chance to decide to be one with Christ. And isn’t that the starting point for us all?

Keele handles such topics as bullying, Christian service (this is where the ‘tohlet’ comes in), pain, faith in our prayers, accepting God’s “No,” obedience, and more. While directed at a teen audience, this Christ follower found wisdom to follow and even took some notes.

In “Secret Weapon,” Keele describes what it meant to finally be part of an athletic team when he knew he had absolutely no athletic ability. Someone else showed faith in his ability to help. With success, came this realization

“I had only done what Richard had taught me…

Allow (God) to do that work and simply do what He asks you to do.”

At times, Don gets a little off-topic (and sometimes he admits it). Sometimes he seems a might preachy. But his stories really are funny in places. They really do point us to our own experiences with peer pressure, temptation, and a need to belong. They’re not just the needs of teenagers.

God has challenged me in a specific area and take I it seriously. After reading “COPS,” the author’s story about being pulled over and witnessing an arrest, the challenge God extends is even more real. That would the challenge to bear witness of God’s love and goodness to the world. Not just to those whom we celebrate with on the Sabbath and in our Christian huddles.

The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

I Have Here in My Hand

I don’t really have a list in my hand. I don’t have a band to give me a drum roll. But –– ta-da! –– here’s a list of the Top Ten posts from 2016. Here in my corner of the world, I enjoyed taking stock and reviewing the past twelve months.

Writing The Fruitful Life is its own reward so I don’t get into looking at hit counters and other stats too much. I don’t have crowds of followers. Frankly, I’d rather write and convince people to follow Jesus.

However, it’s nice at the end of the year to see which posts were favorites of the readers.

The list of the Top Ten Posts from 2016 (in order) might give you an idea of the tastes of the readership. When I do take time to look at stats, it’s also fun to see that readers come from all over the world. In November, when The Upper Room published a devotion I wrote, people flocked to the blog through the link UR supplied. That was kind of fun.

In addition to this list, people cruised the “About” pages and the Archives. I’m not savvy enough to know how it all works. But like I said, writing about my faith and hobbies in which I’m involved is the best reward. Most of these posts are faith-based.

Anyway, here’s the list. Click on the links if you’d like to read them. If you’ve been reading for a while, did you have one you particularly liked that didn’t make the top ten list?

  1. Mom’s “Notes to Self”
  2. Follow Your Heart?
  3. A Visit to Zootopia
  4. Goin’ Fishing
  5. Calm
  6. Storefront Churches
  7. Foodie, Zucchini and Grace
  8. Live Christmas All Year Long
  9. Five Ways to Tell if Someone Loves Jesus
  10. A Three-Word Prayer for Serenity

Stars Shine in Sunshine

A fellow blogger has offered a writing challenge. Bukkypraiz has requested we write a haiku poem.

Haiku is a Japanese style of poetry with strict forms. While there are other ways to write a haiku, this form is most recognizable and popular. Three lines in which the first line has five syllables; second line, seven syllables; and third line, five syllables.

Haiku poetry most often is distinguished by appealing to the senses. They create a word picture and are written in the present tense. Here is my offering for the challenge, which required using the word “Shine.”

big and little dippers

Stars Shine in Sunshine

Stars come out at night

but also shine secretly

concealed by sunlight.

Here’s a bonus haiku of mine written many years ago.

River Talk

Slow river murmurs

secrets to the shore, and in

the reeds it giggles.

Mom’s “Notes to Self”

Dad decided to have an estate sale and clean out the old house I grew up in. Mom had died several years before and he had plenty of good reasons to clear out the contents.

The house was full of antiques he and mom had collected. He also had numerous guns and clocks to sell. There were even collector cards I didn’t know he had. Those eBay freaks went wild bidding on that stuff.

Before he let everything go, however, he told us eight children we could select one thing to keep. He also picked out something for us that he wanted us to have.

What did I pick? Mom’s writing. Anything we could find that was complete. Stuff she didn’t finish. Her two-and-a-half-inch three-ring binder full of poems. A short journal she started as she made decisions regarding cancer treatment. The package even included letters exchanged between her and Dad. And an autograph book from her high school days. It wasn’t exactly “one thing,” but Dad gave a little leeway. I guess he figured no one would bid on something like that. One of us ought to have it.

nurse-mom001

Mom’s graduation pic from nursing school

Today you get to read something she wrote on a 3×5 card. She probably wrote it some time in the 70s. I keep the card at my desk and look at it every now and then for inspiration. The words she wrote remind me so much of her, I can almost hear her speaking them.

Mom was a committed Christian. What she wrote here seems to me like “notes to self.” Maybe she kept the card handy to read as a prompt. Sort of like I do.

Here’s what she wrote on one side of that little unlined card in her utterly neat penmanship.

  1. Diligence–hasten to do a job well
  2. Faith–faith without diligence is dead. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me
  3. Virtue–honesty, courtesy
  4. Wisdom–ability to use knowledge James1:5
  5. Self-Control–discipline over all body appetites. A scheduling of mind, to control emotions, frustrations, etc.
  6. Godliness–kindness, love.

Now we are coming to the traits that show. The foundation of wisdom, virtue, and faith no one can see, but needs be in (sic) place first, then the character of godliness, love and kindness show through. Character seeks talent necessary to fulfill a task.

On the flip side of the card:

  1. If I have a friend, I will stick with and by them!
  2. I will base my decisions on right and wrong, not on how right or wrong turn out.
  3. I will not tamper with (pastor) or preaching. I will pray for (my pastor) every time I go to prayer.
  4. I will not seek riches.
  5. I will treat all people well no matter their station in life.

Thinking back on how Mom lived her life, I know the listed items on the “flip side” were evident in her daily practices. She always treated my friends well. I brought home some misfits like myself and we always had a good time with Mom. She treated them with dignity and they would comment on how she was a pretty good hostess. Even if she was trying occasionally to save their souls. Cookies usually accompanied the visits.

Years after the estate sale and now that my dad is deceased as well, I’m glad I asked for the writing. I knew about some of the stuff which was hidden away. But some of it came as a surprise.

As a writer, I know that what people put down using pen and paper reveals much about who they are. These days, it’s more often done on a computer. Staring at the blank page, we may be blogging about our lives. We might be sharing our thoughts on social media or journaling in private and storing our thoughts in a folder marked “Notes to Self.”

Someday, my kids will find out a little bit more about me when they discover my journals, the margin notes in a few of my Bibles and the stuff I keep in computer folders that have strange names.

Kids, if you’re reading this, look for “Miscellaneous Creations.”

Schedule for Stuff

Here at The Fruitful Life I like to post regular features. I may have started the blog to write about how the Christian faith molds my life. But since I began, I realize the word “fruitful” can mean more than that. I want to live the totally abundant life Christ came to give me.

My interests are many, thanks to God who created me. But to post about everything isn’t realistic.  However, you’ll find on this site essays about things I can’t help but share. Reading is a passion of mine. I reeeally enjoy watching movies (even old B&W ones!). So occasionally I feel a stirring and write about those things.

I also have a passion for food, learning more about cooking and baking, and discovering new recipes. Sometimes I’m precise in the process; sometimes I cook ‘by guess and by golly.’ That’s here too.

Below is a tentative schedule for postings on The Fruitful Life. Sometimes I take little vacations or life gets hectic and I have to skip a post. Remember that abundant life? Yep, that’s what happens.Blogging-shakespeare

 

Media Monday  Some Mondays will see either a book review or a movie review. Those offerings are strictly my opinion and the reviews may not be for media recently released. I believe that, after reading a book or watching a movie, I may help someone make a decision about whether to try it too. If that’s media which is not so new, it’s okay. I’m often influenced by the reviews–good and bad–that I read. You might even see an occasional mention of music here.

Wednesday is for Faith  The middle of the work week has been the usual day when I share something about how my faith instructs all I do. I’ll be the first to say I don’t live the Christian life perfectly. That’s why I so desperately need a savior. Writing about what I believe and using the Bible to explain it helps confirm my faith.

Foodie Friday  Friday food posts will be instantly recognizable since they’ll have the word “foodie” in the title. Friday features tips, recipes, ideas you may not have tried, or something heartfelt about how we respond to food and eating. I’m not a professional photographer so bear with me when I post my own picture stuff.

Good News Any Day  I decided recently, after some time being involved with social media, that I want to share some good news. “How do I do that?” I wondered. So far, I have a couple ideas. One is obvious: search the Internet. It’s not all bad news out there and we need to hear good news to keep our psyches afloat. Hope buoys us up and knowing people are doing well or ‘doing good’ gives us hope. I’ll be keeping an ear to the ground and either telling the story in my own way or offering links to various good news stories.

And speaking of Good News, please remember that I write from a Christian perspective. Even when I’m not writing about food, I pray what you see here will be seasoned with truth and grace. Just as Jesus offered everything he said and did.

Your comments are always welcome. It would be great to know if you found me on WordPress, Twitter or Facebook, if you care to say so.

Be a blessing to someone today.

Just Keep Writing

just keep writingWhatever you may think of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, he certainly elicits reactions. Him and his writing. Recently, I was pointed to a quote by Thompson at a time when he probably was still considering his career. And while I don’t believe in ‘fate,’ I think he’s onto something.

A writer writes because he just can’t not write.

“As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says, ‘you are nothing,’ I will be a writer.” Hunter S. Thompson

For the past two weeks, ‘life’ and being a little under the weather have kept me away from blogging as I’d have liked to, but writing is never far from my mind. In fact, ideas are always rolling around in my brain like little ball bearings. Next week, I hope to get back to my regular schedule. Thanks for hanging in there with me. For those writers who plug along no matter what, I applaud you.

As for me, once in a while I have to make a pit stop for fuel.

After That Pause…A Page

Recently I decided to make my blog more like the website I hope to make it on another day. Including a photo of myself works. Including a ‘follow’ button and links to recent posts also works.

Another page under “Author Stuff” is something I needed. My introduction to myself is short and (I hope) somewhat humorous. It’s my way of letting you know who I am in a lighthearted way. “Published Stuff” is for the people who want to know a little more about the “author” mentioned in that page.Snoopy at typewriter

I’ve been writing for ghmsngrg years and this page addition includes information about past and present writing efforts. Sure, I’ve had other jobs. Retail experience in a grocery store, cleaning lady, secretary, bookkeeper, waitress, and proofreader, to name a few. But writing is a career for me, not just a job.

So hover over “Author Stuff” and take a look if you’re so inclined. Thanks for being a regular reader. As always, your comments are welcome.

And the Survey Said…(2015 Top Five Posts)

We celebrated the beginning of a new calendar year more than two weeks ago, but I’m playing catch-up.

Life happens.

WordPress sent my statistics for the year with the following posts coming up as the favorites for 2015. The number of hits isn’t important to me so much, but an interesting stat was just where the readers were coming from. Folks from a total of 52 countries logged in.

living the fruit treeThe Fruitful Life is still finding its way around the blogosphere and still trying to define itself. I’m happy if you’ve found anything enjoyable, encouraging or educational. Stay tuned. This coming year will see more faith-based posts, Foodie Friday fun and some posts related to books and movies.

If you had a favorite not listed here, let me know. Your comments are always welcome.

Top Five Posts of 2015

“Why I Don’t Go To Church”

“Choosing My Battles”

“Why I Go To Church”

“I Can Hear it Now”

“The Intruders”

From Prayer to Popcorn, you chose the favorites. Thanks for reading.