Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Blessed

 July has been an amazing month for me! I finally got some relief from my pain with the fentynal patch my doctor prescribed. It made such a difference that Jesse and I planned our first real summer vacation since I got sick. We've gone camping every year, but Mia has never spent the night in a hotel or seen a big city. We'd been trying to plan a trip to Chicago since back in May, but things just kept falling through, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it! We started planning on Friday night, and the following Thursday we were in Chicago.

I have to say, first of all, that if it weren't for this pain patch the trip would have been impossible. I walked for HOURS every day, and I drove over half of the way down and back, something my hands normally ache too much to do. That said, we tried to pack far too much into each day. We visited the Field Museum on Thursday, Shedd Aquarium on Friday during the day, and Navy Pier that night, and then Lincoln Park Zoo on Saturday. Around noon at the zoo, I realized that I had hit my physical limit, and we ended up leaving earlier than expected. We had a terrific time. I made mix CDs for the ride, and we spent much of it singing together.

Mia was so overcome with joy several times at the Shedd that she threw her arms around Jess or me, whoever was closest, and just held on, speechless with wonder. That was an amazing gift to be able to give my child. My parents took me on several vacations when I was a child, and they also gave me the opportunity to travel through school and 4-H, and those experiences were life-changing. We took Doogie and Molly on vacations when they were younger, but when I became sick almost seven years ago, it put an end to that. Now I feel like I not only have my life back, but my family does as well.

Seeing the beluga whales at the Shedd was a sacred moment for me. I had tears in my eyes, and I could have watched them all day. Seeing the variety of sea life made me appreciate the imagination and intelligence of my Creator. We are already planning a trip back to Chicago to finish exploring the places we visited, while maybe adding a few.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll post pictures of our trip. In the last month I experienced the worst week of my life along with three of the best days of my life. And the summer is only half over!

Blessed, The: A NovelThe Blessed by Ann Gabhart is the fourth book in her Shaker series. The story covers two people, Lacey and Isaac, each trapped between a rock and a hard place, and living life without hope. Lacey's family was shattered with the death of her mother, and after her father married an abusive woman, she was sent to help out Preacher Palmer's family in another town. Lacey grew to see his wife, Miss Mona, as a mother figure, and when an infant girl was dropped off at their doorstep, the two women raised little Rachel together. But with Miss Mona's death, Lacey feels the preacher's eyes on her all the time until he coerces her into marriage so she can continue to raise Rachel, but she gets him to promise to allow her time before attempting to consummate the marriage. The preacher's frustration fills the house with tension and Lacey with the fear that this is all there is for her life. Isaac Kingston thought his wife Ella was just malingering when she told him that she would die if he took her away from her home. His dreams a life and fortune out West took them far away. Ella's words were prophetic, and Isaac brought his young wife home to be buried. Ella's father is an important judge who is angry at the "murder" of his only child and determines to destroy Isaac, making the young man hide in the forest, starving, homeless, and considering suicide until he meets Brother Asa, a young Shaker man who promises a full belly and a bed to sleep in if he comes to work at the Shaker commune, Harmony Hill. Lacey and Isaac are hurting and lonely and wondering if this is all that God created them for when they find each other. Gabhart has done a terrific job with this series of presenting both sides of the Shaker community, their deep abiding faith, work ethic, and desire for peace, along with the legalistic members and strange rules that seem almost crazy today. Gabhart really gives the reader the opportunity to get to know Lacey and Isaac, aching for their helplessness and hopelessness. Her writing is compelling and poignant and always has a message of faith and hope for readers.

Thank you to Revell for providing me with a copy of this book for review. Available July 2011 from Revell, a division of the Baker Publishing Group at your favorite bookseller!