He’s Everywhere!

One of my favorite Christian songs is called Open The Eyes Of My Heart by Michael W. Smith.

If you are unfamiliar with the song, the lyrics go something like this:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord

Open the eyes of my heart

I want to see You

I want to see You



Danger At Night


As a romantic suspense author, finding inspiration for a story can come just from about anywhere. Whether its something that I see on TV or read about online. Inspiration for stories are all around me in everyday moment of life. If I open my eyes to them.

But what about God?


When we’re going through the storms of life and all we see is the bad things coming at us, it can be hard to find God…until you let Him open the eyes of your heart. Then, you’ll see He’s everywhere in the smallest of things. Like a song, your child’s smile. Your grandchild’s imagination.

So if you’re having trouble finding God in your everyday life today, pray about it. Ask for Him to open your eyes. He’ll show you that He’s right there beside your every second of every day.


All the best…

Mary Alford


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Seek Peace by Hannah Alexander

2012-08-16 17.07.02

You know how you forget how to have fun if you’ve gone six years without a vacation? I know some people enjoy their work so much they feel as if their lives are a vacation. Maybe you’re one of those people.

Probably not.

Mel and I haven’t had a vacation in over four years. In fact, this picture was taken on our last getaway four years ago, and that was at a medical conference–not a lot of time to play.

And now that I’ve seen first-hand how destructive constant work can be on the human body, I’m determined to find more time to play as soon as our clinic closes at the end of next week.

I told you about that, right? Independent private practices as well as independent hospitals are having their revenue cut to the point they’re being forced to shut down and either begin concierge services–hopefully the wave of the future–or they’re joining with other hospitals who can pay them, because they are not making a wage from the government services. Insurance follows closely behind government by telling the doctors what they can and cannot order for patients. Yes, that’s right, people who have no medical training–who count beans all day–are now directing your medical care. But enough about our little tempest in a teacup. The government forced us out of business. I’m angry for the sake of our patients, who are losing a good doctor.

But we’re moving to a beautiful tiny town near the Rockies where physicians are few, and where they are allowed to practice medicine as they see fit under the protection of the hospitals. The physician Mel will be replacing even did acupuncture. How cool is that? So he no longer has to fight to practice medicine with the good of the patient, and he won’t have to work weekends to keep us afloat while getting paid nothing from the clinic. We can drive an hour or two in any direction and find a lake, a monument, Oregon Trail, and six hours to Yellowstone.

It’s a new adventure, and that’s how we’re looking at it. How about you? Can you find a new adventure to enjoy? Follow a road you’ve never followed, hike a trail you’ve never hiked, read a book genre you’ve never read. Do something different with the small parts of your life. We plan to make the most of this new adventure.


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Writers and Faith: A Journey and Exercise, Part 2 by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, Writers and Faith, Part 2

© 2016, Vicki Hinze


Writers and Faith: A Journey and Exercise

Part 2


Vicki Hinze


Note: This is Part 2 of Writers and Faith: A Journey and Exercise. If you have not read the first installment, you can find it at: Part 1. It is recommended that you read the articles in order.

Part 2: Verse

My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. ~Psalm 45:1-3


People of faith who write are often stirred by noble themes. They think of purpose in the work, their hopes for what it will offer readers. They consider the value of it, the potential to touch lives, to open hearts, share insights and guidance. Writers weigh the depictions they purport, the morals and values. They struggle to address their topics fairly and honestly, strive to inspire, to elevate, to instill compassion, understanding, insight and hope itself.

It often shocks writers with faith that all writers do not heavily weigh and judge and consider these things. That all writers do not seek to infuse the work with noble themes or purpose. The truth is some writers write what they or their associates think will sell best and that’s as far as their commitment goes on what to write, how to write it and to market it. Whether or not there is deeper purpose in the story falls down the list of requirements. This or that book had these elements, presented in this way, and the work sold well. Adopt the pattern, they say. And many are very successful doing so.

If that is the author’s choice, that’s fine. Who dares to judge it as not fine when the goal is to earn a living? But when faith enters the work, a different set of responsibilities and purpose comes with it, and simply earning a living isn’t enough to feed the spirit and soul of the writer. Writers hope for that, naturally, but it isn’t their first priority. The contentment, fulfillment of the human being in the writer and for the reader of their work requires noble themes.

It’s my belief that this infusion of a greater purpose in the work is directly relative to the statistics on writers who become alcohol and substance abusers, the number of writers who sadly commit suicide.

Many lay those challenges at the feet of writers for being eccentric artists. Being artistic geniuses, or being a half-step from borderline crazy. In my experience, none of that has proven true. What has proven true is this:

Most writers are business savvy, logical and emotional. And, simply put, the human being in the artist needs purpose and to feel fulfillment in his/her work because that work—being beloved and infused with purpose—is consuming. Writing requires a lot of personal sacrifices and it isn’t a nine-to-five job. It’s a demanding and relentless job that takes all. If money is all there is, it soon proves not enough. The discipline required to do the work is soon hounded by depression and desperation or dissatisfaction. There are many highs and joys, but there are also many lows and sorrows. Coping, as it does in all lives, requires balance and skills that demands make challenging for writers.

This is why it is critical that authors choose what projects they invest in carefully. To stay balanced, anchored, and mentally healthy we must choose carefully. Writers with faith have a lower negative-incident rate. In no small part, this is due to writers with faith deeming their writing a higher calling. It is that higher calling that brings them to the work with goals and aspirations to serve rather than to just have their physical needs met.

I am not diminishing the value of meeting your physical needs. That’s very important to all writers and all people. But writers with faith have an inherent belief that if they are responding to this higher calling, then their needs will be met. They may not see how, know the path that meeting will take, but they have a fixed belief that anything God brings them to, He’ll bring them through. This includes their needs—whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. All needs, not just physical needs, will be met.

This faith diminishes many of the challenges that other writers face. Those mentioned above, seeking only fortune or, say, fame, are addressing only their physical needs. The physical can make the life you live more comfortable, but it cannot fill your emotional or spiritual needs, and that leaves you with only one strong leg on your proverbial three-legged stool. The other two legs (emotional and spiritual) remain weak. So unless the writer finds something, somewhere that fills the emotional and spiritual need in creating the work or having created the work, those other two legs—emotional and spiritual fulfillment—remain weak. We all know what happens to a three-legged stool when one leg’s strong and two are weak. The stool doesn’t stand, it wobbles, rocks, or tumbles.

Incidentally, this is also why the writer with faith shouldn’t envy other, seemingly successful authors, or fall to temptation in emulating those fiscally successful authors writing works outside the beliefs of faith. Every author has the right to write what s/he chooses, and there is merit in many other works. Different people seek different things in it, so different writers and different works is essential. We’re talking about the contentment and health of the writer and the readers of his/her works. The writer with faith, to be content, needs more levels of his or her needs met. S/he needs noble themes written for purpose as it relates to faith to feed the author on all levels.

My tongue is the pen of a skillful writer… What we say and how we say it matters. Think about this for a second. The pen of a skillful writer is a writer whose noble themes stir his/her heart. Writers relate through stories, create bonds between characters and readers through empathy. What is required to create empathy? Emotion. What is required to touch one emotionally? You must stir the heart. So if the author writes a work that does not stir his/her heart, what are the odds, do you think, of that work stirring the hearts of readers? Especially readers who read to be stirred?

The reader can’t get anything out of work that a writer doesn’t first put into a work. Now the writer might be aware and deliberate and infuse the work with specific things to evoke specific emotional reactions to the work intentionally or be unaware and infuse the work unintentionally, but if the writer doesn’t tap into the emotions when writing, then the reader’s emotions won’t be tapped into it when reading. It’s be like baking a cake without flour or eggs. Or driving a car with no tires or wheels.

So there is guidance and direction offered on content and insight into essential ingredients in the writing related to craft and technique. Noble themes, write what stirs your heart so that other hearts will be stirred, embrace the art of the skillful writer by infusing the work using these techniques.

There’s yet another layer and level in this verse on the tongue. For the writer, think of the tongue as your perception. What you see, the way you see it, how you interpret what you see and the way you see it. Each writer’s view is different and unique. Five can witness the same thing, and all five will see some things the same, but each will note other, different things, too. All things are viewed through the writer’s specific prism (all his or her experiences and attitudes and what s/he deems good and evil and important and insignificant).

This is why no one else can write a single writer’s specific story. Writing, from start to finish, requires choices. One upon another. And no two writers will make the exact same choices consistently through a story or a book.

Each writer has his or her own filters—personal experiences, hot buttons, flashpoints, preferences—and it is through the lens with those filters that s/he sees anything and everything. What that writer sees is his or her truth.

That lends sincerity and authenticity to the work. Infuses the sense that it is genuine, which translates subliminally to the reader. That reader knows this is the writer’s truth. Seated in faith, truth is truth. It is known, felt, and sensed.

This, as well as purpose, is the reason we need more than one author, more than one story, more than one type of book. Each work appeals to readers with similar filters, or ones wanting to explore different filters for different reasons. We are not one-size fits all as people. That remains true in what we read and in how we respond to what we read. We react to our own truth. So when an author’s truth offers insight into our own, the two fuse.

Yet another observation I want to share is that sometimes our tongues are tongues. Writers often speak. They often teach. When they do, their tongues are their pens. This is why we must be cautious about speaking in absolutes—you must do or not do this or that. This is the “right” way to do xyz. That’s the wrong way to do xyz.


The truth is that every writing rule can and has been broken and likely will be broken again by some writer who has a need to break it and unearths a way to break it to accomplish a needed task.

Whether or not you break the rule isn’t significant. What is significant? To know the rule you’re breaking and to break it only for a greater purpose. If the rule best serves the work, heed it. If not, break it, but break it for the purpose of best serving the work.

An example. Following the rule muddies the meaning of something, and trying to shift things within the rule doesn’t make the meaning clearer. Then, break the rule. Clarity is paramount. (Even the most valuable insight is wasted if readers can’t understand what you mean.) But try to change the work to follow the rule first. If that doesn’t work, then break the rule.

The last observation I want to share on this verse is about the power of stories well told by skillful writers. We know thoughts have power, and words have power. We need to understand the power in stories, too. People have read books by little known authors that have altered their lives. Changed the course of their lives forever. That’s powerful—and yet another reason it’s important to have noble themed works.

Every story has the potential to impact readers positively or negatively. To be constructive or destructive. The writer with faith keeps that uppermost in mind.

Stories can open closed minds. Offer insights and understanding that drains anger and replaces it with understanding and compassion. Stories can lift people out of pits of despair, infuse them with hope. Stories can change lives, can inform those lost and seeking of constructive solutions to challenges, or even prove that constructive solutions exist to others who have not experienced them. Stories can impart the truth that if a character can find constructive solutions to challenges, then solutions exist, and readers can find them, too.

When you’re stuck in a dark hallway, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There are no doors with knobs you might be able to turn to find answers on the other side of them. You’re blind and stumbling in the dark, looking for a way out. Then along comes a writer and through the story, s/he lights a candle.

A single candle obliterates total darkness.

Suddenly the unseen doors are visible. Doors are tried, knobs turned, and hope flares. One of these doors will open and reveal the light—a constructive solution to a problem this reader faces. Or the door will open to another door that reveals the light. The light might be three or four doors away, but the darkness is gone. No longer does the reader feel helpless or hopeless. And momentum has begun—all due to a single visible door.

That’s the power in storytelling, and the upshot of the case for noble themes that stir hearts. That’s the case for purpose writing, and investing only in stories you love enough to give your best.

Part 2 Exercise:


Read the verse again. Note your impressions. Once you have, consider your work. Identify your author theme. (Healing books? Protector stories? Redemption stories? Small town? Second Chances? What is consistent in all of your stories? That’s your author theme.) Now note your responses to the following questions: What is the condition of your three-legged stool? In your work? In your life? How can you strengthen your stool’s legs?   What are the traits of a skillful writer in your view? The kind of writer you choose to be or become?


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The Demand for Stories and the Greatest Opportunity

by Elizabeth Goddard

My family loves to see movies. I think we’re all enthralled with stories no matter the venue– video games, TV series, books (especially books!) or movies. I’m one girl living with four boys (my husband and three sons) so, of course, the movies we see are action-packed. Hence, I write action-packed novels and throw in some emotional romantic drama for my audience! But it’s all fun.

Remember when VHS tapes came out? Yes, I’m sort of giving away my age here. Do you remember thinking—who would ever go to a movie theater again if we can just wait to get the video and watch it at home? We thought that having the ability to watch the movies in the comfort of our own home would negatively affect theaters.

We couldn’t have been more wrong!

Remember before cable when we only had FREE television with only three stations to choose from and they went off the air late at night? Who would have thought we would be willing to not only PAY for our television, but we pay for movies via streaming services and DVD-in-the-mail services, and now subscribe to additional television and movie stations.

Our hunger for entertainment has only increased with each new venue. What is it all about?


The world craves good stories, and Christian writers have never had a greater opportunity or greater obligation to point back to the One.

It’s an exciting time to be a writer.

Many blessings!

Elizabeth Goddard


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The Introvert Inlaw by Julie Arduini

I didn’t have a definition for the longest time, but in recent years it became very obvious I’m not just an introvert, I’m an introvert’s introvert. People who don’t know me well find this odd because they have seen me speak in public and I enjoy it. The bigger the group, the better. However, when I am in small clusters of people or one-on-one, I am anxious.

This was most apparent when I first met my in-laws. There wasn’t a kinder set of parents than Tom’s mom and dad. They welcomed me long before I even knew who son #2, the man who became my husband, was. They were hugs and Sunday dinners and I was scared to death when I knew a hug was coming and my happy place was with my nose in a book. Looking back, I think I felt most comfortable with fictional characters because they couldn’t reject me. I was so afraid of that. But Phil and Ruth Arduini never rejected me or my family.

Once I became an official Arduini, I still struggled. It was all me. I don’t know sports that well and especially back then, I didn’t know a lot about country music. I sure didn’t know how to play golf and once my father-in-law and husband tried to teach me, I was too intimidated and impatient.

So I took pictures.

There was something deep inside me that felt I needed to capture simple family moments for preservation. Perhaps it was because growing up we did not take a lot of pictures. Maybe because history is important to me. Whatever the case, even with my phone, it gave me something to do and made me feel less anxious. Once an event was over, I enjoyed sharing the pictures with everyone so they too had something tangible to take away.

DadArduiniLast week as we learned Tom’s dad passed away and I wanted to create a tribute through pictures and words, it was a comfort to know I had various pictures to draw from. Few were posed, they were just moments I snapped. In every picture he was smiling. I can remember something funny about each event. I’m so glad in what was a plan to keep me busy and less socially awkward, even with the most welcoming group you can imagine, there are visuals we can hold on to of all those fun times.

There are so many things I love about Phil Arduini, and most of those traits, Tom has as well. Phil never let me dodge a hug and over time, I not only grew comfortable receiving them, I looked forward to it. Phil and Tom share a very unique sense of humor and although we’d pretend it was the worst joke ever, I love that they never stopped the jokes. Last year the two of them giggled for weeks about Tom being my assistant while I spoke at a library about writing. Phil was so proud of that, but the two of them laughed and laughed picturing Tom walking behind me because to Phil, I was a celebrity. Thing was, in our hometown, Phil was the star because of his music. Everyone knew and loved him.

I may never be the life of any party, and I might not be the most natural hugger, but I thank God for pictures and words that I can contribute, especially when it comes to remembering a great man. There are no adequate words to describe how much he will be missed.


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And Every Gain Divine by Kristen Heitzmann

Over Independence Day, I posted a less known verse from “America the Beautiful” because it resonated when we sang the song in church. Since then the words have continued to work in me, so I thought we could discuss it today.

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.

We owe a tremendous debt to soldiers who fight battles in conditions we can never imagine, who do whatever is required to bring liberty and safety to their country and its people. But, even though we’re not all soldiers, we are all called to be heroes in liberating strife. Can anyone doubt we are at war? Not only physical war with terrorists and deranged people who follow their example, but spiritual warfare for the soul of our nation, the lives and hearts and souls of its people. How beautiful are we for every step we take in our daily lives that brings some liberty in the weight of grief, of fear, of ignorance?

Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

Mercy is a precious thing. I wonder if we realize how life changing–how world changing–it would be if each of us practiced it instead of anger and self-righteousness. In standing against evil, we must always have merciful hearts, so we do not miss the opportunities to rescue the weak, the blind, the disheartened, the misled, the angry, the wounded, and the lost. Mercy hurts because it opens us to God’s heart, to see and understand the wounds of others, to know their pain. But there can be no justice without mercy, so in any cause we serve, let it be tempered with Divine mercy.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine

We are blessed among nations with bounty and the freedom to benefit from our labor. Oppressive governments take away the reward for toil that we take for granted, grumbling about our bosses, our wages, our co-workers. As a nation I pray that we will appreciate what we have and be generous with all, so our gold is refined by God, our strength restored to help and support the weak wherever they are found in need.

Till all success be nobleness

Success is so often vilified. If we’re successful we must be crooked or lucky, worthy of scorn and envy–to be pulled down, so that none has more than another. But if success is noble–as Paul says, the worker deserving his wage–then we should strive to do our best and be thankful when it succeeds. Be generous but unashamed by attacks from those who take without earning. As good and faithful servants we will take our places with the master and join the celebration.

And every gain divine!

All we have and all we do is for God’s glory. Give thanks for every book sold, every dollar earned, every customer or client or patient, no matter how few. Rejoice in the call, no matter how simple, and the freedom to serve, to strive, to succeed, and to be rewarded accordingly.

God bless America, the beautiful, one nation under God. God help her people, who have heard the call of violence and anger and turned upon each other instead of to each other. Heal her. Heal us. Let us be a beacon and a haven of mercy and blessing for all. Everything is possible with God.

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Hearing From God

portrait-1061047_1920What do you do when faced with a tough decision? How do you handle uncertainties and doubts?

Have you ever forged ahead in an area only to find you landed smack dab in a mess?

The Israelites were a chosen people, rescued from slavery, from the land of Egypt, by God’s mighty hand. Imagine watching the Nile River turn to blood before you. Imagine, with a powerful army behind you, seeing the Red Sea part, allowing you to cross it on dry land, only to see it come crashing back over your enemies.

Again and again, God showed Himself strong and mighty on the Israelites behalf, giving them what they needed at every moment. He sheltered them from the sun’s hot rays by day, and lit their way with a pillar of fire by night.

This God, their God, walked with them, beside them, guiding them every step along the way.

Oh, the trust! The security! The faith the miraculous acts of God must have created.

But then time passed, they forgot all God had done, and they began to forge ahead–only to land smack dab in a mess. Psalm 106 verse 13 says, “Yet how quickly they forgot what He had done! They wouldn’t wait for His counsel!” (NLT).

How, oh how could they have been so foolish? They had access to the living God, the God who had proven His faithfulness again and again, and they squandered this most precious blessing.

But before I grow too smug, I’m reminded of all the times when I’ve done the same. The Bible tells me again and again that God will guide me. That He’ll speak to me, and as His child, I will hear His voice. But then life sideswipes me and I become fearful, or I get busy office-620822_1920and feel I must make a decision regarding something right now!

In those moments, which occur much more frequently than I care to admit, Psalm 106:13 could’ve been written about me.

Why is this? Often, I’m impatient, and in my impatience, negative thinking runs amuck, planting then feeding doubts. What if God doesn’t give me an answer in time? What if He doesn’t answer me at all? Surely if He intended to, He would’ve done so by now.

Other times, I simply go through life on autopilot, relying on my wisdom and living in my strength–not a wise move.

The answer? Slow down. Trust. Listen. And wait, knowing God will guide me Isaiah30 verse21jpgtoward His best, in His perfect timing. The Bible promises this. In Isaiah 30:21 we’re told, “Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left'” (NLT). In John chapter 10, Jesus tells us His sheep, which are those who have a relationship with Him, will recognize His voice.

I think more often than not, the question is not, Is God speaking? but rather, are we listening. Have we, through time, prayer, and practice, cultivated a listening ear? And do we truly want to hear what God is saying, or have we shut Him out through our lack of surrender?

Other times, I believe God is asking us to wait, and as we wait, to trust–that He will guide us toward His very best, in His way and His timing.

Most times, I believe God has already made His way clear. You may have heard it said that the Bible is man’s roadmap for life; oh, how true that statement is. Throughout bible-1089930_1920its pages, Scripture provides clear and timeless guidelines on everything from how to have a successful marriage to how to manage one’s finances. That, my friend, is God speaking to you. So slow down, open your Bible and your heart, and listen.

Your turn. What are some ways you’ve learned to hear from God? What are some things you believe hinder our ability to hear from Him? Can you share a time when you felt as if God wasn’t listening or responding only to find He revealed His will at the perfect time? Share your thoughts and stories with us because we can all learn from and encourage one another!


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The Language of Flowers by Tara Randel

In The Bridal Bouquet, I researched the meanings of different flowers to incorporate them into the story. One of the main goals of my heroine, Kady, is to establish her family’s floral shop in the wedding industry. There are so many occasions that go hand-and-hand with weddings; the engagement party, showers, the ceremony, the reception, and future anniversaries. This leaves so many new creations for a florist with a vivid imagination.

Because of her love for flowers, Kady is convinced that discovering the personalities of her bride and groom is the important first step. Some brides know right away what their floral theme will be, but for others, Kady quizzes the couple to help with the final decision. What is their outlook on love, romance and marriage? Do certain colors have an emotional response for the couple? Upon gathering all the information, Kady then picks the perfect flowers to personalize the special day.


Here are the meanings of some of the most popular flowers.

Lily of the Valley– happiness

Calla lily– beauty

Gardenia- joy

Orchid– love

Lilac– first signs of love

Peony-happy life

Stephanotis– happiness in marriage

Carnation– friendship

Many brides know the exact flowers they want for their special day, others need a little help deciding. A professional florist, like Kady, work with brides to make their dreams come true.

In the opening scene of The Bridal Bouquet, Kady created exactly what the bride requested for her ceremony; all white flowers to go with her white gown complemented by a red sash. The flower arrangements included gardenias, snow-white dahlias and white larkspur.

In order for Kady to know which flowers will suit her bride, along with colors, blooms and theme, she chooses from the top choices of wedding flowers. Here are a few Kady loves.

Rose. No other flower is as popular for weddings. With a wide range of sizes and colors available, roses are symbolic of love and passion, making it doubly popular for weddings.

Tulips, a beautiful spring bloom that is easily cultivated, sophisticated and a sweet choice for weddings. Tulips symbolize happiness and also come in a range of colors and styles, giving brides many options for their floral choices.

Hydrangea. These full, bushy blooms are an economical and fun choice for wedding flowers. Available in green, pink, white, burgundy, and blue shades, they are a great option for full bouquets or filler flowers.

Orchids add a touch of the exotic. They are a lovely wedding flower that can add a colorful, tropical touch to any bouquet or floral arrangement.

Stephanotis. A staple of flower choices. A star shaped flower that adds a glamorous touch to any wedding bouquet or as filler for larger arrangements.

Daisy, a sweet statement alone or gathered together, perfect for a casual garden wedding in the spring or summer. These are affordable, easy to find flowers with a wide range of colors and sizes to choose from.

Gardenia, delicate blooms with a rich scent, attractive without being overpowering. The soft curves of the petals make them a wedding favorite.

 Peonies are large, full blooms. Elegant and a bit more expensive than other wedding flowers, they also have a strong fragrance that is sweet and alluring.

Incorporating one type of flower or a mixture of many will give the bride choices for her wedding vision. Kady knows that the more options she can offer, the more a bride will get exactly what she’s requested to make a statement on her special day.

Check out The Bridal Bouquet to find out which flowers Kady uses in her bouquet entry for the competition during the annual floral convention featured in the book.



B & N


Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of twelve novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, The Business of Weddings series, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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HIGHER GROUND by Hannah Alexander

2012-08-26 15.51.06

We are called to meet together with other saints to form a bond in Christ. That sets us on higher ground. I don’t mean it makes us better than anyone else, I mean it gives us a lift.

There are times, however, when the saints aren’t meeting and we’re in the dumps and we need a lift. I know someone who doesn’t feel worthy of meeting with the saints right now. I know he’s wrong, and I hope someday he’ll realize all are welcome in church when they’re seeking what that church has to offer. I won’t go into details about his life, but he needed an outlet, something to lift him out of his doldrums. What would you have done if you were in a prison of despair and couldn’t turn to a church for support–or felt you couldn’t?

I don’t know what I’d do. He rescued two boxer puppies. They’re tiny and wiggly, and when he first got them they were covered in fleas and ringworm and in bad shape–though they were very affectionate. This person lives near us, so I often glance out the window to see him walking around the yard with the puppies following behind him, tumbling over one another, licking his ankles, licking his face when he picks them up. He built a pen for them under a tree outside, and he spends more time there with them than he seems to spend inside. Those little puppies have thrived under his care, and now they have no fleas, they’re healthy and happy and every time I call out to them they come running over to lick my toes and love on me. These are God’s creatures in action. Who would think that, just perhaps, these tiny bundles of happiness might be used by God to bring a hurting soul closer to Him? I recall when this person first arrived in town. There was such sadness in his face. He seemed lost. Now he speaks and gives a friendly wave when we drive past or walk over to talk.

I have a feeling this neighbor is going to have parts of his heart healing soon. Maybe then he’ll feel more inclined to seek out other ways to lift his heart out of the doldrums. But those puppies, I believe, might have been the beginning of his salvation. How like God to put gifts like that in our paths.

What’s He done for you lately?

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Thanks To Our Founding Fathers For Standing Firm


It’s almost the Fourth of July and we all know what that means. Fireworks, barbeques, parades. Lots of outdoor fun.

As enjoyable as all these things are, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the real reason we celebrate the holiday in the first place.

Okay, here’s a bit of history for all you history buffs.

Independence Day of the United States is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress declaring that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer part of the British Empire.


This year our country will be 240 years old. Through all those years, hundreds of thousands of men and women have given their lives so that we can remain, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

As an author who writes military romantic suspense, I am always conscience of the sacrifice the men and women of all branches of the military have made for us. I always want to bring honor to them as well as to God who oversees our country’s welfare and freedom.


So as this Independence Day approaches, I found myself thinking about what some of our founding fathers must have been thinking when they risked their lives to form our country. I found some interesting insights into their Christian faith that I thought I’d share with you today.

From George Washington 1st U.S. President

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”


From John Adams 2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God … What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region be.”


From Thomas Jefferson 3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event.”

From Benjamin Franklin Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Unites States Constitution

“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped.

“That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.

“As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see;

“But I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive, that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.”



From Samuel Adams Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Father of the American Revolution

“And as it is our duty to extend our wishes to the happiness of the great family of man, I conceive that we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world that the rod of tyrants may be broken to pieces, and the oppressed made free again; that wars may cease in all the earth, and that the confusions that are and have been among nations may be overruled by promoting and speedily bringing on that holy and happy period when the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all people everywhere willingly bow to the scepter of Him who is Prince of Peace.”

From John Quincy Adams 6th U.S. President

“The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth.

Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made ‘bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God’ (Isaiah 52:10).”


These are just a few of the Christian beliefs held by our founding fathers.

So this Fourth of July, enjoy the fireworks and barbeques, the parades and all the outdoor fun, but don’t forget to take a minute to remember all those who have died so that we could do all those things.

Let freedom ring.


All the best…


Mary Alford



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Are You a Striver?

by Elizabeth Goddard

I just sent in a completed manuscript to my editor. My deadline is today, June 30th, so I made it! But so far I’ve never had to ask for extra time. I hope that remains the case, but I work hard to make sure it happens even in the middle of some serious struggles lately.


I guess you could say I’m driven.


In addition to the manuscript I must include front and back matter, which includes a scripture, dedication and acknowledgements and a “Dear Reader” letter. I’ve shared an excerpt with you on occasion, and in fact, in my last post, “Why I Write,” I shared an excerpt from the “Dear Reader” letter in my latest release, Deception.


One thing I’ve learned after so many novels is that my trials and struggles in life come out in my stories, metaphorically, that is, and in ways I don’t even realize. So writing the letter at the end is as much for me as it is for my readers. As I read through this particular story multiple times, editing and polishing, I looked for the spiritual thread, or something that would resonate with readers. Something that resonated with me and I found it. It’s what God has been teaching me the last few months, which is nothing new but more of a reminder.


Somehow I lost my way.


Has that ever happened to you?


Here’s the excerpt from my letter on this manuscript I just turned in—no title yet! But this is the third book in my Wilderness, Inc. series.


I pray and sometimes wonder if God hears me. I question His silence or the answers that come in ways I hadn’t expected. I realized, too, that I felt so emotionally and psychologically bruised that it was palpable in a very visceral and physical way. Then I pictured myself in a river, fighting to survive and bumping into the rocks and branches and becoming bruised for my efforts.


And then I had a light bulb moment—I had an epiphany—if I would simply stop fighting that which I could not control, and “go with the flow” as we so often hear—then I wouldn’t be so bruised.


Shouldn’t I know that by now, considering everything I’ve experienced in life? But I needed the reminder and a saw the Bible verse pop up somewhere (probably Facebook or yeah, my Bible, actually) that nailed it.


Psalm 46:10 in the King James version of the Bible reads “Be still and know that I am God,” but is more aptly translated in the NASB version, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”


Cease striving and know that I am God.


Yes! That was exactly it! I’ve been striving too much. Are you a striver too? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “strive” like this:


A: to struggle in opposition or contention :  carry on a conflict :  contend, contest — used with against or with


Wow. NO wonder I feel so beaten down. I’ve been working so hard to control the course of my life, fighting and battling all the obstacles, when I’m not supposed to. All I need do is pray and believe in and trust God.


Friend, is this you too? Are you striving and it feels like a battle that’s left you bruised, emotionally and psychologically? Don’t do it. Just let it go. You can’t control it anyway.


You belong to God. Trust Him and let the river take you where He wills.


Many blessings!

Elizabeth Goddard


BTW, I’m so excited to share that Buried and Backfire of my Mountain Cove series are 2016 finalists in the DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN MYSTERY/SUSPENSE! Add to that, this week it was announced that Submerged (Mountain Cove) is a Carol Award finalist! I LOVED writing these books set in stunning southeast Alaska–the perfect setting for adventure, suspense and romance! Order the series today and get it on your eReader for the July 4th holiday weekend! 





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Called, But Not Equipped by Julie Arduini

Years ago there was a guest speaker at our church who prayed for people and had words of encouragement for some. When he got to me I remember thinking he was the real deal. In prayer he shared Christ’s heart for me with messages I’d only shared in my prayer closet. It was stunning, beautiful, and scary.

Scary because through that prayer I received encouragement that God was making some changes in my life. I was becoming an intercessor. Because of my mustard seed faith, the speaker prayed that I would stand in the gap for others and believe in Christ’s name. Thing was, I was questioning it and Him.

Why does everyone else seem to have it so easy and become so undone by the smallest things?

I had only uttered that frustration and cry in prayer. Not even my husband knew how hard I struggled with that. People back then were up in arms with a bad hair day while I had chronic pain and infertility. I didn’t get it, and I sure didn’t like it.

The answer, through prayer that day, was I wasn’t wrong. I was getting harder stuff than most people. The reason was because I knew I was dust in my Heavenly Father’s hands. I was becoming someone who was rising up and asking for big things in Jesus’ name. And in time, my faith, because of those hard times, would give me the ability to declare a mountain to move in Jesus’ name, and it would.


All these years later, I remain stunned. Stunned because much of what was prayed has come to pass. I’m still me. I get annoyed when someone complains over what I consider small things. I’ve held a dying child in my arms. Not much will throw a person after that. But through those heartbreaking things, I’ve been able to pray for others.

And God’s done incredible things.

I love that God does His best work in spite of me. When I thought I had to talk fancy or do something like this person would do, of course I failed. But in conversation with someone in a knee brace, I remember non chalantly saying I hated knowing she was in pain and I pray the next day she’d wake up and not need it.

And He did exactly that.

When I had certain time frames in mind but didn’t know what for, there have been pregnancies, including my own. Friends who knew change was coming but had no idea what. They are now in ministry. It’s an incredible thing to watch God work. Heal. Set Free.

As I transitioned this year into writing and speaking on my own, there was no traveling speaker. Instead, in the quiet of my heart I felt a message rising up. Something I’d heard before, but not as specific.

Writing books is only part of the call on my life. The real ministry will be when I meet with women because of my writing. Most will leave once I’m done speaking, but that remnant that stays, those precious few, those are the ones God created me for. To hear their stories. To listen. To pray.

Not have perfect words or any expectations.

To just pray.

This is already happening and I have grieved. I’m not ready. I’m not prepared. These ladies need so much more than I could ever possibly give. Their stories break me. You name the topic, I’ve heard it, and then some. Infertility. Infidelity. Abuse. Family dynamics that would curl your hair. These are from people across the country, most I have never met.

And when I start to worry I will fail them, and when I’m anxious that there’s no way these books I have and plan to write will ever reach enough hands to make a difference, that still, calm voice lets me know all I need to know.

I’m called. I’m not equipped.

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My job was to say yes. What I keep forgetting is He will do the rest. He equips. He is the strength. He is the Source. He heals. Delivers. Rescues. Provides. The vision I was given long ago by a wise friend when she saw me running ahead of the Lord trying to make it all happen was that my job was to rest on the couch. Every day. The Lord was the one leaving each day to fight the battles. All He was requiring of me was to be still and save a spot on the couch. When He returned, He wanted to rest on me and talk about His day.

That’s it. There is so little we are required to do. But I suspect there are a few like me. You get wrapped up thinking you have to make it all happen. Thing is, that’s a burden that isn’t yours to handle. And I was told straight out to take that kind of Godly responsibility as a human, it will kill me. And you.

So, if you relate, I pray you rest on the proverbial couch. Picture yourself taking the people you connect with and you place them at the foot of the cross. Your job was to say yes to His call. He equips. He goes to battle.

Anything else places it all out of sync. Whether the call on your life is writing, praying, both, being a parent, a missionary, whatever the case is, He’s got all the equipment. All you need is to sign up. I’ll be sitting right next to you!


I’m looking to build followers over at Amazon and Goodreads. Will you be one of them? Thanks!

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Expectation by Kristen Heitzmann

I recently had reason to consider the role of expectation in life. It’s not something I typically ponder like grace or faith or wisdom or creativity. But I had a chance to see it in a new way, and thought I’d share that here.

First, let’s look at the simple meaning of the word from Merriam Webster.

  • a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen
  • a feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc., someone or something will be

Expectation begins with belief and engenders feelings.

We all have expectations, some as basic as the sun will rise. Going through each day, I wonder if it’s possible for our minds not to preconceive what is likely to happen in a situation and to have a feeling about how good, bad, or successful it will be. I know I’m wired that way, and I wouldn’t typically think that’s a problem. But this statement got me thinking:

Expectations are resentments in the making.

The problem with expectation is what happens when it isn’t met. If we expect people to behave a certain way and they don’t, we’ll have an emotional reaction. Depending on the expectation—whether of good or bad—the result could be disappointment or relief, satisfaction or anger.

For instance, the Israelites expected the Messiah to conquer, restore, and reign. Jesus did not meet those expectations, and the Sanhedrin responded with raging cries for crucifixion.

When we create, we do so with the expectation that something good will come of it. Some success, remuneration, acclaim, a chance to touch, reach, entertain, challenge, and encourage. But if this doesn’t happen to the degree we expected, the seeds of resentment are often sown.

To whatever we do, whether writing, working, interacting, loving, communicating etc., we bring human expectations. These form the core of resentment if we can’t surrender them when they aren’t met. So the first step in defusing expectation is surrender. We might anticipate a result, but if it doesn’t happen, how we respond is the key.

If our expectation is grounded in Christ our response will be likewise. Through grace, expectation can become a blessed thing. This is expectant faith. Praying, creating, working, or interacting with grace-filled expectation calls and allows us to react with joy and acceptance whatever the result may be.

It’s not exactly easy, but I’m finding it a worthy challenge to stop expecting others to meet my belief and feelings about how they should be or do something. Now if I can just extend that to myself!

So what are the expectations that might lead to resentment in your lives? And how joyful it might be to surrender them to Christ with expectant faith that grace is sufficient in this as in all.

Kristen Heitzmann





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Writers and Faith–Part 1 by Vicki Hinze

 Writers and Faith, Vicki Hinze

Writers and Faith: A Journey

Part 1


 Vicki Hinze


More than a few authors were discussing feeling murky about the blend of their faith and their writing. More than a few felt mired or uncertain what to write or even if they should write. Could their time be better spent—the exercise of their faith be better spent—doing something else?

Those questions in that discussion sent me on a journey to discover the role of faith-filled authors. What information was available to share with them? What would offer guidance? Direction? Counsel worth having? Were there specific guideposts, guidelines that would be helpful? Specific signs to watch for or to avoid? Was there anything I could give or add to the discussion to help other writers and myself?

Although I’ve been writing steadily for twenty-seven years, I am not the ultimate authority on anything including writing and know that only too well. So I went to what is the ultimate authority on everything—the Bible. What does it say about authors, writers, storytellers and scribes? I thought that would reveal useful insights and, frankly, was stunned that I hadn’t thought to specifically search that before now. Ah, God’s timing. Again. A lesson often repeated during my career and life. Not my time, His time. Often the two are poles apart—or seem as if they are. But experience has taught me that His timing is always perfect. Mine’s anything but. So now is the exact right time to take a look at this. Hence, these articles.

I have to tell you, I did not expect the avalanche of guidance, direction, responsibility, goals and aspirations, and dictates that I found. Nor did I expect the affirmation that writing is an enormous, trusted gift bestowed on writers. But that’s precisely what I discovered. That, and so much more!

In the articles are a dozen of the verses revealed and applied to writing and/or authors and my interpretation of why they are significant. I could expound and dig deeper, but then this would be a book not an article that’s grown to a series of articles. More importantly, full disclosure of my discoveries could color other writers’ own discoveries, and that would deprive them the joy I experienced.

That was such a gift. I hope everyone, writers and others, regardless of what they do, will search the Bible for their vocation. It’s a breathtaking experience—and it alters your perspective forever. In a sense, I feel I got a glimpse of being seen through God’s eyes. Just a glimpse, but the impact was profound. Everyone should feel that special and honored at least once.

The verses selected are ones that spoke intimately to me. After the verse, my thoughts. And beyond that, an exercise on that verse for you to apply to your specific situation.

Now when you run your search, some or all of these verses might speak to you or other verses will speak to you. Some will speak more loudly to you than others. I do believe that is deliberate and our spirits are, if you will, plugging into the Divine will. What speaks most directly and clearly to us, I believe is tied to our individual purposes and to God’s specific plan for us. We recognize it at soul level, just as Christ said we would in hearing His voice.


Here’s a place trust and faith are called into action. Have faith that you will receive what you need when you need it, that you will recognize it, and that you will know exactly what to do with it. Your steps are guided by His will. They might be different than you planned (and often are) but they’re perfect for you (even when it seems otherwise). Know too that there is a reason for each step you take. Whether it’s to gain knowledge, wisdom or experience, you have the opportunity to gain something from each step. So step boldly in faith and trust that walking in His will you will get what you need to take the next step and fulfill His purpose for you. As a dear friend once told me, “Of course, it’ll work out fine. It’s a God thing.”

A God thing. Trust and faith, and us doing our part so He doesn’t violate free will (which He will not do) and He can step in to do His part. Simply put, shedding His grace on thee. It’s amazing how comforting knowing that He longs to shed His Grace on us can be in times of uncertainty when we’re feeling an absence of clarity.


Part 1 Verse:


And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain.” ~Habakkuk 2:2



So many authors, myself included, struggle with what to write. The choices are infinite and the decisions made impact lives and careers and paths for the duration. Choices are infinite and significant to readers and to the author’s life and career as an author.

Writers choose to write to the market, to editorial preferences, to agent recommendations, to personal preferences—and all of that is fine provided those suggestions are in harmony with the author’s vision of the work. If suggestions or preferences are not in harmony with the author’s vision, then the author can’t fulfill the obligations required of him/her.

This is where author theme fits in and from whence the necessity of an author loving the work s/he elects to invest in resides. Why is that important?

If you don’t love the work, you can’t address it honestly with insight and understanding and compassion or with the dogged discipline required to give the work your best. If what you’re writing is outside your author theme (stories you feel are important, essential, compel you to write them), then you lack the determination to give the work all you have to give.

Every work, to achieve its full potential, requires your all. To write lacking your all violates the trust given to you that comes with the storytelling gift. Remember: The storytelling gift is the one part of writing that can’t be taught. You have the gift or you don’t. So, as with all gifts, comes great responsibility.

Write the vision, the verse says. The vision as you see it. Not because “x” told you to write it. Not because you think it will perform well in the market. Because it is the vision. The one given to you in the form of inspiration, ideas, a deep-seated need to write this specific work at this specific time in this specific way.

I always “see” in my mind’s eye, the fingertip of God touching the crown of my head. “Write this,” that still, small voice inside me says.

Since nothing exists that He hasn’t first created, He is the root source of inspiration and ideas. From Him all blessings flow, right? So when that inspired idea resonates with you, isn’t it possible that the reason it resonates is because it’s divinely inspired? Isn’t it possible that you’re feeling inspired to write this or that now because that’s what He’s touching to your crown, infusing you with His desire that the vision be written?

When you write to the vision, you can be assured that those intended to read it will. Those for whom the vision was crafted will find it. That’s the faith aspect. The author’s job is to write the vision.

It’s proven true in my life again and again that no heartfelt desire persists without the skills (or the ability to acquire them) also being present. The two run hand in hand—and affirm that we’re never given more than we can handle. If you have a deep and abiding passion for a project, you have or can acquire the skills and ability to manifest it.

Make it plain. There’s essential craft guidance for the author. It doesn’t matter how wonderful a work might be if the meaning in it isn’t clear. If a reader can’t follow the path, can’t grasp what is being shared, can’t wrap his head or heart around it, the purpose of the work can’t be fulfilled. Clarity is vital. Critical to all.

If you doubt clarity is essential, imagine this: You’re having a conversation with another person, only that person is speaking in a different language. One you don’t understand and s/he can’t understand your language. If you can’t understand or be understood, then how can the purpose of the conversation be transmitted or comprehended? Neither of you have a clue what the other person is saying, what it means, or why it’s important. Both of you gain as much as you would talking to a brick.

Now let’s say there’s an important message God wants to pass between character and reader. He requires a vehicle to do it—a book. He needs a messenger, a translator—an author—to write the book carrying the message. He inspires an author who understands the character’s language and the reader’s language and can depict clearly the message. (The translator-author is trustworthy, willing and able to accurately translate without adlibbing [not writing the vision])—and writes the book. The reader reads and gets the message. The author’s purpose is fulfilled. The book’s purpose is fulfilled, and the reader got what s/he needed from the book.

That’s why authors must strive to convey the vision and to make it plain. So that its purpose might be grasped and understood and fulfilled.

The purpose might be to offer a reader entertainment. Or to give a weary soul a sorely needed, short reprieve during a hard time, perhaps a deathwatch. To prove constructive solutions to challenges being faced exist. To offer hope or joy or clarity—or any of a thousand purposes in between. Whatever His purpose, it will be fulfilled.

He chose the author, inspired him or her, fired love for the project so it got the author’s best, then led the reader to it. Of course, the purpose for which He went to all this planning and directing is fulfilled. Free will played its roll, but the opportunity was presented and delivered.


Part 1 Exercise:


Read the verse and record how it resonates with you. What comes to your mind? Why does it matter? How does it echo in your career, your content, your craft choices? How does it impact your choices of what to write?


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The History of Flowers and Weddings by Tara Randel

As writers do before starting any book, we spend time researching. Maybe it’s a place, a career, or some kind of item. For my newest release, The Bridal Bouquet, I studied up on the meanings of flowers, how to find a good florist and the history of the bridal bouquet. Today, I’m going to share the history.

Weddings are as different and special as a bride’s vision. There are so many reasons a bride picks certain flowers; personal taste, sentiment, elegance, romance, to name a few. From full-blown, colorful bouquets to brides carrying a single stemmed rose to make a statement, the choice of flower for all wedding related events are vast. But where did the tradition of wedding flowers originate?

In early civilizations, flowers and herbs were used to symbolize power and protection. Couples wore flower garlands around their necks to express happiness, new beginnings, hope and devotion. Wreaths were also worn on the head of the bride and groom.

We also see that religion, countries and culture played a part in the floral choices.

Then there was the kissing knot, made with rosemary and roses tied together. The kissing knot was suspended over the heads of that bride and groom at the reception table where the bridal party was sitting to bring good luck and love to the special couple. Small flower nosegays were placed beside every plate of the guests in attendance at the reception. The flowers left for the guests were chosen to ensure them happiness and long lives.

During the Queen Victoria period, brides began to hold fresh arrangements in their hands.

Since early times, fresh flowers have been incorporated into unions worldwide due to natural beauty and universal appeal. In some countries, the bride and groom both would hold candles that had flowers and ribbons tied to them. In another, the bride and her bridesmaids would proceed to the church together, led by a small girl who would sprinkle blossoms in their path to assure long life and happiness for the bride. The tradition of “flower girls” remains to this day.

Flowers are an integral part of any ceremony or occasion, but at weddings, we catch a glimpse of the spirit of the bride and groom. How better to take natural beauty and express the emotions of a couple in love? This is part of the magic of weddings, walking into a fairy tale world decorated with the vision of the couple, executed by a professional florist.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s history lesson. School may be out for the summer, but we can always discover something new. And if you are looking for a fun summer read, check out The Bridal Bouquet, available now.



B & N


Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of twelve novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, The Business of Weddings series, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books



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