What’s in a Name?

When I was young and working in Denver, I met a new friend at church, and we hit it off right away. We both needed to economize, so we decided to share an apartment. Then she invited me to double date with her and her boyfriend by going out with his roommate. I was reluctant. After all, I’d always said I would never date, and especially not marry, a redheaded man or one with a “funny” or peculiar last name. So some redhaired guy named David Gouge didn’t appeal to me at all. I mean, how do you even pronounce that last name? Gowj? Gorge? Goog? George? But at my roomie’s pleading, I finally agreed. To my surprise and delight, it turned out David was tall, cute, hardworking, and, best of all, funny.

1 WeddingPicture1965For a week or so, we went out almost every night. You know, the usual things: dancing, movies, house hunting. What? House hunting? Oh, I forgot to say that my roomie and her beau had been dating since high school and he really wanted to marry her, hence the house hunting…with David’s and my help, of course. Pretty soon it was very clear to David and me…and my roomie…that her beau wasn’t the right guy for her. By the end of two weeks, even he could see they weren’t compatible, so they broke up.

But that funny, handsome, redhaired David? He kept on calling to ask me out. And I kept on saying “yes,” even when he asked me to marry him!

We were married on June 11, 1965, just two and two-thirds months (82 days!) after we met. That was just over fifty-three years ago. Above left is our wedding picture.

David in Uniform after WarSince that day, we’ve written quite a family history. We were still working in Denver when David was drafted into the army and I found out I was pregnant with our first child. He went off to basic training, and I moved to southern Colorado to live with my parents. Our daughter Jane was born in 1967. David was sent to Viet Nam, but God brought him safely home. At right is his picture in his 101st Airborne army uniform. He started to work with my father, a professional photographer. We had three more children: Christopher, Timothy, and Sarah. In time, we felt the call of God on our lives, and in January 1980, we moved to Florida so David could attend Bible college.

1 Family 1977

 

The sunshine state of Florida is quite different from mountainous Colorado. But after thirty-eight years of living here, we are happy to call this place home. At left is our family portrait taken in 1977, a few years before we moved to Florida.

In June 2015, we celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary. Pretty good for a couple that almost wasn’t, all because of my prejudices against red hair and peculiar last name.1 David & Louise in front of cake table

Each of our four children has a smidgeon of that red in her/his hair (from strawberry blonde to rich auburn), and I’ve come to regard it as my favorite hair color. I even dyed my hair red for a few years!

As for that “funny” last name, today when people inevitably mispronounce it, we say, “It rhymes with Scrooge.” Now that’s funny!

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How I Spent My Summer by Julie Arduini

How I Spent My Summer_edited

I know, it’s still August. However, I have one child already in his first week of his fall semester, and the second child starts Monday. I’ve seen a couple leaves in transition and I already bought cider.

Time for fall, am I right?

Before I move too fast, I thought I would share some of my summer with you. I didn’t get as much writing in as I hoped, but I do have an update I’ll share.

  • Returned to my hometown to visit my mom. Spring had been a lot harder than I imagined, so the getaway was good.

 

  • Played with our two grandsons who came to Ohio for July 4th. They both turned one.

 

  • Hosted a party for “strong women.” On a night I had the house to myself, I invited a few women over who I know get things done. Serve. And will tell you they are fine when perhaps they aren’t. I know, because I am one of those. I felt a “God-nudge” to offer them a respite, if only for a night. We had a great evening, and I hope this catches on. We need to check on our strong women. Men, check on the strong men. It’s so important.

 

  • Vacationed in Branson, Missouri. This is the furthest west I’ve traveled in the US. The Ozarks are beautiful and we really enjoyed our stay. Sadly, we were there the week of the Duck Boat tragedy. In fact, we had been on that lake exactly 24 hours before the accident. I keep thinking about the families.

 

  • Our son turned 20. How is this possible? He also has a new job and girlfriend. This has been a great summer for him.

 

  • Served with VBS. If I hear that shark song one more time…

 

  • My dearest friend from Upstate NY who has known me since kindergarten came for a visit with her son. We can pick right back up and talk until 2am as if it’s been hours since our last chat, not months. God is good.

 

  • Our daughter turned 15. If our son’s birthday didn’t throw me into a tailspin, this does. Her first year was critical, I still remember our doctor at the time assuring me she would live to see that first birthday. Her toddler years were full of therapies and appointments, so when school started, time really flew. Here we are. Wow!

I’m sure I’m forgetting things, but we definitely kept busy. I finished my novella for the upcoming Christmas boxed set. I can’t say much yet, but I am so excited. These are authors from Inspy Romance and among my favorites that I enjoy as a reader. Pre-orders should be available in mid-September and I promise you will get all the details from me then.

I will say this much about my contribution: It’s set in Geneseo Valley, NY, a fictional village I created as a tip-of-the-hat to my college years at the real Geneseo, pronounced Jen-uh-see-oh. It involves surrendering grief and betrayal. If you love Christmas stories, I think this boxed set is going to be fantastic. Stay tuned!

How about you? What was your summer like? Feel free to comment or find me on social media @JulieArduini. I would love to connect with you!

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The Story Behind The Story

Amish Christmas Wishes (1)

Do you love Amish Christmas romances as much as I do? There’s something about them that fills my heart with a longing for simpler times. In AMISH CHRISTMAS WISHES, Hannah Christianson is facing her first Christmas without her beloved father. The childhood desires of her heart to have a family of her own must be put on hold while Hannah takes care of her younger brother and sister. But then, as God sometimes does, He sends an unexpected stranger into her life, rekindling those dreams, and bringing with them a hint of something darker. A mystery from her past that’s been waiting for years to be revealed.

Banned Amish dairy farmer Mason Lambright is running from allegations that brand him a murderer when he stops in at Mission Valley, Montana, desperate to reclaim his place in the Amish world once more.

Will this Christmas bring peace of mind and hope to these two lost souls? I think you will find a happy ending is in store for AMISH CHRISTMAS WISHES.

Now, let me tell you a little about the Amish community of Mission Valley near St. Ignatius, Montana. There are two church districts spread out along the base of the Mission Mountains, and, surprisingly, this is the only Amish community in the US located on tribal lands. The Amish settlement in Mission Valley sits on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Delicious Christmas treats are a staple of an Amish Christmas. The women bake Christmas cookies for their families and to share with carolers or at the local school’s Christmas program.

In Amish Christmas Wishes, Hannah prepares her Aenti’s favorite Christmas cookie recipe and Mason pitches in. I thought I’d share one of my favorite recipes for Amish Christmas Cookies with you here. I hope you have as much fun making then as Hannah and Mason did.

amish christmas cookies

Amish Christmas Cookies Recipes

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup butter

• 1 cup brown sugar

• 1 egg beaten

• 1 cup light molasses

• 4 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp baking soda

• 1/4 tsp salt

• 1 tsp cinnamon

• 1 tsp ground cloves

• 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

1.Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg and molasses.

2.Sift dry ingredients together and stir into egg mixture.

3.On lightly floured board, roll out dough and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake in 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) preheated oven for about 10 minutes.

 

Me New Photo twitter1

Mary Alford was inspired to become a writer after reading such romantic suspense greats as Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. Creating characters and throwing them into dangerous situations that test their faith was a challenge, but 2012 Mary received “the call” to publish her first book. A dream come true.

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An Interesting View by Nancy J. Farrier

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I enjoy taking long walks in the mornings. I live in a rural area of the Sonoran Desert I walk a loop that is over five miles along a remote dirt track. There are no houses or people. It’s quiet, a great time to think about my writing, to pray, or to listen to an audiobook.

 

The area where I walk is a lot of uphill and downhill with rocks, brush, and cactus. I have to watch my step or I end up with spines that go through my shoe into my foot. (Yes, that is the voice of experience speaking.)

 

A few days ago, I was traipsing down a hill about two miles from home when some of the rocks rolled out from under my foot. I tried to catch my balance, but the slope was steep and the terrain didn’t cooperate. I ended up turned around, upside down and sliding downhill on my back. I didn’t slide far and wasn’t really injured, although the rock poking into my shoulder blade would leave a sore spot and my scraped elbow would throb all the way home.

 

My first thought, as I gazed up through the Palo Verde tree above me was, “that’s an interesting view.” I picked myself up from the dirt, dusted off, picked up my phone and continued toward home. As I walked, I pondered some thoughts about why this happened. Why any difficulty happens.

 

Psalm 37:23 came to mind—“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” (NKJV) If God is directing my steps, wasn’t He watching where I was going? Didn’t He know those loose rocks were there? Of course, He did. Sometimes, God allows me to take a tumble. My response should not be one of anger or indignation.

 

I have learned over the years to always ask God what He wants me to learn when I’m going through a difficult time. Every time I ask, He is faithful to let me know the lesson he has for me. Sometimes, I don’t want to learn, but as I listen and submit to His perfect will, the instruction is always worthwhile.

 

This time I was reminded that God is in control, and He does watch out for me. I could have fallen in a much steeper spot or over a cliff. I wasn’t hurt, when I could have hit my head on one of those rocks. God was right there taking care of me.

 

I think the best thing I learn from my various trials is compassion for others. I know what it feels like to fall, and not just on that hill. II Corinthians 1:3,4 says, “…God … who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NKJV)

 

Sometimes I hear of someone going through a sickness, or death, or loss, and said, “I’ve been there, I understand what they are feeling.” When this happens, I have been given a gift of knowing how to pray for that person. I can pray for that young widow who lost her husband unexpectedly. I can pray for the person who loses someone to cancer. I can take my past hurts and put that empathy to good use by praying for, or helping, someone else.

 

I also use these experiences in my writing. I can accurately describe what it feels like to have your world turned upside-down and end up with a rock poking in your back. When I speak, I use these illustrations to connect with people. We have all been in difficult places and my candid sharing breaks down barriers and gives common ground. This can also be done in a small circle of friends. It is a way to relate to one another and share the goodness of God.

 

The second thought that went through my mind after that fall was, “Thank you, Lord, that this is a remote area, and I won’t have to see an embarrassing video posted on Facebook.” See? There was a good side to that fall.

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Looking for a Western Romance?

Lyn Cote here- I have one for you.

Journey to Respect

WEB LYN COTE JOURNEY TO RESPECT REDO

Some call him half-breed and all call her a lady. Few in 1825 would judge them equals~

Rafe McKuen, the son of an Osage chief’s daughter and a successful American fur trader turned planter, has one foot in each world. Since childhood, he’s visited his mother’s tribal camp near St. Louis. And at his father’s New Orleans Plantation, he’s the “invisible” but beloved son. Where will he make his home–in which world?

Miss Eve Holcombe is an Eastern beauty with influential relatives. Her father’s unexpected and sudden announcement that they are going West startles Eve and worries her. Why, she asks. But her father has a secret and a plan he won’t reveal. He insists she trust him and what other choice does she have? If she stays in the East, her ambitious aunt will try to marry her off to her aunt’s advantage.

Both Rafe and Eve are on a journey, a Journey to Respect. But such journeys are rarely uncomplicated or without dangers. And falling in love is the most dangerous of all.

For more info, click here.–It’s on sale now for 99 cents.–Lyn Cote

 

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An Assault on the Bride of Christ

Opinion by Jim Denney

Brace yourself.

This is going to be different from the usual sort of post I write for this blog. Recent headlines have triggered memories and emotions from a long time ago. I don’t need to mention the headlines. You’ve seen them, too.

But those memories?

A long time ago, I had a friend. Call him Pastor Smith. He led a large church in a major American city. Pastor Smith was a dynamic speaker whose preaching attracted many new people to the church. His message was biblical and evangelical. In person, he seemed charming and genuinely humble.

I knew Pastor Smith for more than ten years, and I got to know him well — or at least, I thought I did. I would have bet my life on Pastor Smith’s integrity. And I would have lost that bet.

One day, a friend called and told me a scandal was about to become public. A number of women had filed a lawsuit against Pastor Smith. My first response was denial and disbelief. It couldn’t possibly be true. I knew this man. I trusted him.

But it was true. Within weeks, the scandal was a front-page story in the newspaper.

brideofChrist2

Photographer: Nils Fretwurst, 2005.
Used under terms of GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later. 

Two of the women suing Pastor Smith were friends of mine. I learned that a number of people in the church had known about Pastor Smith’s sexual exploitation of women in the church — and they had covered it up. They didn’t want to discipline Pastor Smith. They just wanted to hush it up and pressure Pastor Smith to move to another church.

They didn’t care if he claimed more victims at another church. All they cared about was keeping the scandal from blowing up at their church.

I met with Pastor Smith after the scandal broke. He said, “Jim, what I did was wrong, but at least the relationships I had with these women weren’t sexual relationships.”

“What do you mean? They weren’t sexual relationships? If nothing sexual took place, then why are you being sued by these women?”

He hemmed and hawed, and finally explained what he meant. I’ll spare you the lurid details, and just say that he used the same verbal dodge that President Clinton used when he said, “I never had sexual relations with that woman.” What Pastor Smith did with these women was definitely sexual — but he wanted me to go out and tell people it wasn’t.

He also said, “At least I wasn’t going out and meeting prostitutes.”

That statement jolted me. I didn’t know how to answer it at the time, but I later wished I had said, “No, what you did was worse. You preyed on women in the church when they were hurting and vulnerable. You exploited women who came to you for counseling. If you’re going to commit adultery, better you do it as a business transaction with the prostitute then sexually exploiting women in the church, the Bride of Christ.”

I wish I had said that to him. I wish I had thought of it at the time. So let me say to you what I wish I had said to him.

If you are a pastor or a church elder or someone in authority in the church, and you are committing sexual sins against the people in your care — STOP.

Stop right now. Repent of it. Confess it to someone in authority. Resign your position. Never seek a position of authority in the church again.

If you, as a leader in the church, have had a sexual relationship outside of your marriage, you are disqualified from church leadership. Read the qualifications for church leadership in 1 Timothy 3, especially verse 2: “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable . . . .”

There is no wiggle room, no compromise, no exception in that verse. I’m not saying you can’t serve God. I’m not saying you can’t be forgiven. I’m not saying you’re washed up as a Christian. But I am saying that you are no longer qualified to be a leader (“overseer”) in the church. That’s what the Bible clearly says.

If you have been in an immoral relationship with a church leader — STOP.

Stop right now. Repent of it. Confess it to someone in authority. Seek counseling. It doesn’t matter whether your relationship with that church leader is mutual and consensual, or if that church leader is a manipulator and a predator. The relationship must stop. The sin must stop.

No matter how you may rationalize it, no matter how the church leader may excuse it, it is sin and it must stop.

If you know of a church leader who has engaged in this kind of behavior, don’t make excuses for him. Don’t defend him. Don’t try to get a “fallen” church leader back into the pulpit. Don’t blame or attack his sexual partners. Yes, they are responsible to God for their own actions. But in many cases, they are victims of a church leader — a spiritual authority figure — who manipulated them into thinking their sin was “no big deal” or that “God will understand and forgive.”

The church is the Bride of Christ and the apostle Paul said, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

I hope any church leader reading these words would think seriously, soberly, and fearfully before daring to tempt the Bride of Christ to sin.

___________________________________

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write faster, more freely, and more brilliantly than you ever thought possible, read my book Writing In Overdrive, available in paperback and ebook editions at Amazon.com. —J.D.

 

Jim Denney also blogs at Writing in Overdrive and Walt’s Disneyland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lyn Cote Asks- Do you Read More in the Summer?

Or Less? I mean we hear a lot about “summer beach reads” and I do have friends who take my books on vacation (or they say they do! 🙂 I don’t think I read more or less in any season–about the same pace throughout the year. In case you didn’t know, authors start out as avid readers so most of us are addicted to books. If I find a book that I really like, I read it in a day or two. (My own writing does get in the way of my reading habit. Darn.)

The secret is finding a book that grabs me and sucks me in. I know you know what I mean since you visit this site seeking such books! So have you found a good book lately?–Lyn Cote

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Book Review: Inside Out and Upside Down

Hello, friends! I recently read a fabulous book that I wanted to tell you about – Inside Out and Upside Down: How Intimacy With Jesus Changes Everything by Jennifer Hayes Yates. This is a seven week Bible Study which will immerse you into the Word. I don’t know about you, but I could always use more time in the Word!

This book contains six readings per week. The first five are intended to be read over the course of five days and they are true Bible Study format. The author references Bible verses, but asks the reader to look each one up. I love that because it has the reader engaging in the Word, which will in turn bring more power and insight to the reader. And it also allows the reader to use whatever version of the Bible that they are most comfortable with.

The sixth reading of the week is reserved as a weekend devotional. It amazed me how the author was able to change the tone in the sixth reading. The first five readings were constructive and filled with multifaceted lessons. However, when we get to the weekend devotional, the reader now has a feeling of rest. The pace has slowed down and you are able to soak in all that you learned throughout the week. Also during the weekend devotional, the author includes Bible verses. But this time she provides the text and doesn’t ask the reader to look them up. The weekend devotionals are a soothing and peaceful way to wrap up each week.

This book is packed full of valuable tidbits. One particular thing that really hit home was how much God wants to have a relationship with His children. Unfortunately, many Christians have a strained perception of religion. Perhaps we were taught that we had to follow certain rules, guidelines, and rituals. Or maybe we have gone to church, but left it there at the door when we exited the building. Whatever the case may be, countless Christians today are missing out on a precious gift – having a relationship with God. In this book, the author shows us how God has always wanted to have a relationship with us from the very beginning. When we begin to see God’s desire, we also begin to truly see God’s heart. And perhaps for the first time, we will be able to step into that relationship with our arms wide open.

The book also talks about the world we live in versus the Kingdom we belong to. We have a calling on our lives which doesn’t line up with the ways of this world. From the time when Jesus walked this earth through present day on this earth – Christians are hit with much adversity. We learn that there are costs for following Jesus. But those costs are very much outweighed by the rewards. And ultimately this leads us to a decision. We are not of this world. But we have an opportunity to positively impact this world. This book prompts the reader to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth that Jesus talked about.

Reading this book has been an amazing journey for me. I think it will be for you as well. Whether you are a seasoned Christian, a new Christian, or someone who hasn’t quite taken that leap yet – I believe you will get some valuable insight out of this book. Here is the link where you can find it on Amazon. Happy Reading!

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Blow-out (by Hannah Alexander)

This weekend has been our first time for company in our new home, so the past couple of days have been a big deal for us. Having family made it easy and so much fun. We had a guided tour of the old prison (freaky in the hanging room and the gas chamber) and discovered that most museums and several stores are closed on Mondays. Even the shooting range was closed. But what we didn’t do was go hiking. I wanted our company to return sometime in the future, and I have certain weaknesses. I get started walking and cannot stop.

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know I’m a hiking fanatic. I have sought out trails since I first learned to walk and my poor mother had to keep up with me to make sure I was safe. Now Mel has to do it. He takes his job seriously.

Last week I told him I’d love to take a “short stroll” in the desert to test out my new backpack (yay!). That short stroll turned out to be maybe six miles–not far by my standards. We even found the signs for the Continental Divide Trail. It was an exciting day for me. For Mel, too, because despite the short distance, his hiking boot flew apart.

Blown hiking boot

We were glad that it was close to the end of the trail, because it’s difficult to hike with a blown boot. Especially bad when pebbles congregate in said boot.

Collecting rocks the hard way

When he emptied out his boot later at home, I felt sorry for him. He had toughed it out like a real man. In fact, he continued to wear those boots–along with the rocks– while we went target practicing immediately after our hike.

Mel now has new boots and so do I. I’m yearning for another stroll out in the desert. Maybe tonight as the sun sets, so I can’t keep him out too long.

When’s the last time you took a stroll on the wild side and explored the wilderness? Check it out and take a few deep breaths. Just remember to wear the right shoes for the occasion.

 

 

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Times of Trouble by Vicki Hinze

Times of Trouble, Vicki Hinze, Christians Read

Troubles take many forms, but the simple truth is no one escapes them. There are times in life for everything. Joy and grief, success and failure, weariness and elation. Some call these cycles of life. Others call them seasons. Whatever you call these increments of time and trouble that fall to us all, there are two things to remember:

  1. No one escapes them.
  2. No season lasts forever. 

Since we can’t avoid times of trouble, it is to our benefit to learn to cope successfully with them. I’m recalling an incident when my kids were young. The boys, a year apart, were five and six. It was summer, so I’d signed them up for swimming lessons. One was excited, one was afraid. We lived near the water and had a boat, so it was imperative that the boys learned to swim.

Hubby was on active duty in the military then, and was flying out on a trip for a couple weeks. He left home early that morning for the airport; somewhere around five. Our washer and dryer were in the garage in that house, which we’d finished and carpeted on putting a pool table out there. I toddled out to get a load of laundry going. There’s always laundry to be done when you have active boys, right? Then I went back inside and started breakfast for the boys.

They weren’t excited about eating that early, or getting up, for that matter, but they did. Scrambled eggs, sausage and toast, milk and orange juice. The table talk was all about swimming lessons. The fearful one became more and more unnerved. The excited one became more and more eager. They were a handful that morning, and then I opened the door to the garage.

It was flooded. The washer had backed up and overflowed. The carpeting was soaked.

I got busy repairing that damage—the kids loud—one crying, fearful swim lessons would be missed and one laughing (clearly hoping) they would be. Watching the clock, I got the mess in the garage cleaned up as well as possible, considering I couldn’t lift the pool table to pull back the carpet to let it dry out. Naturally, I thought, the washer does this right as Hubby has left on a trip.

Making a mental note to call the repairman, I gathered the stuff mom’s always gather, then summoned the kids and hustled them to the car. It was nearly time for their lesson. At least while they were in the water, I thought, I’d be able to sit a minute and catch my breath.

Something was wrong with the car. I warned the boys to stop arguing about whether the lessons were good or bad. Of course, they were good, and necessary if we were to go out on the boat. Then I got out of the car and looked around to see what was wrong. Honestly, I half-expected to see a Big Wheel or some other toy under the right rear tire.  No toy. That would have been too easy. Instead, I discovered the rear right tire was flat.

Great. Naturally, I’d have a flat this morning. The garage flood wasn’t enough to contend with, right?

Shortly after the flat was fixed, I checked my watch. Fifteen minutes. I made a mental note to get the flat fixed, adding it to calling the washer repairman list, then began thinking of the route I could drive to still make the lesson.

Mayhem was going on in the car. I issued the boys a final warning that if they ever wanted to step foot on that boat, they’d better knock it off and behave—right now. I was officially a little frayed. The youngest, with tears running down his face, opened his mouth and lost his breakfast. All over his brother, all over the car.

I nearly wept. Frayed soured to flustered. I stopped and told myself, “Careful. They’re going to react to troubles the way you do right now. You’re showing them how to react.”

Truthfully, I wanted to walk inside, crawl back into bed and bury my head under the pillow. But I didn’t. This was a teaching moment, and innately, I knew I might not want to, but I had to seize it.

I grabbed the water hose and hosed out the car. I know. Not the brightest solution or the smartest move I’ve made in my life, but efficient. While I was at it, I hosed off the kids, too. And I laughed while doing it.

For a moment, I think they believed I had lost it, but then the stun in them wore off and they started to laugh, too. I finally accepted there were to be no swim lessons that day. The lesson time was nearly over, and we were still cleaning out the car, putting fans on to dry out the carpet, disinfecting and towel-drying the car seat and mats and floor.

Finally, we get back into the house and the phone rings. It was Hubby. He was still “pounding the ramp,” due to mechanical challenges with his plane. And so he spoke about that for a time, and about how it was going to affect his schedule and the complications the delay brought with it.

This was not a conversation I was interested in having, considering my morning, but military spouses know to handle the home fires so their spouses can focus totally on the mission. I dredged up a sympathetic ear and listened.

Finally, he wound down and asked, “So how are things there? Everything going okay?”

I paused and debated what to say and what not to say. There was nothing he could do about any of it. Telling him now would just cause him more worry—about the carpet in the garage, the washer, and the tire. “All is well,” I said.

When I got off the phone, the youngest asked why I didn’t tell Dad about all that happened. I said, I would, when he got home. He didn’t need to worry about things he couldn’t do anything about, did he? He didn’t, the boys agreed. And we talked a bit about how we all hit snags, brick walls, and have troubles. Some are a pain, but some actually spare you from worse problems. You just deal with trouble as best you can with a good attitude.

The car dried out. The carpet dried out. The repairman got the sock out of the washer’s water hose, which caused the garage flood, and we got the tire fixed. And for the rest of that trip, we had no more trouble. The season had passed—in a morning, and the boys and I built the best tunnel system in the dirt hill in the back yard that would later become a base for the foundation of a storage shed. Yes, the dirt hill was messy. Boys covered in caked on mud from flushing out the tunnels. But no problem. We all had a secret weapon. A water hose. I just hosed them off.

Admittedly, these weren’t big problems, but it’s the little ones that bunch up on us that cause a lot of stress and discord. And once we get into that cycle, it gets harder and harder to get out of it.

Okay, so Hubby wasn’t exactly enthused that I’d hosed down the inside of the car. Or that I’d scuffed the pool table leg trying to it jack it up enough to get the carpet out from under it. But when he saw that tunnel system in the dirt pile, and the boys’ light up about it, he forgot all about the rest.

The little troubles, which these were, prepare us for the big ones. We’re all going to have troubles—we can’t control that—but we can control our reaction to them. And we can teach our kids how to cope constructively, too.

Incidentally, the son who was upset about swimming lessons went on to college, majored in environmental studies and spends most of his time on boats and in the water.

Which, in my eyes, proves you never know the plans, even when you’re sure there are plans. I often wonder if that morning didn’t occur for the hosing and the reaction lessons. I often wonder if without that day, he who was terrified of water would have chosen to make his life’s work in it.

I can’t know the answer to that, of course. But I do know when and where he got a couple of solid coping tools. Like where to look for efficient if unorthodox solutions, to deal with and not ignore the trouble, and when you have dealt with it, to laugh and enjoy playing in the dirt. For a mom, that’s more than enough.

Blessings!

Vicki

P.S. My October release, so many secrets, is now available for preorder at Amazon.

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Commitments, Commitments, Commitments

By Marilyn Turk

That feeling is starting to close in on me again. Just when I thought I was handling everything well, more “things” started vying for attention.

Do you ever feel that way? Do you feel like you have too many commitments?

Yes, I know how to say “no,” and I stepped away from some commitments a couple of years ago so I could breathe. But slowly, more moved in to take their place.

There’s a committee at church that begs you to attend, there’s a group you belong to that only meets once a month, but you must prepare something for the group, there’s the book club that meets at your house and you haven’t had time to read the book. And for writers, there’s always marketing of books, blog posts to create, social media to participate in, and strangely enough, books to write! But to maintain our health, we also need to exercise a certain amount of time per day. Heaven forbid we look in a mirror because we’ll be reminded it’s time to schedule an appt. with the hairdresser. And oh, my goodness, school is starting back, and our schedule will get even busier. And sometimes our family even wants to spend time with us.

What’s a person to do? Where is the balance?

Some of us are people pleasers and try to do everything others want us to do. Sometimes we think we can handle more than we realistically should. And some of us just need to set boundaries.

How do we prioritize?

  • Pray—did I pray before I committed to all these things? I need to ask God to show me what He wants me to do. I also need to pray for God to help me manage my commitments without stress.
  • First things first—look at the schedule. What’s due first? Have I overbooked so that I don’t have time for other, more important things that should come first?
  • Are there groups I belong to that I don’t really need to belong to? For instance, our church has a women’s Bible study group that starts back up in a couple of weeks. I really want to go, but it requires attendance every Thursday morning, not to mention any homework associated with it. The Bible study is a worthy activity—it’s an opportunity to grow in faith and fellowship with other spiritual sisters, but do I really have time for it?
  • Are there places where I can delegate or ask for help and not do it all myself?
  • When I hear how “they” say I should spend my time, I don’t have to listen. What works for some people doesn’t work for everyone, and God’s will for my life is not the same as anyone else’s.
  • Am I using my time wisely? Do I spend my available writing time writing or doing something else? Am I being distracted by unimportant things? Remember Martha? In Luke 10:41, Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.” He went on to say her sister Mary had chosen the better thing.

 

Lord, please help me choose the better thing.

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St. Nicolas Cathedral, Tarpon Springs

While preparing to write The Lady of Tarpon Springs, I made a research trip to Tarpon Springs, Florida. During my visit, I toured the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The edifice was constructed in 1943, long after the setting of The Lady of Tarpon Springs. However, the cathedral stands as a monument to the Greek Orthodox Church and the sponge industry that made its construction possible. The original Greek church was constructed in 1910 and was relatively small and unable to accommodate the rapidly escalating number of Greek Orthodox residents to the area.

There was a huge boom in the sponge industry after World War II, and Nicholas G. Arfaras, owner of the largest sponge business in Tarpon Springs during that period, guaranteed the financing of the cathedral. The Greek spongers devised a plan to donate their best sponges to the cause, with the Greek sponge buyers bidding inflated prices for the St. Nicholas sponges.

The Byzantine Revival style cathedral was designed as a replica of the famed St. Sophia in Constantinople. Elaborate materials were used for the construction, including fifteen tons of Greek marble that had been exhibited at the New York World’s Fair and then was freighted to Tarpon Springs. Three huge chandeliers made from Czechoslovakian glass were imported, and sponsors donated the necessary 23 stained glass windows.

The cathedral is one of the best known of the Orthodox Greek churches in America and is the site of the largest and most elaborate celebration of Epiphany in the Western Hemisphere.

If you visit Tarpon Springs, don’t leave without a visit to the cathedral. Unfortunately, my pictures don’t do it justice.

May you find beauty as you explore God’s world.

Judy

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Happy Birthday, Dad!

Scheduled to post a blog here today, I knew exactly what to write about: my father. William Douglas Jacobs was born on August 9, 1903, and died August 7, 1990, two days short of his eighty-seventh birthday. He lived a long, rich life and left behind a legacy to be proud of. I’ve mentioned him before, so please indulge me while I take another walk down Memory Lane on this special day.

Dad would have been 115 today. Not that he wanted to live that long, but it’s amazing to me that he’s been gone for 28 years as of last Tuesday. I think of him often and remember so many good things about him.

We often hear about the importance of a mother’s influence on her children, and my sweet mother was the best. But fathers influence us, as well. While my dad wasn’t a hugger, he was a doer…a hard-working, self-motivated man. I never saw him back down from a challenge. If there was a job to be done, he would pitch in and help. I once saw him save a man who was falling down an elevator shaft on a naval ship we were visiting.

EPSON MFP imageThat volunteering was also evident ninety-nine years ago, right after The Great War ended. In August 1919, Bill “Red” Jacobs, age 16, joined the United States Navy. A family rumor claimed he lied about his age, enlisted when he was just 15, and fought in WWI, which ended on November 11, 1918. From his records, I discovered he enlisted after the war ended. Still, he saw a lot of action. Our navy sailed all over the world during those between-the-wars years. (At right is Dad in his Navy days. I always thought he looked like movie actor Spencer Tracy. My siblings and I own this picture. It’s not to be copied.)

450px-USS_Henderson_AP-1Dad served as a hospital apprentice and later a machinist’s mate on the USS Henderson, USS Rochester, and USS Milwaukee and traveled to many places. Last month in this blog, I posted some pictures he took on his travels. It was an enriching experience to “see the world,” but he came to appreciate the United States more than ever. (At left is the USS Henderson from Wikipedia.)

While he was in the navy, he became a boxer. His once perfect nose had a bump in it from being broken…several times. He played football at a time when the men wore thin leather helmets and very little padding and often got hurt. But he came through all right. Back then, it was a mark of manliness to show off one’s injuries earned in a good, friendly fight. He always laughed while telling the stories of his scrapes.

Dad was discharged from the Navy in 1925. He worked at several Chicago newspapers as a machinist and photographer. In time, he met pretty Ruth Cain, a legal secretary, and they were married in July 1934 and started their family.

Bill Jacobs in Uniform 1944 - CopyWhen World War II broke out, Dad wanted to go back in the Navy, but was considered too old. Not one to sit by while others defended our country, he served in the Merchant Marines, a vital auxiliary to the other branches of service. They carried supplies to various ships that were actively engaged in the fighting. That, of course, made them a target for the enemy.

Sometime in 1945, during a Japanese aerial attack on his convoy in the Philippines, Dad was injured when he was knocked from an engine room ladder deep within the cargo ship Katrina Luckenbach. It took some years for him to fully recover from that injury, but he never let it hold him back. He also faced danger when he was part of an armed landing party in Honduras or Nicaragua. Details of that event are sketchy. This may have happened in his navy days. (Above, Dad as a Petty Officer in the Merchant Marines during World War II. Copyrighted photo taken in 1944.)

Bill & Ruth JacobsAfter the war, Dad and Mom worked hard to raise their four children. My three siblings grew up to earn doctoral degrees in their areas study, and each became an esteemed college professor, earning many accolades along the way that made our parents proud. While I didn’t aspire to earn a PhD, I did earn a master’s degree and went on to teach college English and humanities while writing my twenty-five published novels (and more to come). (At right are our parents sometime near their fortieth anniversary.)

Bill Jacobs on DiamondAlthough he worked as a newspaper linotype machinist for many years, Dad’s dream was to become a professional photographer. In his late fifties, he bought a photography studio and produced some wonderful pictures, from weddings to babies to graduations. But his favorites were the gorgeous scenic pictures he photographed. He was so eager to get deep into the mountains of Colorado that he bought a horse and learned to ride after turning sixty! His courage and determination taught me never to give up on my own dreams.

Even after retirement, Dad took a job as a school crossing guard. He loved to chat with the children under his care and scold them if they didn’t mind the safety rules. And yell at drivers who drove too fast in the school zone. Once again he was taking care of others, as he’d done all his life.

Dad was honored with a Navy burial, and his flag is in the box below. His last years were spent in Seattle, WA. At his request, his ashes were scattered over Puget Sound.

Dad's Burial Flag and Navy PictureI clearly remember my father’s patriotism, integrity, and decency. He had a rough life early on, but he remained a man of character who taught his children to be responsible citizens. We could use more men like my father these days.

Happy birthday, Dad! And thank you for being such a good man.

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Inspiring Things… by Mary Alford

inspiration
As an author, inspiration comes to me in the most unusual of ways. I never know when an idea will take flight. Maybe it comes from something I’ve seen on TV, or overheard in a conversation. It can even come in dreams. That’s the beauty of inspiration…it’s a surprise gift.

Once the idea comes, a story is born, but not all ideas pan out. Some fail miserably.

When I first discovered the desire to write, it was after reading such romantic suspense greats as Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. Those two women fueled my imagination and inspired me to try my hand at the romantic suspense genre.

As a romantic suspense author, I’m inspired to see danger everywhere.

aspen trees
Take for instance this photo of a grove of Aspen trees taken on our recent trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Well, let me give you a sneak peek into the mind of a suspense author. I see snow covered trees in the headlights of a vehicle sliding on the frozen road while ice and snow pummel it. A terrified woman searching for the impossible–a man who isn’t supposed to be alive. Behind her, a SUV follows. Is it friendly, or the people chasing her?

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Or this photo of a canyon near the house where we stayed. It’s picturesque with the river down below, right? I see a woman clinging to the side of the cliff, dangling high above a raging river. A man hunkered over her trying to pry her fingers loose.

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Inspiration can definitely come in the most unusual of places. This was the case when I sat down to write the first SCORPION TEAM book for Love Inspired Suspense entitled ROCKY MOUNTAIN PURSUIT.

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The idea of a former CIA agent having to fake his own death in order to hide from a dangerous terrorist seeking to silence him popped into my head one day, (I truly love spy stories, so it wasn’t a huge stretch). From there, I imagined the heroine being chased by the same bad man because of something her deceased CIA agent husband possessed. From there Rocky Mountain Pursuit was born, and with it, the SCORPION TEAM book series took life in my head. The Scorpions are an elite team of CIA agents whose purpose is to bring down terrorists active around the world…and in the US.

 

Each book in the series is back-dropped in a mountain setting. For me, there’s just something about the mountains that create their own intrigue. The unpredictable weather, the unforgiving terrain. The danger involved in every summit.

My current book, STANDOFF AT MIDNIGHT MOUNTAIN takes place on top of Midnight Mountain in Wyoming. A missing CIA agent and a frantic sister who believes her brother’s disappearance is the sign of something far more ominous. Add to it a hero who was once involved with the heroine, then put them in danger from the weather and some very bad men, and you have a suspense.

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STANDOFF AT MIDNIGHT MOUNTAIN is the 4th in the SCORPION TEAM SERIES. In October, GRAVE PERIL, the final book in the series, will release.
Grave Peril cover-12

 

It’s always a little sad when a series comes to an end, but writing about the men and women of the SCORPION TEAM has been my pleasure, and I’m looking forward to what the future may hold.

This month, I have two new books out. Hallowed Ground, which is part of the Exposed: A Christian Romantic Suspense Boxed Set Book Bundle Collection

ExposedFinal

Young Couple Kissing In Love, Woman Man Romantic Passion Desire,

 

And Amish Christmas Wishes.

Amish Christmas Wishes (1)

As a writer, inspiration comes in the strangest of places at times, but on a personal level, I see God’s inspiration everywhere I look in my family, my granddaughters, and the breathtaking beauty He created just for us.

What about you? Where do you find inspiration?

Blessings,

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

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Summer Book Release by Tara Randel

Here we are in the dog days of summer. I don’t know about you, but when the temperatures are hovering around the nineties, I’m happy to stay inside where it’s cool. For me, the summer had always been a perfect time to catch up on my TBR pile. If you’re an avid reader, you know what I’m talking about. I know I shouldn’t buy more books while the stack beside my bed is ready to tumble over, but when an author I enjoy releases a new book, I can’t resist.

This summer I’m thrilled to announce the release of my seventh Heartwarming book, The Lawman’s Secret Vow.  This is the first book in the Meet Me At the Altar series, featuring the Matthews brothers, first introduced in The Bridal Bouquet. You’ll be meeting more of them in the books to come, but in The Lawman’s Secret Vow, we begin the journey with Dante, the youngest of the Matthews clan. The brothers are on a mission to protect their widowed mother from the mysterious man she is dating and being the well-meaning, but suspicious, sons they are, you can imagine the lengths they’ll go to uncover the truth. As well as the trouble they’ll get into along the way.

The Lawman’s Secret Vow features Dante Matthews and Eloise Archer. Both are detectives in a local police department, who have been paired up, pretending to be a newly married couple while they infiltrate a car theft ring. Problem is, they discover feelings for each other while undercover. Can they work together and keep their emotions in check as they delve deeper into the case? Or does the real danger come from falling in love?

I hope you enjoy Dante and Eloise’s story!

9781335633750 (405x640)

To have and to hold—

until the case is solved?

When an undercover assignment pairs laid-back Florida detective Dante Matthews with by-the-book cop Eloise Archer, he knows it won’t be easy. And not just because they’re competing for the same promotion. Now they’re living together under the same roof, and it’s getting harder to ignore his deepening feelings for “his wife.” Can he convince Eloise to partner up—for life?

Excerpt:

When he went back to the squad room, he noticed Ellie had returned.

Mug in hand, he sauntered to her desk. Leaned against the side.

“Heard you’re going to the mud run.”

Her head jerked up. “What? Who told you that?”

“Mason. Said he heard it from some guy over at the Palm Beach PD.”

“Well, he heard wrong. I have no intention of running in mud.”

“Chicken?”

Her eyes narrowed at his challenge. “Sane.”

“It could be fun.”

“Says who?”

Her horrified look had him chuckling. “I’ll take that as a definite no.”

“Because my first answer was unclear?”

“Touchy.”

She blinked at him. “Bleary-eyed.”

“Guess my wrangling you into reviewing my reports is moot.”

“I can’t provide information I have no knowledge of.”

“That’s right, we’ve never worked on a case together.” He took a sip of the bitter coffee and grimaced. “Although that might change. I’ll be around more often.”

“No new exciting cases?”

He shrugged. “Not for me. For a while, anyway.”

“So you hone your detective skills in the meantime.”

“Saying I’m rusty?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never worked with you.”

She’d used his words against him. He held up his mug and grinned.

“Not that I’ve asked not to be paired with you.”

“I never thought you did.”

She relaxed.

Add nice person to the mental list he’d been making about her earlier.

“How come you never go out with your fellow officers after work?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“I don’t know. I’m not a terribly social person.”

“Why is that?”

She shoved her glasses up her nose. A nervous tick he’d noticed.

“Not good company, I guess.”

“Then why is a Palm Beach detective interested in you?”

Her mouth gaped open. “Why would you think that?”

“Because he told Mason.”

“Good grief,” she muttered under her breath, then met his gaze again. “I think work relationships are better left at work.”

Interesting. History there?

“Fair enough.”

The conversation lagged for a few moments. Ellie glanced at a clock on the wall. “I need to head out.”

“You never answered me about dinner tonight. Two colleagues discussing work over a burger and fries?”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea, but thank you.”

She stood, gathered her purse and slid the chair up to the everything-in-its-place desk. He wanted to mess it up and see her reaction. Instead, he moved aside as she passed, her light floral perfume following in her wake. “See you tomorrow.”

Please join me August 13-18 for The Lawman’s Secret Vow Prism Book Tour  where you can enter for a chance to win one of two prize packages!

The Lawman'sSecret Vow

Amazon

Harlequin

B&N

iTunes

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