Christians Read Fall Catalogue Released

(Click below to view the Christians Read Catalogue, 2013 Fall Edition, which includes Chapter Excerpts!

Sharing Our Stories by Lynette Sowell

2013-07-28 21.26.44-1We made a very important and momentous trip a little more than one week ago. No fanfare and media frenzy, unlike what happened outside a London hospital not long before. Just a simple trip, three ladies in a bright-red extended-cab pickup truck.

My little granddaughter, two days old, was making a 15-mile journey from the hospital to her home.

Since Grandpa and Daddy were both working that morning, my daughter and I had the honor of taking Little Sugardrop on her very first truck ride, in what we call “Clifford the Big Red Truck.” Clifford has taken on a personality of his own, but that’s another story for another day, perhaps.

Cliffy roared past our city limits sign, and I realized something important: Little Sugardrop had arrived in her hometown for the very first time since being toted around inside her mother’s tummy.

So, like any good grandma, I began telling stories.

We passed the large market where my husband cooks in the cafe’ and my daughter demonstrates recipes and gives samples to customers.

“Look, there’s where Grandpa works, and Mommy, too,” I told her. “Grandpa cooks lots of chickens on the grill for people, and they love his food. Mommy gets to share food and recipes, too. She’s a great cook like Grandpa.” (Why is it we talk to babies as if they understand exactly what we’re telling them?)

We passed a Chinese restaurant. “And there’s where your mommy, daddy, and grandma and grandpa had their last double date before you arrived. We were celebrating because Grandpa passed his course. We were so excited for him.”

Then we passed our credit union. “There’s where we keep our money, and where they know us. I think you’re too little to get a sucker, so we won’t stop there today.”

We passed my son-in-law’s place of work. “There’s where Daddy is right now. He can hardly wait to see you when he gets home. He will give you lots of cuddles and kisses.”

When we’re involved in the life of a child, we have that precious chance of seeing things again for the first time. I’m looking forward to many, many special firsts with Little Sugardrop.

Of opening those pages of well-loved books, the contagious rhymes and life lessons of Dr. Seuss.

Of jumping into well-worn pages, and going through a wardrobe door into the land of Narnia.

Of crossing the plains of Kansas in a covered wagon with Mary and Laura.

Of one day, hearing her little voice read, “’In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void.‘ What does void mean, Grandma?”

Yes, it’s going to be a wonderful time to pass on stories.

I can’t wait to share with her the best ones, and I can’t wait to see which ones she discovers for herself.

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Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip.

A Double Standard?

I hesitated to write this, but I thought I’d think alound and ask the question. I think it’s safe to say that for many readers, books aren’t their only form of entertainment. The realm of what we call inspirational or Christian fiction is a rather small circle when compared to the general reading population.

We are quick to point out in a “Christian” book if there’s something that offends us or we don’t like. But we tune into television shows that cross many, many lines.

Take the crime shows for example. They show the grittiness of life. Some of us don’t take much issue with the violence and/or gore. “That’s part of the story,” we say. Characters dropping references with sexual innuendo, hopping in and out of bed with each other. “Oh, that’s part of the story,” we say. Lying for the sake of an investigation or to trick someone. “That’s what cops and investigators do,” we say.

For example, I adore the television show “Castle.” Why? Snappy dialogue, crimes with some good plot twists, the fact that there’s a writer as one of the main characters. However, all of the above have occurred in the story lines of this show. So I guess in a way I’m referring to myself and I’m not comfortable with the observation.

Yet, some of us can be so much harder on Christian writers in what they “show” and “don’t show.”

“You didn’t have that character get redeemed,” we say. Well, in real life, that doesn’t always happen.

“You character did something underhanded to help solve the crime,” we chide the author.

Where do we draw the line of what’s acceptable in “entertainment?”

Or, do we move that line to suit our own tastes or to fit the author or television show? Is all this relative?

I find it ironic that readers–viewers–will watch certain shows and not be offended, yet they will pick up a book and find all types of moral infractions, trivial or no.

Am I mistaken? Does this really happen? Am I the only one who has a double standard?

Read, read, and listen

I’m going to tag along with Elizabeth’s post, because her venture homeschooling and reading with her children reminded me of when my two were very young.

Some of the best memories I have of my children growing up involve our discovery of books; or rather, my joy as I rediscovered many of my favorites with them. Before they were old enough to dive into the books on their own, I read aloud to them. There’s a lot to be said for reading aloud. You can do the accents, make your voice pitch high or low, depending on the character. You learn the time to make a dramatic pause, and when exactly to stop reading for the day so the kids are ready next time. You get to experience the book together.

One of the other benefits of reading aloud is the imagination can take over instead of a newer reader trying to figure out the words on the page. The early readers might struggle with reading an “older book” for themselves, but they’re not too young to learn to listen to the pages and let their imaginations sprout.

However, when we took road trips, books on tape–and eventually CD–became our traveling companions. We traveled back and forth from Narnia as our car headed back and forth from the beach, to Tennessee and then to Colorado. In the heydey of the Left Behind saga, we listened to some of those titles too.

It’s a shame, really, that there aren’t more audiobooks in the world. While they’re not written words on printed (or digital) pages, the sound files can also transport us, especially with a good narrator that knows how to do all the voices just right.

We writers are told about the importance of reading our work aloud as we go, because the ear can pick up what the eye has missed. Maybe that’s because reading aloud reminds us about what it is to be storytellers, not just storywriters.

Is there a particular book you loved hearing read aloud, or one you wish they’d record? How many of us still read aloud to our children?

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Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip. You can listen in to the Flashlight Reader on Monday nights here.

A “Perfect” Book

I’m going to piggyback my post with Beth’s from yesterday. The ACFW awards gala was amazing. It was a special evening to recognize winners in published and  published fiction. The air felt weighty with anticipation: whose work will win the top awards?

This year one book in particular that won the Carol Award for women’s fiction, Dandelion Summer, by Lisa Wingate. What distinguished it this year is that it’s the first book that received a perfect score from all five judges. Perfection.

When they closed the book, I’m wondering what went through their minds. Were they tired, or exhilarated? Did they wipe the tears away? Did certain turns of phrase resonate in their minds, even when they laid the book aside and went about their business?

I had the opportunity to interview Lisa on my online radio show, The Flashlight Reader, on Tuesday evening. She was stunned, thrilled to win, but also equally pleased that her book touched readers.

When I asked her about how she developed the characters for the book, she told me that the elderly male character in the book was based on a very-real character who was involved in the Howard Hughes space program. He’d become a fan of Lisa’s books and one day, while she was away researching, he told her his own story. One of the things he told her was he’d never told his story because he didn’t think it mattered to anyone.

Of course it did. Of course ours do.

His story went on to become the genetics of Lisa’s character. To think if she’d never heard his story or took the time to listen.

We all have stories, maybe none of them perfect. But our own stories can resonate with someone.

What’s the best true–or fictional–story you’ve read lately? Anything “perfect?”

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Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip. You can listen in to the Flashlight Reader on Monday nights here.

What’s in a word?

I love pizza.

I love Saturday morning breakfast.

I love the full moon.

I love swimming at twilight.

I love my cat.

I love my husband.

I love hearing the still small Voice.

One word and so many different meanings. Love is a word that can be cheapened and tossed around glibly. I don’t love pizza like I love my husband.
So when I say, “I love you,” what does that mean? Love you like pizza?
Sometimes our words don’t mean much. I’m not posting to criticize our words. But it’s easy to clap a friend on the back and say, “Love ya,” and go on our way.
Check out 1 John 3:18. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
We can say I love you by what we do. The people in our lives, I’ve discovered, pass through so quickly sometimes. The younger we are, we think that our current situation will last forever. But then you wake up one day, and months or even years have passed. And so people move along as well. Either they leave this life, or leave our lives and move away, or people get too busy and grow apart.
I think back to the times I’ve told a friend I loved them, or assumed they “just knew.” Lately I’ve realized how it’s more important to do simple acts of love, those unexpected little things that will show someone that I love them. Not just telling them “love ya,” or figuring they already understood that.

What would mean something special to someone you love? A card or letter? An afternoon together? A cup of coffee, made just the way they like it? A verse you read, that you know they’d appreciate? A listening ear?

Deliberate demonstrations of love might make someone uncomfortable, though. When we acknowledge how truly important someone is to us, they may be embarrassed. But maybe it’s exactly what they needed.
My new promise to myself: no more regrets, no more holding back, no more thinking, “Oh, they already know I love them.”
Don’t forget to say I love you…Love out loud.

Book overload!

I’ve always believed that you can never have too many books. However, with the advent of the electronic reader and the recent ebook explosion, I’ve noticed that while I still have a good number of paper books, my “load” of ebooks is growing.

No, they don’t weigh anything and they don’t take up any literal space, but I see that my Kindle is packed with books, from mystery to romance to suspense to nonfiction and research related books.

I noticed the overload when I went to purchase a title online. I was informed by Amazon that I’d already purchased that one–over a year ago, thank you very much.

So, I’d had that book for a year and didn’t remember buying it?

Oh boy.

Maybe I’d better start clearing that pile.

But it’s an exciting time to be a writer and a reader. At last year’s ACFW conference in St. Louis, I attended a session by the then-publisher at Thomas Nelson. He said that publishers are now information suppliers. Books are still books, but not quite as we know them. He said that his company will supply the books (aka information) in any format possible that readers will want.

I call that moving with the times. I also call it a time for a book avalanche warning.

How do you keep track of what you’ve read and haven’t read? Do you have a system? Or are you like me, with that virtual pile and real pile of books surrounding you on every side?

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Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip. Her next book The Sweetheart of Starlight releases through Heartsong Presents in August and spotlights Texas barbecue.

CHRISTIANS READ MEGA CONTEST AT THE BOOK CLUB NETWORK

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Christians Read has teamed up with The Book Club Network for a special contest.  Details follow!
June 19-21

Enter the contest atThe Book Club Network HERE.

Contest runs for the month of June.  Be sure to enter–otherwise, you can’t win!

And please join us on FACEBOOK  and Twitter!

Blessings,

All the Christians Read Authors

Words We Throw Around by Lynette Sowell

We’re so quick to throw “Christian” words around in the confines of our church doors. Mercy, forgiveness, love, grace. We smile and nod that there should be more of those qualities in the world. We also know that we should help spread them around. When you’re on the receiving end of mercy, forgiveness, love, and grace, it’s a precious thing.

I’ve been thinking of mercy because of the blatant lack of it in the world. We are quick to pity and have compassion for those who deserve it, but what about those people who don’t, or the ones who inconvenience us?

I went out to eat one time with some professing Christians. On a Sunday, of course, which brings out all sorts of bad behavior from “Jesus people.” I wanted to “crawl under a tile,” as my husband likes to put it, at our friends’ behavior. Nothing seemed to please them. They complained about everything and I’m sure the poor waitress was either angry or hurt by the time she was finished serving us. I’m not saying we should sit there and eat what we didn’t order, or not say anything if an order is messed up. Lots of times–no, most of the time–a lot of how people react depends on our attitude (remember mercy, forgiveness, love, and grace above?).

Think about the waitress. Say she messes up your order. Y’all, she’s probably not intentionally trying to ruin your day. Did you think for one moment that maybe her feet are killing her, or maybe her babysitter quit. Maybe she wishes she went to college, or maybe she’s trying to finish college, and this is just a job until she finishes? Maybe she thinks you look self-righteous in your Sunday best. Christians are characteristically among the worst tippers to servers.

We ought to honor servants. But while we trip over ourselves and make sure that we have a copy of our Sunday bulletin to get our 15% discount at the restaurant, we also leave our salvation in the car, along with those words we like to toss around–mercy, forgiveness, love, and grace. We leave that grace and mercy so freely given to us, and snub our server and express our impatience with someone’s who’s just doing her job. Maybe our waitress did a lousy job. But does that excuse our lack of grace? Mercy says, “I know you’re having a tough day. Here’s a good tip. Be blessed.”

Love is all about inconvenience. It is so, so easy to inconvenience ourselves for those we have warm fuzzies toward. What about someone who passes through your life and after an hour or so, you won’t see them again? Are we showing Jesus, even for an hour? Maybe if enough Christians tipped better and acted more merciful when the service is less than stellar, someone’s life could be changed. Big changes happen in small steps. And those words aren’t just mere words.

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Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip.

Living Water…Accept No Substitutes by Lynette Sowell

I don’t have to tell you that getting lost in a book is a great source of joy to readers (and writers). I feel sorry for people who never learned the skill of letting a book pull their imagination along through space and time.

However, I have had to remind myself that although I love the power of a good story, it won’t satisfy deep longings in my heart. Maybe I’m going through a dry spell, my faith is challenged yet parched. A book might, oh, provide a welcome distraction for a short period of time. I might have some good laughs and my mood might lighten for a time, but that’s simply a Band-Aid over a deeper problem.

I might just need some alone time with God, with my notebook and pen and my Bible, and try some of that liquid refreshment that soothes a parched spirit. Better than hanging out with friends or looking for that great shopping deal. After a while those things don’t nourish and refresh.

After I remind myself about finding some liquid nourishment for my spirit, I crack upone the Bible and let the words pour out. Here’s some of my favorite ones, written by King David over 2,000 years ago.

You, God, are my God,

earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Now isn’t that refreshing, reading words written over two thousand years ago by a man who felt like he was in the desert? Yet he knew where to go, where to put his focus. Now that’s refreshing. He learned to dip into that Living Water.

Used Book Sales, Gotta Love ‘Em

Twice a year, our town library has a used book sale to benefit the library. They cover all the tables of the alternative school’s cafeteria with every kind of book imaginable (except the ones fit to be covered with discreet brown paper wrappers, I was told). And most of the time I try to remember to show up and support them. Now that I’m an author, I realize that all these books were once sold brand-new and the author received royalties on that sale. But what about now? They don’t.
I also realized as I look at those rows and rows of books that I don’t mind. Of course I’d like to sell a ton of books, but I also realize the value of free (or inexpensive) samples. There’s a population of readers who aren’t “cheap” people, but for whom buying books at full price is a luxury. Part of me can’t begrudge them the experience of getting lost in a story.
And truly, what place did we get most of our reading done as kids–and then try to escape from? The library, where we can read for free.
Those free or cheap sample books can lead to future sales for those authors whose books covered the tables. I’ve got a stack of books I’ll probably still be working on when the sale comes in April.
The town library invited me to be their guest speaker one February for their volunteer appreciation dinner. Let me tell you, the library people make authors feel like rock stars. And I owe a lot of my writer’s journey to them.
Anyone been to some good book sales lately?

Preaching or Storytelling?

Every so often the discussion comes up in Christian circles, with writers and readers both:

What makes Christian books…Christian?

When does a writer go from storytelling, to preaching?

How much is too much?

On the other hand, what makes a spiritual message “watered down?”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the disciples that “You are salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matt. 5:13)

From this verse, I understand that we believers give a flavoring to the world that can’t be found anywhere else. Saltiness is distinctive. You can tell when it’s there, and when it’s not. Have you ever tasted a salt substitute? It’s kinda-sorta salty, but not the same thing.

The next verses tells us that we’re “the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)

From these verses, I understand that if we’re the light of the world and let our lights shine, our good work will point others to God and bring glory to Him.

What does that mean? How exactly do writers let their words become salt and light, so readers enjoy the flavor and can clearly see a Godly message?

As readers, is there such a thing as too salty, too much of a message for us? When does the story fall to the side and the message take over? Is that a bad thing? Worse, when does a message become watered down and turn into just “a positive, feel-good story?”

This is where writers must know their audience, and think about who they’re writing for. Of course, we writers never know who’s going to read our book. For example, authors who’ve had a title release as a Kindle freebie are open to a myriad of reactions/reviews from readers, especially those who aren’t believers and who find the salt overwhelming in a book. And by overwhelming, that could be as simple as a character praying over a situation they face. This should not surprise us, as what comes naturally (or should) to a believer, is as unnatural to an unbeliever as a fish trying to breathe air.

I have to admit that when I’m reading, and a character starts “sermonizing,” as in telling another character “this is the lesson that you are learning through this situation,” I will start to skim if it goes on for very long. That’s my confession for today, I suppose. What about you? Thoughts? Reactions? Thrown tomatoes?

When Christmas Stinks by Lynette Sowell

You can feel it in the air. Everyone’s talking about baking, Christmas parties, good foods, beloved traditions, gifts they’ve tucked away,and leaving town to see friends and family. The feeling can be almost contagious.

Most of us have endured Christmases we’d rather forget. Because troubles don’t keep Christmas from coming. It comes anyway, and if we look at the sparkling joy around us and don’t feel it, we feel like downers who might ruin the most perfect Christmas party.

The new town we’ve just moved to doesn’t have those special memories and people we love. When we’re unemployed, the bare space under the Christmas tree taunts us. After a divorce or breakup, the Christmas parties and gatherings are filled with people who still have their “someone.” No amount of gifts can fill the gap at the dinner table after the death of a loved one, nor the empty space next to us in the bed after losing a spouse. When our hours are filled, not with fun at the mall and baking, but sitting beside a hospital bed, Christmas can seem a million miles away. Painful changes come our way, and sometimes it’s reflected in Christmas.

Isn’t that a good thing, though? The first Christmas was steeped in trouble, its preceding months filled with scandal and rumor. I often wonder if Mary liked to have things just so, or if she was a go-with-the-flow kind of girl. “Sure, I’ll give birth in a cave. Without my mom nearby, in a strange town, without any of my family here. And my ‘midwife’ is my husband, and the baby’s not his.” Talk about a reality show!

When she and Joseph were engaged, they probably had plenty of plans. Don’t we all? But we never plan for sickness, separation, bereavement, economic hardship. We don’t plan for the bottom to drop out of our worlds, especially at Christmas time.

What can we do, then, to find something to celebrate? In the hard times, peeling away the wrapping paper and gifts, the parties that come and go, the songs that fade, we get to the heart of the celebration: hope.

The world can be a dark place, and without the hope of Christmas, we don’t have the comfort of knowing we’re not alone. We don’t have the assurance of God’s provision for our needs. But our hope came wrapped in swaddling clothes and tucked in a manger. That is a reason to celebrate, and get to know Jesus, the child who grew up to reunite us with God, the source of all peace. Without Him, all the celebrations are never enough. With Him, we can always find something to celebrate.

We can put our troubles aside, for a moment, and reach out to someone else. Find one new thing, something meaningful, to celebrate at Christmas. This season will pass and Christmas will change for us from now on. But it’s going to be okay. We have a promise. Hold onto hope! Fear not!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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Lynette Sowell  writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip. Her most recent release is Christmas At Barncastle Inn and contains her novella Christmas Duets, a modern spinoff of the classic movie White Christmas.

*Image by Simon Howden

In Defense Of Fluffy And Light by Lynette Sowell

I’ve been hearing a lot about books needing a theme, that deeper thread, that “message” that Christian readers like to find. You’ll hear varying opinions on what makes a book have a good “message.” As I’ve listened to opinions on both sides, I found myself feeling a bit defensive. So far, my books have not addressed those hard-gripping, emotionally charged issues that make you feel like you’ve been wrung out and hung up to dry. My heroes and heroines haven’t faced deep problems. I’m willing to say that as a writer, I’m not alone in that. We who write genre fiction, shorter novels, might be looked at as writing something that’s disposable. Here one month, gone the next.

I realize that some readers don’t want, and probably don’t need, the heavy-hitting, gut-wrenching, box o’ tissues read. The world has enough trouble and sorrow of its own that sometimes it’s nice to curl up in someone else’s world.

However, I am reminded that often, as Mary Poppins sang, “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way.” We who write sweet and light realize that our characters don’t have the pristine lives as they’d like for us to believe when we first meet them. I’ve enjoyed discovering their little secrets and that yes, indeed, my characters have–gasp–issues.

In Christmas At Barncastle Inn, my contribution to the anthology is a novella called “Christmas Duets.” Sweet and light, it’s my writer’s homage to one of my favorite movies, “White Christmas,” I discovered that the marshmallow world in the winter masked some issues.

Middle school music teacher Marcella Goudreau doesn’t like change. Change came in a big way when her grandmother threw grandpa out of the house the day after Thanksgiving. So she and her sister cook up a plan to get them back together over Christmas. Where else? By singing duets from “White Christmas” at Barncastle Inn. Armand Goudreau and his wife of over 50 years face what many couples do–growing older, starting to grow apart, and not communicating well.

Physician Assistant Sean McSweeney, a veteran whose time in the service is over, works for the Veterans Affairs facility where Armand likes to work out at the gym. Sean is very successful at shutting people out of his life. For him, Christmas is a solitary time because of his fractured family and alcoholic mother. Then he takes Armand in after the man shows up on his doorstep. Armand, though, refuses to miss out on the family’s Christmas gathering at Vermont’s Barncastle Inn, and insists that Sean go with him.

A fluffy and light Christmas read? Maybe just a little. Sometimes, though, that’s exactly what we need, and any “message” goes down easy and settles inside us to do its thing. I hope my readers think so. Merry Christmas to you all, and as you go about your preparations, remember that it’s okay if not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes that makes for the best Christmas ever.

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Lynette Sowell  writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip.

Reinventing Tradition by Lynette Sowell

I had something pithy and profound to share, but in my early Black Friday haze, it’s forgotten. One thing that I’ve been thinking about during this season of Thanks-giving is how our traditions have morphed over the years into something else…the meaning of Thanksgiving can get lost in the pre-holiday grocery shopping hysteria and meal planning. We need to figure out family logistics–Whose home will be invaded? Who made what last year? We can’t have a proper Thanksgiving if we don’t have: A. Turkey; B. Stuffing; C. Some type of potato/starch; D. Cranberry Sauce; and E. Pumpkin pie and other desserts. We must also eat the equivalent of two days’ worth of calories, and the men will zonk out in front of the football games and the women take out the shopping papers. That’s Thanksgiving, right?

I’ve often tried to imagine what the first Thanksgiving was like back in 1621. I picture a group of people, tight-knit by this time after all they’ve been through–a long sea voyage, disease, a harsh winter, near starvation, followed by the hard work of a growing season.  Finally, a glimmer of hope after they bring in a harvest. The coming winter will be no less harrowing than the last, but this time they’re better prepared. They sit down to have a celebratory meal, and some guests show up. It’s the locals, who’ve been instrumental in their survival. These survivors owe a great debt of gratitude to the natives. So they sit down and food brings them together. They say a “thank you” to God and Providence for being here, one year later. Perhaps they think of those they’ve lost. Their party lasted for three days, according to the account of Edward Winslow, in a letter he wrote in December 1621.

“Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown.  They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom.  Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.  At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” ~ Edward Winslow  (bold added by me)

So feast away on what you can find. It needn’t be turkey. As you enjoy your leftovers, resist the pull of media to turn Thanksgiving into another shopping holiday. Yes, I love a good shopping deal, but that’s not Thanksgiving and not Christmas for me. I will not heap stress upon stress on myself in the next four weeks because of the pressure to make a proper holiday season. Who’s with me?

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Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip.

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