What’s under there? Underwear!

Did my title get your attention? I hope so! Today, I thought I’d “slip” back in history and discuss a little about underwear. Since I’ve been going through some of my fashion and clothing books to complete a bit of research, I thought I’d share a little about the history of women’s undergarments—the bustles, chemises, and crinolines. However, I quickly changed my mind when I discovered a cartoon of a man tying on a pair of “artificial calves,” an accessory introduced around 1770. The purpose was to accentuate the shapeliness of the male calf of the leg, which below the tight breeches of the period was regarded as ‘captivating.’ Who knew men’s calves were once considered captivating! Then again maybe they still are, and I just don’t know it.

After discovering the artificial calves, I couldn’t curtail my curiosity. I continued through the pages of men’s underwear and accessories and soon discovered the inventory of a gentleman’s linen consisted of more than nightshirts, nightcaps and drawers.  During this same time period, men often wore corsets. Yep—you read that correctly: men wearing corsets. I discovered a quote from The Hermit in London, dated 1819 that states “He was dressed in the ultra pitch of fashion, collared like the leader of a four-horse team, and pinched in the middle like an hourglass, with a neck as long as a goose, and a cravat as ample as a tablecloth.” Doesn’t that paint quite a word-picture? Several pages later, I discovered another cartoon—a man gripping a bedpost while being laced into a corset by his butler. Amazing what a bit of research will reveal!

While at a historical writer’s retreat several years ago, I had the experience of being laced into a corset. I must admit that I wasn’t brave enough to have myself “pinched in the middle like an hourglass.” Instead, I opted for the shape of a Mason canning jar. The corset held my spine nice and straight and certainly changed the way I sat and walked. I think that’s why women of yesteryear always looked so proper. They couldn’t move, so they sat and smiled. Worst of all, my corset wearing experience took place at lunch time. I soon discovered you can’t eat much while wearing a corset.  Talk about a bad case of acid reflux! You can rest assured that I insisted upon being unlaced before dessert was served.

In today’s world we’re bombarded with pictures and discussions of the perfect body image. Research proves this obsession with the perfect physical appearance is nothing new. We need only peek at a few history books to realize that both men and women have been striving to attain that perfect image for thousands of years. What if we spent as much time “clothing” our inner-selves by spending more time in prayer and studying the Word? We’d please our Lord, and the world would become a much lovelier place for all of us.

Blessings as you strive toward inner beauty.



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Reading Places by Tara Randel

Yesterday I was part of a Facebook party. I posed the question, where was your favorite place to read when you were a child?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do during the summer was to go outside and read. For most kids my age, summer reading was a real chore. Not for me. There were trees on the side of the house and I used to throw out a blanket and sit under the shade, losing myself for hours in faraway places with compelling characters who captured my attention. When I close my eyes, I can still feel the breeze, smell the freshly cut grass and feel of the book pages. I still love to read and can be swept away pretty much anywhere I open a book.

I started reading with the Bobbsey Twins. Remember Nan and Bert, Flossie and Freddie? Then I moved on to Nancy Drew. I was always drawn to mysteries or, when I got older, a good romance story. I can’t recall the hours I spent in the library during the summer, leaving the building with a stack of books in my arms. I either ended up locked in my bedroom, lounging on on my bed as I poured through a book, or back outside under the trees. What is it about fresh air and reading going hand in hand?

When I got to college I really didn’t have time to read anything but school books. Not exactly page-turners, but for that period of time, very important, so I buckled down and stayed away from fiction.

My husband is also a big reader, so when we got married we exchanged mysteries or thrillers. Then the kids came along and although I kept up my reading habit, I also read to the girls from the time they were babies. They never complained when I plopped them in the wagon and lugged them to the library. It opened up a whole new world of reading for them.

The backyard is still a place I  love to curl up with a good book.


and then there’s the beach…


Today I spend my days creating stories, but at night, I still hold a book in my hands. My husband laughs and asks how I can read after spending the day looking at the computer screen while writing my own book. I tell him, I’m reading someone else’s novel and it helps me relax. I couldn’t imagine a life without books. How about you?


Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, The Business of Weddings series, as well as books in the Amish Inn Mysteries. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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Healing the Wounds by Hannah Alexander

Being linked to the medical profession by my husband, I saw a lot of sick people, injured people, and people struggling with mental illness come through our clinic. They all had one thing in common–if the injury or illness was bad enough, they could have died. Emotional and physical pain are both debilitating. I’ve endured and seen both, and my heart breaks especially for those suffering with mental illness. Depression is a devastation. I’m addressing this subject because some people I love have been hit hard by a suicide recently.

Ever since the back-to-back suicides of three friends when I was a teenager, I have believed that death from suicide is the result of a mental illness, not of human action. That illness invades the mind and controls the thoughts until a person is blind to logic and to love. I’ve seen a depressed mother shut out her own child and turn a deaf ear to her cries. That woman was not in control of her actions. If she’d been in her right mind and not fighting depression, she would never have hurt her child in that way. I’m convinced that mental illness is as debilitating as a heart attack or stroke or cancer. It’s a literal illness of the brain, not a weakness of personal will. One would not blame an Alzheimer’s victim for losing his memory, or an accident victim for his injuries. I believe this with all my heart, and would never say otherwise to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide. My hope today is to offer comfort to those affected by suicide.

Depression runs in my family. I have had periods of depression so dark that heaven seemed to be calling me. Honestly, when a person’s final destination is heaven, it might seem logical to go ahead and get there as soon as possible, right? Who wouldn’t prefer heaven to the suffering we have here on earth? All I can say is that God is the only One with the right to decide the day of my death. I belong to Him. Sometimes it has been my love for those who loved me here on earth that kept me from committing that final act. I don’t believe I’ve suffered the depth of depression that others have endured, but I cannot imagine anything more painful.

After moving to the wild west last year, I noticed billboards along the roadsides with suicide hotline numbers. The problem is addressed here much more than it was where we used to live. I don’t know why. There are fewer people here in the Panhandle. I wouldn’t expect to see as many suicides here as in a more populated area. There is such a strong sense of community in this place that I wouldn’t expect to see people drop through the cracks quite so often, but someone obviously saw fit to address the problem. Maybe those billboards will be instrumental in saving some lives.

Do you suffer from depression? You are not alone, it just feels as if you are. Depression can raise its ugly head in a multitude of ways, and it can catch you or a loved one unaware. Sadness might be a symptom of depression, but I’ve found that it often it asserts itself in rage, paranoia, self-loathing. Any negative emotion you might imagine, from fear to hopelessness, can be a sign of depression.

Uncountable books have been written on this many-pronged mental illness, and there’s no room to delve deeply here. I can only write about what I’ve experienced. Depression can combine with PTSD and destroy relationships. The heroes who have fought for our country, the police, the firemen, emergency workers, all are more prone to attacks of PTSD and depression than the general population, but certain personality types are also more prone. If you or a loved one struggle with these issues, I would strongly suggest seeking a counselor who can help you.

I found a surprisingly helpful treatment for PTSD, depression, and several other mental illnesses, and it doesn’t take years to see the results. The initials for this treatment are EMDR and it involves eye movement. I was a total skeptic when I first read about EMDR, but I called a Christian friend of mine who operates a mental health system, and he assured me that EMDR has been helpful for many patients. A few years later, when PTSD popped up in my own life, I decided to seek help through EMDR.

The therapist I met with was compassionate and understanding. She assured me I wasn’t “going crazy” and that she could help. She had been studying EMDR, and I asked her to use me as a guinea pig. She did some basic walk-throughs, and I realized this was something I could use on myself at any time when I had trouble. Within a few weeks I was much better and was equipped to help myself. Of course, I’m not on the front lines of emergency services or war; I’m simply someone who witnessed too many deaths in a short period of time.

I’ve sought out several ways to address depression, and each time I find something that helps me, I want to share it. When you are in the middle of depression it’s hard to see a way out. That’s the hopelessness. But there is hope.

I have prayed for God to take me home. He did not. Please know that there is hope no matter how helpless you feel. There are drug therapies, wild green oat supplements (yep, using it now), behavioral therapies, and there should always be someone who will listen to you. Call for help. Seek it until you find it. God is your first line of defense against depression and mental illness. He has given many gifted people the ability to help you. Let them.


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A Message to My Father by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, A Message to my father

It is often said that we don’t truly appreciate what we have until we’ve lost it. The core truth in that became evident to me the day my father passed away. Like most daughters, he was my hero—the yardstick by which I measured every other man, and in many ways still do.


In the months after his death, I relived many of the conversations we’d shared. Things he showed me, taught me, projects we did together. He was engaged in all things, open to discussing all things.


Even today, I hear his voice. I hear his encouraging, his warning, his wisdom, and his guidance.


One year, my son gave my husband a wall hanging. It reads: “The greatest gift I ever got came from God. I call him Dad.” That was over twenty years ago and still today it hangs on the wall beside my husband’s favorite chair. Still today, on occasion he speaks of it, reads it, mentions it. It has been a source of rededication to him. A reminder to him during hard times and good times.


Fathers are such a critical part of childrens’ lives. And so long as their children live, and their childrens’ children live, their role never ends. For the lessons they teach are then recalled and taught. The lives fathers shape go on to shape the lives of others.


That is a great gift—and a treasured blessing.


And for it, today and every day, thank you, God, and thank you, Dad.





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Guest author interview with Christy Barritt

christy barritt photo

I’ve always loved to read. As soon as I graduated from reading The Babysitter’s Club and Nancy Drew books, I immediately turned to Christian fiction. My mom knew they would be safe for my impressionable young mind. And I devoured those books, loving the fact that not only could I be entertained, but I could also read truths about God and how his Word could be applied to my life. I was hooked.

I wrote my first book when I was in high school. I wrote a few of them, for that matter. None of them will ever see the light of day, because I had no idea what I was doing! I continued writing into college and got a job at a Christian publishing house before I even graduated with my bachelors. I gave up that job when I learned my father had Alzheimer’s, and I moved back home. I knew without a doubt during that time that I had to pursue this call on my life—this call to write not just novels, but novels that explore the themes of faith and walking with God.

As I’m writing, I draw from my personal experiences, and that makes me realize that there is no hope and they are no answers without turning to Jesus. That’s what would make it so difficult to write a book without including Christ. How do I show a character changing if that change doesn’t turn them to Jesus, the one reason we have hope in our lives?

destorted by christy barrit

My newest book, Distorted, released on June 20, and I had fun exploring the themes of God’s love. The book addresses human trafficking, but also delves into how the things that are most important and essential to us have the power to sustain us or devastate us, whether that’s water—that can both give us hydration or drown us or love—that can heal us or destroy us.

You can find more information on it here: https://www.amazon.com/Distorted-Christy-Barritt-ebook/dp/B01N5IA5T5/ref=la_B001HMWPIA_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497529423&sr=1-4

christy barretts lissma

You can find out more about Shadow of Suspicion here: https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Suspicion-Love-Inspired-Suspense/dp/0373456875/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497551553&sr=8-1&keywords=shadow+of+suspicion+by+christy+barritt


USA Today has called Christy Barritt’s books “scary, funny, passionate, and quirky.”

A Publishers Weekly best-seller, Christy writes both mystery and romantic suspense novels that are clean with underlying messages of faith. Her books have won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Suspense and Mystery, have been twice nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and have finaled for both a Carol Award and Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year.

She’s married to her prince charming, a man who thinks she’s hilarious—but only when she’s not trying to be. Christy’s a self-proclaimed klutz, an avid music lover who’s known for spontaneously bursting into song, and a road trip aficionado.

Christy currently splits her time between the Virginia suburbs and Hatteras Island, North Carolina. She has more than fifty books published with over one million copies sold.

For more information, visit her website: www.christybarritt.com.



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Ducks in a Puddle by Julie Arduini

We were driving recently when I noticed on one side of the road was a small, murky puddle. On the other side of the road was a large pond, beautiful and inviting.

There waded a couple ducks, on the side of the road with the puddle.ducks-1606390_960_720

I instantly wondered why would ducks settle for a little puddle that isn’t even clear or close to it when a beautiful body of water was within reach? Almost as quickly a quote from Beth Moore came to mind. I think as I studied Believing God online years ago she said, “Many choose to stay in the puddle when the ocean is but feet away.”

It’s true though, isn’t it?

I love to encourage and mentor women and that’s a fact I had to deal with early on. There will be time I spend with women who will abandon the truth God has given them and return to toxic situations. I have cried, pouted, and pleaded with Him when I see it because I don’t understand.

But it’s like ducks who want the dirty puddle.

Years ago I remember telling someone I was reading a book on prayer. It was meaty and hard to get through, but I knew reading it would equip me for whatever God had next for me. It felt like being in the ocean, a bit further out than I wanted to be. But I’m glad I read it.

The person said they’d never read a book like that. Why? They knew once it was finished, God would make them responsible for using the information within the pages. To them, it was easier to stay uneducated on the matter and left alone.

I still grieve over that.

I definitely have struggles and issues I drag my feet over. But thanks to prayer, hard Bible studies, His Word, sermons, reading and life experiences, my time in the puddle gets shorter and shorter with each situation. I’ve found as hard as leaving a comfortable puddle can be, the ocean isn’t overwhelming because I’m not alone. There is a peace and freedom residing in that vast place called the surrendered life. Or in my case, the constant surrendering life. There is favor and acceleration. It’s all from God.

That visual jumped at me. I still get frustrated when I see it spiritually as much as I do naturally. And I truly pray for those choosing the puddle to ask Him to give them strength to leave, and find the ocean.

If that’s you, know I’m praying for you!



Engaged is now available for e-Reader pre-order!

Trish Maxwell’s back in Speculator Falls with egg on her face and a lot of apologies to make. She left the mountain town for her dream job in New York City, only to come back unemployed. With no prospects, she works at her mom’s department store and makes amends as she finds a new passion creating window displays for Adirondack businesses. She works hard and tries to convince the people of Speculator Falls she’s changed for the better.

As Trish pitches in with community events, she meets paramedic Wayne Peterson, the one man who doesn’t seem to judge her. She even makes friends with Jenna Regan, who helps Trish when people demand to know what’s next in Trish’s life. Living in New York City has been her goal, but the more she’s around Wayne and the Adirondack area, the more she’s drawn to revising her plans. Just when Trish thinks the plan for her life’s coming together, a second chance comes her way that could give her every career goal she’s ever wanted, but threaten to tear her and Wayne apart. Can Trish surrender fears about her future and discover God’s plan for her?


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Food for thought…


I love to cook. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. Whether I’m preparing new recipes or tweaking some old classics, cooking is a passion for me, just like writing.

One of my favorite recipes is Spaghetti and Meatballs? It’s like a comfort food at our house, especially when it’s cold out or when you have to feed a big hungry crowd. Serve it with some garlic bread and you’ve got yourself a meal.

Here’s a secret about my writing. In just about all my books, you’ll find my characters preparing one of my favorite recipes. In Rocky Mountain Pursuit, my main characters Jase and Reyna share a romantic meal of spaghetti while hiding out from some very bad guys. Jase and Reyna didn’t have much time to prepare their meal. They used premade sauce, but I guess if you were on the run, it would taste wonderful. I hope you’re not on the run and can take the time to try out this recipe and enjoy it. It’s well worth the prep.

Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder and beaten egg. Mix well and form into 12 balls. Store, covered, in refrigerator until needed.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir in tomatoes, salt, sugar and bay leaf. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 90 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and meatballs and simmer 30 minutes more. Serve.

I found this and many other of my favorite recipes at: Allrecipes.com.

About Rocky Mountain Pursuit:


Everyone believes agent Jase Bradford is dead—everyone but Reyna Peterson. Only he can protect her now that someone wants the information her CIA husband died to secure. As the one member of their spy team not killed, Jase must remain in the shadows. Yet when Reyna leads the enemy right to his mountain refuge and blows his cover, Jase risks his life for hers. As his best friend’s beautiful widow scales the walls around his heart, whether out of loyalty or love, he makes it his duty to secure her safety. But when their pursuers trap them in the snowy Colorado mountains, will it become his final mission?




And in my latest June Love Inspired Suspense, Deadly Memories, the hero and heroine share a meal of eggs, bacon and toast.

deadly memories












About Deadly Memories:



Amnesia may be keeping Ella Weiss from remembering her past—but not from saving the little boy who’s been her fellow prisoner the last seven years. After managing to escape her cell, all she wants is to find where little Joseph is being kept. Instead she runs straight into CIA agent Kyle Jennings. Kyle isn’t sure if Ella is actually a kidnap victim or if she’s working for the gunrunner he’s been after. One thing he is certain of is her uncanny resemblance to the wife he thought he’d buried. To save a child’s life and stop a terrorist from slipping through his fingers, he’ll need to uncover the secrets of Ella’s past—and whether or not she’s really the woman he’s never stopped loving.

So what about you? What’s your favorite hobby?


All the best…

Mary Alford.







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A Garden of Variety by Hannah Alexander

I have never been a gardener. The last time my mother made me work in the garden pulling weeds, I pulled out all the carrots. And not on purpose to convince her to stop making me work.

When we moved to a place with a pre-planted flower garden, many of the flowers were already gone for the fall/winter months, but this spring has burst forth with so many colors and shapes and sizes that we often just stand amazed at the beauty.

None of these flowers are alike. Even the irises, purple and gold to denote school colors, smell differently and are different sizes.

These living things need to be planted in different spots, some take more water than others–not that I would know how to do that; the former owner set up a sprinkler system that runs automatically, and since he’s the sprinkler guy in town, I can always call him or his green-thumb wife with questions.

I thought roses were difficult to grow, but even though I did nothing with last year’s rose bushes, blooms still came out amongst the thorns. The determination of these blooms to return again and again amazes me.

Of course, surrounded by all this beauty, I can’t help getting philosophical. There is a huge pine tree that spreads across the flower garden in front of the house. I was told by the former owner that they’d had the weeds sprayed in the driveway a few years ago, and the sprayers got too aggressive. They poisoned that lovely tree, and now its branches are half dead. We’re hoping we can bring it out of those death throes, but someone more knowledgable than I will have to do it.
That poor tree could be chopped down, I suppose, leaving all the beautiful flowers to shine in all their glory, but I wonder, would we do that with a human being, perhaps a Christian who might be struggling with faith?

Is that what God would have us do? I have friends who have endured great loss and suffering, and unlike other friends who have come through their suffering with increased faith, many of my friends seem to be struggling. They need to be held up and loved, the way we keep watering our poor, sick tree.Okay, this shot is not of plants growing sideways, but Mel shot sideways to get a better look at the garlic, iris, and columbine blooms. How unique each bloom is. No two species are alike, and yet they make such a beautiful garden.As Christians, we obviously read certain things differently in the Bible. Some of us need to dig deeply, seek out the hard stuff that might seem contradictory to the verses or books surrounding it. Some of us need to face the hard sayings and learn to deal with them. I’ve read through Hard Sayings of the Bible so many times that it fell apart.

Other Christians take the Bible at face value, allow it to nourish them, and never question God about the words written. We vary so widely in what we believe is most important or of lesser importance in the Bible that we have a vast array of denominations, and even within each denomination, church members will disagree on certain parts of the Bible.But we, the believers in Christ as our Savior, have been charged by Him to love one another despite all the differences. That means you and me and the person who is struggling. There are Christians who can handle the questions of others without becoming confused or upset, and there are Christians who see these questions as attacks against their God. Might I suggest that God planted all of His children to be used exactly where we are, even if we don’t always agree? See the columbine and the garlic blooms resting side by side in our garden? They serve different functions and their beauty differs. I was amazed to find that the garlic bloom smells wonderful, and that I can’t smell the columbine quite so strongly. I can squeeze the leaf of one of the mint leaves nearby, and get a rush of pleasure.This peony, in all its brilliant color, smells so sweet, and yet it doesn’t flavor our salads the way new garlic or mint leaves or dandelions can do.

I find that those who are struggling with their faith or asking me questions I can’t answer actually help me strengthen my faith as I search for answers. Isn’t it amazing that those who might be weak and struggling through their faith walk are actually building up my own? They are being used of God in unique ways. They belong to God, and are being used according to His purpose. Whenever I think about it I’m amazed by the way God works.

The Apostle Paul said for us to challenge our faith daily so that we know we are doing God’s will (paraphrase mine.) I’m thankful for those challengers, because they cause me to dig more deeply into God’s Word.
And now, because Camy Tang’s extraordinary article about ten thousand reasons resonated so beautifully for me, I would love to point out that her passion for reaching those who speak the Japanese language is a powerful message.

I would also like to point out that at least since the time of Babel, none of us speaks the exact same language. That’s because each of us is unique. I have my own experiences that have shaped my outlook on life, my language. No one else uses words in quite the same way that I do, or in the same way you do. I can say something to Mel that makes perfect sense to me, but he looks like a deer in headlights because he doesn’t want to tell me he thinks I’ve lost my mind. And we’ve been married for over two decades. I challenge myself and any who would accept this challenge to stop and listen to those who might speak differently from us. Don’t shut them down because their questions might make you uncomfortable. Don’t shut them out because you think they are seeking to destroy your faith. Be strong in the Lord and have faith that He will hold you in His arms against any power. Try to allow your love to show to even those who might seem unlovely to you, because they need Christian love as much as, or more than, any other Christian. Try to see past the words to the heart. Try to love despite language differences. That’s what Camy’s doing, and I want to do it, too.


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“10,000 Reasons” in Japanese by Camy Tang

It’s been over a month, but I did the worship music for our church’s Good Friday service. The service is a combination of people from both the English-speaking and Japanese-speaking services, so the worship leader has to sing at least a few songs in Japanese.

I could do five songs, but I decided to sing all of them in Japanese while my other singer (in this case, Captain Caffeine) sang the lyrics in English at the same time. It’s a bit confusing, but I wanted the Japanese congregation to feel very included (which they don’t when the songs are in English).

The service went smoothly—well, I didn’t make any mistakes, at least! I had been practicing the songs in Japanese for weeks before the service.

One of the songs my pianist really likes is “10,000 Reasons”, and while it’s not really a Good Friday song, I thought it would be a good upbeat song to end the service with. So I had to search for the Japanese lyrics for the song and came across this version by Lauren Horii. Not only do the Japanese lyrics smoothly match the melody, but she has a really great voice.

The Japanese-speaking members of the congregation seemed to really like this song. One of the Japanese worship leaders even asked me for the link to the page where I got the lyrics and they sang it for the Japanese service a few weeks later.

We’re all used to hearing this song in English, but the Japanese lyrics struck a really strong chord in me (no pun intended). Lately God has been leading me to connect with my heritage more than I ever did when I was younger, and this song is part of that process.

Singing this song in Japanese made me really want to use all that I have to reach the Japanese people for Christ. Less than 1% of the population is Christian, and most have never heard the gospel except maybe in a religions study class. Their polytheistic culture can sometimes be very unforgiving and despairing. I can feel God’s burden for them, and it has become my burden, too.

So here’s the song on YouTube. Please pray for the non-Christians in Japan, that they will find the hope and salvation of Jesus.


Continue reading

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The Gift That Lasts Forever


What is the one gift that is almost always free, you can give it to yourself or others can give it to you, it doesn’t require shopping, and it renews itself daily. The answer is simple. Our memories.

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly storing up memory gifts. As I look back on my life, I discover I have so many treasured memories. As we get older, we realize the importance of these special gifts. They become priceless in that no matter where life takes us, no person can take our memories from us.

For me, I have two main categories where I store up my memories. My family memories and my career memories.

I find my most special family memories are usually the ones that happen without planning. Time spent with my mom and dad as a child. Going to church with them, playing the piano for them. Baking a pumpkin cake for my dad before he passed away and having him tell me it was the best cake ever.

Later on, the moments spent with my husband during our thirty-plus years of marriage stand out in my memory as precious. I love simply being alone with him and spending quiet time together.

Then there are the moments spent with my two boys, the birthday parties, sporting events, graduation. Watching them as they grew into men, got married, and had children of their own.

I have to say some of my most special moments of late are the ones spent with my three granddaughters. Their births, watching them grow and play. Develop their unique personalities. God willing, I’ll have many more memories to store up with them.

My career category of memories is filled with lessons learned. The road to being a published author is not always an easy path. For me, one of my favorite memories is watching the story in my head come to life before my eyes. When I found out I sold to Love Inspired Suspense, well that was the most amazing memory.

So, have you ever thought what it would be like if you woke up one day and all your memories were gone? A scary thought, no doubt.

Well, that’s the premise behind my upcoming June Love Inspired Suspense, Deadly Memories.


deadly memories



Amnesia may be keeping Ella Weiss from remembering her past—but not from saving the little boy who’s been her fellow prisoner the last seven years. After managing to escape her cell, all she wants is to find where little Joseph is being kept. Instead she runs straight into CIA agent Kyle Jennings. Kyle isn’t sure if Ella is actually a kidnap victim or if she’s working for the gunrunner he’s been after. One thing he is certain of is her uncanny resemblance to the wife he thought he’d buried. To save a child’s life and stop a terrorist from slipping through his fingers, he’ll need to uncover the secrets of Ella’s past—and whether or not she’s really the woman he’s never stopped loving.

Think about all the special memory gifts you have collected through the years. If you could take just a couple of them with you into the future, which one would you chose?


All the best…


Mary Alford





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Picture Your Story by Yvonne Lehman

Do you have a story to tell? Perhaps a book you’d like to write?


There’s a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.


However, with a thousand words you can write The Lord’s Prayer, The Preamble to the Constitution, the Twenty-third Psalm, the Gettysburg Address, and the Boy Scout Oath.


Much depends upon the picture, the words, and personal opinion. Pictures are worth thousands of words when I make a storyboard, an effective tool for me. There is more than one definition of storyboard and varying ways writers make or use them. My way is to cut out pictures that represent my characters and story.


The materials for making the storyboard are minimal—posters, file folders, magazines, brochures, pictures from the internet, scissors, glue (or staples, tape). Pictures can be anything that represents the story:

Characters – faces, physique, in action, expressions

Era – contemporary, historical

Settings – home, lake, ocean, airplane, car, neighborhood, city, country, seasons

Incidents – wrecks, romance, crime, dining

Styles – clothing, hair, homes, transportation

Mood – fear, horror, joy, petting an animal, holding a child, anger

Theme – mystery, love, secrets, faith


I basically work with four types of storyboards:

  1. Mainstream – I use several posters because of multiple characters and plots or subplots. My novel, Greystone, is complex and my American, Japanese, and German characters inhabit my posters. The past takes place in winter, the present in summer, and pictures of the resort setting depict the seasons. Pictures of people in distress, or joy, draw from me the feelings I want to express in my story.


  1. Women’s Fiction – Several file folders suffice for these. In Coffee Rings, my main character is in her 70’s. Three other women are in their early 40’s. My pictures show what each one looks like and how they dress. The three younger women meet weekly at a Tea Room so I have a picture of the room and table. One is blonde and overweight. One is stylish and looks perfect. One is conservative and pleasant. The older woman appears kind, but determined. Around them are pictures that show conflicts, jobs, relationships and interests.


  1. Romances – Fewer file folders are required for these since the focus is on the main male and female characters. Their lifestyles are portrayed with pictures of their work, friends, homes, pets, children, church, single’s groups, etc. Since novellas are short, usually one file folder will suffice, with two main characters surrounded by representations of their lifestyles, conflicts, and personalities.


  1. Novels to write “someday” – When I have a strong feeling about a story I plan to write someday, I write a brief overview or a few lines of the idea. Final Command is about dogs being trained to kill. I pick up a map of the place where the story happens and brochures about the surrounding area and pop them into a file folder, along with any pictures and information about dogs that intrigues me. Jewelry is the motive, so I include pictures of jewels, their description and cost.


The posters and folders are an aid when I speak to writers groups about storyboards. I show, as well as tell. Also these can be shown on a screen with Power Point.


These pictorial storyboards are more valuable to me than the written overview and they enable me to write the synopsis. They’re fun to make and I feel like my characters are right in front of me, helping me write about them.


I will be teaching a Workshop on Storyboarding at the Blue Ridge Novel Retreat held at Ridgecrest NC, October 8-12.


We focus on craft of writing, movies, social media, and have time for appointments, writing, fun, and networking. Come join us! www.yvonnelehman.com (click on Novel Retreat for information or contact me).


Stop dreaming of writing your story. Do it! We can help.

Note on the Blue Ridge Novel Retreat.  Learn More

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Memorial Day by Tara Randel



One of the holidays we celebrate in this great county is Memorial Day. We usually look at it as the gateway to the summer. School will be out soon. It’s a holiday mostly spent outdoors. But to those who have had family members serve in the military, it is so much more.

It is a day to remember those awesome men and woman who died while serving in the armed forces. I would wager that most families can look back at someone in their family who served in the military.

My daughter, Megan, served briefly in the Air Force. I’ll never forget when she came into our bedroom late one Sunday night.

“Mom. Dad. I need to talk to you.”

Never what you want to hear from your nineteen-year-old daughter when she’s already acting rather nervous.

“I want to enlist in the military.”

Well, of course, I was shocked. I’d never even heard her talking about this as an option for her future. She loved car racing and I thought she might want to get involved in NASCAR, but the military? She was attending college at the time, although she wasn’t really enjoying the experience. I chalked it up to a phase. Like she was trying to figure out what to do with her life.

Well, she’d figured it out. In a big way.

After her father and I picked our jaws up from the bed, we started asking questions. Seemed Megan had been talking to a friend who was definitely enlisting soon. She wanted to do something bigger than herself. Wanted an adventure, to travel and work with a team. As she grew more passionate about moving in this direction, I knew there was no way to talk her out of this decision.

So we recommended she see a recruiter. Figure out which branch fit her personality. She already knew the Navy was out, she got seasick. When she came home and announced she was going to try for the Air Force, I was still pretty nervous. What if she got deployed?  Later, her recruiter told me it wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Mom did not like that answer.

Through a series of stops and starts, Megan finally left for boot camp. At the end the four long weeks, I flew out to Texas to see her graduate. This had to be the most humbling experience ever.

All these young men and woman marching out onto this great big field in timed precision and order on a very cold December day. If you ever have the change to go to a military graduation, please, attend. It’s one of the things that makes you proud to be an American. The music played, the flags waved and my heart swelled with pride.

The weekend flew by with many different ceremonies, but what I remember the most is the look of satisfaction on my daughter’s face. She’d made a decision and stuck by it. She went off to school and then into her chosen field.


When you look at these young people willing to stand up for our country, it makes all the pettiness of politics pale. We live in a great county. We’ve raised men and women who care about more than themselves. They make the sacrifice to serve every day.  And we should honor them.

No matter what you choose to do this weekend, take a few minutes to reflect on those who gladly gave all for our country. Look at the holiday through a different lens. And have a very happy Memorial Day.


Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, The Business of Weddings series, as well as books in the Amish Inn Mysteries. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books


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The Good Stuff by Hannah Alexander

Sasha and Roamer

After the end of a long travel itinerary and stressful driving in a strange place at midnight, I was just about to do some spouting off here about never flying again, never traveling again, maybe staying forever in our little spot of heaven on earth outside our tiny town in the wilderness–albeit our own plot of wilderness is now jungle. It would be easy to cover our eyes and ignore the rest of the world. Here, we have encountered only kindness from people who have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome in our new home of eight months. In other words, we’ve been spoiled by the true hearts of salt-of-the-earth folk.

Of course, there isn’t a traffic signal for forty miles in any direction of our house. We see more pickup trucks, cowboys, and cattle ranches (and cats and dogs)  than tall buildings. I don’t think there’s a building anywhere around, except a silo, taller than two stories.

Here in the wild, wild west, where the deer and antelope actually do roam, and truly, seldom is heard a disparaging word, we have been pampered in a whole new way. Since I avoid news stations, I had forgotten that there are a lot of angry people out there, taking out their ire on innocents around them, who in turn become angry, themselves. Manchester, UK, is the latest horror at this moment, and I’m praying for those poor people who saw their children wounded or taken from them by the evil that lingers on the earth.

So instead of focusing on rude airport employees, rude drivers, and stingrays hovering on the bottom of the surf where I was playing–which doesn’t even compare to the Manchester wickedness–I think we need to focus, at least for a while, on the good things. I’ve written my limit on the kittens I’m featuring in the pictures–though they are now the cutest little things on earth and we want to keep them all!–and focus, instead, on how we were greeted when we stepped off the airplane onto Nebraska ground.

The airport employees just east of the Wyoming border smiled and welcomed us home. That reminded me that other airport employees across the country also greeted us with courtesy and kindness, and that I should not focus on the few grumps.

Upcoming release

(Brief aside, this is the cover of an upcoming re-release of my novel, The Wedding Kiss, designed by a good friend, Angela Hunt. More on this release later, but didn’t she do a wonderful job?)

So after that commercial, let’s continue. Despite a short sleep and a very bumpy flight the night before, as soon as we landed we were hungry, and we had to do some grocery shopping for the things we yet can’t buy in our hometown. Every smiling face, every helpful hand–every person who went out of his/her way to help us find what we needed reminded us that, yes, there were a lot of very kind people whom we encountered on our trip. The kindness just seems to be spread more evenly amongst the locals.

On our trip, I could have done without the television news stations blaring everywhere we went while traveling–all the back-stabbing and ugliness, which, to me, is simply gossip. The kindness of the people we encountered as soon as we arrived back in Nebraska reminded us that kindness is alive and well everywhere, just not with everyone, as it seems to be here. I’m sure Mel could have done without much of my bitter complaining when we were practically invited to return home as soon as we landed in Florida by some burned-out employees. Some people hate their jobs. We don’t hate ours. I think I needed to dredge up some compassion.

Rudeness is contagious, and so out there where the population is more squeezed together, that contagion reaches more people–sort of the way tempers escalate on Facebook sometimes. Like the flu or strep throat. In this part of the country, that contagion seems to die out more quickly because people are more spread out, and the rudeness is smothered with kindness.

So what I’ve discovered is that when life is flowing easily and going the way we want, we tend to let down our guard. I know I forget to arm myself with the Word of God. Even though we have verses from the Bible on the walls, and even memorialized on the sidewalk leading to our house, I, for one, am not soaking up the wisdom of those passages.  Time to get back to the Bible and reload for the battles ahead, because there will be more battles. Next time I want to be prepared with kind words, not sharp comebacks.

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Please Welcome Guest Author Irene Hannon…

Irene Hannon 1 for web cropped for web

Greetings, everyone. And thank you, Mary, for inviting me to be a guest today.

I have to begin this post with a confession.

I didn’t set out to be a writer of Christian fiction. Not because I didn’t want to be part of the genre, but because the genre didn’t exist when I began writing novels. (I’ve been at this a long time!) I simply wanted to write hope-filled stories featuring heroes and heroines with solid values and a strong, traditional moral code—what the mainstream market calls clean books.

Ultimately, after multiple rejections, my books found a home in the genre of Christian fiction, which was in its infancy. And I couldn’t be happier about where I landed. I’m honored to be part of a genre that’s filled with thought-provoking, uplifting and entertaining novels.

Although I began my career writing contemporary romance, today I write in two genres—romantic suspense and contemporary romance/women’s fiction.

So what will you find in my stories? Characters who are dealing with formidable challenges. Diverse settings, from a sun-kissed beach in a seaside Oregon town called Hope Harbor to a deserted railroad bridge high above a raging river. Touches of humor—because how would we survive without the ability to laugh and smile despite the adversities we face? And most of all, hope-filled endings. We live in a difficult age, but people of honor, principle, character and integrity do exist. You’ll meet them in my books. And I hope they’ll convince you that happy endings are possible.

 In terms of style, I compare my romantic suspense novels to Nora Roberts’ books in that genre—but without the profanity and explicit sex. Those who liked Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series should also enjoy my suspense books. In terms of contemporary romance/women’s fiction, fans of Debbie Macomber, Robyn Carr, Susan Wiggs and Becky Wade would find my books appealing.

Hannon_SandpiperCove_web lo res final

My April contemporary romance, Sandpiper Cove, takes place in the charming Oregon seaside town of Hope Harbor and features a police chief and an ex-con who join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime. Sparks fly, but given their backgrounds, it’s not a promising match. However…in Hope Harbor, anything is possible!


My next suspense novel, Dangerous Illusions, will be out in October. It’s about a police detective investigating a tragic death and a grieving woman with apparent memory lapses who face a deadly foe determined to protect an evil secret at any cost.

I hope you’ll give one—or both—a try!

Irene Hannon




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High School Faith by Julie Arduini

I confess, I enjoyed school. I liked learning and for the most part, it came easy for me.

If you exclude math and science.

Anyway, I had a photographic memory and when I’d do my homework, I would retain a lot of the information. I’d throw in a few minutes for studying, and I had pretty decent grades. When I went to college, I was warned it would be very challenging. Although I had more papers to write, I enjoyed the reading and did well with the quizzes and tests. Academics were not a huge stretch for me back in the day.

I realized lately I’ve applied my high school work habits to my faith. I’d throw up a prayer or two and consider it good. If I made time for devotions, I skimmed because there was so much I’d already read on that theme, or I knew the verse. Pride snuck in because I am a huge reader and Bible study participant. There hasn’t been a lot of major revelations for me when it came to my reading time.


High School Faith/pixabay image

I was so off track I was giving myself a little pat on the shoulder for taking the time to try, despite knowing all there was to know.


Pride absolutely comes before a fall and I feel what I’m learning lately has me in a spiritual free-fall. I can pray for so many people and situations and believe God, but when my kids are hurting, I’m undone.

And it hit me, my high school approach to faith won’t cut it.

What worked last year isn’t enough anymore. Not even three months ago. Probably not even three days ago. There are so many situations in our home and with people we care about that a little time on my Bible app and a quick “Hey, God, bless her…” prayer isn’t enough.

With that revelation, I’m thirsting after Him. I still do the “quick” verses from my Bible app reading, but I am journaling more. I have a 90 day devotional I am reading from, and I am also taking my time with Anne Graham Lotz The Daniel Prayer. Although my first thought is to think I know the book of Daniel already, I am putting my pride down at the foot of the Cross and I’m ready to learn an additional or new way to approach my heavenly Father.

I also moved my prayer place. I had an office a couple years ago, but my husband now works from home and he truly needs the space. My son is done with his freshman year of college, so he’s home. In a matter of weeks, our middle schooler is done with her school year, and she’ll be home. Having my prayer books and devotionals in the dining room isn’t going to cut it anymore.

I brought my books upstairs to the bedroom and decided as I air dry my hair, I’m going to be reading and praying. By then my husband is already working, so the room is mine. I can hear the birds and feel His presence. And I can go after Him hard.

This is something I just started and I feel different already. My senses are opened and I’m ready to receive. No more high school read and remember approach. I want to take the time. Learn. Change. Grow. Already challenges are hitting that threaten my peace and make me contemplate going back to old ways. But an old “wineskin” can’t keep new wine. I’ve got to press in. Life is too precious and the call on my life to pray and believe God is too important to be mediocre about it.

So, that’s my confession and game plan.

Did you study like I did in high school? Do you struggle with pride when it comes to spending time with God? Share away, I’d love to read your story.


Later this month I’m releasing the e-version of ENTRUSTED to newsletter subscribers as I prepare for the third book’s release in June, ENGAGED. If you’d like to receive my monthly-or-so newsletter featuring reader news, encouragement, author updates, giveaways and freebies, subscribe for free at juliearduini.com.

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