today’s book: Phoebe’s Christmas
Welcome to another post in my annual blog series spotlighting new and recently-released Christmas reads! (Over 50 this year – And I’m SO EXCITED about it!)
Christmas is only 16 days away (Woohoo!!!) and I think we all could benefit from some extra Christmas cheer this year, right? Continuing through just before Christmas, I’m going to spotlight several new/recent Christmasy releases. So… snuggle in, grab your fave hot beverage and comfiest blanket, turn on some Christmas tunes and start your bookish Christmas list! Oh… and did I mention there are GIVEAWAYS with EACH POST in this series??!! (Because authors are awesome!)
Today’s book is a Christmasy cozy mystery – and author Sydney Tooman Betts shares some heartfelt thoughts on our own novel lives (thoughts I personally needed to read today & I’m pretty sure most of you will feel the same way after this crazy year ♥).
SERIES: Phoebe’s Mysteries #1.5
GENRE: Inspirational Cozy Mystery
PUBLISHER: Tooman Tales
RELEASE DATE: October 23, 2020
Phoebe Farrell has one distinguishing talent: listening. When a wealthy, if vinegary, widow employs her as a companion, Phoebe becomes acquainted with a variety of people upstairs and downstairs, in and outside of the household. Some are caustic and greedy; some are generous and kind. A few are tender.
One is planning a murder.
While Phoebe unearths their secrets and desires, can she uncover the truth before it is too late?
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Also available to read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited
your very novel life
by Sydney Tooman Betts, author of Phoebe’s Christmas
Authors design their plots to allow readers to experience life beyond the confines of their normal. They throw them into exciting adventures in unfamiliar lands, a terrifying criminal plot, or a hard-won but satisfying romance. Between author and reader exists an implicit contract. The reader, dressed in the protagonist’s body, confronts an array of obstacles before achieving their goals, but in the end, all is well.
Similarly, each of us lives a novel plotline. We possess desires, hope for happy conflict resolutions, and expect our epilogue to bring harmonic closure.
What if The Author has other intentions?
I love the biblical character Daniel primarily for his faithfulness, and when I step into the skin near the beginning of his story, I find hope. Though his nation had sunken into depravity—even slaughtering infants God had created—he shows ingenuity and courage (Dan. 1:8). He is handsome. He is intelligent (Dan. 1:4). He is a member of the royal family.
Like any talented plotter, The Author soon throws him into a crisis he cannot control. Surely, all will end well. After all, Psalm 34 says, “They that seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing,” and “the righteous cry and the Lord hears and delivers him out of all his troubles.” Yet, a summary of his storyline would read like this:
A young noble is ripped from his family and forcibly indoctrinated into the Babylonian system of higher education. He rises to fame but dies in obscurity.
This cannot be what Daniel expected as he dreamed of his future, and if he had anchored his hopes on pleasant circumstances, he would have died of sorrow. Yet, from the ensuing chapters of his book, we see The Author had a plan—and not only for Daniel. Through him, God laid out the plot for His whole series.
In chapter 2, via Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and then later via Daniel’s visions (chapters 7-12), He described the empires which would rise over the next four hundred years. Why? Would Judah learn its lesson and repent of its idolatries, clearing the way for peace and prosperity? Would the Messiah come and set up His kingdom? Yes—sort of—and no, not at all.
When God gave Neb and Daniel their dreams and visions, His plotline did not depend on Judah’s behavior. Judah did repent, at least some in Judah did, and God restored them to their land 70 years later—exactly as He had already told Ezekiel. He knew what would happen to them both internally and externally before all but a few of their mothers’ conceived them. Did their repentance alter the other events He already laid out?
No. As He declared—though not by name—the united Medes and Persians defeated Babylon. The Greeks defeated them, and the Romans defeated the Greeks. Unlike the Babylonian captivity, these successive empires were not punishment for Judah’s unfaithfulness. The Author designed them for His own reasons, however inexplicable they felt to His people living through these times.
Were it not for the Greek Empire, the Apostles would have lacked a common language with which they could have preached the Gospel (certainly one of the “good things” referred to earlier in Psalm 34). Were it not for the Romans, they would have lacked roads by which to travel to the extremities of the empire. Were it not for the Roman’s forced peace (Pax Romano), they could not have traveled safely.
What, you might be asking yourself, is my point in writing this? You, too, are important and integral to The Author’s plotline, but as we continue through His entire series, we discover we are not the protagonists of our novels after all. Like Daniel, Abraham, Noah, King David, Esther, Samuel, Paul, John, Stephen…we are carefully crafted secondary characters whom The Author lovingly uses to drive the plan He foreshadowed in Gen. 3:15.
In short, God uses ALL things for the ultimate and eternal good of all the supporting characters who love Him, who are called according to His purpose both inside the Bible and out (Romans 8:28). So what does this mean to us today?
If 2020 is driving you crazy, if your candidate was not declared President, if you are wondering WHY your story is not turning out as you expected or wanted, consider the dismay a small band of secondary characters—precisely eleven—felt when evil appeared to defeat The Protagonist. His and their circumstances looked desperately bleak, but even while He was giving His life to rescue His love interest, He trusted The Author. He had already written the next chapter.
If you have read this far, you might be feeling encouraged, trusting The Author will usher you unscathed through (not around) the fire. Perhaps, instead, you are like me. I am wholly dependent on Him to help my unbelief and He reminds me of a fellow secondary character. Jeremiah, while seeing all he knew and loved crumbling around him, found the one sure place to anchor his hope: the very character of the One writing the story. His steadfast love endures forever and His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, for great is His faithfulness.
Rest assured, He has written a fitting ending. The Protagonist, having already saved His love interest, will literally ride in on a white horse (Rev. 19:11) to vanquishes His enemies, then justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).
While single, Ms. Betts (B.S. Bible/Missiology, M.Ed) was involved in a variety of cross-cultural adventures in North and Central America. After marrying, she and her husband lived in Europe and the Middle East where he served in various mission-support capacities. Her teaching experiences span preschool to guest lecturing at the graduate level and serving as the Sunday School Superintendent, Children’s Church Director, or Women’s Ministries facilitator in several evangelical denominations.
Before penning her first novel, she ghost-wrote several stories for an adult literacy program.
Sydney Tooman Betts is offering a print copy of both books (so far) in the Phoebe’s Mysteries series – Phoebe’s Secret & Phoebe’s Christmas! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read Phoebe’s Christmas by Sydney Tooman Betts? What touched you about Sydney’s post?