Saturday, December 31, 2011

HAVE A BLESSED NEW YEAR!



I like to say "Have a Blessed New Year!" rather than "Happy New Year!" because none of us knows what's around the next bend. Maybe we can't always be happy, but we can always be blessed!

I'll admit 2011 was a happy AND blessed year for me - lots of wonderful times with family and friends, treasured moments with the grandJOYs, and an added bonus on October 22 when God blessed us with another grandson. Oh, the joys and blessings.

What will 2012 hold? Only God knows. But the blessing of it all is that God will be walking right through this year with me, and there is so much joy and blessed assurance in knowing that. If you haven't yet trusted Christ as Savior and Lord of your life, why not make 2012 be your year? There is nothing like the blessing of knowing He holds your hand through every circumstance of life, no matter what you face.

My verse of the year is found in Isaiah 41:13: "I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not be afraid; I will help you.'"

Do you have a favorite verse? Why not share it below and be a blessing to someone who might just need to read it this very moment?

I love you all - and wish for each of you a BLESSED NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

LOVE AT FIRST KISS!



Thirty-six and counting! That's how many years it's been since my darling hubby and I tied the knot!

It was September 1975, and I had reached a pinnacle point in my life. I was 27 and "honeyless" - in other words, no sweetie pie to call my own. (boo-hoo) I had begun to think I might never find "Mr. Right". And then...WELL...let me just tell you.

Cecil is four years younger than I, so, although we were always very good friends - of the brotheryly/sisterly type - we didn't see ourselves EVER falling in love. I had known him since the ripe age of 11, and at 13, my oldest brother married his oldest sister. Our two families meshed and we were constantly together at church, picnics, celebrations, weddings, and holiday gatherings. So, it was only natural he and I would grow up best friends. Through the years we both fell in and out of love countless times, just not with each other. And we always kept each other abreast of our latest love interests.

Then came the day he asked me to pick him up at the airport after his four-year stint in the air force had come to an end. I happily agreed. It would be great to see my long lost buddy again with whom I'd only exchanged letters and shared a few phone calls.

But I'll tell you what - when he got off the plane that day, something inside me went, 'Whoa, baby, when did he grow up?' And when he placed a short, gentle, friendly kiss ON MY LIPS I nearly melted into a puddle of smush. It was that tiny first kiss that did it for me!

One week later - after having spent every spare moment together - he kissed me again - and then again - and then AGAIN. And we asked each other where we'd been all our lives. And then he told me he loved me - and would I be his wife?

Oh, my gracious - it was love at first, well, I can't say 'sight' because the first time I saw him he was about six and I was 10, so I'll just say it was love at first 'kiss'! After that magical September kiss in 1975, we could NOT wait to get married, so, three months later on December 20, we made forever vows to each other.

Ain't love the grandest thing ever? And I have a dozen roses on my kitchen island to prove that we're still going strong.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

SHAR'S BIG GIVEAWAY!



'Tis the Season to be Giving!

And that's exactly what I'm doing! I love giving gifts so much more than receiving them, so this giveaway has been a blast for me. Thanks so much to all who entered the previous two contests. I've loved reading your delightful posts. That said, because I'm so full of CHRISTmas cheer, this time I'm giving you a chance to win not one, not two, not even three - but FOUR books. (I sound like an infomercial!!!) Yep, you read right. The winner will receive my three contemporary novels and the first book in my 1920s "River of Hope" Series.

Titles are as follows:
Through Every Storm
Long Journey Home
Tender Vow
Livvie's Song


What do you have to do to enter? Why only one thing! In the comment box below, share one of your favorite family traditions, and wa-lah, you've entered!

This contest will have a shorter window of time for entering. I'm closing it on
Tuesday, December 20 (MY 36TH ANNIVERSARY!!!) in hopes the winner will still receive his/her books before Christmas. It's gonna be tight, but we'll make every effort.

So, come on, my sweet, precious friends. Jump on board!!! Above all, enjoy these final days of the Christmas rush, but don't forget that JESUS is the reason for the season!

Monday, December 12, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS



Are you smarter than a five-year-old?

Yesterday, our family was just getting ready to sit down to Sunday dinner when my husband glanced out the window at the backyard and said to our grandkids, "Just think, kids, in another month or so there'll be lots of snow on the ground, and we can go outside and play in it." Without skipping a beat our five-year-old grandJOY, Dylan, piped up in a scolding voice, "Papa, it's not about THAT; it's about the baby Jesus coming to the earth to save us from our sins."

I could tell he'd heard that line before and had been looking for the perfect opportunity to use it on someone, and in his eyes this particular instance seemed perfect. Of course, we all agreed - even though my husband's comment had nothing to do with Christmas.

Later, that sweet remark coming from my darling grandson's innocent heart got me to reflecting. Had I overspent on gifts - again? Was I dropping enough money into the bell-ringer's red bucket? Could I be praying harder and doing more for those less fortunate than I? Did I carry a heavy enough burden for others? What more could I be doing to make someone else's Christmas more joyful? This morning in my prayer time I asked the Lord to rearrange my Christmas priorities. I want this season to be more about HIM and OTHERS and less about ME.

"Lord, reveal Your heart of goodness to me that I may be a bright and generous vessel of love, hope, and goodwill to those in need. Give me childlike vision for this beautiful season. In Your Name I pray. Amen."

Friday, December 09, 2011

SHAR'S BIG GIVEAWAY!!!



'Tis the Season to be Giving!

Beginning TODAY, I'll be offering a chance to win my 3-book "Daughters of Jacob Kane" Series. Simply post a comment below telling me what your all-time favorite Christmas song is - and just like that, you're entered! On WEDNESDAY, December 14, I'll throw everybody's name into a "hat", draw one out, and let you know if you're the lucky winner. The winner's books will ship out just as soon as I receive snail mail information from the winner! My next contest (beginning December 14) will be for a chance to win my 3 contemporary stand-alone books AND...(dunt-ta-da-dah!!!) "Livvie's Song", number 1 in my "River of Hope" Series, so that's a total of FOUR books that final week! (With a little luck and Christmas blessings, all winners should receive their books before Christmas!)

Are you in? I hope so! I'm really looking forward to learning what your FAVORITE Christmas song is. If you feel so inclined, you can even tell us why, but that's not a requirement.

Okay, summary:
1. Tell us what your FAVORITE Christmas song is, and if you want to elaborate on the reason, go for it.
2. If you happen to be the winner on December 14, I'll contact you! (If you sign anonymous, I won't be able to reach you.) I will then need your 'snail mail' info.
3. JUMP ON THE CONTEST BAND WAGON!

Many blessings and love to all!!!
DRUM ROLL PLEASE...



ANNOUNCING THE WINNER OF SHAR'S BIG GIVEAWAY!!!

And the winner is..."Little Lady"!

PLEASE CONTACT ME WITH YOUR SNAIL MAIL, "LITTLE LADY", SO I CAN SHIP YOUR BOOKS OUT TOMORROW OR MONDAY!

And now...onto my NEXT giveaway.

Stay tuned, everybody!!! Sending you lots of hugs and Christmas Joy!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011



THE CHRISTIAN WRITER'S PRAYER

With all my heart, I thank you for the opportunity to write for You, Lord. Please grant me the talent to do it with clarity and fresh style that my words will stretch deep into my readers’ souls and make a difference for eternity.

Reach into my heart, Lord, and grant me sensitivity to understand my characters—their soul’s deep core, their wants and needs and dreams. May my sensitivity make my characters come to life for my readers and, in turn, touch a chord of emotion that will draw them into the story.

I long to write from my heart, Lord, so that I may communicate Your love and goodness to my readers. Fuel my imagination with vivid ideas and vital insights that my words will flow and I will have no doubt that You are working through me.

Teach me how to trust You in those moments when the creative juices slow and my mind grows weary. It is for You I write, so please awaken and energize my senses with fresh insights so that my readers will go in search of Your truth in the midst of my fiction.

Empower me with Your Holy Spirit, God, that I may persevere in discouragement, trust in times of fear, hope in the midst of despair, believe when the doubts settle in, and rely solely on You for my strength and inspiration. In the name of Your Son Jesus, I pray. Amen.



© Sharlene MacLaren
*Feel free to reprint this prayer.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS



Christmas memories run like rivers of delight through my head, but here is one that washes over me every year about this time...

I couldn't have been more than seven-years-old, toothless, innocent (mostly), and tenderhearted. Times were very hard. Daddy had lost his factory job, and our family was living off his unemployment. It was almost Christmas, and my mom had told we kids that this Christmas would be sparse. I think we were all fine with it, even though a teeny part of me couldn't help but grieve over the thought of no presents.

Every other year, our family took the trek in our old blue Ford with the broken heater from Michigan to Ohio to visit my grandparents, and this was one of those years. The lack of presents would be fine as long as I got a taste of Grandma's fine cooking, the smells of which filled every corner of their two-story house. There would be turkey, stuffing, "lumpy" potatoes and gravy, green beans, scalloped corn, homemade rolls, and plenty of pumpkin, cherry, and apple pie. Of course, the wooden bowl would be brimming with an assortment of nuts - pecans, walnuts, and almonds to name a few, and I'd have fun trying my hand at the nutcracker while Grandpa's Victrola played any number of Christmas carols, and the Christmas lights twinkled on the fresh-cut spruce tree.

Even though I knew there wouldn't be an abundance of presents that year, I still awoke on Christmas morning with anticipation stirring my chest. Downstairs, I heard adults in happy conversation, the rattle of pans on the stove, and the splendid aroma of bacon drifting through the floor register. I yanked the covers off me and padded down the carpeted staircase in my flannel nightgown with the pinkie flowers. Grandpa sat in his navy blue velvet chair and smiled when I emerged. "Here she is, folks! At last we can begin!"

"Begin what?" I asked, wiping the sleep from my eyes and walking over to Grandpa for a gentle hug.

"The presents, silly."

Presents? At that, my older brothers seemed to appear from nowhere, and my parents and grandma came from the kitchen, steaming mugs in their hands and twinkles in their eyes.

Yes, there were presents, nothing major, mind you, but presents, six or seven with MY name on them. I opened things like socks, a board game, a book, a pair of mittens knitted by Grandma, a new sweater, and some pajamas. The BEST present, though, came inside a very large box. What in the world? I couldn't imagine, but my heart pit-pattered with nervous joy as I ripped off the tape and ribbons and tore away the paper. Pulling the lid from the box, I blew out a breath of utter astonishment. It was my doll! Used, yes, and very well loved, but cleaned up spic and span to look like new! My mother had done something very special. That fall, while I was at school, she'd begun using old scraps of fabric to stitch many, many different outfits for my doll, dresses, coats, skirts, shirts, nightgowns, hats, scarves, and even blankets. I recall picking up my doll and squeezing her to me, then staring down at the scores of outfits fashioned by my talented mother. I don't think I'd ever loved so fully until that moment or experienced so completely, what it meant to give from a heart of love and sacrifice.

Mom died in January 2010 (almost two years ago) at almost 97 years of age. As the anniversary of her passing approaches I am filled with precious memories of Christmases past - but I cannot help but hold especially dear that Christmas of 1956 when she taught me afresh the true spirit - and joy - of the blessed Christ season.

Friday, December 02, 2011

SHAR'S BIG GIVEAWAY!!!



'Tis the Season to be Giving!

For the next two weeks I am going to be providing you opportunities to win my books! Why? Because I'm filled with Christmas cheer, that's why!

Beginning TODAY, I'll be offering a chance to win my 3-book Little Hickman Creek Series. Simply post a comment below about a special Christmas memory - and just like that, you're entered! On December 9, I'll throw everybody's name into a "hat", draw one out, and let you know if you're the lucky winner. The winner's books will ship out the following Monday! My next contest (beginning December 9) will be for a chance to win my 3-book series titled The Daughters of Jacob Kane, and then the third week (beginning December 16), I'll offer you a chance at winning my 3 contemporary stand-alone books AND...(dunt-ta-da-dah!!!) number 1 in my River of Hope Series, so that's a total of FOUR books that final week! (With a little luck and Christmas blessings, all winners should receive their books before Christmas!)

So, are you in? I hope so! I'm really looking forward to reading about your favorite Christmas memories. Who knows? Maybe I'll even find something I can use in an upcoming book!

Okay, summary:
1. Post a comment below.
2. Include a favorite Christmas memory.
3. If you happen to be the winner on December 9, I'll contact you! (If you sign anonymous, I won't be able to reach you.)
4. JUMP ON THE CONTEST BAND WAGON!

Many blessings and love to all!!!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

THURSDAY THOUGHTS



'Tis the Season to be Jolly, Fa-la-la-la-la, etc., etc...

You know the old carol, the catchy tune, the fun lyrics. And I do get a warm feeling whenever I hear it, even if it's older than Stonehenge. haha. I still remember asking my dad, the church song-leader, when I was a little kid, "How come we never sing Deck the Halls in church? Can we sing it Sunday morning?" He laughed and told me it wasn't a hymn, that there was no mention of Jesus in the song. Oh. Humph.

How often we go about the Christmas rush forgetting its true meaning, forgetting altogether that without the baby Jesus there would be no Christmas despite the way the world tries to push His name aside. Even the word Christmas is shunned by many.

I'm all about decking the halls, don't get me wrong, but I'm not about leaving Christ out of Christmas. In this wonderful season of advent, let us keep at the forefront of our minds the real reason we celebrate this wondrous time of year. It's not about the tree, the presents, the glitz and glamour, the lights, or even the Christmas carols. It's about that tiny babe, Jesus, who came to earth one frosty night to give us LIFE ABUNDANT.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS



Christmas really IS about us...sort of.

It's about us - to a point. God gave up His only Son, Jesus, for US so that we could learn of His great love and forgiveness. Though mocked and spat upon, Jesus went from town to town to preach the Gospel message for US, sacrificing comfort and convenience. For US, He bled and died on a cruel cross so that we could know firsthand how very much He loves US, and then he rose from that dark tomb for US that we might have eternal life with Him.

So, from that perspective, Christmas is about us. BUT...because of all He did, shouldn't we turn the tables and make this wondrous season more about HIM and less about US?

I continually catch myself in the trimmings and trappings of Christmas, looking for the best bargains, racing from one place to another, filling up my calendar with "must attend" events, and living out entire days before it occurs that I haven't spoken to my Savior in hours!

Want to join me in the challenge to put Christ at the forefront of all we do? If you're "in" simply post below, "I'm in!" That little gesture will help to keep us accountable.

Love and CHRISTmas hugs...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

THURSDAY THOUGHTS



Happy Thanksgiving! How many times have you greeted someone with that phrase this week? I know I have said it to store clerks, friends, the stock boy who carried my groceries to my car then loaded them in my trunk (yes, our local grocery store STILL carries out that nice gesture), and to countless others in passing, including those with whom I've "talked" in cyberspace. I love Thanksgiving, perhaps as much as Christmas. It's one of those holidays that can't help but make me reflect upon all the many things I'm so blessed to have, and I'm not talking material goods here - I'm talking faith, family, friends, and so much more.

Today, as I gather with the ones I hold most dear - my beloved family - I intend to do a lot of hugging, laughing, conversing, and EATING. Most of all, though, I intend to rejoice.

"Thank you, Lord, for the countless blessings you bestow upon Your children. May I never take them for granted. In Your Name. Amen."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS



Life is full of beautiful surprises. Take this picture for instance. At first glimpse, you are awed by its splendor. The serene lake scene, two lovers standing on the shore, their images framed by tree branches. So pretty. And then a closer look will reveal an unborn baby. See it? Now, I view the couple as more than just two people in love; I see them as rejoicing in the wonder of becoming parents.

I love how God surprises us with joy - a red-tinged sunrise, a falling star on a sparkling night, a rainbow in the mist, a golden sunset, or a newborn's first smiles. Lately, our family has been making utter fools of ourselves during our one-month old Mason's every waking moment, trying to coax a smile out of him then leaping for joy when we get that half-second glimpse of one. Today, he curled up one side of his mouth and then broke out into a full smile. Granted, he closed his eyes shortly afterward and drifted into a blissful sleep, but those few seconds brought my family untold JOY.

As we approach Thanksgiving Day this week, let us look for joy in the everyday moments...and give God all the thanks.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

THURSDAY THOUGHTS


Photo: LaUnion, HONDURAS

I miss my hubby already - and he hasn't even been gone for 12-hours. I will survive, I keep telling myself.

My husband loves adventure, and he's passionate about missions, so it stands to reason that he would love mission trips. I am writing this at 2 a.m., and at the moment Cecil is either lying on the floor in some remote corner of O'Hare Airport, or leaning up against a cement wall trying to get a little shut-eye before the terminal opens at 3:30 allowing him to proceed through security and reach his gate for his 5 a.m. departure to San Pedro, Honduras. Once there, he will board a beat-up truck and pay a taxi driver $125 to escort him up the mountain to a village known as LaUnion. Here the average villager provides for his family with a whopping salary of $2000 per year. My husband has a great interest in micro-finance; thus his reason for going. In recent months he has "hooked up" with some sharp young college grads who have started a company known as Union MicroFinanza. They make loans of $200 to struggling farmers to help them with their coffee growing businesses. Yes, $200 goes a LONG way in this penniless village. Cecil is going to spend his days there learning how the business operates, talking to farmers, offering encouragement, and attending planning meetings. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I don't know what he's going to be doing. I'll find out more as the days go by and I get emails or maybe even a phone call. This one thing I do know: he's passionate, and he has a big, sacrificial heart--and I am SO proud of him. I love that man, and I just wanted all of you to know it.

If the Lord happens to bring him to your mind, would you pray for him in the coming days? (He will be returning to the states on Tuesday, November 22.) Please pray for his health, his safety, and most of all, that God will bless him as he seeks to do His will.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS



The burning bush is the location at which Moses was appointed by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan. You remember the story. Do you also remember Moses’ response to that calling? Just in case you don’t, here it is from The Living Bible.

“But Moses pleaded, ‘O Lord, I’m just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I’m not now, even after you have spoken to me, for I have a speech impediment.’

‘Who makes mouths?’ God asked him. ‘Isn’t it I, the Lord? Who makes a man so that he can speak or not speak, see or not see, hear or not hear? Now go ahead and do as I tell you, for I will help you to speak well, and I will tell you what to say.’

But Moses said, ‘Lord, please! Send someone else.’" Exodus 4:10-13


Many of us can relate to this on so many levels. Moses experienced feelings of inadequacy, uncertainty, and inferiority. God called him to do a job, and he said, “I can’t do it. I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I don’t have what it takes. God, I can’t even put two words together, and to top matters, I'm OLD! There must be somebody out there better equipped to do this job. Can’t you ask somebody else?” I’m thinking Moses might have qualified as a whiner, what do you think?

Now, listen, because of Moses' incessant “whining”, God eventually chose his brother Aaron to speak in his place, but we know from the accounts in God’s Word what a great man of God Moses became despite his imperfections: leading the Israelites out of Egypt, parting the Red Sea, and, of course, writing the Ten Commandments!

So, the lesson here is not that whining will get you what you want. (It may work with your spouse but not with God. ha) No, it’s that even despite our inabilities and weaknesses God’s strength can be made perfect in our weakness. So many of us have such low opinions of our potential that it keeps us from becoming ALL God wants us to be. We demean His Name by not trusting in His strength and power to get us through the tough situations of life.

Learn to trust and obey. It reaps great rewards.

Friday, November 11, 2011

THURSDAY THOUGHTS...



I'm 20-minutes late in writing "Thursday Thoughts" - rather, I'm 20-minutes into Friday! Yep, it's 12:20 a.m. and here I am writing, well, yesterday's thoughts. I had a long 'to do' list on Thursday: Take care of my 3-year-old grandson, which entailed a breakfast of waffles, play time, watching a 15-minute segment of "Martha Speaks" on PBS, and going to the library for story-time. Then off to meet my daughter and newest grandson for lunch and deliver my 3-year-old back to her so he could go home for his nap. Next, work on the lesson I'm teaching at a writers' conference next weekend on character development. After that, go to the nail salon, make a drugstore run, come up with something for supper, finish laundry, and, oh! find some time to work on my NOVEL! Hello, is there enough time in my day? Plainly put, no. In between there I had good intentions of posting in my blog. (Incidentally, the nail salon and drugstore got put on hold - and work on my writing lesson for next week's conference is ongoing.)

Let's be honest here; life is B-U-S-Y! And sometimes we let our priorities slip
- GOD first, FAMILY second, CAREER third. Yes, that IS the goal we should strive to live by if we truly desire purpose, meaning, and joy.

Guess what - God is in the chaos. He understands that some days just don't flow the way they should; that we get so caught up in the busyness that we have to lay aside our "to do" lists and change them to "to-be-continued" lists.

I'm thankful for a faithful, patient, understanding God who doesn't expect perfection. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength" is a verse that speaks to me right now in the wee hours of the morning as I wrap up this post.

Today (Friday) I'll bring out my list and check off a few more items. Maybe I'll even find a minute to run to the nail salon. If not - there's always next week! GOD IS GOOD.

Monday, November 07, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS



Ever run into times in your life when fear overtook you and you couldn't quite get a grip on yourself? I'm raising my hand to let you know I've been there. More than once. I recall a specific time in my life when a wave of panic so engulfed me in the middle of the night that I lay there in a sweat, heart pounding, unsure whether to wake my husband to pray for me or to just deal with it. As it turned out, I did neither - I turned the matter over to my loving Father, the only One truly sufficient to help us in these times of need. A verse I'd earlier committed to memory swept over me. It's so simple, yet profound. Let its truth sink deep into your spirit as you read it.

"I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not be afraid; I will help you.'" Isaiah 41:13

See? I told you it was simple. Once I began reciting this verse in my head a couple of times, the sweetest peace washed over me, and I knew my Savior had come through for me again. I tell you, we serve a loving, faithful, patient God. Next time you experience something too overwhelming to handle on your own - let God take hold of your right hand. Feel the strength of His hold on you and BELIEVE He can and will see you through whatever circumstance you encounter.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

THURSDAY THOUGHTS



AH, SWEET REST...

Have you ever been so weary from physical activity you thought you'd drop dead if you didn't take a minute to sit down and rest your aching muscles? While physical activity is good for the soul, mind, and body, it can also be taxing, and if you're anything like me, you avoid it at all costs. Okay, I admit it; I'm purely lazy when it comes to daily exercise. Scratch "daily" and make that weekly. My hubby gets annoyed with me for not taking physical exercise more seriously, and I don't blame him. Exercise is a good thing, and I know it! It's just MAKING myself do it that's the problem.

But exercise isn't the only culprit that makes a body weary. Stress, heartache, disappointment, grief, jobs, relationships gone sour, illness, unemployment, financial burdens -- need I continue? -- are huge contributors. Some days you wake up and say to yourself, "I've had enough, I can't go on. I don't have the strength to even put one foot in front of the other. My life is a shambles, and I'll never be able to put it back together. I'm so tired and weary."

Ever been there? Friend, God is your refuge, your strength, and your help. Be assured He wants to give you rest, and He holds the answers you can't find within yourself. Let down your guard, have a seat in His Garden of Rest, and learn what it means to fully trust Him.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS...






HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A MORE BEAUTIFUL BABY?

Well, I'm sure you have, or at least you think you have, especially if you have children of your own - or grandchildren! Don't we all think our own "babies" are God's finest creations? My latest grandchild (our fourth) came to us just 8 days ago, and he has already brought us untold joy!

Here's the thing: God must surely look down on each of us and say to Himself, "Oh, what a fine creation. How I delight in him/her!" Does He play favorites? Does He think less of one of His children than another? Never! We are all EQUALLY precious in His sight. Oh, I'm sure we disappoint Him in much the way children sometimes disappoint their earthly parents. Consider how much earthly parents continue loving their children right through their failures and shortcomings, and then multiply that love by a million or two, and you might come close to discovering just how deeply your Heavenly Father loves YOU!

God loves with an everlasting love. Nothing we do can ever separate us from that love. Need proof of that? Read Romans 8!

Now...take one more peek at my new grandbaby! Isn't he the most perfect little guy you've ever laid eyes on? (Haha - I couldn't resist!)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

TEASER ANYBODY?

Here you will read a very brief/concise synopsis of each book in my current series!


Series Title: River of Hope

*Setting: Wabash, Indiana
*Period: 1920s


1. Livvie’s Song - Available NOW!
2. Ellie’s Haven - Available in Spring of 2012
3. Sofie’s Secret - Available in Winter of 2012



Livvie’s Song: Widowed woman with two small children struggles to operate the family restaurant single-handedly until a drifter with nothing but a knapsack and a harmonica in his pocket comes to town and offers to lend a hand in exchange for living in the small quarters above the restaurant.

Ellie’s Haven: Young woman on the run from her brutal stepfather after witnessing a heinous crime makes a rash decision to marry a widower with four young children, hoping the name change and secluded location will lend protection from her past.

Sofie’s Secret: Scandal surrounds a woman in her early 20s when it becomes obvious she is pregnant—and unmarried. What people do not know is that their gruff, law enforcing sheriff's son raped her—and the sheriff will stop at nothing to protect his son's name. When the new doctor gets involved, trouble escalates in the form of thievery, arson, and death threats.

**********

Here are the images of Livvie's Song and Ellie's Haven. It's a bit too soon for the cover of Sofie's Secret, but I'll be sure to post it the very day of its arrival!!!




Thursday, August 25, 2011


Want to Write/Publish Your First Novel?

Hopeful writers are always asking me how to go about writing their first-ever novel. The inevitable question that follows is - "How do I get it published?"

I have a very good author/friend named Julie Lessman who's devised an excellent list of suggestions that will put hopeful writers on the right path, so with her permission I post it below:

1.) Join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), FHL (Faith, Hope & Love, a chapter of Romance Writers of America) to get connected with other like-minded writers and to learn a lot about your craft.

2.) Take a fiction-writing class or attend a writing seminar or conference.

3.) Join a critique group (you can do that through ACFW).

4.) Purchase and study writing books such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King or Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas, AND invest in a great thesaurus such as The Synonym Finder by Rodale Press (my writer’s bible!!).

5.) Enter contests for invaluable feedback, growth, confidence, networking opportunities and to get your name out there.

6.) Frequent websites/blogs that deal with writing, such as The Seekers, a group blog that I belong to whose theme is “On the road to publication. Writing, contests, publication and everything in between.”

7.) Go for an agent first, publisher second.

8.) Then pray your heart out and put it in God’s hands.

---------------------------------------------------------

Thank you, Julie Lessman! And one more thing, friends!!! Take a jaunt over to AMAZON(dot)COM or CHRISTIANBOOK(dot)COM and check out all her books. She is a FABULOUS, AWARD-WINNING author of several books, the latest of which is titled A Heart Revealed, second in her Winds of Change series. Here's the beautiful cover:


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is Summer Winding Down ALREADY?



I love my hibiscus bush, but when it blossoms I know what it signifies - the winding down of summer. Oh, I hate to see it come so soon, this changing of the seasons. Fall, to me, is usually a solemn occasion for it means dragging out the jackets, digging for mittens and scarves, and dusting off the boots. Granted, autumn is beautiful in Michigan - the array of colors can be breathtaking - but it also means closing the pool, putting away the swimsuits and beach towels, taking down the gazebo, putting away the lawn chairs, and putting UP the convertible top! Around here preparing for winter is a regular event!

But... I guess change is inevitable, and without it we wouldn't grow or experience the wonders of creation. I don't look forward to saying, "Bye-bye, summer," but this year I DO look forward to something else, something quite spectacular, actually - which makes the end of summer much easier to swallow. It's scheduled to happen on October 24, 2011. What is it, you ask? Why, it's the arrival of my third grandson!

As summer winds down, there is a sort of excitement stirring within me at the thought of the changing colors, frosty air, pumpkins, dry leaves, football, marching bands, and, yes, even the heavy coats.


New life is upon us, and I can hardly wait to embrace it!

Friday, July 15, 2011

P I C K L E S!

I have always liked the Pickles cartoon strip. This one made me laugh out loud!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

FEAR, THAT UGLY BEAST...



My dear, sweet friends, fear and anxiety are of the Enemy, and if you don't turn your backs to their blazing missiles, they will strike you countless times throughout the day. Don't forget this: you, as a child of the Lord most high, have been given the shield of faith by which to extinguish those fiery darts. Use it DAILY! Regardless of what kinds of fearful emotions flood your mind, persist in throwing them off, and pretty soon you'll find them falling in line with your faith. Don't hide your fears, bring them out in the open and declare them dead and useless in light of the strength and courage God gives through faith and trust in Him. Concentrate on placing your hope and faith in Christ, and soon all fear will lose its foothold. (Isaiah 12:3; Psalm 62:8). Without faith you can do very little to ward off this ugly beast. He will haunt and taunt until He finds another passageway through a weak spot in your armor. Cling hard to this verse of scripture found in Isaiah: "I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'" And He will, my precious, dear friend. He has shown Himself faithful and true in so many circumstances of my own life. I have no cause to believe He will ever stop revealing His ever-present trustworthiness.

The reason I say all this is because I have a writing deadline a mere 6 weeks away, and many things pull at me, giving me reasons to fear that I won't finish in time, but I know these are all tactics of the Enemy to slow me down, discourage me, and render me useless for God's Kingdom.

Let us all join forces to pray for one another in these difficult times when the Author of Lies wants nothing more than to make us believe we are never going to accomplish the goals God has set before us. With the help of our most holy Lord, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!

Anybody got an AMEN to that?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I KNOW IT'S NOT WINTER, BUT...

These pictures were taken of my hubby and grandson by a local newspaper photographer this past winter, and he finally got around to emailing them to Cecil. They were sledding at the park when the photographer came along, and I think the pics truly capture the essence of love and trust. In fact, these are my husband's words about the photos after he studied them for a time:

"These photos remind me of how God views us. His arms are open wide to us waiting for our approach even as He approaches us. Initially, we stand back and wait (Picture #1). When we see we can trust Him, we begin to take baby steps toward him (Picture #2). At last, we find it in our hearts to trust completely, and we fall freely into His arms in a full-out embrace (Picture 3).

The love and comfort we feel when we are close to God is indescribable. That’s how it is when I'm with my grandkids, and those pictures sum it up perfectly."






Friday, June 17, 2011




LIKE DIAMONDS ON BLACK VELVET
...Memories of Daddy

By Sharlene MacLaren

A little girl will go to just about any length to please her daddy. At least I did. As far back as I can remember my father loved to fish. I can't say I ever inherited his penchant for casting out a line in the wee hours of the morning and staring at still, glistening waters for hours on end, sitting on a narrow boat seat, listening to the groans of bullfrogs, while waiting for the tiniest tug at the end of a pole. But I tagged along anyway for the sake of Daddy's company. And his company was priceless. The memory of it stands out even now like diamonds on black velvet, clear, shimmery, untainted.

"You wanna go fishing in the mornin'?" Dad would ask just before bedtime.

With only a second's hesitation, I would answer, "Sure!" The truth was I wasn't thrilled about waking up before dawn, but if it meant spending precious time with the man I most admired, then my answer never required much forethought.

The soft rap on the door came at precisely five o'clock. "Wake up, sleepy head. Fish are jumpin'."

Quickly wiping sleep from my eyes, I'd roll out from under thick covers and peek past the sheer curtain to find a full moon, its reflection dancing across still waters, a thin layer of fog hovering over the glassy surface. At the water's edge, our little wooden rowboat lay in wait—a somewhat unreliable old vessel dubbed Maybe Baby by my brother some years before. Maybe it would stay afloat, maybe not. It had been known to spring the occasional leak.

I'd struggle into the same pair of pants I'd shed the night before, throw on a wrinkled sweatshirt, and step into my dirty sneakers. Then stifling a yawn because I didn't want my grogginess to show, I'd march into the kitchen with purpose. Daddy rewarded me with one of those crooked grins he was famous for and pointed to the door. "Ready?" he'd ask in a whisper so as not to wake the rest of the household. I'd nod.

And off we'd go.

Ah, those crisp summer mornings when the dewy grass tickled my bare ankles as we trudged silently down the hill, the stillness of early morning interrupted only by the sporadic whimper of slowly waking jays and robins. Oh, the uncomplicated perfection.

With a pail, my father would empty out an inch or two of water from the bottom of Maybe Baby. Rainwater? Or that pesky leak? No matter, nothing would keep us from rowing out to the middle of the lake where the biggest catches swirled about, hungry and restless. Some mornings we would share the middle seat, each taking an oar, rowing in perfect rhythm. Other mornings I'd sit in the front, eyes cast downward, mesmerized by the tiny wake created by the boat's steady course and the tireless squeak of one rusty oar socket.

"How's this?" he would ask, dropping anchor a couple hundred yards from shore.

"Do you think the fish will bite?" I'd ask, my voice sounding somehow foreign as it echoed over waters smooth as glass.

A knowing grin creased his face. "It's a good place to start." I knew that meant we would move on in another 20 minutes if necessary. Fish congregate in tepid pools, he'd taught me. It's a matter of finding those beds of warmth.

I learned a lot from my dad on those early morning outings, things that had nothing to do with fishing, but everything to do with life and love and laughter. For one thing, he showed me that patience is an art form; it doesn't happen overnight; it takes practice and persistence and something called long-suffering. "If you want to catch the big one," he'd murmur softly, "you have to wait it out, hang in there." I suspect now he wasn't only referring to a 10-pound bass. Much of life calls for resilience and flat out determination, which doesn't come easily—unless you've worked at it.

I learned that a fine sense of humor is like hot honey on a biscuit; it melts a body clear to the bone. Oh, how our laughter pierced the silence of dawn, rousing numbers of birds and other wildlife, not to mention those poor lake residents longing for one more hour of sleep. As much as my father wanted to catch the big one, and knew the importance of quiet persistence, he never passed up the opportunity to inspire a giggle. I was his number one fan, and he took great pride in maintaining that first place spot.

I learned that perseverance pays. Sitting for long hours in a rickety boat doesn't reap many benefits until you feel that first little tug. There's nothing quite like it, even for a novice such as myself. You're shifting on the boat seat, heavy-eyed and fidgety, staring in the distance at a motionless bobber, when suddenly you feel it, that gentle pull on the end of your line. At first, you wonder if you imagined it until your pole starts to dip and bend and you feel your line go taut. "I got one!" you shout, the adrenaline bursting at the seams. "It's a big one!" Yes, perseverance pays big dividends.

My daddy trained me that it is the simple things in life that satisfy us, that true wealth is not so much about possessions as it is about position -- your position with God, family, friends, and neighbors. Maybe Baby was no yacht, but I would give anything to sit on her wobbly seat once more, run my hand across her rough-hewn texture, and watch the tiny ripples she created as she glided across moon-kissed waters.

Daddy taught me many things, but one thing stands out above the rest - love flows from silence as well as laughter. We could sit for long moments without murmuring a sound. And from that silence surged a comforting knowledge; love is not always about doing or even saying, but being. There is a certainty every child hungers after and that is simply to know he or she is loved without condition.

My father's generation promoted a staunchness that went beyond sentiment, but that didn't keep Daddy from loving me unreservedly. Perhaps he didn't always show it in overt ways, such as kissing and hugging - especially as I grew into that gangly, awkward pre-teen stage, but never once did I doubt his love and protective care over me. I can say with certainty he would have laid his life down for me. I know it. I'll always know it. The memory is crystal clear.

Like diamonds on black velvet.

Monday, June 06, 2011

MEET MY DEAR FRIEND, MARIA!



Who says the Internet is not a good place to meet people and make precious friends? I met Maria back in '08 on a social network known as Shoutlife!, and we had an instant connection. She was living in London, England at the time, and we had such wonderful online "talks". I said to my husband in June of '08, "Man, I want to meet her in person so bad I can taste it!" and he said, "Well, why don't we go visit her next year?" And so we did! In the fall of '09 we went to Europe, and Maria took us on the most fabulous adventures through London and beyond. The next year, she and her wonderful hubby Simone moved to Orlando (yea! this side of the "pond") and last August they came to Michigan to visit us! NOW I am heading to Orlando in a couple of days to visit her again. And so our friendship continues to flourish...

Ooooh, I just love the way God orchestrates circumstances in our lives, even causing people's paths to cross and friendships to blossom. What a good and gracious God!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011



Okay, so I am in the midst of writing the second book in my River of Hope Series. I would say I'm at about the 8 o'clock hour. The what, you ask? Yes, as a writer I have this sort of clock image in my head, and it goes like this:


WRITER'S CLOCK
By Sharlene MacLaren

1 o'clock = I am off to a fabulous start. Darn, I'm good.

2 o'clock = I love the way my beginning scenes are coming together. There's fire in my veins.

3 o'clock = I can write! My readers will love this. I'm even keeping my office neat and tidy.

4 o'clock = I don't feel like writing today. Help me, Lord.

5 o'clock = I'm in a dry spell (my flame is down to a flicker), but I will write because I AM A WRITER!

6 o'clock = Where was I going with this story? Gotta reread the entire STUPID thing!

7 o'clock = This stinks so bad I have to put a clothespin on my nose while I write.

8 o'clock = I cannot write. My readers will hate this. My office is starting to smell like dirty socks.

9 o'clock = Yow! I have to start winding this down! This is worse than the underside of a bad quilt.

10 o'clock = Where did all these loose ends come from? God, I need SUPER DIVINE WISDOM!

11 o'clock = I see it, I see it. It's coming together. (Thank you, Lord.) I can't wait to come out of my hiding place.

12 o'clock = The End! I can't imagine putting myself through this again, but, alas, another story is brewing.

So, you see, I'm at the 8 o'clock spot in my project. This is not happy hour, folks, let me tell you! Please, Lord, get me to that midnight place. That's where I want to be.

Y'all can pray for me if y' feel so inclined. I'd be much obliged. (Pardon my grammar, but I'm in the middle of a "hillbilly" scene.)

Love and Hugs!!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ABBIE ANN FINALS!

Hey, my darling friends, I've just learned that Abbie Ann finaled in the "Inspirational Reader's Choice Award", which means I'm guaranteed either a 3rd, 2nd, or 1st place spot. Truthfully, I will be happy with any of those, as the competition is always tough in these contests. I am just so very humbled and honored to even be named.

Want to celebrate with me? How about making a comment below where it says "Post a Comment" so I can enter you in a drawing for a chance to win a signed copy? I'll close the contest a week from today, which would be May 31! Come on, join the fun.

Here's the cover design for Abbie Ann. Be sure to click on the book itself on the left if you want to read the synopsis.

I love you all!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Livvie’s Song
(River of Hope series #1)

Whitaker House (July 5, 2011)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


“Shar” grew up in western Michigan and graduated from Spring Arbor University with a degree in education. She traveled the world with a musical group before returning home to marry Cecil MacLaren whom she’d known since childhood. Together they raised two daughters (and now have three grandchildren). As retirement approached, Shar asked God for a new mission that would fill her heart with the same kind of passion she’d felt for teaching and raising her family. She found her mission in Christian fiction writing, crafting plotlines that bring her characters face-to-face with God’s grace and restorative power. Since 2007 she’s released nine successful books – two historical series and three stand-alone contemporary novels – that have earned her numerous awards and an ever-increasing base of loyal readers who are comforted, inspired, and entertained by her books.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Life is far from a breeze for Olivia Beckman, owner of Livvie’s Kitchen, a favorite of locals in Wabash, Indiana. It’s the 1920’s and the widowed mother of two is struggling to make ends meet—no simple feat when her cook turns in his resignation. A late night patron soon solves the problem, though. Looking for work and carrying his only earthly possessions -- a harmonica and a Bible -- Will Taylor is an experienced cook eager for work. What Will doesn’t share is that his experience comes from ten years working behind bars in the prison cafeteria. He manages to bake his way into the stomachs of his customers—and into Livvie’s heart as well. Both Livvie and Will are hesitant, though, bearing deep wounds from the past. A recipe for love between them will require sharing secrets, braving dangers, and believing God for a bright future.


Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (July 5, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603742123
ISBN-13: 978-1603742122

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


May 1926

Wabash, Indiana

“Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song.”
—Psalm 149:1

Smoke rings rose and circled the heads of Charley Arnold and Roy Scott as they sat in Livvie’s Kitchen and partook of steaming coffee, savory roast beef and gravy, and conversation, guffawing every so often at each other’s blather. Neither seemed to care much who heard them, since the whole place buzzed with boisterous midday talk. Folks came to her restaurant to fill their stomachs, Livvie Beckman knew, but, for many, getting an earful of gossip was just as satisfying.

Behind the counter in the kitchen, utensils banged against metal and pots and pans sizzled and boiled with steam and smoke. “Order’s up!” hollered the cook, Joe Stewart. On cue, Livvie carried the two hamburger platters to Pete and Susie Jones’s table and set them down with a hasty smile. Her knee-length, floral cotton skirt flared as she turned, mopping her brow and blowing several strawberry blonde strands of damp hair off her face, and hustled to the counter. “You boys put out those disgusting nicotine sticks,” she scolded Charley and Roy on the run. “How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t allow smoking in this establishment? We don’t even have ashtrays.”

“Aw, Livvie, how you expect us t’ enjoy a proper cup o’ coffee without a cigarette?” Charley whined to her back. “’Sides, ar’ saucers work fine for ashtrays.”

“Saucers are not ashtrays,” stated old Evelyn Garner from the booth behind the two men. She craned her long, skinny neck and trained her owl eyes on them, her lips pinched together in a tight frown. Her husband, Ira Garner, had nothing to say, of course. He rarely did, preferring to let his wife do the talking. Instead, he slurped wordlessly on his tomato soup.

Livvie snatched up the next order slip from the counter and gave it a glance. Then, she lifted two more plates, one of macaroni and cheese, the other of a chicken drumstick and mashed potatoes, and whirled back around, eyeing both men sternly. “I expect you to follow my rules, boys”—she marched past them—“or go next door to Isaac’s, where the smoke’s as thick as cow dung.”

Her saucy remark gave rise to riotous hoots. “You tell ’em, Liv,” someone said—Harv Brewster, perhaps? With the racket of babies crying, patrons chattering, the cash register clinking as Cora Mae Livingston tallied somebody’s order, the screen door flapping open and shut, and car horns honking outside, Livvie couldn’t discern who said what. Oh, how she wished she had the funds to hire a few more waitresses. Some days, business didn’t call for it, but, today, it screamed, “Help!”

“You best listen, fellas. When Livvie Beckman speaks, she means every word,” said another. She turned at the husky male voice but couldn’t identify its source.

“Lady, you oughtta go to preachin’ school,” said yet another unknown speaker.

“She’s somethin’, ain’t she?” There was no mistaking Coot Hermanson’s croaky pipes. Her most loyal customer, also the oldest by far, gave her one of his famous, toothy grins over his coffee cup, which he held with trembling hands. No one really knew Coot’s age, and most people suspected he didn’t know it, himself, but Livvie thought he looked to be a hundred; ninety-nine, at the very least. But that didn’t keep him from showing up at her diner on Market Street every day, huffing from the two-block walk, his faithful black mongrel, Reggie, parked on his haunches under the red and white awning out front, waiting for his usual handout of leftover bacon or the heels of a fresh-baked loaf of bread.

Before scooting past him, she stooped to tap him with her elbow. “I’ll be right back to fill that coffee cup, Coot,” she whispered into his good ear.

He lifted an ancient white eyebrow and winked. “You take your time, missy,” he wheezed back before she straightened and hurried along.

Of all her regulars, Coot probably knew her best—knew about the tough fa├žade she put on, day in and day out; recognized the rawness of her heart, the ache she still carried from the loss of her beloved Frank. More than a year had come and gone since her husband’s passing, but it still hurt to the heavens to think about him. More painful still were her desperate attempts to keep his memory alive for her sons, Alex and Nathan. She’d often rehash how she’d met their father at a church picnic when the two were only teenagers; how he’d enjoyed fishing, hunting, and building things with his bare hands; and how, as he’d gotten older, his love of the culinary arts had planted within him a seed of desire to one day open his own restaurant. She’d tell them how they’d worked so hard to scrimp and save, even while raising a family, and how thrilled Frank had been when that dream had finally come to fruition.

What she didn’t tell her boys was how much she struggled to keep her passion for the restaurant alive in their daddy’s absence. Oh, she had Joe, of course, but he’d dropped the news last week that he’d picked up a new kitchen job in a Chicago diner—some well-known establishment, he’d said—and he could hardly have turned it down, especially with his daughter and grandchildren begging him to move closer to them. Wabash had been home to Joe Stewart since childhood, but his wife had died some five years ago, and he had little to keep him here. It made sense, Livvie supposed, but it didn’t make her life any easier having to find a replacement.

She set down two plates for a couple she’d never seen before, a middle-aged man and his wife. Strangers were always passing through Wabash on their ways north or south, so it wasn’t unusual for her not to know them. “You folks enjoy your lunch,” she said with a smile.

“Thank you kindly,” the man said, licking his lips and loosening his tie. “This meal looks mighty fine.”

Livvie nodded, then made for the coffeepot behind the counter, sensing it was time for a round of refills.

A cloud of smoke still surrounded Charley and Roy’s table, though their cigarettes looked to be nearing their ends. She decided not to mention anything further about their annoying behavior unless they lit up again. Those fools had little compunction and even less consideration for the feelings of others. She would have liked to ban them from her restaurant, if it weren’t for the revenue they brought in with their almost daily visits. Gracious, it cost an awful lot to keep a restaurant going. She would sell it tomorrow if she had a backup plan, but she didn’t. Besides, Frank would bust out of his casket if she hung a “For Sale” sign on the front door. The diner had been his dream, one she’d adopted with gusto because she’d loved him so much, but she hadn’t envisioned his leaving her in the thick of it before they’d paid off their mortgage on the three-story building and turned a good profit on the restaurant.

Oh, why had God taken Frank at such a young age? He’d been thirty-one, married for ten years and a restaurant owner for five. Couldn’t God have intervened and sent an angel just in time to keep Frank from stepping in front of that horse-drawn wagon hauling furniture? And why, for mercy’s sake, did the accident have to occur right in front of the restaurant, drawing a huge crowd and forever etching in her mind’s eye the sight of her beloved lying in the middle of the street, blood oozing from his nose and mouth, his eyes open but not really seeing? Coot often told her that God had her best interests in mind and that she needed to trust Him with her whole heart, but how could she, when it seemed like few things ever went right for her, and she had to work so hard to stay afloat? Goodness, she barely had a minute to spare for her own children.

Swallowing a sigh, she hefted up the coffeepot, which had finished percolating, and started the round of refills, beginning with Coot Hermanson.

***

Will Taylor ground out his last cigarette with the sole of his worn shoe as he leaned against the wall of the train car, his head pounding with every jolt, the whir and buzz of metal against metal ripping through his head. He stared down at his empty pack of Luckies and turned up his mouth in the corner, giving a little huff of self-disgust. He didn’t really smoke—not anymore. But, when he’d left Welfare Island State Penitentiary in New York City in the wee hours of the morning, one of the guards had handed him a fresh pack, along with the few belongings he had to his name, and he’d smoked the entire thing to help pass the time.

Sharing the mostly empty freight car with him were a dozen or so other men, the majority of whom wore unkempt beards, ragged clothing, and long faces. They also stank to the heavens. He figured he fit right in with the lot of them. Frankly, they all looked like a bunch of bums—and probably were, for that matter. Why else would they have jumped aboard the freight car at various stations while the yardmen had their backs turned instead of purchasing a ticket for a passenger car? Will had intended to pay his fare, and he’d even found himself standing in the queue outside the ticket booth, but when he’d counted his meager stash of cash, he’d fallen out of line. Thankfully, the dense morning fog had made his train-jumping maneuver a cinch. If only it could have had the same effect on his conscience. He’d just been released from prison. Couldn’t he get through his first day of freedom without breaking the law?

“Where you headed, mister?” the man closest to him asked.

He could count on one hand the number of minutes anybody on that dark, dingy car had spent engaged in conversation in the hours they’d been riding, and he didn’t much feel like talking now. Yet he turned to the fellow, anyway. “Wabash, Indiana,” he answered. “Heard it’s a nice place.”

Actually, he knew nothing about it, save for the state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” which spoke about the river running through it. He’d determined his destination just that morning while poring over a map in the train station, thinking that any other place in the country would beat where he’d spent the last ten years. When he’d overheard someone mention Wabash, he’d found it on the map and, knowing it had its own song, set his mind on going there.

He didn’t know a soul in Wabash, which made the place all the more appealing. Best to make a fresh start anonymously. Of course, he had no idea what he’d do to make a living, and it might be that he’d have to move on to the next town if jobs there were scarce. But he’d cross that bridge when he came to it.

His stomach growled, so he opened his knapsack and took out an apple, just one of the few items he’d lifted from the jail kitchen the previous night—with the approval of Harry Wilkinson, the kitchen supervisor. The friends he’d made at Welfare Island were few, as he couldn’t trust most folks any farther than he could pitch them, but he did consider Harry a friend, having worked alongside him for the past four years. Harry had told him about the love of God and convinced him not six months ago to give his heart over to Him, saying he’d need a good friend when he left the island and could do no better than the Creator of the universe. Will had agreed, of course, but he sure was green in the faith department, even though he’d taken to reading the Bible Harry had given him—his first and only—almost every night before laying his head on his flat, frayed pillow.

“Wabash, eh?” the man said, breaking into his musings. “I heard of it. Ain’t that the first electrically lighted city in the world? I do believe that’s their claim to fame.”

“That right? I wouldn’t know.”

“What takes you to Wabash?” he persisted, pulling on his straggly beard.

Will pulled on his own thick beard, mostly brown with some flecks of blond, briefly wondering if he ought to shave it off before he went in search of a job. He’d seen his reflection in a mirror that morning for the first time in a week and had nearly fallen over. In fact, he’d had to do some mental calculations to convince himself that he was actually thirty-four years old, not forty-three. Prison had not been kind to his appearance; where he’d slaved under the hot summer sun, digging trenches and hoeing the prison garden, and spent the winters hauling coal and chopping logs. While the work had put him in excellent shape physically, the sun and wind had wreaked havoc on his skin, freckling his nose and arms and wrinkling his forehead. When he hadn’t been outside, he’d worked in a scorching-hot kitchen, stirring kettles of soup, peeling potatoes, cutting slabs of beef, filleting fish, and plucking chickens’ feathers.

“Wabash seemed as good a place as any,” he replied after some thought, determined to keep his answers short and vague.

The fellow peered at him with arched eyebrows. “Where you come from, anyway?”

“Around.”

A chuckle floated through the air but quickly drowned in the train’s blaring whistle. The man dug into his side pocket and brought out a cigar, stuck it in his mouth, and lit the end, then took a deep drag before blowing out a long stream of smoke. He gave a thoughtful nod and gazed off. “Yeah, I know. Me, too.” Across the dark space, the others shifted or slept, legs crossed at the ankles, heads bobbing, not seeming to care about the conversation, if they even heard it.

Will might have inquired after his traveling companion, but his years behind bars had taught him plenty—most important, not to trust his fellow man, and certainly never to divulge his personal history. And posing questions to others would only invite inquiries about himself.

He chomped down his final bite of apple, then tossed the chiseled core onto the floor, figuring a rodent would appreciate it later. Then, he wiped his hands on his pant legs, reached inside his hip pocket, and pulled out his trusty harmonica. Moistening his lips, he brought the instrument to his mouth and started breathing into it, cupping it like he might a beautiful woman’s face. Music had always soothed whatever ailed him, and, ever since he’d picked up the skill as a youngster under his grandfather’s tutelage, he’d often whiled away the hours playing this humble instrument.

He must have played half a dozen songs—“Oh, Dem Golden Slippers,” “Oh My Darling, Clementine,” “Over There,” “Amazing Grace,” “The Sidewalks of New York,” and even “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away”—before the shrill train whistle announced their arrival in Wabash. Another stowaway pulled the car door open a crack to peek out and establish their whereabouts.

Quickly, Will stuffed his mouth organ inside his pocket, then stretched his back, the taut muscles tingling from being stationary for so long. At least his pounding headache had relented, replaced now by a mess of tangled nerves. “Reserved excitement” is how he would have described his emotion.

“Nice playin’,” said a man whose face was hidden by the shadow of his low-lying hat. He tipped the brim at Will and gave a slow nod. “You’ve got a way with that thing. Almost put me in a lonesome-type mood.”

“Thanks. For the compliment, I mean. Sorry ’bout your gloomy mood. Didn’t mean to bring that on.”

“Ain’t nothin’. I been jumpin’ trains fer as long as I can remember. Gettin’ the lonelies every now and again is somethin’ to be ’spected, I s’pose.”

“That’s for sure,” mumbled another man, sitting in a corner with his legs stretched out. Will glanced at the sole of his boot and noticed his sock pushing through a gaping hole. Something like a rock turned over in his gut. These guys made a habit of hopping on trains, living off handouts, and roaming the countryside. Vagabonds, they were. He hoped never to see the inside of another freight car, and, by gum, he’d make sure he didn’t—with the Lord’s help, of course. He had enough money to last a couple of weeks, so long as he holed up someplace dirt-cheap and watched what he spent on food. He prayed he’d land a job—any job—in that time. He wouldn’t be choosy in the beginning; he couldn’t afford to be. If he had to haul garbage, well, so be it. He couldn’t expect to do much more than that, not with a criminal record. His hope was that no one would inquire. After all, who but somebody downright desperate would hire an ex-con? Not that he planned to volunteer that bit of information, but he supposed anybody could go digging if they really wanted to know.

He hadn’t changed his name, against Harry’s advice. “I’m not going to run for the rest of my life, Harry,” he’d argued. “Heck, I served my time. It’s not that I plan to broadcast it, mind you, but I’m not going to carry the weight of it forever, either. I wasn’t the only one involved in that stupid burglary.” Though he did shoulder most of the responsibility for committing it. The others had left him to do most of the dirty work, and they’d run off when the law had shown up.

Harry had nodded in silence, then reached up to lay a bony hand on Will’s hulking shoulder. Few people ever laid a hand on him and got away with it, so, naturally, he’d started to pull away, but Harry had held firm, forcing Will to loosen up. “You got a good point there, Will. You’re a good man, you know that?” He hadn’t known that, and he’d appreciated Harry’s vote of confidence. “You just got to go out there and be yourself. Folks will believe in you if you take the first step, start seeing your own self-worth. The Lord sees it, and you need to look at yourself through His eyes. Before you know it, your past will no longer matter—not to you or to anyone else.”

The train brakes screeched for all of a minute, with smoke rising up from the tracks and seeping in through the cracks of the dirty floor. Will choked back the burning residue and stood up, then gazed down at his strange companions, feeling a certain kinship he’d never expected. “You men be safe, now,” he said, passing his gaze over each one. Several of them acknowledged him with a nod, but most just gave him a vacant stare. The fellow at the back of the car who’d spent the entire day sleeping in the shadows finally lifted his face a notch and looked at him—vigilantly, Will thought. Yet he shook off any uneasiness.

The one who’d first struck up a conversation with him, short-lived as it had been, raised his bearded chin. The two made eye contact. “You watch yourself out there, fella. You got to move fast once your feet hit that dirt. Anybody sees you jumpin’ off is sure to report you, and if it’s one of the yardmen, well, you may as well kiss your hiney good-bye. They got weapons on them, and they don’t look kindly on us spongers.”

“Thanks. I’ll be on guard.” Little did the man know how adept he was at handling himself. The years he’d served in the state pen had taught him survival skills he hoped never to have to use in the outside world.

When the train finally stopped, he reached inside his shirt pocket and peeked at his watch, which was missing its chain. Ten minutes after seven. He pulled the sliding door open just enough to fit his bulky body through, then poked his head out and looked around. Finding the coast clear, thanks to a long freight train parked on neighboring tracks, he gave the fellows one last nod, then leaped from the car and slunk off into the gathering dusk, his sack of meager possessions slung over his shoulder.

First item on his short agenda: look for a restaurant where he could silence his grumbling stomach.

Monday, April 18, 2011

EASTER CUTIES!

Yesterday after church, my grandJOYS decorated eggs in Grandma's kitchen. Papa lent them all old shirts, then when they finished we gathered them around their little bowl of colored eggs and took their picture. What do you think? Aren't they pure cuteness?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

EXCITING NEWS!

Last night I received some excellent news, and that is that Tender Vow has been named a finalist in the 2011 Retailers' Choice Award, winners to be announced in Orlando later this month.

This news both thrills and astounds me. Just 10 years ago, writing, let alone publishing, was a mere dream for me. I found myself enjoying it but viewing it more as a hobby, a "gift" God had given me for my own pleasure and enjoyment. Little did I know then the plans he had for me. If there's one thing I've learned on this journey (well, maybe two) it's NEVER underestimate God's fabulous plans and purposes, and, second, God is NEVER done with the fully surrendered heart!

Keep surrendering, my friends, and then watch God work wondrous things in your life, both now and in the days to come!

May He bless you for His Kingdom!


Here's the image of Tender Vow. If you want to read the synopsis, just move over to my HOME page and scroll down till you come to the book. Click on it and it will take you to Amazon where you can read the synopsis and/or check out buying information.



I love you all!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

MY OBSESSIVE HUBBY(But in a GOOD Way!)
First off, let me clarify that my adorable husband LOVES his grandkids!!! That said, he also loves building things for them. He's built toyboxes, bookshelves, dollhouses, a rocking horse, beds with drawers underneath, and there's more! In the spring of 2009, he decided to build the growing babes a swingset. And here's a picture of it!



Nice, eh? But then, in the spring of '10 he decided it needed a little something more...so, he added this platform/playhouse, which also has a green canvas roof that he stored in the shed for the winter. He also built a slanted walkway for the kids to climb. Here it is:



But, alas! It is now spring of '11, and he has been eyeing the playground and thinking it needs yet another addition! So, he is adding a second playhouse with a bridge leading to it, and on the other side of the second platform there is a rope climbing thingie. My hubby just delights in bringing joy to his grands. Tomorrow, cloudy or not, or even a bit drizzly, he will have them out there breaking it in. By the way, he JUST started this third addition last night and says it will be done, with the exception of the canvas roofs, by tonight. HE'S PRETTY AMAZING, DON'T YOU THINK?







Here's the rope climbing wall, which he fashioned with his own hands. How did he do that?



And I would be remiss if I didn't show you a picture of the supervisor!