Tuesday, December 29, 2009

FEELING A LITTLE "DOWN" SINCE CHRISTMAS? TAKE HEART...



For many, Christmas is a JOYOUS occasion, but for some the holiday brings nothing but grief, heartache, the stirring up of bad memories, and perhaps tension and regrets. It's a time when most families gather to celebrate, but some families don't enjoy congregating because of past hurts. Understandable.

Others of you may love Christmas but for some reason battled feelings of sadness or loneliness this year. Perhaps 2009 brought heartache, turmoil, loss of employment, feelings of failure, divorce, ...or any number of things. Everyone suffers periods of pain and sorrow. It is called life, and we all must walk it day by day, moment by moment.

I read something today that struck a chord with me, and here it is:


"Any man can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When wealth rolls in abundance around him, any man can praise the God who gives a plenteous harvest? The difficulty is for music to swell forth when no wind is stirring. It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but he is skillful who sings when there is not a ray of light to read by -- who sings from the heart. Lay me upon the bed of languishing, and how shall I then chant God's high praises, unless He Himself give me the song? No, it is not in man's power to sing when all is adverse, unless an altar-coal shall touch his lip? Then, since our Maker gives 'songs in the night' (Job 35:10), let us wait upon Him for the music."

I guess, then, the test that life throws at us is this: Will you keep singing even when the road gets bumpy and hard to travel, or will you grow silent, maybe even bitter, in your pain? Will you let God help you pick up the pieces of your broken spirit and downtrodden heart, or will you let the pieces lie there until they crumble into dust and your heart turns hard and cold? Will you lean into the Heavenly Father for strength and courage, or will you try to stumble along in your own strength, barely finding the ability to put one foot in front of the other?

GOD IS YOUR EVER-PRESENT STRENGTH. HE WILL NOT FAIL YOU, FORGET YOU, OR FLEE FROM YOU. He promises in His Word that He will carry you through every circumstance of life, no matter how difficult or impossible it seems. Trust Him to take your hand. Reach out. He is ALWAYS there...waiting for you to take the first step.

I love you ALL and welcome any prayer requests you might want to call to my attention. I promise to pray for you.

May 2010 bring abundant joy and God's richest blessings.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

OKAY, I ADMIT IT...I'M A PROUD GRANDMA!

I hope you all had a FABULOUS Christmas. Let's share some of our traditions. How do you celebrate? When do you open gifts? Did any of you do something completely out of the ordinary this year? Do your kids/grands believe in Santa? What are some of your favorite Christmas foods?

Ever since Cec and I got married, we've been opening our gifts on Christmas Eve because Christmas morn was reserved for going up to both of our parents' houses. After our kids were born we continued the tradition, and to this day it's remained as such so our kids can have their personal Christmases in the morning and then go to their in-laws' houses after that. First, we attend the 5 o'clock Christmas Eve service, then we come home and read the Christmas story, then we fill our plates with snacks and goodies, and, finally, proceed with the gift-opening.

Christmas Day belongs just to Cecil and me, and we love it that way.


As for food, I LOVE chocolate! Gotta stock up on all the best chocolate treats.

Thought I'd share just a few piccies of my precious grands. Hope you don't mind indulging me!

Here're my three darlings standing in front of the fireplace before heading off for the Christmas Eve service:



Here they are after church in their Christmas 'jammies':



Grandma trying her best to hold the "grands'" attention during the telling of the Christmas story:



My daughters (Kendra on my left; Krissi on my right) and me shopping at one of our local markets where they sell homemade cider and lots of other goodies.



Now that Christmas is behind us, it's time to wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR! May it be filled with blessings from above!

I love you ALL!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SOMEBODY KEYED MY CAR! I MEAN, WELL, READ ON!

I almost lost my CHRISTmas cheer today. I mean, it was a close one. I had several errands to run: a trip to the veterinarian, the bank, the grocery, Sam's Club, the dollar store, and my final stop, the UNITED STATES POST OFFICE, yours and my favorite place to visit this time of year, right?

I pulled my maroon colored Impala right in front of the P.O, found a perfect spot right by the door to park, nabbed my packages from the back seat, jumped out, hit the lock button, and headed across the street. The line, OF COURSE, was excessively long, but I put on my best Christmas smile despite everyone else's frowns. No one was stealing MY good cheer.

((Here's my car, by the way--'cause I was quite sure you'd want to see it!))



Things went amazingly well, and I was out the door in record time considering the line behind me had grown a half-mile. The first thing I noted when I hit the unlock button was the beep sound I made in the car behind me. It's true. I have this uncanny ability to make other horns honk when I use my keys--weird, I know. I once had to use my own key fob to stop some truck's alarm system! I HAVE POWERS, what can I say? (The people passing by were quite amazed I might add!)

Back to my story. The second thing I noticed on my maroon Chevy Impala was a HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE, NEVER BEFORE SEEN, deep, gouged line that went the length of my car, starting at the rear door, going up to the front fender, then circling back again. I ran my hand over it, thinking it would rub right out, but, nope, this was a true act of anger on someone's part. I'm talking the "somebody hates me" kind of rage. I gasped and immediately thought, "Who would do this in broad daylight? And right before Christmas? The meanies." Well, I got inside and sort of looked around. It "felt" kind of different in there, although I couldn't quite put my finger on why. For one thing, my chocolate sucker, which I'd left in the cup-holder was gone. Blast it all! The bums even took my sucker! It wasn't enough that they keyed my car? They had to reach in and take my milk-chocolate sucker--that cost me $2.25?

The next thing I noted was the blanket on the seat. What? Who's blanket is that? Then I turned around and saw a package on the back seat that wasn't mine. And THEN I remembered the beeping sound my key had made on the car behind me when I hit the UNLOCK button. EEEEE-GADS!!!!! I wasn't even in my own car!

I jumped out, made a mad dash for my own car, jumped in, started the engine, and sped away. Looking in my rearview mirror, I saw a young man walk across the road and climb into HIS maroon Impala.

Phew! No insurance calls today--and best, I still had my chocolate sucker. I've lost something, though, in relaying this story to you. Hmm. MY PRIDE. Oh well, I didn't have much to begin with anyway.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, DARLINGS, AND DON'T LET ANYONE STEAL YOUR CHRISTMAS CHEER!

I love you all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's Our 34th Anniversary!

WE'RE OFF TO SHIPSHEWANA, land of the Amish--where the food is old-fashioned and delectable, the shopping is fun, the people are warm and friendly, and the accommodations are down-home. It's a land where the sound of horses' hooves clip-clop up the street and the smells of homemade fudge and pretzels fill the air. Quaint shops line the streets where beautiful handwoven crafts like AMAZING quilts, dolls, jewelry, and other items hang or sit on display. You always come away wishing you'd brought more $$$. Christmas is an especially good time to go, as the streets are lit with an array of beautiful decorations. Not many Santas here, as Christ is fully emphasized--nor will you find anything open on Sundays. Truly, it's a land of old traditions and family fun.

Although Cecil has a bad, bad cold (slept in a recliner last night 'cause he couldn't stop coughing), he still wants to go. I told him he could lie in bed and watch TV, and I'll shop--which I'd be perfectly content doing, but I'm sure he'll want to tag along anyway.

There won't be as much snow there as here, so that will be a blessing, but it will be just as cold. (Glad I'm not Amish and riding in one of those horse drawn carriages with no engine-powered heaters.)

Have a beautiful weekend, everybody.

I love you all. (And now, here's just a tiny glimpse of Shipshewana, Indiana.)



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hey, Peeps! Check this out!



PREVAILING LOVE recently arrived on my doorstep. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon, and it wasn't supposed to arrive till 2010, but it released early! This is a "3-in-1" book by Loree Lough, three wonderfully delicious, captivating books all wrapped up in one beautiful cover!

Loree Lough is one of my favorite authors. She writes stories filled to the brim with action, intrigue, and plenty of romance. Each story in Prevailing Love stands on its own and will keep you spellbound from start to finish! Don't miss out, my dear hearts! You will love these fantastic reads by award winning Loree Lough!

Order your copy TODAY!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I've Been Known to Go A

Little Berserk!




Maybe you can't tell by this picture, but I have cut back on the gift buying this year. In the past, I've been known to go a little berserk in the gift-buying department. When it was just the four of us, I always got the girls anywhere from 15-20 presents each. But now with both girls married and three grands (so far), I can't possibly continue with that ridiculous, outlandish number of gifts, and besides, in this economy it's indulgent and excessive. So, I announced there'd be less this year--and it's been so much more enjoyable for me. Thankfully the kids agreed I'd taken this whole gift-giving thing to an extreme level, and it had to stop.

And I'm loving it. Last night I sorted gifts, making individual piles for everyone, switched on the TV to some Christmas specials, and watched and listened with a joyful, thankful heart. I had about 30 different rolls of Christmas paper, multitudes of ribbons and bows, and hundreds of pretty Christmas tags, a collection left over from previous years. I had so much fun making each and every gift unique, right down to the one-year-olds who won't care one hoot about the extreme care I took to wrap their gifts. But it won't matter because I did it out of a heart of love.

As I look at this beautiful "Christ" season, I am filled with such gratitude--gratitude that my children live nearby, that we all attend the same church and gather together most every week for Sunday dinner (how many can say that?); that my daughters married Christian men and that they're raising their children with the same values we instilled in them; that my beloved husband and I are about to celebrate our 34th anniversary (Dec. 20 to be exact); and that the things that truly count in life are the very things we enjoy--jobs, love, health, comfortable homes, plenty of food, wonderful friends, and a loving family. (I could go on and on.)

Here's the thing. Life is fleeting. In an instant, everything could change. But this one thing I know: God is ever constant and true. His love never fails.

Aren't you glad we have the assurance of an ever-present Savior, one who will never leave or forsake no matter what befalls? Count every single blessing you have while you still have it. That's what I'm doing this year.

And as I count my blessings, I count each of YOU as well. I love you all!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A THOUSAND DOLLARS IN QUARTERS...

I heard something the other night that had an impact on me, but I don't remember the source, i.e. who said it, so forgive me for paraphrasing. In a nutshell, here's what I heard: Relinquishing your life to Christ can SOMETIMES mean dying for His cause, OR it can mean giving up your life in small, meaningful increments.

Think of your life as a one-thousand dollar bill. As a Christ-follower, you lay it on the table, symbolically, and say, "Here it is, Lord. This is yours. All of it. Take it now, every last bit of it." It's like saying, "Yeah, I'll die for You. Here I am, take me now. I am ready to die a martyr's death."



But, that would be the easy way out. Why? Because 99.9% of the time God says, "Take that thousand dollar bill to the bank and ask the clerk to give it back to you in quarters. Now, throughout your life show ME to the world. Pass out quarters here and there -- to those who need a helping hand. Remember that single mom who needs a night out. Offer to take her children. (There goes a quarter.) Visit the sick and the elderly and put your arms around the mentally or physically challenged (more quarters out the door). Be a friend to that fatherless boy, that motherless girl (more quarters...). Invite a widow or widower to supper, stop to help the beggar on the street, offer to house missionaries, write letters of encouragement, take time to listen to a stranger in need, make hospital visits, LEARN YOUR NEIGHBOR'S NAMES!. (Quarters, quarters, quarters...)



Our goal should be to come to the end of our journeys with empty pockets, having given completely of ourselves even as Christ gave to us.

Something to think about as we approach this beautiful season of thanks and gratitude to the One who first loved us!


I love you all--but God loves you MORE!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I AM LIKE THE ALWAYS - PREGNANT LADY!

Glory, Glory, HALLELUJAH! Another one leaves the nest. Now I await word from my editor. Did this "mother" do a good enough job of preparing Abbie Ann for the world?

Pushing out a baby is hard work, but I tell you, I'm like the woman who LOVES to be pregnant! It can be sheer agony, painful, wearisome, frustrating, and exhausting, BUT the joys of giving birth to a brand spanking new "baby" far outweigh the struggles it takes to get there! I look in the mirror and I think, yep! I'm a writer, and I'm going to have another "baby" soon, and it's good, and I can hardly wait to get going on my next one! Am I sick or what?

This "at last" completed series, The Daughters of Jacob Kane, took place in the fictional town of Sandy Shores, Michigan (actual setting: Grand Haven). My next series, "River of Hope", has a 1925 Wabash, Indiana setting. So, it's "GOODBYE, SANDY SHORES; HELLO, WABASH!"

As a refresher, here is the cover of Abbie Ann If you go to Amazon.com you will see that "she" is already up for pre-order! (Or you can just click on the cover right here on my profile page!) RELEASE DATE: APRIL 2010

I LOVE YOU ALL!



SYNOPSIS: Abbie Ann Kane, the youngest of Jacob Kane's three daughters, is a busy woman. Between running the Whatnot, the family's general store, being active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and assisting the elderly citizens of Sandy Shores, Michigan, she has little time for frivolous matters. And those include matters of the heart. When the recently divorced Noah Carson comes to town with son Toby in tow to pursue a shipbuilding business, Abbie Ann tries to keep her distance. But God has other plans in mind...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"THE PRICE OF GAS IN FRANCE":

A THIEF IN PARIS PLANNED TO STEAL SOME PAINTINGS FROM THE LOUVRE.



AFTER CAREFUL PLANNING, HE GOT PAST SECURITY, STOLE THE PAINTINGS, AND MADE IT SAFELY TO HIS VAN.

HOWEVER, HE WAS CAPTURED ONLY TWO BLOCKS AWAY WHEN HIS VAN RAN OUT OF GAS.

WHEN ASKED HOW HE COULD MASTERMIND SUCH A CRIME AND THEN MAKE SUCH AN OBVIOUS ERROR, HE REPLIED, "MONSIEUR, DAT IS DEE REASON I STOLE DEE PAINTINGS."



"I HAD NO MONET


TO BUY DEGAS


TO MAKE DEE VAN GOGH."



SEE IF YOU HAVE DE GAULLE TO SHOW DIS TO SOMEONE ELSE.


I POST DIS TO YOU BECAUSE I FIGURED I HAD NUTTING 'TOULOUSE'!



(clearing throat...Dis eez goot, no?)

I LOVE YOU ALL!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Want to Watch My Mug on Canadian TV?

I mean it is probably the LAST last thing you feel like doing, actually, watching me talk on some TV show, but just in case I'm wrong...hm...I did a segment for a cool television show in Canada called It's a New Day! Wonderful interview, really, very professionally done and fun to watch. To be truthful, I did the interview about a month or more ago, and because the interviewer fired questions at me so fast, I barely remember any of it. I'm watching it and thinking, hm, I wonder how I answered that question. (haha)

Anyway...here's the link in case you want to watch it. I can't PROMISE the link will work, but here's hoping.

SIMPLY CLICK HERE!

P.S. You may have to wait a few minutes for the video to actually load. It took me a while to catch onto that.

I LOVE YOU ALL!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I AM MOURNING!


Yes, I am mourning. Deeply. But not in the way you might think--praise God. No, my mourning is probably what you'd term shallow and insignificant in light of the bigger scope of things because, you see, it involves my stomach and taste buds. Here's the thing...it is the end of another season. Concord grape season, that is, and I'm sad. I never get enough of those delicate, juicy, straight-off-the-vine, deep purple, seedy, candy-like treats! I mean, really, just look at them, would you...



The beauty of them is that you can walk right up to the vine, pull off a marvelous, untouched cluster, and pop them straight into your mouth! I am sad to say I don't have a vine in my backyard, but my friend does, and this year he dropped off bags and bags of them, hanging the plastic grocery sacks on my doorknob--at first anonymously until I caught him in the act one time. ha!

I ate every last one, too, because the season is so short and you have to wait a full year to experience their savory sweetness again. I suppose if the season went on forever, as several other variety of grapes do, I wouldn't be so hooked, but then again it might be all I'd ever eat, and in the end I'd pay. (Umm, no pun intended in that last sentence. ha!)


There is really no point to this blog other than I needed a break from my other writing, the manuscript which is due on November 15. Yow! Do you know what a strange feeling it is to look on Amazon and find you have a book already on pre-order that isn't even finished yet? Yikes-Bikes!!! Back at it. (I have to go kill somebody, ur...in my manuscript, that is!)

I love you all!

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Brother-in-Law, the Amazing ARTIST!!!




Dearest friends, you simply must click on this site and view my talented bro-in-law's latest venture, designing and creating from scratch, these beautiful coasters. Yes, coasters! Not ordinary ones, though. Check them out by clicking HERE!

ORDER YOURS TODAY!

I LOVE YOU ALL!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE TRUE BENEFITS TO GETTING OLD? I'm serious! And if you don't believe me, then read this list of PROS. Well, okay, in some cases they're not pros -- they're telltale signs...

1. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.

2. In a hostage situation, you are likely to be released first.

3. No one expects you to run -- anywhere!

4. People call at 9 p.m. and ask, "Did I wake you?"

5. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.

6. There is nothing left to learn the hard way.

7. Things you buy won't wear out.

8. You can eat supper at 4 p.m.

9. You can live without, um, 'you know what', but you can't survive without your glasses.

10. You get into heated arguments about pension plans.

11. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.

12. You quit trying to hold your stomach in no matter who walks into the room.

13. You sing along with elevator music.

14. Your eyes won't get much worse.

15. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.

16. Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.

17.. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.

18. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.

And you notice these are all in big print for my "older readers'" convenience. (teehee)

****I love you all! I really do!****

Sunday, September 27, 2009

READ THIS VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION:

*Hint: You may have to click on the picture to enlarge it so you can actually read the question.





I'd say the answer is yes, wouldn't you?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

EVER TRIED TO OPEN A FAIRY CARRIAGE?

Well, let me tell you, it's not easy! First of all they are wired shut from every which direction, starting with the wheels, then the doors, and then the roof. Even the fairy, yep, sealed off, impossible to get at--unless you happen to have a crowbar--or very strong acrylic nails such as I have!

What am I talking about, you ask?


THIS!!!



It's a Fisher Price Fairy Carriage for children 12-36 months, in other words, a toy for babies.

Okay, I have one question. WHY DO THEY HAVE TO MAKE CHILDREN'S TOYS SO HARD TO GET AT? CAN I GET AN AMEN? I can understand why they put high security on things such as CDs, DVDs, electronic instruments, cameras, etc. I'm sure the retail industry has had its fair share of thievery in these departments. But come on, how many one-year-olds do you know that are going to walk up to a big boxed toy, pick it up, carry it down the aisle, and proceed to walk out the door with it? Besides that, they'd NEVER in a million years be able to play with it even if they did manage that impossible feat because they'd NEVER GET IT OUT OF THE BOX!!!!

Okay -- this is Thursday, baby-sitting day for Gavin, my one-year-old grandboy. (No, I did not buy the fairy carriage for him.) You remember my blog about the "burn circle" on my counter and how I tried to blame him for my absentmindedness in laying a hot skillet on the countertop? Well, TODAY I decided it might be good to get out of the house, go shopping, do things that wouldn't require my having to file an insurance claim. SOOOO, we went to Target. And, of course, when you have your grandchild with you, you absolutely MUST drive down the toy aisles, right? He pointed at everything because that was what he wanted Grandma to put in the cart. But I picked just one of things he pointed at -- a TRUCK, of course. But then I thought about my grandgirl, so we went to the "pink" aisle. And that's how I happened upon the fairy carriage.

Well, we got back home, sat down on the floor, Gavin beside me, and proceeded to rip, pry, cut, slice, and chip at the cardboard package holding the truck. THEN I had to turn the thing over and begin the process of unwinding one wire after another, each wrapped around wheels and everything imaginable. (I tell you, a stand-up comedian could have a heyday with this one.) In his impatience to get at his brand new toy, Gavin started screaming, and I started trying to reason with him. "See this wire?" I said. "We need to unwind it from this, and then we need to unwind it from that, and then we have to move to the next wire--and the next--and the next. And then in about one year, after I finally get it out of the box, you can play with your toy. How's that?"

Okay, so that process took a good 6 or 7 minutes, although I didn't actually time it.

While he played with his brand new truck, which incidentally did not move forward as it was supposed to (I refuse to take it back to the store, though, because that would mean I would have to open another one!!!), decided to unwrap Lexi's toy and time exactly how long it took me to free the little carriage, fairy, basket of fruit, and flower stem from its cardboard PRISON. So, armed with heavy-duty kitchen sheers and my acrylic nails, I started the job at exactly 3:55. I worked as fast as I could unwinding wires from these little plastic dohickees, pulling, and prying. I even cut my finger under the nail till it bled while trying to get a piece of plastic off the little fruit basket. OUCH! Do you know what time it was by the time I finally finished unwrapping this $15 toy? SEVEN minutes after FOUR -- which means it took me 12 stinkin' minutes to do the job!
WHAT IN THE WORLD? Is this really necessary?

I'm tempted to send this blog to the Fisher Price Company and ask their opinion on the matter. What do you think? Anybody else ever run into this problem? Granted, my hubby would probably have made faster work of removing the toy, but I dare say the majority of people removing these things are moms and grandmas.

How 'bout we organize a march on Washington, DC? (haha) Wrong place? Well, okay then, what's say we all meet in Fisher Price's parking lot, say, sometime before Christmas?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

ME AND MY FROZEN BRAIN!!!

SEE THIS?



It is called a 'burn circle'. Isn't it pretty? I thought so too. Not. It is on my countertop right next to my stove, and it is there because I had something termed, well, brain freeze. Yes, that sums it up nicely. Read on to hear my tale of woe....UNLESS, of course, you can't bear drama, in which case you might want to click your 'back' button NOW.

I babysit my one-year-old grandson once a week, so you can start picturing the fun any time now. I was standing at the stove at 8 a.m. this past Thursday making him pancakes when from behind I heard a great shout of joy and utter exuberance. I glanced around only to discover the little doohickie on his sippy cup had come loose, making it very easy for him to splash his milk in every which direction, which in my case meant all over the floor and cabinet doors. Milk. EVERYWHERE. (Are you envisioning?) Well, the pancakes were done to sort of a burnt stage, and in my haste to clean up the disaster behind me I picked up the hot skillet and laid it on my countertop. (WHY DID I DO THAT? I told you - brain freeze.) Well, I reached for the paper towel and proceeded to clean the mess when the pancake smell intensified. OH, CRAP! (I can say that because my pastor sometimes says it in his sermons!) I jumped up and moved the skillet back to a cool burner, and that's when I saw the "ring". Quick as a lightning bolt I reached for the scouring powder, the 409, the bleach, anything, until I realized the futility in that when I felt the raised bubbles. Ohhhhh. "Gavin!" I said, looking at my one-year-old grand. "Look what you've done." He laughed as if I'd just tickled his tummy.

What I did next, after cleaning up the milk, was go to the phone to call my hubby. I needed to hear his words of..."Don't worry, honey, it was an accident." Foolish, living-in-a-bubble me. What I heard instead was, "You did what?" Then, "Honeeeeeeeeey, what were you thinking?" AND IN A NOT-SO-UNDERSTANDING TONE, either. Ugh.

"Do you think the insurance will cover it?" I asked.

Snide chuckling on the other end. "Uh. No."

"Isn't it worth a try?"

"I guess I could call them and say, 'Guess what my wife did. Will you cover it? No? Okay. Thanks anyway. Bye.'" He is already dealing with the insurance company and waiting for our agent to call back on some roof issues as a result of a bad storm. (Which also ruined part of our ceiling.) So, okay, I understood his being hesitant to bring up yet another claim, but couldn't he at least give it a shot? Nope. (Uh, also bear in mind he has been married to me for almost 34 years, so sometimes his patience tends to run a little thin, as I'm prone to doing things without thinking. Need I say more?)

"Give me the number. I'll call them," I said.

"No, I'll do it," he said in a relenting voice.

"How are you going to say it?" I asked.

"What? I'll just tell them what you just told me."

"You're going to make me sound stupid. Give me the phone number." At this point, I think he has the number memorized.

"All right, all right." He gave me the number.

Well, let me tell you, I happen to be very good with insurance agents, and I didn't even know I had that talent! I got a very nice, understanding, motherly type on the other end, and in my best storytelling voice I relayed exactly what happened.

"Oh, my goodness," she said. "Is your grandson all right? That's the important thing." I assured her he was absolutely fine even as I watched him try to figure out the nozzle on my Pledge Dusting Spray. "Well, let's start the claim process," she said. "That would fall under, hmm, fire."

"It would?"

"Yes. Here's your claim number. Do you have a pen and paper handy?"

And so it went. You cannot imagine how excited I was to call my husband and say, "Na-na-na-na-na-naaa." Just kidding, of course. (But, I did say it in my head.)

Incidentally, he's still waiting for a return call from the agent regarding the roof and ceiling situation and getting the royal runaround. In the meantime, I've already picked out my new Formica countertop!

I think it's all in the voice, don't you?

***Okay, I do have a bit of a confession to make in the midst of all this. The adjuster called me the next day to inform me they would only cover the cost of the damaged section. Huh? Which meant I had to try to match up my 12-year-old laminate? This is where hubby is G-O-O-O-O-D! He very politely called him back and said, "Uh, no. We've been given a claim number, instructed to obtain a full estimate, and you WILL replace all the countertop." Guess what...they ARE replacing everything, including island and telephone desk. So, like I said -- it's all in the voice.

And, no, you cannot babysit my grandson. I may need him next week to file another insurance claim!

--------------------------------------------------------------
I LOVE YOU ALL!!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

THIS WAS A BLAST!

I LOVE book-signings because they give me the perfect opportunity to meet my darling readers, connect with old friends and family, and introduce myself to people I've never met. I hate when they look at me in awe, though, as if I were actually somebody other than plain ol' ordinary me! I am not good at sitting on pedestals. I fall off easily.

I love being a part of God's precious family. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. Isn't it positively INCREDIBLE to even think about? I have more than 5000 "friends" over at a WONDERFUL social network known as SHOUTLIFE! (Check it out sometime if you haven't already, and bring all your friends!). I also have more than 700 Facebook friends. I know, I know--it seems excessive because I can't possibly connect with all of them. But here's my philosophy on that: I figure the bigger the number the greater my opportunity to cross paths with someone who might need a word of encouragement or a prayer lifted up to the Father on his/her behalf. You would not believe the marvelous friends I have made ONLINE, one of which Cecil, my hubby, and I visited in England last year. She is one of my very dearest friends TODAY, and all because God orchestrated our meeting each other on SHOUTLIFE! SO...if you have a need for which you'd like some extra prayer, please feel free to ask me to lift a prayer up for you. It would be my HONOR.

And now -- ta-dah! -- Here I am just before a recent book-signing at Family Christian Stores! CLICK on photo to enlarge if you like! (And then you can see my wrinkles better!!!)


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"The Premier Christian Fiction Conference"

STANDING FIRM...MOVING FORWARD

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:58 (KJV)

DENVER, COLORADO
SEPTEMBER 17 - 20, 2009

Bestselling authors, publishing industry representatives, and newcomers to Christian fiction writing will gather in Denver at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s annual conference September 17-20 to compare notes, learn from each other, and encourage one another in the pursuit of publishing goals.

This year’s conference theme , Standing Firm…Moving Forward, will especially inspire the full range of talent and dreams in the ever-changing publishing world today.

This amazing conference will feature representatives from major publishing houses like B & H, Guideposts, Zondervan, Harvest House, Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press, Bethany House, Waterbrook Multnomah, Marcher Lord Press, Tyndale House, and Thomas Nelson, and top literary agents who will meet with writers and identify promising proposals from both new and veteran novelists. Conferees will have access to publishing panels, professional critiques, and customized workshops based on skills and interests.

The keynote speaker is New York Times bestselling author, Debbie Macomber, who has more than 100 million copies of her books in print worldwide.

To learn more about the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference, visit: www(dot)acfw(dot)com.

Monday, August 31, 2009

ROCKY MOUNTAIN OASIS By Lynnette Bonner



My dear friends, Lynnette Bonner has a book releasing soon titled ROCKY MOUNTAIN OASIS.

I have asked her to blog about it at MY blog. Cool, eh?

So, kick back, enjoy, and even click on the link she provides in order to read a sampling of what's inside this excellent romantic fiction rife with adventure and action, set in the late 1800s, my favorite era!


First, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Shar for hosting me today. She has a heart of gold and I'm benefitting from it. Thanks so much, Shar!

My son was about 7 years old and every night he would listen to the Bible on tape while lying in bed. One day, as we were driving home together from an appointment, he asked, "Mom? Did Jesus really say he would make Peter a fisher of men instead of a fisher of fish?"

"Yes," I said. And I went on to explain what Jesus meant by that statement. That Peter would tell others about Jesus, how He had come to earth and died for their sins. That Peter would now encourage people to live free from sin instead of being a fisherman.

"Oh." My son was silent for a long beat as he thought over what I'd explained. Finally he asked, "So Peter wasn't hookin' scuba divers or anything like that?"

I laughed, but that story has stuck with me through the years. The Lord keeps bringing it to mind and I ask myself, "Have you hooked any scuba divers, lately? Do you even have a hook in the water?" Let's face it; fishing for people is hard work! But, as writers we have the opportunity to reach people far beyond our normal circle of influence. Jesus often used story to capture the attention of his "fish," because fiction can pack a powerful message.

It is my sincere prayer that the message in my book, Rocky Mountain Oasis, will touch lives for the Kingdom. While I hope the story will engage and be enjoyable, I pray it will go beyond mere entertainment, and I'm looking forward to seeing what God will do with it.

Below is a little taste of what the book is about. You can click on the "excerpt" link to read the first few chapters. And don't forget to leave a comment because I'm going to give away one electronic copy to a lucky winner, ONE WEEK from today, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8!

SYNOPSIS:

She's been living in a desert all her life.
Suddenly she's come upon an oasis.
But is it just a mirage?

Idaho Territory, 1885

Brooke Marie Baker, eighteen, has been sent west as a mail-order bride. As the stage nears Greer's Ferry, where she is to meet the man she's pledged to marry, she tries to swallow the lump of nervousness in her throat. Can it be any worse than living with Uncle Jackson?or Hank? she wonders. All men are the same, aren't they? But with her parents and sister dead, she has no choice.

Sky Jordan, a rancher, holds a single, yellow daisy in his hand as he watches the ferry cross the river. Ever since he'd found out his surly cousin, Jason, had sent for a mail-order bride, his mind and heart had been ill at ease. No woman deserves to be left with the likes of Jason. But now he questions his own plans to claim the bride for himself. Why am I drawn to this woman I don't even know?

A wounded heart. Desperate choices. Unfathomable love.
Set in the adventure and danger of the Wild West.

To view a picture of Lynnette, hear more about her, and to read an excerpt of her book, click
HERE!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

From God's Great GOODNESS to Men's, uhhh, URINALS...

First of all, is that how you spell 'urinals'? I don't think I've ever written that word before, and I don't care if I ever do again.

At any rate...second off, (I'll get back to the urinals part later...) we attended a huge family/friend wedding last night, and it was fun, beginning with the 5 PM ceremony of the outdoor version. Let me just say that planning an outdoor summer wedding in West Michigan is iffy at best, but this couple had FAITH! And good thing, too, because it rained and dripped all day with nary a spot of sun! People coming into the wedding said there was rain until they came from within five miles of the location! Now, that's answered prayer. Also, Cecil (dear hubby) said he got on his knees yesterday morning and prayed the rain would hold off, and I'm sure he wasn't the only one who did, 'cause God, in HIS GREAT GOODNESS, shone down His love on the occasion, giving us all the SONshine any of us could possibly have needed. The wedding was sweet, the couple so obviously in love, they couldn't stop smiling and giggling. They even sang to each other--so romantic with the water behind them and a trail of ducks quacking to the music. Oh, oh, and here's the best part - after the wedding, and all 'few hundred' of us got to stand around and chat up a storm (no pun intended) before heading to the banquet hall, we started to feel drips on our shoulders. Yup, the rain came 20-minutes AFTER the ceremony finished. See? God is GOOD indeed.

Okay, urinals, the subject I know you've all been waiting for...

We entered the reception hall, twinkling lights, long banquet tables with pretty flowers, LOTS of loud conversation, music, big dance floor, family and friends whom I love scattered hither and yon. OOOOh, I wanted to see EVERYBODY at once, so I quickly left my husband and started making the rounds. This is how it's always been with me: wherever there is laughter and circles of conversation, I'm THERE. The first thing out of my mouth is, "What's so funny?" See, I just hate to miss anything. And usually when I sit at any long table, I fight for the middle chair, so I can be in on everyone's conversation.

Well, I was talking to some old girlfriends, and I do mean old in that, sad to say, we are all in our 60s (ugh). I asked, "Where's the restroom? Anyone know?" One of the ladies pointed waaaay across the room. "There!" she said. This was a big hall. The door to the restroom was wide open, so I walked in. First, I couldn't get the thing to shut. I tugged and tugged. Hmm. Okay, well, at least the stalls had doors, but the thing was I could see out into the banquet hall where people milled about, and I just didn't want to "go" with the main door wide open. So, I worked on the door some more - and that's when I saw it - the URINAL! Oh, those things are odd looking, bolted up to the wall like some kind of miniature white throne. Well, would you believe I went back to work on the stuck door--because, well, I thought this was one of those UNISEX bathrooms?! (I'm slow, okay?) But after a few more seconds of turning and studying the urinal I got to thinking, 'Hmm, wait a minute, is this - am I -?' So, that's when I stepped out and looked up at the the teeny, tiny sign located at the top of the door. GENTLEMEN it read! Well, forevermore! So, I tried to walk away in utter nonchalance, but then the cheering and comments from onlookers started! "Looking for something, Shar?" "'LADIES' is around the corner, Shar." hahahahaha - more giggles and guffaws. I did not know I was putting on a little show!

Of course, everybody at my long banquet table where I'd parked my purse got a good laugh because, well, apparently they enjoyed watching me struggle with the door. What kind of friends and family would do that? Aren't they meanies?

Anyway, weird blog post, I know, but, hey, I'm one of those people who just likes to write about anything and everything, and I do love a good laugh, even, and especially, at my own expense. Hope you were able to picture my minor dilemma and smile with me. As for urinals...UGH! Don't men like privacy?

I love you ALL!!!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

HOLY CUTENESS! Look at this!

The following story came to me via email, and I just simply HAD to share it because it gave me so much joy! Not only that, I'm reminded anew of God's fabulous, if not wondrous, creation. Here's the story from photographer, Tom Sears.

**************************

Black bears typically have two cubs; rarely, one or three. In 2007, in northern New Hampshire, a black bear sow gave birth to five healthy young. There were two or three reports of sows with as many as 4 cubs, but five was, and is, very extraordinary. I learned of them shortly after they emerged from their den and set myself a goal of photographing all five cubs with their mom - no matter how much time and effort was involved. I knew the trail they followed on a fairly regular basis, usually shortly before dark. After spending nearly four hours a day, seven days a week, for more than six weeks, I had that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and photographed them. I used the equivalent of a very fast film speed on my digital camera. The print is properly focused and well exposed, with all six bears posing as if they were in a studio for a family portrait.



I stayed in touch with other people who saw the bears during the summer and into the fall hunting season. All six bears continued to thrive. As time for hibernation approached, I found still more folks who had seen them, and everything remained OK. I stayed away from the bears, as I was concerned that they might become habituated to me, or to people in general, and treat them as 'approachable friends'. This could easily become dangerous for both man and animal.

After Halloween, I received no further reports and could only hope the bears survived until they hibernated. The next spring (2008), just before the snow disappeared, all six bears came out of their den and wandered all over the same familiar territory they had trekked that spring of 2007.

I saw them before mid-April and dreamed nightly of taking another family portrait, a highly improbable, second once-in-a-lifetime photograph.

On 25 April 2008, I achieved my dream.



When something as magical as this happens between man and animal, Native Americans say, "We have walked together in the shadow of a rainbow". And so it is with humility and great pleasure that I share these exhilarating photos with you. Do pass them on!

Sincerely,
Tom Sears, photographer

*****************************

So there you have it, my friends. Is this not a treasure to behold?

Love you all!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

MY SURRENDERED HEART...

Over the years, many have asked, “What’s it like to be a writer?” In fact, I get the gamut of comments and questions—everything from, “How does anybody write a one-inch thick book when I can barely write a one-paragraph Email?” to “How long does it take to write a book?” to “Have you always been a writer?” to “How in the world do you come up with all those ideas?”

Great questions! Each one gets a different answer, of course, but my overall response is that God Himself planted in my mind and soul an earnest desire to write, and I truly experienced a “calling on my life” – probably in much the same way a minister or missionary or any church worker might experience. And because of that calling, He is the one who ultimately equips me with the tools I need to complete the task.

Have I always written? Interestingly, no. I am 60-years-old, but I didn’t complete my first full manuscript till the “well-seasoned” age of 52. Why? Well, in short, many things in life impassion me—my spiritual walk with Christ, my darling husband, daughters, grandchildren, music, reading, traveling, and, until retiring from 31 years of teaching in 2003, my career! I did not know I had room for one more passion, but God did! And in the year 2000, He began to plant a seed.

It started with a dream that I’d written a book. I, of course, shoved it aside as silly. A book. Imagine me writing a book. Yes, I’d always been a creative writer in school, my essays and term papers usually earning me ‘A’ grades, and I had dabbled in scribbling off foolish high school romances back in 11th and 12th grades. But then college came, then marriage, and children, a career in education, my involvement in church activities, a vocal music ministry. And the list continues. Plainly put, writing was the very last thing on my mind.

So, why ever would I dream I’d written a book? But then it recurred at least two or three times more, the same dream. – I had written a book. – I recalled having earlier asked God to show me what He would have me do with the second half of my life once I finally did decide to retire from teaching, and pleading that He would lead me into an area in which I could make a difference in the lives of others. I wanted my life to count, to touch hearts for eternity. Was it possible He wanted me to attempt writing an entire novel? And if I did, what would it even be about? Again, I prayed. And this time my prayer was, “Lord, I am willing to travel the path You set out for me. Take me out of the equation and simply work in and through my spirit. I surrender all.”

And that was the key! My surrendered heart. One sunny summer day in the year 2000, I sat down at my computer and began to write, and let me tell you, the ideas literally poured from my brain, down through my arms, and onto that keyboard! And my brand-spankin’ new passion came into existence!

Did I immediately find a publisher? Absolutely not. Timing is everything, namely, God’s timing. I had much to learn in this new realm I found myself – writing seminars and conferences to attend, books to read on the craft itself, not to mention mountains of information to gather about the writing/publishing industry. And then it still took years before I reached a point of readiness and my books found a home in the wonderful place known as Whitaker House.

I think if I have learned anything on this journey, it is this: God is simply NOT done with us until He says so. Oh, how He loves a willing heart, no matter our age or stage in life. If you put yourself out there and say, “God, I would love for You to take my life and use it in a way that can be effective for Your kingdom—and will bring You honor and glory,” well, He doesn’t take that lightly. No, He is right on that prayer!

Whether you are an office assistant, a daycare provider, a banker, a contractor, a stay-at-home mom, a single parent, a factory worker, or a mail carrier—whatever your pursuit in life, God has plans that go beyond your imaginings. He is always looking for “harvest workers”. I challenge you to pray the prayer of surrender—and then watch what He does to fulfill His purpose in your life.

A surrendered life equals one exciting adventure!

I LOVE YOU ALL!

Shar MacLaren


Sunday, August 02, 2009

See My Gentle Giant?

Hi, my darling friends. I thought this picture was too cute not to share. This is my 10-year old, 100# "boy" sharing a bed on the floor with my then 10-month-old grandgirl. (She just turned one on July 1.)



Dakota was "my gift" from God when I needed him. (That probably sounds corny to you non-dog-loving people.) I had just passed through a very dark year back in 1999-2000 (clinical depression and chronic panic disorder--anybody ever been there?). I truly wanted a dog that would not create MORE anxiety, but would be a great companion and low-maintenance. God led me straight to this big boy, the laziest, most laid-back of the litter. And I can honestly say he has never done ANYTHING that annoys either hubby or me. No barking, no digging, no messing in the house, no chasing cars, no running off in disobedience, no chewing. We brought him home when he was 8-weeks old, and he had one poopie accident in the house -- and that was IT! Smooth sailing ever since.

As I write this, he is sprawled out on the floor of my office, just five feet away. He follows me everywhere, up the stairs, down the stairs, despite his troublesome arthritis. Yep, he was God's gift to me when I needed a special reminder of just how very much HE loves me!

What has God done for you lately - or at any time for that matter - to remind you of His awesome, faithful, unfailing love?

I love you all, but God loves you more!

Thursday, July 30, 2009


MAGGIE ROSE - Second in the "Daughters of Jacob Kane Series"

Whitaker House (June 8, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Born and raised in west Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren graduated from Spring Arbor University, married her husband Cecil, and raised two daughters. She worked as a school teacher for over 30 years, then upon retirement began writing fiction, and now has six successful novels under her belt. The acclaimed Through Every Storm was Shar's first novel to be published by Whitaker House; in 2007, the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) named it a finalist for Book of the Year. The beloved Little Hickman Creek series consisted of Loving Liza Jane; Sarah, My Beloved; and Courting Emma. Faith, Hope, and Love, the Inspirational Outreach Chapter of Romance Writers of America, announced Sarah, My Beloved as a finalist in its 2008 Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest in the category of long historical fiction. Her other books include Long Journey Home, and Hannah Grace, the first in her Daughters of Jacob Kane series.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 429 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (June 8, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603740759
ISBN-13: 978-1603740753

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Maggie Rose Kane settled her temple against the smudged window, blinked hard, and fought back another wave of nausea as the smoke from her seatmate's cigar formed cloud-like ringlets before her eyes and floated past her nose. Why, her lungs fairly burned from the stench of it, as if she'd been the one chain-smoking the stogies for the past five hours instead of the bulbous, gray-haired giant next to her. Even as he was dozing this afternoon, slumped with one shoulder sagging against her petite frame, the vile object hung out the side of his mouth as if permanently attached. She couldn't even count the number of times she'd wanted to snatch it from him and snuff it out with the sole of her black patent leather shoe.

"Next stop, Albany," announced the train conductor, making his way up the aisle.

With a quick intake of air, Maggie lifted a finger and leaned forward. "Excuse me, sir."

The conductor stopped, turned, and tipped his hat to her in a formal manner. "Yes?"

"Is this where I should disembark in order to change over to the New York Central?"

Tilting his head to one side and slanting a reddish eyebrow, he released a mild sigh that conveyed slight annoyance. "If that's what your ticket says. You're goin' to New York, aren't you?"

She gave a hasty shake of her head and adjusted the plume hat that had barely moved in all these many hours. Surely, by now, the slight wave in her hair, as well as the tight little bun at the back of her head, would be flatter than a well-done pancake. "Someone's to meet me at Grand Central," she explained.

He nodded curtly. "Get off here then and go to the red line, then put yourself on the 442." This he said with a matter-of-fact tone, as if anyone with a scrap of common sense ought to know about the 442.

Sweaty fingers clutched the satchel in her lap as she peered up at him, debating whether or not to admit her ignorance. "Oh, the 442." She might have asked him at least to point her in the right direction once she disembarked, but he hurried down the aisle and pushed through the back door that led to the next car before giving her a chance. The train whistle blew another ear-splitting shriek, either indicating that the train was approaching an intersection or announcing its scheduled stopover in Albany.

"What's a pretty little miss like you doin' going to the big city all by yourself?" asked the man beside her. Not wanting to invite conversation with the galoot, especially for all the smoke he'd blow in her face, she had maintained silence for the duration of the trip. Still, it was her Christian duty to show him respect, so she pulled back her slender shoulders and tried to appear pleasant?and confident. After all, it wouldn't do to let on how the combination of her taut nerves and his rancid cigar smoke had stirred up bile at the back of her throat. For the twentieth time since her departure on the five a.m. that very morning?when her entire family, including her new brother-in-law and adopted nephew, had bid her a tearful farewell?she asked herself, and the Lord Himself, if she hadn't misinterpreted His divine call.

"I've accepted a position at the Sheltering Arms Refuge," she replied with a steady voice. "I'm to assist in the home, and also to work as a placing-out agent whenever trips are arranged."

He quirked a questioning brow and blew a cloud of smoke directly at her. She waved her arm to ward off the worst of it. "It's a charitable organization for homeless children. Using the U.S. railway system, we stop in various parts of the Middle West and place children in decent families and homes, mostly farms. Surely you've heard announcements about trains of orphans coming through?"

He looked slightly put out. "'Course I heard of 'em, miss, just haven't never run across anyone actually involved in the process of cartin' them wild little hooligans clear across the country." He took another long drag and, fortunate for Maggie Rose, blew it out the other side of his mouth so that, this time, it drifted into the face of the man across the aisle. Apparently unruffled, he merely lifted his newspaper higher to shield his face.

"Where you from, anyways?"

"Sandy Shores, Michigan." Just saying the name of the blessed lakeshore town made her miss her home and family more than she'd imagined possible. Goodness, she'd left only this morning. If she was feeling homesick already, what depths of loneliness would the next several months bring?

"Ah, that near Benton Harbor?"

"Quite a ways north of it, sir."

He seemed to ponder that thought only briefly. "What made you leave? You got home problems?"

"Certainly not!" she replied with extra fervor, offended he should think so. In fact, she might have chosen to stay behind and continued life as usual, helping her dear father and beloved sisters at Kane's Whatnot, the family's general store. But God's poignant tug on her heart would not allow her to stay. I sincerely doubt Mr.?Mr. Smokestack?would follow such reasoning, though, so why waste my breath explaining? she thought.

"Well, you can see why I asked, cain't you? It's not every day some young thing like yourself up and moves to a big place like New York, specially when she don't even know her way around."

"I'm sure I'll learn quickly enough," she said, trying to put confidence in her tone. "I hear there's to be a big subway system opening soon, which should help in moving folks around the city at great speeds."

He nodded and took another long drag from his dwindling cheroot. "Sometime in the next month or two, is what I hear," he said, blowing out a ring of smoke. "That'll be somethin', all right. Before you know it, there'll be no need for any four-legged creatures." He chuckled to himself, although the sound held no mirth.

As they approached the station, the train's brakes squawked and sputtered, and the mighty whistle blew one last time. Outside, steam was rising from the tracks, and Maggie Rose noticed a couple of scrawny dogs picking through a pile of garbage. Folks stood in clusters, perhaps anxious to welcome home loved ones or to usher in long-awaited guests. A tiny pang of worry nestled in her chest at the sight of such unfamiliar surroundings.

When the train came to a screeching halt, the passengers scrambled for their belongings, holding onto their hats as they snatched up satchels and crates bound in twine. Some of them were dressed formally; others looked shoddy, at best, like her seatmate with his week-old beard and soiled attire. Another puff of smoke circled the air above her, and it was all she could do to keep from giving him a piece of her mind?until the Lord reminded her of a verse she'd read the night before in the book of Proverbs: "He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor" (Proverbs 14:31).

Was she not traveling to New York out of a sense of great compassion for the city's poor, lost children? And if so, what made her think the Lord exempted her from caring for people of all ages? Moreover, why had she spent the better share of the past several hours judging this man about whom she knew so little?

My child, you are tempted to look on his countenance and stature, whereas I look on the heart. The verse from 1 Samuel came to mind?oh, how the truth of it struck her to the core. Without ado, she looked directly at her seatmate, smoke and all. "And where might you be headed, sir?"

"Me?" A look of surprise washed over him. "My sister just passed. I'm goin' to her funeral in Philly."

A gasp escaped. "Oh, my, I'm?I'm sorry to hear that." Silently, she prayed, Lord, give me the proper words, and forgive me all these many hours I might have had the chance to speak comfort to this poor soul.

He dropped what remained of his cigar on the floor and ground it out with his heel, stood to his feet, and retrieved his duffle from under the seat with a loud sniff. "Yeah, well, we weren't that close. She quit speakin' to me after I married my wife, her bein' a Protestant and us Catholics." He followed that up with a snort. "My brother died last year, and she still refused to acknowledge me at his funeral, even though my wife passed on three years ago."

Blended odors of sweat, tobacco, and acrid breath nearly knocked her over as she stood up and hefted the strap of her heavy leather satchel over one shoulder, but newfound compassion welled up in her heart, lending her fortitude. The line of people in the aisle was moving at a snail's pace, and she decided to make use of their extra seconds together.

"But you're going to her funeral anyway?"

He nodded halfheartedly. "It's my duty to pay my respects. She won't know it, but I will."

"Yes, and you'll feel better afterward for doing so." Suddenly, she had more to say to the man, but the line of anxious passengers was picking up speed, and he squeezed into the tight line. She followed in his wake, doing her best to keep her footing as folks shoved and jabbed. My, such an impetuous, peevish lot, she thought, then quickly acknowledged her own impatience.

"Watch your step, ladies and gentlemen," the conductor said. One by one, folks stepped down from the train. Her fellow rider took the stairs with ease, then turned abruptly and offered her his hand. Another time, she might have pretended not to notice and used the steel hand railing instead. Now, however, she smiled and accepted his grimy, calloused palm.

"Thank you."

Drooping eyes looked down at her. "New York, eh? You sure you don't want to purchase your ticket back home? Ticket booth's right over there." He hooked a thumb over his shoulder, and for the first time, she sensed that he was toying with her.

"Absolutely not!" Pulling back her shoulders, she gave her head a hard shake, losing a feather from her hat in the process. She watched it float away, carried by the breeze of passengers rushing by. "When the Lord tells a body to do something, you best do it, if you want to know true peace," she said, lifting her eyes to meet his. "This is something He told me to do?to come to New York and see what I can do about helping the deprived, dispossessed children, just as I'm sure He prompted you to attend your sister's funeral."

Surprisingly, he chuckled and bobbed his head a couple of times. "Can't say for sure it was the Good Lord Hisself or Father Carlson, but one of 'em convinced me to come, and now that I think on it, I'm glad."

Out the corner of her eye, Maggie Rose sought to read the myriad signs pointing this way and that, hoping to find one to point her in the right direction. Slight queasiness churned in her stomach. Dear Lord, please erase my worries about finding my next train, she prayed silently. The man ran four grimy fingers through his greasy hair. Absently, she wondered if he intended to clean himself up before attending his sister's burial service.

"You take care of yourself, little lady. It's a mighty big world out there for one so fine and dainty as you."

A smile formed on her lips. Fine and dainty. Had he made a similar remark to one of her sisters, Hannah Grace or Abbie Ann, an indignant look would have been his return. She extended her hand. "I'll do my best, Mr.?."

He clasped her hand and gave it a gentle shake. "Dempsey. Mort Dempsey. And you are?"

"Maggie Rose Kane."

He gave a thoughtful nod. "Has a nice ring to it." Then, tipping his head to one side, he scratched his temple and raised his bushy brows. "At first glimpse, you look a bit fragile, but I'd guess you got some spunk under that feathery hat o' yours."

Now she laughed outright. "I suppose that's the Kane blood running through me.

We Kane sisters are known for our stubborn streak. It runs clear to our bones."

Several seconds ticked by. Mr. Dempsey glanced around. "You got any more baggage, miss?"

"My trunk's due to arrive at the children's home the day after tomorrow." She gave her black satchel a pat. "I'll make do with what I have till then."

In the next silent pause that passed between them, a pigeon swept down to steal a crumb, a stray dog loped past, and in the distance, a mother hushed her crying babe. Mr. Dempsey removed his pocket watch. "Well, listen, little lady, my train for Philly don't leave for another hour yet. What say I take you over to the red line? Number 442, was it?"

"Oh, but you needn't?."

He'd already looped his arm for her to take. The man's stench remained strong, yes, but Maggie Rose found that, somehow, in the course of the past few minutes, her nose had miraculously adjusted.

My, but the Lord did work in wondrously mysterious ways! Why, just this very morning, Jacob Kane, her dear father, had prayed that God might send His angels of protection to lead and guide her on her way, and now look: Mort Dempsey was taking her to her next connection.

Imagine that?Mort Dempsey, God's appointed "angel."

They parted ways at the Albany platform where she could board Number 442.



When she arrived at New York City's Grand Central Terminal, Maggie Rose saw a confusing mass of railroad lines converged in a place that also contained more people than she thought inhabited the earth.

Mr. Dempsey may have been an unlikely angel, but her next escort fit the bill with utmost perfection. She scanned the crowd and saw a pleasant-looking man, probably not much older than she, standing to one side and holding up a hand-printed sign that read: "Miss M. Kane." Dressed in an evening suit, a bowler cap, and a bright-red bow tie that was almost blinding, he was searching the crowd with expectant eyes. When their gazes met, a broad smile formed on his face.

"Miss Kane?" he asked, greeting her with the warmth of a clear summer morning.

"Yes!" She had to tell her feet to walk in ladylike strides, even though her travel-worn body wanted to slump into the nearest bench with relief. They shook hands, and he introduced himself as Stanley Barrett, an employee?but more of a lifelong resident?at the children's home. The Binghams had welcomed him through their doors many years ago when he'd lost both his parents in a fire.

"You must be tired," he said, freeing her of her satchel without a moment's hesitation, which suited her just fine. As it was, her shoulder ached from the weight of the bag, which held important papers, several personal possessions, some toiletry items, and the changes of clothing she would need until her trunk arrived.

Dusk had settled on New York City, so, without ado, Mr. Barrett led her like a pro through the throngs and straight to their carriage, waiting with numerous sets of nearly identical horses and black carriages lined up in long rows outside the terminal. Such efficiency impressed Maggie Rose, and she told him so. "I grew up here, so getting around is easy for me," he explained, helping her onto the carriage. "You'll catch on, especially once the subway station opens. But don't worry; we usually travel in pairs or larger groups, anyway."

Driving the carriage, he kept up his constant prattle as he dodged fast-moving streetcars, stray dogs, scurrying pedestrians, and the occasional motorcar. Even at this late hour, the city buzzed with activity such as Maggie had never seen. Why, in Sandy Shores, everything closes up tighter than a drum at five-thirty, she thought?that is, everything but the several saloons and restaurants. Here, though, people of all genders, races, sizes, and ages roamed the streets. Some were selling wares, others begging for quarters; some were huddled on street corners, others sitting on crates or boxes, perhaps looking for a place to lay their heads for the night.

"I can imagine what you're thinking," Stanley said as he maneuvered the carriage onto Park Avenue, heading north, and clicked his horse into a slow trot. "You've probably never seen anything like this place. Mrs. Bingham says you hail from some little town in Michigan. What part?"

"The west side, smack on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan, about halfway up the state. The town is small, yes, but thriving. We have one main street running east and west?Water Street?with lots of little stores and businesses on either side. Don't be running your horse too fast going west, though, or you'll fall into the harbor," she joked. "'Course, the railroad docks and barges would stop you first, I suppose."

He chuckled, and she decided she liked the smooth tenor of his quiet laughter. "Of all the orphanages in the city, how'd you decide on the Sheltering Arms Refuge?" he asked. "We're a lot smaller than the Foundling Hospital and the Children's Aid Society."

"Someone seeking financial support for your fine organization spoke at our church more than a year ago. I believe his name was Mr. Wiley."

"That'd be Uncle Herbie?Mrs. Bingham's brother."

"He showed us a few pictures and talked a great deal about the destitute children wandering the city?'street Arabs,' he called them. Ever since then, the Lord has kept up His constant nudging, so after much correspondence back and forth, not to mention the process of convincing my father to let me loose, I've finally arrived!"

Stanley glanced casually in both directions before urging his horse through the intersection at East 50th and Park Streets, crossing streetcar tracks and skirting a good-sized pothole. Their amiable conversation continued, but she had to concentrate to drown out all the commotion going on around her, not to mention the smells?a blend of fried food, gasoline, manure, and rancid garbage. And the sounds! Why, the very streets seemed to reverberate with the clamor of loud conversations, tinny barroom music, thudding horses' hooves, barking dogs, and the occasional baby's cry from some upstairs flat.

Stanley Barrett veered the carriage onto East 65th Street, crossed Lexington, 3rd, and 2nd, and made a right on Dover, driving another couple of blocks before directing the horse up a long drive to a stately three-story brick structure. Maggie's very senses seemed to stand on end. "Is this it?" she asked, feasting her eyes on the edifice, which appeared bigger than what she'd imagined from looking at the few photos she'd received.

Stanley guided his horse to a stop, breathed a sigh, and tossed the reins over the brake handle, turning to her with a smile. She decided he had a pleasant one, tainted only partially by a set of crooked teeth. "This is it. What do you think?"

She gazed at her surroundings?a brick house situated on a sprawling plot of land and surrounded by numerous trees, a stable, and several outbuildings. Who would believe that just blocks from this serene setting lay a whole different world? "I think?it's beautiful." Unexpected emotion clogged her throat. She looked up to see a head poke through the curtains of one of the upstairs windows. One of the orphans?

"Beautiful? Well, it's old, I'll give you that. Ginny, er, Mrs. Bingham inherited the historic place from her wealthy grandfather back in the 1880s. She and the Mr. have been operating it as an orphanage for the past seventeen or so years. In fact, I was one of their first residents. But I'm sure you'll get the whole story, if you haven't already, when you're more rested." He winked, gave another low chuckle, and jumped from the rig with ease. "Come on, I'll help you down."

With his assistance, her feet soon landed on solid ground. She lifted her long skirts and stepped away from the carriage, eyes fastened on the three-story structure and the aging brick fence that surrounded the property's borders and was covered by lush blankets of ivy.

Stanley allowed her a moment's peace as she stood before her new "home" and tried to picture its interior. Suddenly, the front door swung open. In its glow stood a portly woman with an apron tied about her waist; grayish hair hung haphazardly about her oval face, and a smile stretched from cheek to cheek as she lifted her hand to wave.

"Well, glory be, come and look who's here, Henry. It's the little miss from Michigan!"


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN RETAIL SHOW! What a blast!

Cecil and I just returned from the retail show in Denver -- not because we are retailers, but because I'm an author and my publicist scheduled me for some TV media appointments and interviews...and I signed copies of Maggie Rose, my newest release. These conventions are such a blast because you run into so many exciting people! I think I mentioned earlier that Cecil and I found ourselves sitting next to Phil Stacey (former American Idol finalist) in the hotel lobby and wound up having a nice chat with him. That evening he took part in a concert with several other current Christian singers. Very fun and inspiring event.

Here's a pic someone took of me with two of my author friends, Mary Connealy, Christy Award winner finalist (see her medal?), on my right, and Kim Vogel Sawyer on my left. I am so honored, humbled, and blessed to have the opportunity to meet such wonderful people. Indeed God is good and gracious.

I LOVE YOU ALL!


Saturday, July 11, 2009

OKAY, THE COOLEST THING JUST HAPPENED!

My publisher sent Cecil and me to the Denver International Christian Retail Show. (You run into all kinds of people here - from all over the world, so it's an excellent opportunity!) I'm signing copies of Maggie Rose on Monday afternoon and am scheduled for a couple of media spots as well. But never mind about that. Anyway...

A little while ago, we were sitting down in the Hyatt Hotel lobby sipping on Cokes and people watching, well, Cecil was reading. I'm the people watcher. Next to us was this familiar looking dude. I leaned over to Cecil and said, "I think that guy was an American Idol finalist." He couldn't recall. I quickly turned on my computer and started scanning the past AI seasons, and there he was. Phil Stacey from Season 7, the bald guy who always wore a cap. Cute, too. I brought his picture up, then said, "Hey, Phil!" He turned, and I pointed my computer screen his direction. He laughed and came over to talk to us. "That's me," he said.

From there, we had the nicest chat. What a great Christian guy. He and his wife are heading out on a mission trip to the Phillippines this Monday where he'll be doing lots of concerts. He just did a concert with Melinda Doolittle last week. (She was my personal favorite that year, but do you think I told him that??? ha!) He said Melinda just released an amazing album.

We talked a lot about his life and experiences and he asked about us. He said, "Hey, how can I get your books?" I'm thinking to myself, "Now, this is cool."

He was an ordinary guy, so warm and friendly and very in love with the Lord, passionate about spreading the gospel.

He has an album releasing mid-August. He told me to tell all my friends. SO, I'M TELLING YOU!!!!

I love you all!

Hugs and God's Rich Blessings...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

WHERE DID THE YEAR GO?

Our granddaughter, Alexis Joy, "Lexi", is almost one-year-old already, but it seems like only a couple of months ago we welcomed her into the world! Wow, time is a real stinker, isn't it -- especially when you get old like me -- and every second counts. ~grins~

Anyway, her party was last night, so I think I'll share a few pics with you. (Feel free to click on the image to enlarge it.)

Okay, here goes...

These first couple shots show a very solemn "princess". She wasn't having anything to do with all that attention - until later when the cake and presents arrived. You'll see her pretty amazing "castle" cake, and, oh, the INCREDIBLE dollhouse Cecil built for her (which she won't even play with for a few years!!!). It came with well over a 1000 pieces and took him several weeks to build.
















FAMILY IS EVERYTHING! MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU AND YOURS TODAY AND ALWAYS!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BOYS WILL BE BOYS!

You find out some interesting things when you have sons/grandsons. Here are just a few items of interest:

1.) A king-size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 sq. ft. house 4 inches deep.

2! .) If you spray hairspray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.

3.) A 3-year-old boy's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.

4.) If you hook a dog leash to a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 pound boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape.. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20x20 ft. room.

5.) You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a base ball a long way.

6.) The glass in windows (even double-pane) doesn't stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.

7.) When you hear the toilet flush and the words, "Uh-oh", it's already too late.

8.) Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it.

9.) A six-year old boy can start a fire with a flint rock even though a 36-year old man says they can only do it in the movies.

10.) Certain Lego's will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year-old boy.

11.) Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.

12.) Super glue is FOREVER.

13.) No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool, you still can't walk on water.

14.) Pool filters do not like Jell-O.

15.) VCR's do not eject 'PB & J' sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.

16.) Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.

17.) Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.

18.) You probably DO NOT want to know what that odor is.

19.) Always look in the oven before you turn it on; plastic toys do not like ovens.

20.) The fire department in my town has a 5-minute response time.

21.) The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.

22.) It will, however, make cats dizzy.

23.) Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.

24.) 80% of women will pass this on to almost all their friends, whether they have boys or not.

25.) 80% of men who read this will try mixing the Clorox and the brake fluid.