Sisters in Scripture
This Side of Heaven    12/29/2021
 
  
The week before Christmas I followed a winding road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was, mind you, in Pennsylvania, not in the Holy Land, but for a variety of personal and sensory reasons, the trip was evocative on many levels. As we drove past dried cornfields, stone farm houses, and faded red barns, we also passed Moravian Academy, Emmaus, and a road to Damascus, all names that marked the faith of early settlers. Some two-hundred-fifty years ago, this is the place where my husband’s family came and chose to stay down many generations.

There was an air of permanence about houses whose stone walls had been laid by hand and still stood, roads that followed a trail first made by farm wagons going to market, and fields that continued to yield their crop through unremitting seasons. There was a permanence, too, in the naming of place. Sacred, beloved, intentional words tattooed upon the earth as it yielded its flesh to the plow. Nazareth, Bethlehem Emmaus. This new place would, too, become a place where Jesus trod. So said the faith of those who did the naming.

And, really, was not their hope my own? Haunted by scripture story, I believe in my bones that what was true then must still be true now, else why would it matter at all?
 
Nazareth, a place where angels nested in the hills. Bethlehem where God came disguised as a child. Emmaus, along that road where a Third drew alongside and caused hearts to burn within. Angels, a Christ Child, a Risen Lord. Is this what makes a Holy Land? A place where heaven has bent down to touch earth? Once and now…there and here?

How far away might heaven be (if such things can be measured)? Cast beyond the farthest star? But, then, a star came close, as the story goes, and stopped to mark the place. An infinite horizon, ever receding, never to be attained? Or as close as the nearest rise? A "thin place,” as the Celts would say, where this world and that other World are as close as the warm breath you see upon the cold air.

"This side of heaven,” that’s the closest I can come to describing where it is we live. But there are times, I confess, when I get lost and wonder just where lies that line between worlds. It was not I who has ever done the crossing, but heaven and angels, they are hard to contain and wander where they will. There have been times, I think, when they have shown up and even lingered and I only ever guessed at their presence after they had left, Emmaus-like. 

This side of heaven. That was the phrase I remember Randall* used some years ago when he said goodbye. "We’ll meet again, missy. It won’t be this side of heaven, but we will meet again." Some things you just know are true. Randall’s words were one of those. I have never forgotten.*

Was it just two months ago? I thought of his words even as I heard her speak. At 91, my sister-in-law, Carolyn, knew her time on this side would be short. As was her way, she was making the goodbye easy. "I don't know if I'll see you again," she said with a wry smile, "but this being married to the Kichline boys, it's been quite the adventure." A shared laugh and then a hug.

Now we were back for her funeral. Gathered at graveside, we came forward in turn for a last goodbye. Surrounded by family, under barren arch of trees I whispered words once said to me: 

I will see you again, my sister. It won’t be this side of heaven, but I will see you again.
Written with love for Carolyn Mae Kichline, 1930-2021

* For those of you who have never read or want to re-read the story of Randall, it is in the newsletter from Sept. 11, 2018. You may click here: https://conta.cc/3ej40bp 
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An invitation to preview my new book    12/15/2021
Book Cover for Why These Women?
The pre-publication PDF is now ready for WHY THESE WOMEN, Four Stories You Need to Read Before You Read the Story of Jesus! When first I sent out the good news of the book's coming, there was a cadre of folks who immediately volunteered to do a preview read and offer a review. They are the start of Advanced Review Copy (ARC) Team. I am now officially extending the invitation to you to join that team if you are interested.

What is the ARC (Advanced Review Copy) Team?

The ARC Team is made up of people who are interested in reading the book ahead of time and are willing to write a review when the book is launched. The PDF version reads much like a book, laid out in pages as it will appear in print. You can send it on to your e-reader if you like reading on one. The book is currently undergoing a final, professional edit so any hiccups you encounter should be long gone by the time of publication. Typos and proofreading errors are to be expected. If this spoils your enjoyment of a book, being an Advanced Review Copy reader may not be for you! (The PDF in not meant to be shared).

Just what it is I am asking you to do

Please read the book for the purpose of providing a review when the book is launched. We are still fine-tuning the date but expect it to be in Feb/Mar of 2022 and I will alert you as that approaches. A review on publication day is the best outcome! The sites that would be great for posting your review are Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, etc. I will let you know when the book appears on these sites or others so that your review can be posted and I'll give you further directions on how to post. Of course, I'd be happy with the review appearing on social media or other sites where it will reach interested readers. The review need not be long. A sentence or two is common. Your personal note or takeaway is often most noted by readers (and appreciated by the author).

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First Week of 2021's Advent    12/1/2021
Retro Wednesday this first week of Advent. I am sharing last year's post of how to make a child-friendly Advent wreath and the prayer used through a couple generations now. 

Different people can take different roles--even the youngest can ask, "why do we light...?"
Another can answer, someone can say the prayer, and of course, yet another can begin
it all by lighting the candles. If it's just adults, you may want to omit #1.

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