Back to the Land of Ruth

Happy Thursday morning! Coffee needed and keep it coming! We’ve had an extremely wet week in our neck of the woods. I’m hoping for sunshine and maybe a little more summertime.

I’ve spent several weeks in memory mode, contemplating my future writing. Now, it’s time to return to the story of Ruth. Once again, I’m immersing myself in the beautiful Biblical story. Once I’ve studied it, I’ll re-read Annabelle’s Ruth and Sutter’s Landing.

This past week, I’m also researching my setting for the third and final book in the Kinsman Redeemer series. Something caught my interest, and may find it’s way into the story line. If you are of a certain age, and lived in the southeastern region of the United States, you may remember what happened in the late fifties/early sixties.

Jackson, Tennessee, just a short drive south from my rural setting, was often in the news in those days. It’s the home of Lane College, a traditionally all-black college (during that time), associated with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Several brave young men and women took it upon themselves to force the desegregation issue by staging “sit-ins” at area drug store soda fountains (like the one in my stories).

This, and several other “powder-keg” events happened during the timeline of book three. So, of course, I need to find a way to incorporate it in the story.

Back to the present: the church I attend is culturally and racially diverse. Though comparatively small, our congregation has a wonderful balance. Right now, under the leadership of our pastor, we are studying The Third Option by Miles McPherson. It’s a book about honor and respect, and learning to love your neighbor without prejudice.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect. One of the main reasons I’ve been able to handle the racial issues in the first two books in this series with grace, is the balance in my life. I believe it is directly tied to interaction and fellowship with my church family—a vibrant group of men and women united by their love for God and each other.

At one time in the south, it didn’t matter whether a person was Polynesian or Haitian, or African, or even Latin or Native American. They were considered a lesser race. Even a person of mixed race was denied the privilege to marry a Caucasian at one time. So my main character in books one and two had a couple of hurdles ahead of her.

Why even include this in my story? Why did I need the racial element in Annabelle’s Ruth? Consider the original story. If you’re familiar with the book of Ruth, you’ll remember that she was a foreigner, a Moabitess. She left her home, where she was in the majority, and traveled to Naomi’s homeland, where a Moabite was definitely a minority, and subject to prejudice. It is obvious from content that a Moabite looked different.

Ruth earned something dear—God’s blessing—through her loyalty to Naomi, one of God’s chosen.

As I complete this series, I need to finish with a bang and tie up all the loose ends. I believe I’ll find what I need in the pages of the original story. I can’t wait to find out what happens!

Spring Floods and Unexpected Visitors

It won’t be long now. Just weeks, and Sutter’s Landing, the sequel to Annabelle’s Ruth, will be available for purchase. We’re getting ready. Working through final edits, choosing the cover, preparing the marketing aspects. A lot of work goes into the release of a novel.

As Book 2 of the Kinsman Redeemer Series opens, Annabelle and Connie have settled into their little home on the old Sterling Place. Alton Wade, Annabelle’s young cousin, continues to court Connie. As her attachment to him grows, Connie struggles with her emotions.

Momma held the door for her (Connie). “You best get in here before you catch your death.”

Death. As she turned toward the door, Connie glanced over her shoulder to the place where Alton had disappeared into the mist . . . Would death steal him away from her, too? She sucked in a jagged breath as the screen door eased shut behind her. She sincerely hoped not. But thoughts like these were a daily struggle. When did one overcome such a fear?

It’s 1955, and the usual spring rains are a bit heavier than normal. In fact, they just don’t want to stop. Days of rain leave the surrounding lowlands completely under water.

How long will the rains continue, and even then, how long before the cotton fields are dry enough to plant?

One of the nicest things about small town living is having neighbors who care. In the fifties, folks often stopped by to “set a spell,” and visit. Imagine that. Surprising, at times, who stops by for a visit. Especially when the visitor is looking for Annabelle.

And then another man shows up on their doorstep. One Connie would never have expected. Not in a million years.

I’d like to invite you back to Trenton, Tennessee, as the story continues. The release date is tentatively set for June 20.

Samson and I will keep you posted.

 

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Ruth’s Legacy

Beyond the Book of Ruth, Part 2

To read Part 1, click here.

17So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket. 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal. (The Book of Ruth, verses 17-18)

As soon as I read that Ruth had leftovers from the dinner provided by Boaz, I knew she’d share them with Naomi. This tells a lot about Ruth’s character. She didn’t hoard the leftovers, she took them home to her mother-in-law.

Ruth-likeWhen Ruth told Naomi about her day, Naomi pronounced a blessing over Boaz. “He is one of our family’s redeemers,” she told Ruth. What did this mean? It meant that he was a near kinsman of Elimelech. Through his acts of kindness, Boaz was also showing respect for the dead.

I believe this is when Naomi began to form a plan. We know she trusted in Jehovah, so we’ll assume she prayed for direction. When the barley harvest was coming to an end, she gave some very specific instructions to her daughter-in-law:

“Tonight he [Boaz] will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.” –Ruth 3:2-4

C+B-Agriculture-Fig12-WinnowingAfter a grain harvest, the men “winnowed” the grain, which separated the grain from the stalk and chaff (the breeze or wind blew away the lighter outer covering of the grain). Then they must guard the grain until morning when it would be bagged or otherwise stored. Of course, after all their labor, they celebrated by “eating and drinking.”

Because Ruth trusted Naomi, she obeyed her. This obedience placed Ruth in a precarious position, but Naomi knew Boaz was a man of integrity, so she didn’t worry. While Boaz slept, Ruth “uncovered his feet, and lay down.” He woke around midnight and became alarmed when he found a woman lying there. He was confused. Had he drunk that much?

pink-1431073_1280When she identified herself, and spoke as Naomi had instructed, Boaz knew what was happening. In a way accepted by the customs of their time, she’d proposed to Boaz. He was impressed. You see, Boaz was not a young man. We know this because he says in verse 10, “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before [in following Naomi to Bethlehem], for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor.

So if you were always thinking Boaz was a young hunk, sorry to destroy your fantasy. He was probably less like a Chris Hemsworth, more of a Harrison Ford. Oh well. Older guys have value, too. Maturity counts for something. Established, reliable. A man who is able to provide for both Ruth and Naomi. Hey, he was a landowner with servants. She could do worse.

sandals-462870_1280
Men removed a shoe to signify an agreement.

Even though Boaz wanted to marry Ruth, there was a nearer kinsman. So he promised to have a word with that guy. Naomi had confidence that Boaz would take care of everything that very day.

And that’s exactly what he did. He spoke to the man who was a closer relation of Elimelech’s. This man was definitely interested in the land belonging to Naomi, but he was unwilling to take on the widow of Mahlon (Ruth), since it would threaten his own children’s inheritance (according to Levitical law). Boaz was unencumbered by such concerns. There is no mention that he had a wife and/or family. So he was willing to take them in, with full knowledge that his first offspring would be considered the child of his deceased kinsman, Mahlon, son of Elimelech.

The happy ending: Boaz marries Ruth. He gets the property and the mother-in-law as well. And when the time came, a son was born to Boaz and Ruth.

baby-499976_1280Naomi took the baby and cuddled him to her breast. And she cared for him as if he were her own. 17 The neighbor women said, “Now at last Naomi has a son again!”–Ruth 4:16-17

They named the baby Obed. Obed grew up and had a son named Jesse, who grew up and had many sons. The last of those was named David. He was a shepherd who was later anointed as king by the prophet Samuel. David would become known as one of the greatest kings of Israel, and he and his great-grandmother Ruth would always be included in the lineage of Jesus.


A little bit of trivia

Mahlon, Ruth’s first husband, was Naomi’s second son. His name means “man of weakness or sickly”. If he was given this name at birth, he must have always been weak. His older brother’s name, Chilion (pronounced Killy-on) literally means “wasting away” –so this gives a little insight into Naomi’s early life. Her sons were not hale and hearty. She may have realized they weren’t going to grow old, so took wives for them early, hoping to have grandchildren to inherit Elimelech’s property.

Elimelech had also died early. Perhaps if the sons had produced children, they would’ve inherited the weakness of their fathers.

branch-304088_1280(All scriptures from the New Living Translation, via biblegateway.com)

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Beyond the Book of Ruth

blue-692467_640“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” — Ruth 1:16-17

I love The Book of Ruth. You may remember hearing the passage above, sung or spoken at weddings. Though originally spoken to a mother-in-law who had become more than an in-law, the passage is quite romantic, isn’t it?

castle-valley-500241_1280I’ve read The Book of Ruth more times than I can count, so I thought I knew the whole story. If you had asked me, I would’ve said, “The Book of Ruth is a wonderful story–a historical account of one of the four women mentioned in the lineage of King David, one of only six  women in the lineage of Jesus.

It’s short–only four chapters–so it doesn’t take long to read. Unless you like to dig. BUT, is it really just history? Is it only a romantic tale? I believe each book is included in the Bible for a reason.

Is there a reason beyond sharing the history of this woman?

When I wrote the novel, Annabelle’s Ruth, I did a little digging. I read and re-read the Biblical story until I could relate it in my own words. But after my novel was published, I was asked to tell a little about the history, so I studied it again.

I was surprised by what I saw.

Especially since I’d read it so many times. How had I missed what I found this time? If you’re familiar with the story, you know how it begins. The widows are leaving their home in Moab. Naomi persuades one daughter-in-law to return to her family, but Ruth refuses to leave. She insists on staying with the woman who has become a mother to her. The woman who’d taught her to believe in the God of the Hebrews.

barley-1117282_1280And I’m sure, you remember how Ruth went out to find work and ended up in the field of a man who was a kinsman of Naomi’s husband. His name was Boaz. He had heard of Ruth. Good things were spoken about her in Ephratah (Bethlehem)–and that was saying something. The Ephrathites could be a little judgmental about their non-Hebrew neighbors.

Boaz first drew my attention and appreciation by choosing to show kindness to this foreign woman who had shown great loyalty and love for his kinswoman. After all, she’d willingly given up the possibility of remarriage and having a family of her own, by following Naomi. That kind of thing was important in those days.

One thing I’ve learned: when you make that kind of sacrifice in life–for love and faith–God sees.

So, Boaz gave orders that his reapers drop extra barley for the woman to pick up. He ordered his men to keep their hands off her. And then he does something that pierced my heart. When he speaks to Ruth, he tells her to stay in his fields, so he can protect her. And then he invites her to partake of the water provided for his workers. I was immediately reminded of Jesus at the well in Samaria, offering living water to the woman at the well.

basket-1195754_1280Ruth 2:10-14 “Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

Ruth-like13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

But that’s not all. He invites her to dine at his table. Now I’m beginning to see a definite shadowing of a future event.

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.”

There’s more to this story as Naomi guides her daughter-in-law through an ancient Hebrew ritual. For the conclusion of this beautiful story, click here: Ruth’s Legacy

Scriptures from the New Living Translation via biblegateway.com

Annabelle’s Ruth

GraceAwardWinnerAfter their husbands perish in a fishing boat accident, Connie Cross determines to follow her mother-in-law, Annabelle, from Southern California to Tennessee. Her misgivings begin as they cross the bridge over the muddy Mississippi River. In their new town, where living conditions are far below their previous expectations, they must set up a household and hunt for work to survive. Thanks to the kindness of Annabelle’s handsome, young cousin, life begins to settle down. But Connie has a secret that could uproot them once again.

Inspired by the Book of Ruth, Annabelle’s Ruth is a 1950’s era story, set in western Tennessee.  How will Connie adapt to her new life amid the cotton farms, racial tension, and culture shock?

2015 Grace Award Winner for General Fiction/Women’s Fiction

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