Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review of “Song of Renewal” by Emily Sue Harvey

Emily Sue Harvey published her first novel, Song of Renewal, in 2009. Apparently she thought she could do better, because she went on to add 35,000 words for the paperback version, which will be released in February 2011.

Song of Renewal is the character-driven story of a nuclear family, each member described in great depth with third-person omniscient narration. Liza, a prima ballerina, gives up dancing to be the devoted stay-at-home mother of her little ballerina. Garrison, a gifted painter, puts his artistic dream to the side so he can better support his family through his commercial art business.

At age 16, Angel is struggling with living up to her mother’s dream for her to be a dancer, while she wants to be a doctor. She is in love with the boy next door, and one fateful, rainy night they go off to a show. Troy is killed and Angel is left in a coma.

The couple is left to pick up the pieces of their marriage, once passionate in their early and idealistic years, now in a cold stand-off. Liza struggles with feelings of abandonment, based in childhood trauma; Garrison is unable forgive her for letting the couple drive that night. Angel’s thoughts, as she lies in a coma, reflect the experiences of coma survivors, well-researched by the author.

Later in the novel Liza’s hard-as-nails-on-the-outside sister Charlcy enters the picture, with her own marital issues to resolve. Other secondary characters include Penny, Angel’s best friend from cheerleading, who seems to be ever at Angel’s bedside and a great support to Liza; and a doctor who has herself recovered from paraplegia.

Harvey knows how to choose her words. She uses the language of artists and dancers to describe the passions of her main characters. She is able to speak about marital sex in a dignified way that preserves its holiness. And she is able to explore the depths of each character’s soul in a way that makes the reader feel the character is real and knowable.

She also knows how to carefully construct a story, using preludes, flashbacks, personal thoughts, and dramatic conflict. When you reach the climax chapter, you will know you are there, because the emotional tension is as tight as it can get before it is released, and you cannot remain unaffected by it.

Although never preachy, the values of this book are thoroughly Christian, maintaining the importance of a whole marriage, and demonstrating the healing power of forgiveness. Both Old and New Testaments of The Bible are referenced with the characters’ thoughts. The chapel is an important room within the hospital.

Song of Renewal is a delicious read from cover-to-cover, extremely well-written, with a satisfying ending.

The book was originally released in hardcover in 2009. The new paperbook version, which has 35,000 additional words, was released on Feb.22,2011.

For ordering information please visit the publisher’s website “The Story Plant

Emily Sue Harvey hosts her own website, “Renewal Stories”, which offers some of her own short stories and allows readers to share their own stories of renewal.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Being a Model for the Pro-Life Cause

Phil. 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

The purpose of my blog is to highlight the blessings that come from motherhood. It is easy to get bogged down by the hardships of everyday life. Sometimes that just comes down to the monotonousness of doing laundry and endless cleanups after small children – or growing children who should know better. Add in the stress of finances, jobs, household maintenance, illness, and death, and sometimes the joy gets lost in the mix.

I try to portray a realistic picture of my family, so you know I am just like you, doing my best to be the best mom I can be to my little blessings. But I also don’t dwell on the negative. A thankful heart is a happy heart. I hope that my readers come away from my blog with a little ray of sunshine that will help with the rest of their day.

I don’t talk about abortion on my blog very much but it is always on my mind. I was horrified to hear the statistic that 41 percent of babies conceived in New York City are aborted. There is genocide going on every day in America, and our leaders are condoning it.

I also bear in mind the sobering statistic that shocked me when I was in my early twenties: one out of three women has had an abortion by the time she reaches the age of 40. Statistically that means that, perhaps unknown to you, out of your three best friends one has probably had an abortion.

What does that mean to me in the way I go about my life? For one thing, it means that I don’t go around bashing people who have had abortions. I believe that most of the mothers who have lost their babies go through a lifetime of mourning and what they need is forgiveness and healing. They don’t need to be reminded on a daily basis of the decision they made, most likely under the worst of circumstances and without the positive support of loving family members and friends willing to help save two lives.

My husband once commented, “We don’t need a pro-life bumper sticker. People can see the four kids getting out of our mini-van.” The way to be a model for the pro-life cause is to show people that kids are wonderful to have, not burdens. Go around and treat people nicely. If you see another mom having trouble with one of her kids, show her some compassion; don’t give her a dirty look. If someone you know is thinking about having a baby, give her encouragement.

Many of my friends on Facebook are pro-life and put up pro-life messages every day. Most of these are informative and supportive of the cause. Sometimes they go a little too far and put up pictures of aborted babies. When I see this, it is like getting a knife in the heart. I am on Facebook trying to communicate with my friends, and without warning I am faced with a picture portraying “excessive violence”, which happens to be against the rules on Facebook.

So I put up a status update stating: “I am 100% prolife but am offended by pictures of aborted babies posted on FB. I have hidden posts from anyone who does this.”

A good friend of mine from high school commented, “Omg who does that?!”

I am still waiting for a good explanation.

There are people on the pro-life side who don't realize that these kinds of techniques are hurtful to the pro-life cause making us look like radicals. Take the PETA people and their in-the-face commercials and advertisements. If you like to eat meat, what they do is not going to change your mind. However, if someone presents evidence in a civilized manner that cows are mistreated, perhaps I will go out of my way to purchase meat from a farm that practices humane care of their animals. Throw paint on my fox fur coat and I will not think kindly of you. Tell me nicely that you once had a pet fox and it hurts you to see me wear that kind of fur, and I might take it off.

Besides the fact that it makes good business sense to treat people with dignity and respect when trying to influence the way they think about an issue, we are Christians. Christians always act out of love, using gentle means toward their positive goals.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day: Slices of Life

St John The Evangelist Teaching The New Commandment 'That Ye Love One Another', 1861 Canvas Painting by Valentine Cameron Prinsep - Easyart.com

Valentine’s Day 1991. I was lifeguarding during the evening swim hours at a local public school with a couple of my guy friends. They sent me out to buy a pizza at a fancy Italian restaurant that just happened to have a good deal on takeout pizzas. Waiting for my pizza in the lobby, I watched couple after couple come in and sit down at a cozy table for two.

I’ll never meet anybody worth spending time on, I thought. Maybe I am supposed to be a nun. Such hopelessness from a usually-optimistic 18-year-old !

Valentine’s Day 1992.
After dinner with my first boyfriend, he said to me, “I love you.” Other than my Daddy, he was the first man to ever speak those words to me. Taught not to ever take or speak those words lightly, I said, “Thank you.”

I don’t remember when I finally said it back to him, but it was after much long consideration. Once we both knew we were meant for each other, we didn’t wait long to marry. We tied the knot on July 23, 1993.

Valentine’s Day 2011. He’s working, and I’m taking the girls to their evening travel softball practices. There are homemade paper valentines and chocolates on the table for our four little valentines. There are no candles in the house. A left-over manicotti casserole is defrosting on the kitchen counter.

There will likely be valentines and small gifts exchanged later…but it’s all just icing on the cake of life. Every day is Valentine’s Day when there is love in a family.

I John 4:7
“ Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Contraception Commercials

What’s worse: a broken watermelon in your living room or a perforated uterus? If the latest Mirena commercials are to be believed, the first one is horrific; the second, just one of many possible side effects. This new series of commercials features a mother with two children, sometimes adorable, with a nice house and plans to travel. Suddenly they make a mess and she is saying, “Maybe I had enough”. Then there is another sweet moment, followed by a “…or maybe not.”

This whole picture of family life is totally jaded. When you marry someone it is “for better or for worse”. When you have children, it is for all of those moments of all kinds. It is the whole experience of what God is going to give you in that little mystery package you carry for nine months.

People don’t believe that a contraceptive mentality leads to abortion. Why, then, does New York City, which boasts high availability of family planning, have a 41 percent abortion rate? It is this very picture that is presented in the commercials. You can keep your perfect life with your well-formed plans, or you can throw caution to the wind…and something unpleasant might happen to your off-white parlor.

I, for one, try to keep a neat living room, but wouldn’t trade cleanliness or a bigger bank account or a trip to Europe for less kids. Finger paint on the walls, moldings eaten by the dog, red ink that exploded on the piano, muddy cleats on the front porch…these to me are the marking of a happy life, filled with the love of a husband and four kids…and all their pets.

Natural family planning has the same effectiveness as the birth control pill. In its practice, the difference is the trust factor. NFP fosters trust in God, your partner, and yourself. In the outcome, it can also mean the difference between “oops” and “a blessing from God”.

If you enjoyed this post you might want to read an older post of mine, “Our Little Observers: Talking to Kids About Contraception and the Media”.