Invitation

If you’re still reading this blog*, I have two things to say to you.

First… wow. Really? I’ve been very non-committal and haven’t been here nearly enough change-3256330_640to warrant your faithfulness. Some of you have been here from the start, and I appreciate the support and fellowship you’ve offered.

Second… I’d like to invite you to something new. Something different. It is time for a change.

Join me today at my new site, https://sarahelizabethmoore.org and make sure you sign up for my free newsletter so you can stay up to date on all my latest writing endeavors. Presently, you will find some of my poetry, which aims to find hope and courage in the midst of struggles; sneak peeks into my upcoming young adult fantasy novel; and short pieces about everything writing-related. In the coming months, there will be freebies, give-away’s, and exclusive content for those subscribed by email, so make sure you get in while the getting is good!

Stay with me, friends! We’ve been together a long time, and I’d love nothing more than to have you with me on the upcoming journey!

From the shores of Wicket Lake, and as always…

Pax Christi, dear friends.

semmie.

*And yes, I do know some of you are still checking in; I see those hits every day on my stats page! Your friendship and faithfulness astound me — I deserve neither; I cherish both.

 

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The Marvelous Mud House

When is the last time a book made you cry?

I have read The Marvelous Mud House a half dozen times now. Each time I open the pages, I think, “Okay, I won’t be so emotional this time; I know how it ends!” And each time, I find myself overwhelmed by the beauty and the joy of this story.

The Marvelous Mud House, by written by April Graney and illustrated by Alida Massari, follows the journey of a young Kenyan boy named George, his mother, and the Smith Family from Oklahoma. Graney masterfully brings us into a world that, while economically impoverished, is filled with the joy of hope and trust in God. She also shows us a bit of ourselves in the Smith Family, who has many material blessings and yet longs for more, for fulfillment. When these two worlds collide, every life in the story is changed.

As a writer and a reader, I have to comment on the presentation of this book. It is exquisitely done. Everything from word choice to font is done with excellence. The text is well-edited and beautifully written. The subtle elements of Mama George’s song–the shift in font and text layout, the music notes depiction of her song–as they walk down, down, down their mountain and up, up, up the next really brought the moment to life. I felt as if I could hear the faint notes of her song even from my home in Michigan. The tone and artwork is also impeccable. Massaari uses a very red and earthy palette to bring Kenya to the reader. With full pages of color illustration, there’s no doubt this book will catch the attention of every child who opens it.

Don’t be fooled, though. This may look like a children’s book, but I assure you–it is every bit as much for you and me as adults as it is for the children in our lives. Especially at this time of year, as we approach Christmas and the gift-giving spending frenzy, we need the reminder of what is truly important, what is truly marvelous, what is truly fulfilling.

If you’re looking for an excellent book to teach your children about materialism and giving in a gentle and fun way, The Marvelous Mud House is for you. I could not recommend this book strongly enough. Order your copy today. Sit with your children on Thanksgiving and share this amazing journey with George and his friends and family. Help grow the right expectations in your children of giving and having and hoping and trusting and finding joy. You will not be disappointed.

Pick up your copy of The Marvelous Mud House today from Christian BookAmazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookstore.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Marvelous Mud House from the author. I am under no obligation to write a favorable review, nor would I ever agree to such. My opinion and recommendation are solely my own and are in no way shaped by the author or my agreement to read and share her work.

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The Sky Pieces

This is not an Independence Day blog. It’s actually about genealogy and the preservation of history.

In genealogy, we strive to remember. We take pieces of an infinite puzzle and struggle to fit them together into a picture that reveals something of our heritage. We write down names and dates and connect people with one another. If we’re really good, we may connect faces in photographs, as well.

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This morning, in my attempt to write about the fellows at the coffee shop, I listened to stories of the old buildings downtown. Some are still standing, many others have come and gone. The men remembered the buildings, their names, their owners, the businesses they housed, whether they depended upon steam power, the first time they stepped inside, the last time they stepped inside, its color, its scent, its atmosphere and lighting, and how it was decorated at holidays.

It occurred to me once again: History dies with the passing of each generation.

Genealogy can feel infinite, I think, because it kind of is. I remember my viola teacher telling me years ago that he was “still learning” to play his instrument, even though he was a magnificent violinist from South Africa who had been Concert Master for many big-name Symphonies. There is always more to learn, he told me, because there is always “more music.” Genealogy is the same. No matter how many names on a pedigree, there is always more we can learn about our ancestry. There is always more we can learn about our ancestors.

And let’s be honest: Ancestors can be difficult. Elusive. Sly. Confusing. I’m sure they don’t mean to be (unless you’re part of my family–in which case, I’m pretty sure they mean to be!). What we miss about them, what we leave for the next generation of genealogists, becomes harder to uncover. Each generation is one more lifetime removed from the facts than the previous generation, and so details are lost; memories are faded; facts are forgotten. Births? Deaths? Marriages? Those things are relatively easy to come upon and verify. The stories are less so.

I think of my uncles who, like the fellows at the coffee shop, have lived rich lives and have myriad stories to tell. They make us laugh, but they also impart a heritage and culture that belongs not only to my family, but to the communities in which they have lived. What are the buildings they remember from their hometown? What experiences can they pull out of their memories faster than a snap of the fingers? With four of my five uncles now gone, I realize what time I’ve wasted. I realize what stories I’ve lost. I realize what a ridiculous thing it is to say, “I just don’t have time,” or “I can’t afford the trip,” or “I’m not really sure how,” — the last of which is my personal Achilles.

All of this is to encourage you–and to encourage myself.

Interview your oldest living relative.

Interview as many of your relatives as possible.

Ask questions more than names and dates.

Capture stories as well as facts.

And for that matter, I beg of you, genealogists!–don’t forget your own story! Write it down. Write it all down. It doesn’t have to be perfect or perfectly edited. But if you don’t share the stories of your life, if you don’t prepare it for future generations, the things you remember will also be lost. We take for granted that someone else will remember, but guess what? They won’t.

Case in point.

Folks who’ve lived in Manistee for years can tell you there was a store there called Dewey’s. It’s probably on an old city map at the library or archives. Town records can tell you when it was established, when it closed its doors for the final time; old newspapers can tell you what its hours of operation were, what products they sold, what the prices were. Those are wonderful elements to bring to a family story.

What you don’t learn from records is that we could walk there from my Grandma’s house. It was just a short jaunt down the road and around the corner. We used to love their olive loaf. I remember the smell of the deli there–in my childhood, before my aversion to fresh meat, I loved the smell. It didn’t stink; it smelled fresh and earthy. It was a treat for us to go to Dewey’s. I remember my Uncle Dave giving me a dollar bill one day–to go to Dewey’s and get a treat. A whole dollar! In the 80s, that was a lot of cash.  ‘But don’t spoil your dinner,’ he advised, ‘and don’t tell your Grandma.’

Maybe it’s not spectacular, but it puts an historical event (Dewey’s business) into context of a family and a culture. These pieces of sky blue give the puzzle its character and background. Allowing our relatives to pass on without documenting some of these things is akin to throwing away the sky pieces of your puzzle. If you only want the nuts and bolts, names and dates of your family history, and you throw away the sky pieces, don’t complain that your finished picture has no sky.

Don’t count on someone else searching and solving a section of the puzzle tomorrow that you could easily put together today.

 

 

 

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Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

There are some passages in Scripture that are, perhaps, more loved than others. When you ask someone about their favorite verse in the Bible, or if they have a Life Verse, it’s probably safe to assume they won’t quote Leviticus or Deuteronomy. (I don’t know why… personally, some of the Best Stuff of Scripture is in Deuteronomy!) Psalms and Isaiah get their fair share of quoting, and the Gospels and the Epistles. And that is how it should be, I think. When we speak of passages in the Bible that really impact us and change our hearts, it is often something that expresses God’s grace, His love, His desire and delight in His people. It’s still a mystery to me that God would love us, but He does.

One of the expressions we hear quoted often from the Bible is this one: “…speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” You’ve heard that one, right? These are Paul’s words, and like any honest writer, he actually uses this material in two different letters—to the churches at Ephesus (Eph. 5:19) and at Colossus (Col. 3:16).

If we go back and read the words surrounding each use of this expression, we find that the contexts are very similar. Paul is writing to encourage and admonish us in how to live—particularly, how to live as Christians and as a Christian body.

It’s just a beautiful idea, isn’t it? Speaking to one another in song? You’ve heard the analogy of the old dog who has a favorite bone that he always goes back to chew on? This is my “old favorite bone.” It’s always nearby, and I can be in the midst of some other study or project altogether, and I’ll find myself gnawing on it: Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? What did Paul mean? Was he just being poetic?

Largely, I think we assume he was being poetic—as evidenced by the fact that we don’t often experience gatherings of Believers wherein they are singing to one another. We sing together as a means of corporate agreement in worship, but we almost never sing to each other.

This morning, I was singing an old worship chorus and this idea of speaking in song came back to me; it birthed a new question.

What if we spoke to one another—not necessarily in song—but in the same manner and phrasing that we sing our worship songs and hymns? When we remove the music, do the words mean something? Or are they just fluffy and feel-good?

I need some volunteers. I need to test this out.

You will be agreeing to receive and respond to written correspondence with me through a medium of your choice—postal mail, email, or facebook messenger. It’s not ongoing (unless you keep responding, then we’ll make it ongoing).

What do you say? I need several people. I know there are a few I can count on already (you probably know who you are)…

Let me know.

Pax, friends!

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What’s in a Name?

A few days ago, I spent some time at the Catholic cemetery taking photos of grave markers for fellow family historians online. It’s a hobby I genuinely love. It’s nice to give back to a community that has aided me in my own genealogical searches. But more than this, I am inspired by the thought of how many stories are locked within those gates each night. Each grave remembers one life. Each life remembers a million stories. Each story represents many perspectives. Each perspective is shaped by experience. Each experience is another story. Each new story is part of a legacy.

This weekend, Jonathan Dunne* asked his facebook followers a poignant question: What identifies you?

Questions like this always send me into a whirlwind of self-reflection. The question was coupled with another: Do you always seek an earthly defined reward for your works?

It made me think of a grave I spent several minutes with the other day.

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Someone out there knows the name that goes with this marker, but sadly, time and weather has broken this stone and it’s no longer apparent who is buried here. Still, I found great hope in the beauty of this adorned grave. Someone remembers this person. His story impacted lives. Though it looks as if he’s been gone more than 100 years, he is honored yet with a simple white flower.

Legacy isn’t about making a name for ourselves; it’s about loving those around us. There may be moments in our lives when we see how our choices are changing the lives of others, but for the most part, we never really know, do we? That’s because our reward was never in this temporal existence; it is a reward held safely for us in eternity.

So in all of my soul-searching, trying to figure out (yet again… or maybe still) who I am and what makes me “me,” I find a new answer today: Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe, in the end, someone will remember our words to them or our generosity or our kindness or our encouragement in their struggle. They may forget our name, but the legacy of our  love cannot be snuffed out like an ashen wick. Maybe all that matters is living out our passions, our callings, our convictions in a manner that exemplifies the love of Christ.

Maybe, in the end, that’s all we have.

Pax Christi.

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* If you’re not following him, take a moment to do so. You won’t regret it. The man’s passion will challenge you.

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