Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: July 2011

From Despair To Hope – Bryony’s Story

Last year was the worst year of Bryony’s life.  Last year was the best year of Bryony’s life.  In a difficult situation, struggling with work and other issues, Bryony began to suffer from depression.  Signed off work for nine months and unable to make basic decisions, she felt there was no way forward.  But God stepped in.  I am so grateful that my friend Bryony has been willing to share her personal journey from despair to hope.  Her story is on the Our Stories page, but you can also read it here.

Ivy Malone Mystery Series

If you enjoy Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, you will love Lorena McCourtney‘s American counterpart, Ivy Malone.  As Ivy’s friend Mac says, ‘Ivy Malone, you’re the woman who jumps into murder and mayhem the way some women jump into a shopping spree.’

Ivy is an LOL (little old lady) who, after losing her best friend Thea in a thunderstorm, discovers that she has become invisible.  It’s a kind of LOL invisibility, where she just seems to blend into the background unnoticed.  Ivy quickly realises what a useful trait this is, especially when she finds herself up to her elbows in murders and bodies everywhere she goes.

In Invisible, Ivy is concerned that someone is vandalising the beautiful old cemetery outside of town.  Fancying herself a real sleuth, Ivy goes after the culprits, spying out the old cemetery at night.  During the day, she busies herself with wondering what her young neighbour Kendra is up to, until Kendra winds up dead.  Ivy manages to successfully solve both mysteries before the police do, but ends up in danger from the criminal Braxton family.

Ivy feels as though she is In Plain Sight of the terrible Braxtons who want their revenge on her.  She leaves town to get away from them and is straightaway embroiled in another murder adventure.  Her irrepressible sleuthing drives the police mad and gains Ivy local notoriety.  Which brings her to the attention of the Braxtons once again, causing her to take the drastic action of trading her conspicuous Ford Thunderbird for an ancient motor home and going On the Run.  Along the way Ivy adopts a smoke-hating cat called Koop and a young hitch-hiker called Abilene, who is running away from her abusive husband.  Together they stumble across a flock of starving emus and a couple of dead bodies.  A suicide pact or murder?  Ivy and Abilene can’t decide, though the local police seem to have made their minds up.

In Stranded, Ivy believes the Braxtons are still on her trail; Abilene knows that her abusive husband is after her.  But when their motor home breaks down, Ivy and Abilene have no choice but to stay in the small town of Hello.  Mysterious stranger Kelli offers them a house to stay in; a house where her uncle was recently found murdered.  And Ivy finds herself the busy sleuth once again, almost getting knocked on the head by an exasperated murderer….

Ivy Malone is fun, gutsy and determined.  Each book is filled with humour and colourful descriptions.  Ivy’s unshaking faith in God is skilfully interwoven throughout.  Memorable characters stroll easily through the pages.  Characters like Ivy’s neighbours Magnolia and Geoff.  Ivy ‘would just as soon never have known that Geoff wore boxer shorts printed with miniature magnolias’.  His wife Magnolia has big, colourfully dyed hair and wears flamboyant outfits that no one else could ever get away with wearing.  They are forever trying to match-make Ivy with Mac, a fellow motor home enthusiast.  Ivy thinks  ‘his Florida tan and his white hair definitely put him over into Senior Hunk status’.  But then there’s quiet, charming Jordan, a retired lawyer who enjoys taking Ivy out for the occasional meal….

I absolutely loved these books.  I couldn’t put them down.  For anyone who enjoys Agatha Christie type ‘who dunnits’, the Ivy Malone Mystery series is a must-read.   And if you’re quick, you can still download the first one from Amazon for free!

A New Daddy’s Thoughts On His Blind Baby Daughter

I have just read a heart-moving blog post by Mike Anderson, sharing four lessons he has learned from his precious new-born daughter, who is virtually blind.  Mike has rediscovered wonderful truths about God – on a deeper level, and more real than ever before.  Read it for yourself.

Reinventing Leona

I have just finished reading a complimentary copy of Reinventing Leona by Lynne Gentry in order to provide a review for Tyndale House.  It is a pleasant story with an easy-to-read style.

Leona is a pastor’s wife, skilled in pot-luck suppers, diffusing awkward situations and making coffee.  Despite being at loggerheads with the church elder and his wife, and having a rocky relationship with her son and daughter, Leona is content with her lot in life.  Until the Sunday her beloved husband unexpectedly collapses and dies in the pulpit, throwing her life  into complete disarray.  Leona must learn to lean on the Lord as, within a fortnight of her husband’s death, she must find a job, fight to keep her home, figure out how to cope with a potential new minister (complete with perfect wife and family), and try to patch up her relationship with her grown-up kids.  As if that wasn’t enough, her cantankerous, manipulative mother comes to stay, ends up breaking her hip, and causes havoc in the local convalescent home.

There are some fun descriptive phrases in the book:  ‘Hymns that once plodded the narrow aisles danced before the Lord under [Parker’s] direction.’

I found Reinventing Leona to be a gentle read with some humour and romance.  Deep issues are lightly touched upon.  I thought the book was warm and light-hearted, no easy feat considering the storyline is born out of bereavement.

Reviewed for Tyndale House through NetGalley.

Under Construction

Adrian recently found some unseen images of Tower Bridge in London being built.  Since Tower Bridge is my second favourite bridge in the world (my favourite being Pont Alexandre III in Paris), he forwarded the pictures to me, knowing I would be interested.  I found them fascinating.  Looking at these old black and white photos, you would never guess what a magnificant piece of Victorian architecture would be the result.  Half-constructed, it doesn’t look like much.

But by faithfully following Sir Horace Jones’ design, the builders made the magnificent bridge with its superb engineering structure that we still admire today.

It reminded me that the Lord is committed to building something beautiful too.  We can’t always tell what He is up to in our lives and, when the going is tough it can be hard to trust that He has a plan.  A plan for our good.  But He is in control and He guarantees us a glorious outcome.  Our part is to trust Him, and to declare our confidence that all things work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).  We need to believe that these light and momentary troubles are just for now, and they are actually achieving for us an eternal glory that will far outweigh them (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).  These truths gave me a secure hope in my future last year when I was ill with cerebellar ataxia and ME.  Knowing that the debillitating illness (which meant I often had to use a wheelchair and had to rely on Adrian for pretty basic care) was just ‘light’ and ‘momentary’ continuously filled my heart with an impossible joy.  To know that weighty eternal glory is mine…. wow, it completely blows my mind!

And these promises are for you too.  May they encourage and bless your soul as they do mine.

(To view more ‘unseen’ photos of Tower Bridge, click here.)

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